So after months of hype and bluster, Kapow Comic Con 2011 came to London at the weekend. Promising San Diego in London (overpriced hotels, restaurants you can’t get into and panels you can’t get near;), at last there was the chance to see what all of the fuss was about.
Kapow took place at the Business Design Centre, a venue for trade shows located in middle-class North London. The weather in London, and in fact England, during April is normally very changeable with rain likely. But they were lucky with this as it felt like July (in any other country, as July over here is also very unpredictable).
Kapow Comic Con 2011 had a decent lineup of guests (like Brian Bolland, Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, Duncan Fegredo, Chris Weston, Sean Phillips, Bryan Hitch and John Romita Jr), a selection of panels featuring things like a preview of Thor the movie with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston and a lot of Millarworld announcements. The celebrity bullshit with which they partially promoted the show mostly evaporated at the show itself. One of the ‘celebrity’ guests, Jonathan Ross, was only at Kapow for about half of Saturday and many of the other celebs cancelled at the last minute.
The range of comic dealers was decent but big name publishers DC and Marvel were not set up at the show, leaving only Titan (the main bankroller of the show) and magazines Comic Heroes and ImagineFX and a number of independent British outfits like SelfMadeHero and Cinebook to fill the slots.
The Stan Lee Awards were rather amateurish and embarrassing with over half of the winners being absent. The presentation by Guinness World Records for a number of comic-related records was nicely put together though.
The overall vibe was positive however and, removing all of the bluster and hype, Kapow was a very decent London comic show in a nice venue. There’s already talk of another show in 2012 and I am glad. If they learn from the experiences of this year’s event and build on what worked here, then Kapow will be a worthy addition to the British comic show going calendar…

Because I promised one of the organisers of the Unicom event up in Hertfordshire, here’s some info on what they’re doing:

Saturday 24th April, 6pm
Since its launch in 1977, 2000AD – “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” – has been at the forefront of British Comics and remains a shining light in an increasingly barren landscape. Arriving perfectly in time with the popular re-emergence of Science Fiction and bearing a punky, anti-authoritative tone, 2000AD thoroughly invigorated Boys comics, introducing a collection of classic characters. For a vast array of 2000AD’s artists and writers, the comic was vital springboard to international recognition and success. UniComics is proud to present a panel discussion with three of 2000AD’s most iconic and renowned creative stars from its formative years – founder, debut editor and writer PAT MILLS (Slaine, Charley’s War), artist DAVE GIBBONS (Rogue Trooper, Watchmen), and artist KEVIN O’NEILL (Nemesis The Warlock, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) – who discuss the early development of the title as well as their own specific and greatly-admired contributions. Hosted by Danny Graydon. Tickets are priced £10

Sunday 25th April, 6pm
On April 14th, 1950, a new Boys comic called The Eagle vigorously introduced some wonder in to the drudgery of post-war Britain, and, with its star strip Dan Dare: Pilot of The Future, showcased a profoundly alluring fantasy of a strong and vital Britain in then far-flung 1997 that boldly led the way in the exploration of outer space. One of the most successful comics in British history, at its height, The Eagle remarkably sold just under a million copies a week. In celebration of the 60th anniversary of both this landmark, much-beloved title and its highly-memorable flagship character, UniComics presents a panel discussion to explore what is considered to be one of the high watermarks of British Comics history. The panel includes PAT MILLS (Founder of 2000AD), NICK JONES (Founding editor of Titan Book’s Dan Dare library), DR.WILL BROOKER (Kingston University) and GARY ERSKINE (Artist, Virgin Comcs’ Dan Dare). Hosted by Danny Graydon. Tickets are priced £10

Saturday 24th April, 8pm.
In an alternate 1985 where superheroes exist – and are outlawed – the world stands on the very brink of nuclear conflict. When a former colleague is murdered, an active vigilante named Rorschach begins a sprawling investigation which soon uncovers a threat that could completely change the course of history. Long deemed “unfilmable” – notably by WATCHMEN writer Alan Moore himself – 300 Director Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Moore’s and Dave Gibbon’s revolutionary and award-winning graphic novel won considerable acclaim for its thoroughly impressive loyalty to the source material. The director’s cut of the film adds a further twenty-three minutes to the story, bringing it ever closer to the graphic novel. For this special UniComics screening, the film will be introduced by WATCHMEN artist DAVE GIBBONS. (US, 2009, 186 Minutes)

Telephone: 01707 281127
Box Office Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 am – 4.00 pm

Sounds like an interesting run of talks and events…

The latest Previews, Vol XVIII #12, on page 340 has TRIPWIRE Superhero Special, our 80 page special that looks at the world of superheroes at Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse. It will include an exclusive Kick Ass feature that looks at bringing Millar and Romita Jr’s comic to the big screen, Paul Cornell on Marvel’s Captain Britain, we look at Watchmen the movie and the comic with its co-creator Dave Gibbons and much more. It’s going to be a really cool package and at £4.95 UK/ $7.95 US, it’s also going to be pretty affordable. Diamond item number is DEC084396, so don’t forget to order it from your local comic shop…

So Saturday was our Studio Space signing at Forbidden Planet in London. We have done two signings before for books (Golden Apple in LA and Jim Hanley’s in New York way back in 2002 for the TRIPWIRE 10th anniversary book) but we’ve never signed at Forbidden Planet. We had arranged Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Sean Phillips to come down and sign to kick off at 1pm. I had horrible images of two people turning up for the signing but the queue was pretty decent and they had about 60 people get stuff signed and buy copies of the book. I was also worried that one or all of the artists wouldn’t make it, leaving just me and Gary and some irate FP customers. But that didn’t happen: all three turned up to support us and the book, which was great. Three people even asked me and Gary to sign. My mate Steve Colgan came along too as did Andy Colman and there was a real feeling that this was an important event for the book and for us. When we saw the pile of copies of the book on the table at FP, it was a really exciting feeling. Next Saturday we have the Waterstones signing in London with Steve Dillon and Bryan Talbot and I expect it won’t be as well attended. But it should be fun nevertheless.
One small postscript at FP: after the signing, we went downstairs and I saw Guillermo Del Toro again, this time with his daughter shopping. He was very nice and even seemed a little regretful that he missed our signing. A great end to a fantastic day. Here are some photos of the signing…

Tomorrow Saturday 7th June is our Forbidden Planet signing in London at the store at 179 Shaftesbury Avenue with Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Sean Phillips. It kicks off at 1pm and should be a good afternoon…
Speaking of things getting signed, here is a photo of my hardcover copy of the book signed by Guillermo Del Toro, which’ll be staying on my shelf. I’m going to try and get as many people in the book to sign it…

Sunday at Bristol was a great day for us as we had Dave Gibbons, Walter Simonson and Dave Taylor all signed on the table so we had a fantastic turnout and sold lots of the book. Dave Taylor is an exceptionally nice bloke and he has a very cute daughter (whose name I don’t remember). Before the show, me and Gary took a wander by the canal at Bristol and I took some great shots. The day passed quickly and we packed up the table, having had a great weekend and Gary headed back to Winchester. In the evening, I went for dinner with Dave Morris, his friend Pat, Misako Rocks and Sean Wilson’s friend Akiko and we went to the Spyglass, the restaurant on the boat in Bristol. It was a very relaxing end to the weekend. So here are a few photos of the canalside at Bristol including some nice crane shots, photos from the Sunday including Walter and Dave Gibbons signing, Dave Taylor signing (apologies for getting the side of Dave) and the Bristol canalside at night. Part Four (where I recount our mammoth trip back to London with Walter and Louise Simonson squeezed into my tiny car) will be up over the weekend but first my Indiana Jones review up on Thursday…

So with less than a week to go until Bristol, we have firmed up some signings for Studio Space both at Bristol and beyond. On our TRIPWIRE table at Bristol, we shall have Walter Simonson, Duncan Fegredo, Sean Phillips, Dave Gibbons and Dave Taylor signing at various points over the weekend, so please stop by and check what time they will be signing at. But it doesn’t end there: on Saturday 7th June at Forbidden Planet London on Shaftesbury Avenue, we have three top artists signing copies of the book: Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Sean Phillips. Then the following Saturday, 14th June, we have a Waterstones talk and signing at Waterstones on 421 Oxford Street opposite Selfridges with Bryan Talbot and Steve Dillon. Then, so we don’t neglect our friends in the North, Saturday 28th June will see a Studio Space signing at Forbidden Planet Manchester with Dave Taylor and Steve Dillon and possibly one other artist. So the summer will be pretty packed. Before all that (except Bristol). Add San Diego to this where we’ll be set up on the Image booth and I expect I won’t get any sleep for the next three months…