Monday, 19 June 2017

Trafford Park Comiccon June 11th 2017

Trafford Comic Con was organised by POD Events, who’d invited me after I was a guest at their “Hollywood comes to Blackpool” event last year. I’d presumed it was at the Trafford Centre itself, a massive shrine to consumerism just off the M60 in Manchester, but it was actually just next door at an indoor sports arena. A nice sized venue, and if anyone fancied a quick game of five-a-side, there were a few pitches all marked out. Also handy because my family could go shopping while I worked. I got there far too early, so set up and had a wander around.

The atmosphere at the Trafford Con was lovely, lots of families, lots to do, well organised. There was the usual trader’s hall, selling film, sci-fi, fantasy and comic related merchandise. Quite a few tables selling actual comics too, which was a nice change. Lots of Funko Pops, a tombola, sweets and someone selling picture frames made out of cut up comics, that always upsets me a bit. I hate to see old comics butchered. Quite a sizeable trader’s area though, about the size of a football pitch. Actually, exactly the size of a football pitch, it was on a football pitch. So, as you walked round looking at Star Wars figures you were on artificial grass, which added a surreal outside feel to the place.

The guests were lined up together away from the traders, a couple of Stormtroopers (the always friendly Sandeep and David Santana), the legendary Michael Henbury (Labyrinth, Star Wars, Harry Potter), Matthew Dale (Dr Who, Star Wars) and a couple of comic guests, both called Russ – me and Russ Leach (Dr Who Adventures, How to Draw the Marvel Way). A shame they couldn’t invite Russ Heath and P. Craig Russell and called it RussellCon...

Crucially, we were looked after well by the support staff. A constant flow of drinks, snacks and meals were on offer. The organisers rope in local cosplay groups to help out, so I also have the added bonus of having my lunch delivered by a zombie bride. She was very friendly though. The events on the main stage were MCed by cosplayers too, so a female Riddler (sorry, I can’t remember her name…. she did a great job though) interviewed Russ Leach, it all added to the carnival atmosphere of the event.

The artists and actors were lined up along one wall to the left of the main stage, with a tiered seating stand to the right, so we got to watch every single event, which was a diversion, but a bit loud sometimes. I gave a Jack Kirby talk in the morning to a small but enthusiastic crowd, and Russ Leach did a Q&A in the afternoon. The “Two the Hilt” guys who I’d seen at Sci-Fi Scarborough a few weeks back did a lightsabre demonstration, they are always pretty good and it was cool having the chance to see the full show right in front of me while I sat and sketched for people. We got to see the cosplay parade in all its glory too, mini-Stan Lee was there with his Mum again (still no sign of a mini-Jack Kirby), I didn’t see who won though, but they were giving out trophies that looked pretty groovy. POD awarded each of the guests a rather cool glass engraved trophy too, which was a nice touch, it now has pride of place on a shelf next to my trophy for coming third in the Hull Comiccon Quiz.

On top of the traders, us guests and the main stage, POD also organised a few photo areas, with a Tardis, a very realistic Davros and Daleks, A dragon, a dinosaur, Captain America on a motorbike, that sort of thing, it was the stuff that Snapchat stories yearn for. There was a retro gaming area too with tournaments. There were probably other things I missed, there was some sort of “Survival Challenge” going on that people were talking about, but I only had a quick look round, it was such a large space, there were still quite a few areas free for people to hang around, it didn’t feel crammed in. There was loads going on I didn't see, or mention here, so a good day out, not one of those comiccons you can see in ten minutes.

In saying that, it was a bit quieter than anyone expected, not empty by any means, the stand in front of the main stage was busy all day, but there was no queue of people waiting to talk to me, just people coming over to see us every so often, which was unusual and slightly damaging to my ego. Some suggested that the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester had made people reticent to attend large events like this, and apparently, there were quite a lot of people who paid for tickets but never turned up, which was a shame. Although this meant there were next to no queues for any of the guests or events, so great for people visiting the con. I spent most of the convention just chatting to Russ Leach and his son, and the magnificently hairy Matthew Dale, with sporadic chats to people wandering past. The atmosphere was very family friendly, more so than most conventions, lots of families, lots of kid friendly activities. It’s always a bit odd to see little 6 year olds girls dressed as Disney princesses having a photo taken with zombies, none of them seemed scared, although one zombie did look a bit nervous when Rapunzel tried to pull his ear off.

Slightly disappointed no-one organised a cosplayers game of football, watching Captain America tackle Dr Who, weave past Harry Potter, pass to Harley Quinn and shoot at Darth Vader in goal would have made a great video. Maybe next time….

Thanks to Neil, Steve and all at POD Events for doing such a fantastic job of organising it. Check their webpage for future POD events.


I'm having a break from comic cons for July while I finish the book I'm writing with John Watson. Any day now.....

Then back in the saddle for August at the following events-

6th August 2017
Hull Comiccon

12th August 2017
Blackpool Comic Con

25th to 27th August 2017
London Super Comic Convention

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