There seems to be a spate of smaller local comic conventions popping up in various locales over the country lately, there is DemonCon in Maidstone which was held in April, our own Canny Comic Con in Newcastle in December and this past weekend Megacon in Carlisle. I was there to see what was on offer at the launch of this new convention.
The venue was the Richard Rose Central Academy which was a great place for a convention, a café area, a light airy hall with a panel area in what we referred to as “The Pit” in the middle of the room. There were workshops running throughout the afternoon and some good panels too. The organisers were enthusiastic and had tried to think of everything – there were screens up showing workshop and panel times and these were also announced by a sort of compère who kept the commentary going in-between panels. There was a cosplay competition and a massive Yu-Gi-Oh double decker bus parked outside the building where you could make your own trading cards. There was also console game competitions running with the support of Gamestation and board games with the support of Games Workshop, Travelling Man and more.
The first panel of the day was the guys behind Accent UK and Disconnected Press, they covered a lot in their 45 minutes - advice for first time writers and artists, some great hints and tips and horror stories and they also talked about their current books and upcoming titles, funny anecdotes and the demise of the Accent Anthology (sob!) I really enjoyed this panel. The only other panel I caught (my daughter’s Nintendo DS had run out of charge, so that was the end of the sitting time!) was the Andy Diggle, Sean Phillips and Jim Alexander panel, this was a great panel funny and interesting and really good to hear all three's opinions on the comic world and this was a real highlight of the day.
So for a first time out – they got a lot right but there were some problems too. Firstly price, whilst fine for an adult there were no concessions so we had to pay full price for our five-year-old - it's the only convention where we've had to pay for an under 12-year-old at all! When I first walked into the venue it looked enormous but the dealer and comic table numbers were much smaller than it initially appeared (though customer service couldn't be beaten with one lovely lady ringing her shop and having someone run over with more superhero and Harry Potter stock for the littler ones) and there weren't that many comics. I think trying to cover all bases and have a little bit of everything was a great idea in principle but I'm not sure it entirely worked in practice. I think that having the headlining guests – Sean Phillips, Andy Diggle, Jim Alexander and Graeme Neil Reid tucked away in the corner was not the wisest idea and that corner of the con seemed, the quietest all afternoon. One last thing they really needed was a proper website – it doesn't have to be a paid one, plenty of sites out there like Wordpress or Blogger could host a decent site with a list of events and guests without having to scroll around a Facebook page.
But all in all, these are minor niggles. It was a nice afternoon with a good vibe, run by enthusiastic people and I think this convention will move onwards and upwards. I have to say I hope the smaller local convention will rise and rise, with the economy the way it is travelling expenses to the bigger conventions is becoming more and more difficult to justify for us all, so if I can get my comic fix on my doorstep then I will do anything I can to support that. So, Megacon Carlisle, see you next year.