Edinburgh Comic Con took over the EICC for another year, bringing another two days of unabashed nerdiness and celebration of the joys of sequential art. The wide and high main hall provided a bright and open space that makes attendees feel a part of everything all at once. An assortment of artists, writers and other creatives selling comic-themed creations packed the hall, and the regulars of Scotland’s indie comics scene were present and correct, each of their growing libraries of titles spread out in colourful splashes of vibrancy and darkened shadows of depravity, plus some new faces bringing new books into the ever-swelling ranks of quality creations.
Numerous props were dotted about the place for photo ops, including a TARDIS, a Star Trek transporter, a replica of the painting of Viggo from Ghostbusters II, a giant inflatable Spider-Man, a massive Stranger Things poster with a hole to stick your head through and take the place of Eleven, and an eight-foot open cuboid box with the Funko Pop logo to let you pretend to be a collectable.
A side room contained other fun such as displays of elaborate Lego builds, a Nerf range, a wrestling ring with muscular people in glittery costumes, a tabletop gaming section showcasing X-Wing, Star Wars: Legion, Magic: The Gathering and Konflikt 47, and a more technologically themed corner containing pinball machines, arcade cabinets and VR gaming.
The first panel early on Saturday morning featured a discussion on self-publishing comics, featuring writer John Farman (The School of the Damned), writer and artist MJ Wallace (Bi the Way) and writer Billy Potts (Ink). The conversation took in the changes of the business that have made it easier for creators to publish their own work, such as changes in printing meaning that minimum runs of tens of thousands are no longer required but can now be merely a few dozen, and the rise in crowdfunding lessening the financial risk of putting something out, while digital platforms such as Comixology, Comichaus, and Drive Thru Comics help in getting people’s work seen by a wider audience. It was pointed out that passion can help success in spite of a potential lack of success, but a work/life balance needs to be maintained, especially when working one (or more) day jobs to support yourself while honing your craft, lest you burn yourself out.
The regular Game of Thrones panel returned for another year, this time featuring Ian McElhinney (Barristan Selmy, former royal knight and Daenerys Targaryen’s advisor), Aimee Richardson (the original Lannister princess Myrcella Baratheon), and Sam Coleman (young Hodor). While reflecting on their time on the show (again, each character is now dead) the conversation took in the complexity of costumes and makeup, who they’d like to see end up on the Iron Throne, and fan interaction having the problem of the viewers sometimes knowing more than the actors. As well as Game of Thrones, questions also took in McElhinney’s role in Krypton as Superman’s great-great grandfather Seg-El, and Coleman’s appearance in slasher prequel Leatherface. (“It felt like a romantic serious drama, just with a lot of fake blood and the occasional murder”), giving things some variance. There was also some talk of the effect the show has had on the tourism industry for Northern Ireland, both from the volume of filming done there and it also providing the largest number of featured actors.
Comic Creators Anonymous is unsurprisingly a conversation with comic creators, celebrating people lesser known than the superstars everyone worships. This year featured writer Emma Beeby (2000 AD) and artists Kevin Nowlan (Tomorrow Stories) and Scott Collins (DC). The conversation went into their inspirations and how they got into comics, a particularly fun tale being Nowlan’s story about co-creating child mad scientist Jack B Quick with Alan Moore. Some conversation echoed comments from the earlier panel about the necessity of scheduling and how many hours a day should be devoted to working on comics and how much to the rest of your life, while other spoke of the need of people skills when dealing with the multiple drafts and countless changes during development, especially when working on someone else’s property so you don’t have final say.
The most packed panel of the weekend was rather predictably one for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, featuring Nicholas Brendon (series stalwart Xander) along with Iyari Limon (the controversial potential slayer Kennedy) and Indigo (cynical and nihilistic potential slayer Rona). Brendon was something of a chaotic guest, launching off at multiple tangents, but nevertheless revealed himself as a fascinating individual, talking candidly about his depression, addiction, autism, and surviving child abuse. The ladies went into the daunting notion of coming in so late to a show already so well established and highly regarded, and given the high mortality rate of the potentials, remaining unsure week after week whether or not they would make it through the episode.
The Yancy Street Awards again celebrated the best of the year’s comics production both mainstream and independent, which each of the winners listed below.
Best International Writer: Tom King
Best International Artist: Frank Quietly
Best International Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Best International Newcomer: Erin Keepers (for Nasty Girls)
Best Superhero Comic: Immortal Hulk
Best Action Comic: Criminal
Best Humour Comic: Grumble (Mike Norton is guest at con)
Best Horror Comic: Bone Parish
Best OGN/Trade: Green Lantern: Earth One
Best Cover: Captain America #3 (Alex Ross)
Best UK Writer: George Lennox
Best UK Artist: Russell Mark Olsen
Best UK Single Issue: Red Rocket Comet #1
Best UK OGN/Trade: Killtopia
Best UK Cover: The Edge Off (Frank Quietly)
Best Comic Movie/TV Show: Krypton
Best Specialist Publication: ComicScene. We insisted on a recount, but apparently our hard work promoting all you ingrates counts for nothing. NOTHING!!! [We won two years running, so we can’t complain too much! - Ed]
Best Specialist Website: Bleeding Cool
Best Specialist Podcast: 11 O’Clock Comics
Overall Contribution Special Award: Kevin Nowlan
Sunday started with the annual fan film panel, but ran a little differently this year. It has its regular hosts of Nick Cook, co-creator of Star Trek fan film series Starship Intrepid, and Craig McKenzie, tireless chronicler of screen nerdiness and operator of Kneel Before Blog, but instead of the usual action of showing a fan film, the hosts were joined by writer/director David Lumsden to screen his post-apocalyptic short Boat. A bleak tale of survival after the world flooded, it was made with actors performing against green screen, digital effects recreating sunken tower blocks of Scottish cities, decaying from abandonment while their faceless edifices crumble as a father and son row their way to a hoped safety. You can watch it on Amazon Prime here (UK) and here (US). Discussion afterwards talked about the composition of the film’s visual effects, Lumsden’s inspiration to shoot Edinburgh in a way not seen before, the deleted scenes in the film removed to prevent it from being too long, and the story’s continuation in comics penned by Lumsden himself (our reviews of which you can read here, here and here).
A change from the usual line-up was Universally Challenged, something resembling a game show format, where teams had to suss out titles of films and comics through vague picture association, then answer questions on assorted geeky topics. The result was enjoyably anarchic, and with a fair amount of audience participation thrown in it was fun for everyone.
The final interview panel was voice actor Joshua Seth, veteran of dozens of anime titles, most significantly voicing Tetsuo in the seminal cyberpunk film Akira and central character Tai in monster battling franchise Digimon. The conversation (briefly interrupted by a ‘60s Batman failing to get rid of a bomb) went over the development of his career, from getting into voice acting after he had built up a repertoire of voices from prank calling himself as a college radio DJ, and as well as the two big titles, also discussing his work in the likes of Cyborg 009, Wolf’s Rain, and apparently all of the generic vampire voices from the first season of Buffy. His enthusiasm for his craft was evident in his detailed answers, in particular his explanation that he doesn’t watch any visual media to ensure that his performances are not derivative of anything already existing, instead drawing his performances from his own experiences. The talk was followed by a screening of Akira itself (or “Ikra” as the tannoy announcer somehow managed to mispronounce it), which went down as well as you would have expected, especially among people who hadn’t seen it before.
The cosplay contest once again finished off the weekend, allowing dedicated amateur tailors and props crafters to show off their creations. A few of the entries included Evil Dead’s Ash complete with chainsaw hand; Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Bombshell Supergirl; a papier-mâché Toothless and Light Fury from How to Train Your Dragon; a cross-dressed Yoshiko Tsushima of Love Live! Sunshine!!; an elaborate wedding skit featuring the Joker marrying Harley Quinn, only for her to run off with Poison Ivy; an Iron Man Mk I with a rear motorised cooling system and a wrist spray of pressurised gas; and a Drauger from Skyrim featuring glowing blue eyes through his skull horn helmet.
Third place was won by League of Legends’ Diana as a Blood Moon cultist, eerie mask and giant weapon evoking the requisite formidable appearance; second was Overwatch’s Mercy in the Winged Victory skin with a perfectly recreated costume and an electric powered glowing staff; and the overall winner was an Empire Greatsword from Warhammer, an elaborate costume with multiple props completing the outfit.
Edinburgh Comic Con has firmly established itself as an essential fixture in the crowded yet ever-growing field of conventions, the variation of the types of stalls and attractions offering something for everyone. Particularly significant is the family friendly atmosphere that welcomes children of all ages who were occasionally even more wide-eyed and excited than their parents at the offerings, the overall atmosphere being one of inclusion and fun.