Archive for April, 2011

Now that the dust has settled… The Big Smoke at Kapow! Comic Con

Posted in Books, Comics, Film, Television, Video Games on April 17, 2011 by thebigsmoke

The Big Smoke spent the majority of last weekend mixing with fellow nerds at Mark Millar’s Kapow! Comic Con, and has since been trying to find time to post up a few pictures and some comments. The convention, held over two days at the Business Design Centre in Islington was a fairly impressive effort, but there was some room for improvement.

Way back when The Big Smoke was just The Little Smoke, he used to frequent the UK Comic Art Conventions held at the University of London. It was a simpler time, when “cosplay” was still called “dressing up”. Comic books, although popular, were not the drivers of popular culture that they are today. When L’il Smoke attended the UK Comic Art Conventions, they consisted primarily of awkward young men, and some genuinely creepy slightly older men, poring over boxes of musty paper.

The last UK Comic Art Convention was held in 1998, and since then the San Diego Comic Con has shown that comic conventions can be big business. As the superhero movie genre has taken off, San Diego has become more and more important as a platform to launch new releases. Superhero movies are aimed at the mainstream and the excitement they generate brings new readers to comic books, which has caused publishers to re-think their strategy. Although the industry still panders to male adolescent fantasies, there has been a shift towards writing titles in a way which will resonate with a broader audience.

Advertised as “an event dedicated to comic books and the films, TV shows and games they inspire”, Kapow! felt like a real attempt to establish a British rival to America’s larger conventions. With sponsorship from IGN, it perhaps felt more corporate than previous British conventions, and it was all simply done on a grander scale. There were bigger stars and events, with consequently more media coverage, and more attendees than ever seen before.

Although the venue was just about big enough to accomodate everything, the Business Design Centre is filled with assorted outlets and agencies that jarred with the spirit of the convention. The line-up of guests was impressive on paper, but a number of them pulled out at the last minutes and there were some embarrasing gaps on the panels. On more than one occassion, The Big Smoke saw Millar trying to keep the crowds entertained by standing in for other guests. In addition, the most exciting events, like the Thor panel, were filled up so quickly that only a minority got to experience the very best that Kapow! had to offer. These gripes aside, there was lots to see and do for fans of more than just Hollywood blockbusters.

Happily, there was an array of stalls offering comics for sale, with lots of bargains to be found. There were also dozens of independent writer/artists pushing their self-published works, and for these individuals The Big Smoke felt considerable pity. For self-publishers, it is near impossible to compete with established creators working for popular titles. Touting indie work at a comic convention has potentially got to be one of the most depressing activities for anybody creative.

The Big Smoke raised a glass to those poor souls on Saturday night, swiftly following it with several more glasses of varying sizes, containing assorted alcoholic beverages. Nursing a terrible hangover on Sunday, and clutching several rare issues of Frank Miller’s Daredevil in his sweating palms, he cast a weary eye over proceedings. He took in the balding Gambit, the paunchy Blue Beetle, and with willpower worthy of the mightiest Green Lanterns, shifted his gaze away from the cleavage of a young lady dressed as Black Cat. It might not have been perfect, the cosplay may have been cringeworthy, but the first Kapow! Comic Con was certainly a lot of fun.

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