Monday, 6 June 2016

Swindon Comic Con 2016 review

Swindon Comic Con 2016

Swindon Comic Con scored points for me this weekend for having what I think was the most unusual venue for a comic convention I've ever been a guest at. It was held in the STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon. So I spent the last two days sitting in front a beautiful old Great Western Railway Class 4072 Train. If you happened to be a TV/Film buff, a comic fan, AND a train enthusiast, then this was a pretty great weekend out!

Great Western Railway Class 4072

Drove down with Marvel/DC cover artist John Watson early Saturday morning. When I say early I mean obscenely early, I got up at 3am, picked up John just after 4am and by 8:30am we were negotiating the baffling roundabouts of Swindon. The journey was a good excuse to discuss (argue) about the book we're writing together, and I brought up some really good, sane and relevant points about plot and characters that John is now taking on board.

For Swindon, I'd bought a particularly terrible pair of shoes, but fortunately the car park was quite near the venue, so I made it there before they fell apart..

I spent all day Saturday behind my table chatting to people, sitting between author Graeme Reynolds and John Watson and opposite artist and writer Grant Perkins, selling prints and doing sketches. John Watson gets very irritated when I sketch, as he spends an hour doing a gorgeous, photorealistic, tonal drawing for people, while I do a quick sketch that he says “looks like a monkey drew it.” I try and rise above this harsh criticism and spread a little joy with my art. Look at all these happy people-

Flash and Deadfall comiccon sketch by Russell Payne

Deadpool and Batman comic sketch by Russell Payne

Tom Baker Comicon Sketch by Russell Payne

Chatted and met some fascinating people, one that sticks in my mind is children's entertainer Jacko and his puppet Nunkey (I'm presuming that's the right way round). He wandered round terrifying everyone with a loud horn and was easily the most enthusiastic dancer at the after party that night.

Jacko and Nunkie

On Saturday night the after show party was hosted by Stu Arnold a Keith Lemon/Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator (no, seriously...) and had all manner of bizarre things going on.

You had to be there really..... but I had a lovely time chatting to some of the other guests- Martin Griffiths, Graeme Reynolds, Dave McCluskey, Grant Perkins and their partners. The organisers put on food (vegetarian option too, nice one) and there was plenty going on. A reoccurring theme of this one - there was always lots going on, you got your money's worth with Swindon Comic Con.

Trying to find our way home proved a challenge, we dropped Graeme, his wife and his newly acquired Stormtrooper suit off and me, John and Dave McCluskey  parked back at the STEAM museum so we could walk from there back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the only way we knew back to the hotel, the tunnel under the railway line, was locked and gated by now so we all went on a confused midnight ramble around the A-roads of Swindon. It was funny for the first half hour but after a while I started to get worried we'd be sleeping on a roundabout and foraging for berries. My cheap shoes barely made it. We did eventually go in one very large circle, find the car again and just drove to a sidestreet nearer the hotel. Dave left to get assaulted by hen parties and we went back to the Holiday Inn.

In the hotel bar John Watson and I bumped into the multi-talented actor and creature performer Paul Warren and we stayed up having a great chat about movies, what a nice guy! Well worth missing sleeping for.

Sunday was busy too, so again didn't really leave my table, and continued to irritate John by drawing sketches for people. On the one occasion I did leave my table, I came back to find John had hidden my pencil, but I came prepared, I brought a spare and was able to make some more people happy with my quick sketches. Thanks to everyone who came by and said hello! Special thanks to Chris who came over and remembered when I used to write for the BBC Shropshire, he knew stuff I'd written that I didn't!

John Watson Swindon Comic Con
He's about to hide my pencil

So a pretty great convention, very busy, loved the venue. I did come home to a guy on Twitter saying- “we had a 'comic' con in Swindon yesterday where there were no comic related guests, but were instead tv 'celebs' like a chaser.” which was a little unfair.

I've read a lot of criticism lately about UK comic conventions with no actual comic content, and generally, it's fair comment. There are a hardcore few comicons left that still do actually cater specifically to comicbook fans, with UK and international comic artists and writers. All organised by people who love comic books - like London's LSCC, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Leeds Thoughtbubble and Bedford's NICE comic expo, but a lot of recent ones have next to no comic content – no comic artists or writers as guests, no sign of any comics to buy. Many so-called UK “comic conventions” in the last few years have been more about TV and Film than comics. The worst ones are more like craft fairs.

To be fair to Swindon though, it did have a Comic Zone with several comic guests and there were a few decent sized tables selling nothing but comics. The emphasis was still more on the film and TV stars, props and merchandise, but the organisers also tried a lot of quite original things, they had a really eclectic guest list, easily the most eclectic guest list I have ever seen РEddie the Eagle, Zammo from Grange Hill, Boycie & Marlene from Only Fools & Horses, Eddie Kidd, quite a few of the Red Dwarf cast, Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt....sports, TV, film,wrestling & special effects guests... Youtube stars, cosplayers, authors, illustrators, movie props & cars. Giant inflatables, Britains Got Talent performers, daleks and animatronic dinosaurs. So if you wanted a good day out with your family, I know it's a clich̩, but Swindon really did have something for everyone.

Actually Zammo cancelled, but to be fair he is well known for 'just saying no'.

Massive thanks to the organisers Luke, Mark and Nathan for doing such a great job of organising a unique convention and for looking after all the guests so well, looking forward to seeing what they come up with next year!
Green Arrow cosplay swindon comic con

cosplay swindon

See John Watson's blog for his wildly inaccurate version of events.

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