Behind The Table: True Believers Comic Festival 2017

For our third look at this past weekend’s True Believers Comic Festival, we are going to take a glimpse at what life was like behind the table, as editor Alex Thomas makes his convention debut with Pipedream Comics and an Indie Shocase special edition of The Pull List!

If there’s one phrase that can describe the True Believers experience when you’re an exhibitor, it’s ‘well organised’. It may not be the most glamorous or exciting of adjectives, but it was one that I found myself using on a regular basis throughout the day. From the minute you turn up at the loading bay (navigated there by the fresh new signs!), your box of kit is carried off by an orange shirted TB agent and taken to your table. It’s proper VIP treatment and a great start to a great day.

Arriving in the empty hall I was unsure of protocol for exhibitors, but it turns out being there over an hour before the start is not the normal thing for ALL comics peeps, as the venue was still half empty! Having scouted out my spot and worked out the vantage point I was able to have a quick catch up with Awesome Comics Podcast host Vince Hunt and stars of The Pull List, Andrew Pawley, as well as the wonderful Etherington Brothers – all of whom I could probably have chatted to all day, such is their amazing enthusiasm for the world of comics!

As well as wanting to get the Pipedream Comics name out there, my main reason for sitting behind a table at this year’s True Believers was to try and bring some attention to our indie fanzine The Pull List. Organiser Stuart Mulrain has been a long time supporter of the site and so when we mentioned the idea of getting a table he did a great job of encouraging us to do it! To repay his trust in us, we created a special edition of The Pull List just for True Believers, which features interviews with 6 creators who we think are going to be a big deal in 2017, as well as our top indie 10 comics from 2016, and put them together into a special print edition. As I unpacked our wares and began setting out the stall, I was keeping my fingers firmly crossed as I genuinely had no idea whether The Pull List would be a success in this new format!

Once I had set up, I knew that I was going to be behind the table all day and so took the time to catch up with a few folk who I might miss later in the day. These included Brethren Born’s Jon Laight (whose Create-A-Character competition was coming to a conclusion at the event), The Sheep and The Wolves Nick Prolix (whose Slang Pictorial book was a real gem – more of which later) and also David Broughton – whose Detective Gallo was one of our picks for the day (and a book which several people recommended to us throughout the day!) We were also able to catch up with event organiser Stuart Mulrain, who had done such a fantastic job in making our first con appearance a great experience and who seemed to check back in on us regularly throughout the day, like a protective parent just making sure things were OK!

At this point, I also had my first customer of the day as Dead Canary Comic’s Chris Baker came by and picked up our first ever copy of The Pull List in print – which he was surprised to see included The Last Driver! Chris would be a champion of our work throughout the day, pointing people in our direction and generally talking us up with his hyperactive energy which was very much appreciated and meant we felt like we could conquer the world by the end of the day!

After the rain and wind soaked super queue of last year, there was no way of telling how things were outside, however once the doors were open a steady trickle of cosplayers and confused comic fans entered the arena and none of them seemed too windswept or rain-soaked, so it must have been OK out there! We won’t lie, we were kind of expecting a heady rush of geeks keen to get their hand on the latest comics and so it was a bit underwhelming when they just ambled in! Fortunately the TBCF announcer was able to bellow across the room to tell us of the start, and his periodic appearances to announce the panels was a nice touch, which allowed people on the floor to keep track of the day.

Our table for the day was situated in H block, along with many of the name guests like Ben Oliver, Des Taylor and Jessica Martin, which made us feel a bit out of place but was a fantastic spot. The wide gangway meant that people were able to walk past without getting caught up with other guests – such as the bloke dressed as Thor in the adjacent aisle – but it did mean things felt a bit quiet at times and you felt a bit isolated as people ambled past making no eye contact whatsoever and heading over to see our more illustrious neighbours

I was warned early on to not get disheartened when you don’t sell anything in the first hour, however I won’t lie, it tested my mettle as things remained remarkably quiet until about lunch time. I’m not sure if that was because there was a sudden influx of guests or because everyone was waiting to get their lunch before opening their wallets, but as time went on and I worked out my sales patter, business became more steady and people seemed to really engage with what we were doing.

As well as getting to meet new readers and other creators, I was also able to catch up with Pipedream Scribes James Blundell and Olly MacNamee. It was a fantastic chance to get so many of the PDC crew together in one place and talk shop. Olly was involved in several of the panels that day and so was gearing up for interviewing a variety of great guests, while James was scouring the floor for the next great indie book to review – so a huge thanks to both for their continued help!

As well as selling books, the afternoon was also about a bit of networking as we chatted to creators we’d not seen for a while, or those we’d not met in person before. These included the wonderful Jon Lock (who this time last year I was pitching the idea of a indie fanzine to!) and Owen from the Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel, a regular face at shows in the south west. Dan Mallier from Spa Town Comics and Leamington Comic Con popped by to say HI and chat about our future booking with him, as well as the winner of his Small Press Factor competition. As did fellow convention organiser Kev Brett, who gave as an early look at the artwork for Nottingham Comic Con and thanked us for including his How To Run A Comic Con book in our TBCF round-up.

Speaking of books in that article, we also had a chance to chat with Matt Hardy from Bad Robot Comics who was selling Cadavers for the first time at a Con, and also Joseph Oliveira whose Ghost Island was probably our pick of the weekend and was a really nice chap as well!  We also got to meet Nathan Oliver whose Hotel anthology on Kickstarter looks a lot of fun, PM Buchan who gave us a copy of his book Heretics and a whole host of others whose names we’re struggling to remember at this point!

As the afternoon begin to wind down, I picked the winners of our competition and made the day of a young convention goer called Jasmine who was over the moon at going away with a pile of books from Nobrow Press!

As the crowds began to dwindle I decided it was time to leave the safety of the table and have a quick look around the tables near by. I only went within peaking distance of the table but I was able to pick up the fantastic Wraith King sketchbook and Tuk Tuk comic from Will Kirkby, who was sat opposite and tantalising us with his amazing art. As well as picking up some books from the awesome Etherington Brothers, (who were still going strong even at this late stage of the day and had perhaps gone a bit manic) as well as getting a print copy of the previously mentioned Slang Pictorial which is one of those books which really deserves to be seen in print as it really makes the most of its old school newspaper strip style and Nick has a superb eye for design! We also caught up with the lovely Rachael Smith and excellent Chris Imber who were fresh off their grilling on the awesome comic panel.

With things grinding to a halt sales-wise and people starting to pack up for the day we decided to do the same and head for home, reflecting on a fantastic time all round. Stuart and the True Believers team have set a ridiculously high bar for all other conventions to live up to as an exhibitor and they absolutely do things the right way in every respect! We could not have asked for a better first con, and we can’t wait to be back next year – assuming they’ll have us!!

Our next stop on the Convention Circuit is Leamington Comic Con on March 25th – see you there?!