Saturday 10th December saw British city Newcastle-Upon-Tyne host a comic book convention; The Canny Comic Con. Here’s how it went, thanks to Ian Mayor.
Bluntly put, the Canny Comic Con “Year One” was a success across the board… and it was free, which pretty much makes it the best-value comic convention in the world.
This indisputable fact aside, what was it like?
Well, hosted at Newcastle Central Library (more on that below), and seeing between 450-500 attendees throughout the day it was a friendly, busy and, crucially, well organised convention. Everyone had room, the facilities were good
Checking the Flickr group will give you a good idea of the size, scale and tone of the day, and a lot of thought had been put into making the day as easy for guests and attendees as possible. A couple of people likened it in terms of scale and atmosphere to Hi Ex and I don’t think they were ‘just’ referring to Al Ewing’s comic jams.
What surprised many, bearing in mind this is a first-time event (organised by a small group of local creators; headed by the publicity shy Alexi Conman) is how successfully it was a comic book convention.
At one side of the space you’d see kids looking at Doug Braithwaite pencils while he talked shop with Paul Davidson, enthusiastic small presser’s exchanged their wares up and down the stalls as sketches were drawn.
In another room, cultured presentations by Bryan Talbot, Dr Mary Talbot and Dr Melanie Gibson gave way to less cultured panels that descended into the pros exchanging funny war stories.
Gary Erskine was quintessentially Gary Erskine.
It all just worked.
There are too many factors and people to thank for the success of the day (the guests, attendees and panel hosts were all great), but at least three things marked the Canny Comic Con as being a bit different.
1. The Library
Newcastle City Library is a pretty new, custom built venue in the very centre of Newcastle. It’s definitely the reason the con was free and probably the reason the con happened at all. The space was just about perfect, a small hall that fit the 40 exhibitors (check em), a 40 seater lecture space for the 10 panels and talks (these lads) and kids workshops throughout the day (bing).
Being in the centre of town was a huge plus (as anyone who has struggled for a cashpoint or food at other UK cons would agree) and being open to the public anyway was a huge boon to the friendly vibe the con. Special mention must go to the library staff who were enthusiastic and accomadating throughout.
2. The Viz
It’s pretty obvious from hearing Viz co-founder Simon Donald speak that he doesn’t really consider Viz as part of the British comics establishment (whatever that means). But it is. And hearing someone who has written, drawn and edited humour comics for 24 years talk about comic timing on the page was something a bit special.
Also present was Alex Collier, Viz alumnus and animator presenting a talk on translating Viz to animation. A laugh out loud session that was accidentally (and briefly) broadcast on speakers in the main convention hall. Which Just added to the fun.
I’ve never seen the Viz represented at a comic convention before, which on this evidence is a crying shame.
3. The Kids
A big focus of the con was to make it family friendly, and it worked.
Children’s comic making and monster/hero drawing workshops were hosted throughout the day @IngiJensson and Art Heroes and an inspired Sticker Sketch Treasure Hunt encouraged the little ‘uns to visit each table and ask for a tiny sticker sketched on by attending artists. As the costumed ‘Judge Stewart’ handed out free 2000Ad back issues at the Con threshold, mothers and their young daughters walked in not knowing what to expect… and walked out some time later with comics books.
These are good things.
Ideas, plots and plans are already forming for a follow up event next year. It may not be strikingly different.
If you attended, enjoyed yourself or otherwise please chime in on the boards or tell it to @CannyComicCon