The first Birmingham Comics Festival was a glorious success that focused on the main point of a comic book event: it was all about comics.
Comic book events have changed radically over the last few years. Stories about superheroes are now mainstream, leading to a massive rise in interest in all things comic book related. Comic festivals have grown from a niche activity to major events. ‘Comics’ events now tend to feature guests from movies and TV, as well a variety of other family attractions. With an event of this kind happening somewhere in the country almost every weekend, it’s sometimes tricky to identify a ‘Comics’ events that is all about comic books and comic talent. Birmingham Comics Festival had a clear agenda; fill a large space full of comic book creators, writers and artists, and then add fans and people dressed up as comic book characters and celebrate sequential art the way it should be: with a sense of joy and glee.
The big names were the likes of Lucillo Parillo (who is best known for his devastatingly beautiful art for titles such as Thor, Iron Man and Vampirella) and Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Jonathan Maberry. The list of guests was incredibly diverse, covering the entire state of the industry in the UK. From the ever-present Lee Bradley to the likes of Lew Stringer and Hunt Emerson, Birmingham Comics Festival had something for everyone, provided you liked comics.
Edgbaston Cricket Ground is an interesting venue; it’s very spacious, which meant that people could easily wander around the main hall without too many queues or crowds forming. Being a true comic festival, the event drew together the great and the good from the UK scene into one place. There were plenty of familiar faces here; if you’ve walked the halls of Thought Bubble or an MCM Artists Alley, then you already knew the territory. This was very much to the event’s advantage, as it meant the up and coming UK creators were rubbing shoulders with the more established creatives, and this became very apparent in the panels.
With two rooms to host panels in there was always something to take a look at. Thanks to clever scheduling you could easily spend one continuous day listening to artists and writers talking about their work and the greater industry. Of particular joy was Going Commando, a panel dedicated to classic war comics, the Hall of Fame and Shame, a skewed look at some of the odder characters in comics, and the cosplay panels that came at the end of the event.
As one would expect, there were plenty of cosplayers on site. Most of the costume-related stalls and personalities were located in one handy place (upstairs, next to the café), which allowed people to show off in style and with plenty of space. From hyperactive Jawas to Simpsons characters and sneaky Cylons, this whole area leant a true sense of theatre and carnival to the proceedings.
Birmingham Comics Festival was a tightly organised and well put together event, situated on a great site and placed on the geek calendar at just the right time. Slickly put together and cleverly accomplished, we have high hopes that the organisers will continue to impress the general public with these very well thought out occasions.
photos: Anne Davies