I’ve not done many cons this past couple of years, but I feel like next year I aught to up my con game.
Cons used to serve a very particular function for me, once upon a time, they were generally the place you’d go to meet editors and fellow creatives. I’d never bother with tables (because frankly I had no idea what I’d do at one). Eventually all the editors stopped attending and it was just about other pros, they’d become ‘jollies’.
My first comic con was around ’98 – ’99. I went over under the wing of Stewart Crofts-Perkins (aka WR Logan – one of the most well known 2000ad fans, credited for a number of story ideas by John Wagner, and is the fan for whom Chief Judge Logan is named – Wagner used to take great delight in telling Stu how he was about to mangle Judge Logan in the latest episode of Dredd, Stu sadly passed in 2016)
Pretty safe to say I’d’ve never ventured off to a con without Stewarts guidance (I was coming over from Belfast, had no friends locally doing conventions, though there were people – I just didn’t know them)
It was all UKCAC and Bristol cons in those days.
But they eventually died out, for a while leaving nothing but a couple of token comic cons and some of the massive film and memorabilia cons (which by then had been touched by the Big Bang Theory and were calling themselves Comic Cons, much to many comic creators chagrin).
Even cosplaying was a new endeavour in those halcyon days. (Memorably at an early con one guy dressed as Judge Dredd [and as a mark of the accuracy of his scratch built outfit he was also sporting a goatie beard] wearing a helmet that restricted his hearing, he was jokingly asked to come up to collect the award on behalf of the best character “Judge Dredd” – having misheard the announcer he went up to collect thinking it was best cosplay outfit (this, before those awards even existed), there was a very awkward moment as the 2000ad crew rescued their award from him, but not before he’d made a speech thanking his mate for holding his coat at the back and being amazed at the support… oops)
Anyway, cons now fall into, roughly, three categories for a creator, each of them have different needs and advantages…
Networking – if you’re only one of a couple of creators at a con it’s not much use for networking. Cons with editors, publishers, writers are all good for artists for networking. Bring portfolio, bring free stuff, circulate, mingle, eat drink and make merry.
Money making – You need a table to do this, along with something to sell. Prints, original art, comics, whatevers, or, possibly sketching on the day. Good footfall is needed or, at the very least, a targeted market (if you’re a Dredd artist, most decent sized British cons are good for this)
Something new – look, not all cons will have massive footfall, be super targeted to what you do, or be great for networking, but sometimes they’re just something that looks fun or amazing – do those if you can! Just make sure you don’t go broke doing them. They won’t advance your career, but they will (usually) be a lot of fun.
Anyway, that out of the way, I’m looking to get to some cons next year, and really they’ll need to hit two of three of those things for me. Cons are expensive, I work from home, so a two day weekend at a comic con can cost me four days of work – two days at the actual con, and two days of travel around the con.
(I once did a con so far from home it was two wasted days getting there and two back, mind you I also once did a con that in Athens that I went because I’d never been, got no work done, cost me a fortune but fell in love with Athens and returned two weeks later with my wife for a holiday).
Of course, on top of the work time lost, there’s the cost of travel and hotel on top of that (though in the days of yore, I’d compare travel notes with my english collegues often discovering the flight from Belfast was a half or a third the price of their train tickets)
When I began doing cons, comics where my secondary income – I had a proper day job. When I went to comics full time, cons became something of an expensive luxury (even if I was fortunate to have expenses paid to some).
And I’m not unusual in that, that’s most people’s experience.
So, anyway, if you’re a con I’ve not been to and would like me as a guest, just ask! If I can I’d love to attend.
Provisionally I’m planning to get to thoughtbubble in 2020 – I’ve missed every single one for various reasons, largely around timing.
And, because I can, here’s some photos from Ghosts of Conventions past, specifically Bristol Con 2004 (15 years ago!) – which I decided to document from my flight on (like a lunatic).