Olly’s World of Indie: True Believers Comic Festival 2017

This weekend’s True Believers Comic Festival saw three members of the Pipedream Comics team in attendance, each with their own unique take on the day. Following hot on the footsteps of James Blundell’s thoughts from yesterday, our other intrepid reporter Olly MacNamee fills us in on his day at the races as he gets the comic con season underway at True Believers Comic Festival 2017.

In the three years Stuart Mulrain and friends have been putting on this show, I don’t think my sat-nav has taken me the same way twice, and Saturday’s trip was no different. But, as we rode up to a very balmy Cheltenham Racecourse, kissed by a weak winter’s sunshine and nearer to noon than I would have liked, I could see, at least, that we had beaten the queues and so were able to just walk on in and get stuck in.

For me, this has become one of the first comic cons of my season, and as such it becomes more of a marathon at times to get around and reacquaint myself with some of the creators and exhibitors I have got to know over the few years I have been covering this vibrant scene. And, with a horror con in Birmingham and the behemoth of MCM rolling out their own show up in Telford, it was good to see that across the day there was a steady stream of fans, cosplayers and families, with the cosplay parade at 3ish once again packing them in. Maybe the comic con schedule isn’t as saturated as people have been prophesying. Three cons in one day, and within spitting distance of one another, really, and yet there were enough interested people to share around. That’s a promising thing to consider as we face a year of even more cons emerging, such as ICE in Brighton in June and, not too long after that, The Birmingham Comics Festival, also in June, but intended to celebrate comic book culture across the month.

But, back to Cheltenham.

Utilising the upper balconies of the generously spaced main hall, there was clearly a lot more exhibitors there this year, which is a bold statement of this con’s growing success, and I am sure there were even more guest creators there this year than in previous years. All of whom seemed to be doing steady business throughout the day. The likes of Des Taylor, Ben Oliver and Jessica Martin never seemed to be seen without a pencil or pen in their hands, sketching away, producing some great art which, I suspect, will be a fond reminder of the day in years to come. I still look wistfully at my Alan Davis’ Captain Britain headshot from a con in Liverpool back in 1999. I just wished I remembered where my Jay and Silent Bob stoned-out-of-their-noggins sketch by Duncan Fegredo has disappeared to! That one I do miss.

As a teacher during the week, I’m used to spouting out nonsense to rooms full of kids all day long and so it’s with no surprise that in recent years I am being asked to moderate panels. And, it was no different today. Having planned for the my panel with indie creators, Jon Laight (Brethern Born), Chris Sides (Dark Matters I and II) and Jay Martin (ALV), I was a little shaken when I found myself agreeing to do a second panel with Jessica Martin, Ben Oliver, Dylan Teague and Des Taylor. But, having spoken with a number of these people in the past, I was immediately calmed of any nerves I may have had, because it was a panel I was not prepared for, as I knew they’d put on a good show, discussing as they did the different art processes they us when producing their art. The highlight of the panel was listening to the gregarious and energetic Des Taylor wax lyrical about his meeting with Michael Jackson backstage on his Dangerous tour. If you ever get to meet him, ask him about it. From this one meeting, Des’s star started to ascend and it’s been on the ascension ever since with a show in Vegas planned for this Spring.

From both panels there was one message: if you really want to get into comics, you’ve got to be dedicated and determined with a shedload of passion. Oh, and get drawing or writing regularly to hone those skills.

So, with two back-to-back panels I found that the one disappointment of the day, for me, was soon realised as I stepped out and into the cosplay parade where there was hardly any room to breathe around the catwalk. Damn! No chance at snapping cosplayers this year then! And my daughter was making her confident debut, at the age of 11, cosplaying as one character or another from Attack on Titan. Don’t ask me which one though, manga has always been something I have found difficult to penetrate. It’s good to see her now finding her own taste in comic books. My decade long commitment to brainwashing her into loving comics was a success! Dictators of the world, look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Cosplay. That’s a word that can fill you with joy or dread, depending on which side of the traders’ tables you’re standing behind. But, here at the True Believers, it’s done exceptionally well. The Celebrate Cosplay crew are tactfully placed in another area altogether, separate from the main con floor, with their own tables offering advice and support to cosplayers of all ages throughout the day. And, as with previous years, the cosplay catwalk was one of the many highlights of the day and done with great fun, courtesy of compare-extraordinaire, KuorStylr, Trish Trinket and pals. It’s also a great way to end the day too, and with that, I made one last dash around the con floor picking up a small stash of new books, prints and some great original art from Lorenzo Etherington (Monkey Nuts, The Phoenix Weekly). And I’d promised myself I wasn’t going to buy anything.

Looking now at the Facebook comments, I’m not the only one who had a good time, and with that steady flow of comic-con goers I mentioned earlier, I was thankful of the space to take it easy and not feel hemmed in, as you can do at the bigger, more corporate events.

We’ll have our final report later this week as Editor Alex Thomas reports on events from behind the table at True Believers 2017!