The Birmingham Comics Festival is rapidly gaining a reputation as being a tightly organised and incredibly fun event dedicated to comics first and foremost. 2016’s event, at Birmingham’s spacious Edgbaston Stadium, saw an improvement in terms of content and organisation, proving that good events always seek to become even better.
Comics are one of the simplest and most flexible forms of media we have; they have a unique power and accessibility that makes them pretty much unstoppable once they get going. This explains why stories which originated in comic book form now dominate popular culture. In the rush to embrace all things comic related, however, much has been lost. Many so-called comic conventions cover everything that comics inspire, except for the comics themselves. 2016’s Birmingham Comics Festival fills the gap; it pushes sequential art first and allows all the things it inspires to follow, making for a coherent and rather packed affair.
It’s always a good sign that the party starts before you get to the venue. Outside the entrance were replica cars from various genre movies. Car thieves never stood a chance, however, as the entrance was patrolled by Mega City One’s finest - or to put it another way, a collection of local Judge Dredd-inspired cosplayers having a great time showing off their excellent costumes.
The main hall area was packed with some of the UK’s finest independent comic creators. Indie labels such as Accent UK, Future Quake, Hellbound Media, Markosia and Time Bomb comics were all on display, each with new books for fans to dive into. Plenty of inspiration for new creators to be found here, without quite the pressure or density found at larger events.
Upstairs was somewhat more of the same; a brightly lit open space packed with comics creators and their wares. One of these areas was instead dedicated to comics fandom; props, cosplayers and so on. In addition to the now mandatory Iron Throne, they were plenty of places to chill out and pose.
This year’s event mostly used the space much more effectively; previously the panels felt like an afterthought, now they were front-and-centre to the event.
The panel room was smaller but better managed, with the tighter area allowing for better discussion and learning. The topics included an examination into the differences between the UK and US comics industry, which threw up some fascinating insights. As did the rather fun chat about collaboration in comic books, which somewhat pitted writers against artists.
The event proper was rounded off with an inevitable cosplay competition. Some lovely costumes were on display, and the cosplayers seemed to have a lot of fun.
Ultimately, it’s the attendees that make an event, and Birmingham Comics Festival did everything in its power to make things a bit easier for the general public. There was a little something for all sorts of geeks, from the huge roaming families of nerds to the stereotypical loner. This is a small-but-perfectly-formed comics event bringing together fans both new and experienced to enjoy comics. It’s something a bit special, and we can’t wait till next year.
Photo Credit: Anne Davies