The Canny Comic Con
Stacey Whittle finds that running a comics convention is tiring but rewarding
I helped to organise the first Canny Comic Con which was held at Newcastle City Library on Saturday 10 December. It was an entirely different experience to being the usual con punter. Cheaper for a star,t as I managed to buy a big fat nothing, what with racing around, checking everyone was okay, running a couple of panels and trying to keep an eye on my errant five-year old. And incredibly tiring too – see above. In fact I’ve barely managed to lift my head up and look around me since last Saturday. But above all, it was incredibly satisfying and somewhat emotional, it has to be said.
The main organiser, head honcho, cat herder and my lovely other half Alexi Conman put together a wonderful convention. It kicked off on Friday night at the beautiful Tyneside Cinema which hosted a drink and draw for us and showed Howard The Duck in the bar. We had a pretty good turn out for this and the bar was quite full of geeky folks staring aghast at duck chubobblies on the big screen and taking part in comic jams – where you draw a panel of a comic and pass it on. A lovely vibe and a nice laid back way to start the weekend.
Saturday morning was manic. We arrived at the library a good hour before kick off, we tried to ensure everyone had everything they needed, and were in the right place, but already the atmosphere was friendly, enthusiastic and excited. The library staff were amazing, and like lighting at producing anything we asked for – chairs, more tables, crayons, stickers – nothing was too much trouble. We had a little queue forming outside as we neared kick-off and that was so heartening. Our pro guest list was quite amazing considering to the size of the event, and many thanks indeed go to Bryan and Mary Talbot, Doug Braithwaite, Gary Erskine (who gets extra love for travelling the furthest!), Al Ewing, Nigel Auchterlounie, Paul Davidson, Simon Donald and Alex Collier. As well as all of the small and indie press guys that turned out. We had about 40 tables altogether, a real cornucopia of comics which looked and was, in fact, amazing.
We also had workshops for children running all day with ArtHeroes, and my little one’s new favourite person, artist Ingi Jensson. We had mini comic workshops with Cuttlefish. We had talks galore from both Bryan and Mary Talbot; on studying comics with Dr Mel Gibson; we had talks on comedy and Viz, and animating Viz from Simon Donald and Alex Collier. We had panels on breaking into comics and humour in comics and digital comics and my own quiz panel The Big Fat Comics Quiz Of The Year, which went much better than I expected – mind I expected that either nobody would turn up or the PowerPoint would fail resulting in the computer blowing up – with Al Ewing and Andy Waugh (Team Beard) beating Gary Erskine and Graham Pearce (Team Chin) by one measly point!
There were people and families and children there all day and nothing went hideously wrong. The atmosphere was lovely and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. One of my real highlights was seeing Judge Stewart in full 2000AD replica uniform giving out free copies of old 2000AD and just for a moment being surrounded by children, all clutching copies of 2000AD, like some odd other world Father Christmas.
And the emotional bit? Well yes, I’m afraid I’m a bit of a bawler, and some things just set me off. The way Newcastle’s Paper Jam Comics Collective and friends took turns in helping me care for my little girl so I could run panels and do interviews. When the lovely Mr Erskine walked through the door in his trademark kilt, and he wasn’t the only one from Glasgow way, a group of writers – Glowriters – based there came down to support us on the day, yup that had me tearing up a bit too. My friend, Hugo award winner James Bacon travelled from London – I could hardly believe my eyes. Neither could I when my work colleagues and some of the girls from my knitting group arrived!
A lot of people helped make this convention work: Ian Mayor, Paul Thompson, Cuttlefish, Britt Coxon and many more. But overall my wonderful Alexi Conman, who insisted we could arrange a convention in a couple of months, and drove himself into the ground making it happen. Everytime I caught sight of him running around on Saturday I felt proud fit to burst of him and the whole geeky community who pulled this off. The comic scene in the UK has always been friendly but this weekend it felt like family. I thank you all.