Comics Come to Brighton
By Stuart Carter
Being a review of Brighton Comics Expo 2005, which took place in the Brighton Metropole Hotel, Brighton, on November 19th-20th.
Dez Skinn, the brains behind industry magazine, Comics International, had an idea for a Brighton Comics Expo — sort of like a ‘Second Foundation’ to Bristol’s ‘First’, at the opposite end of the year and nearly the other side of the country. A very impressive event it looked too, both inside and out. With a guest list boasting a remarkable array of talent, and something of a genuine coup in attracting Ultimate writer Mark Millar, as well as Furry Freak Brothers’ creator Gilbert Shelton, ‘Watchman’ Dave Gibbons, industry godfather Sydney Jordan and Harry ‘needs no introduction here’ Harrison, not to mention over a hundred other comics names, this two-day event appeared to have something for everyone. Add to that a very fine venue in the seafront Brighton Metropole (venue of the 1987 Worldcon and now part of the Hilton group) during a beautiful sunny winter weekend and most people would surely have to agree that you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy the weekend!
One of the nicest things about the event was the lack of any kind of discernible ‘backstage’. I’d been in the convention for about three minutes when I spotted Mark Millar just hanging about chatting happily with ordinary mortal folk. And so it was for the rest of the convention — guests mingling easily with fans, and vice versa, and a convivial atmosphere throughout. The occasional Dalek would wheel about ordering you to take its photo, and all your favorite artists and writers seemed more than happy to answer questions, sign books and draw for you.
The ground floor of the convention area was kept primarily for sales folk, and there was a lot good stuff, new and old, single issue and collected edition, ready to trap the unwary possessor of a valid credit card. This was aside from the ‘goody bag’ that came with the price of entrance, including a helpful souvenir program, thinly disguised Forbidden Planet catalogue, two free issues of 2000AD (but of course!), and various other pieces of reading matter.
There was a varied schedule of events, too: Dave Gibbons chatting with Dez Skinn was an early highlight, both on good form, bouncing mutual anecdotes off each other. Sydney Jordan and Harry Harrison similarly had a number of tales to tell about life in the comics biz over the years, and waffled only the very tiniest little bit. My personal favorite appearance of the expo was by SF writer and new Dr Who scriptwriter, Paul Cornell, who gave a live ‘writers’ commentary’ over the "Father’s Day" episode from the last series — a humorous and genuinely fascinating insight into the making of this particular episode, and into the series in general. Even if you weren’t a Who fan, this was excellent stuff. [This is quite possibly the same presentation that Paul gave at Worldcon, in which case it is great to see it being given to a different audience at the other end of the country – Cheryl]
Saturday evening saw a preview of UK micro-budget fantasy movie, Soul Searcher, as well as a showing of The Mindscape of Alan Moore. The former wasn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but considering it had no major backing and was made for such a tiny amount of money it’s a goddamn masterpiece. I’ve seen a couple of no-budget films being made and I happen to know that it’s a lot harder than it looks — go and see Soul Searcher if you can. As for the latter, well, come on — it’s a film about Alan Moore, possibly the least-boring man on the planet. I actually saw this earlier in the year and was quite touched by it then. Moore’s ability to make mad ideas seem quite sensible (or is it the other way round…?) is astonishing. Make sure you see this valuable record of the thoughts of a real wizard.
Come Sunday I was up bright and early to catch Rich Johnston’s Live-ing In The Gutters, a live (obviously) edition of his weekly online gossip column, "Lying In The Gutter", and jolly pleased I was too, since quite a few chuckles were to be had — if no startling revelations. Graham Kibble-White’s following chat with UK industry stalwarts John M. Burns and Bill Titcombe had fewer chuckles but more in the way of revelations about how British comics used to be made; and whilst there was nothing too startling I was intrigued enough to hang around until Mark Millar’s Q&A began in the other hall. Millar seems like a lovely chap, a great lover and respecter of the medium he works within, but he, and many of the questioners, made me feel like a fraud for calling myself a comics fan, since I clearly knew next to nothing about comics in comparison to them (something my wife remains obscurely pleased about).
What else can I tell you? The Brighton Comics Expo was, to my mind, a great success — I hope Dez Skinn concurs, as it would be nice to do it again in 2006…