“People’s enjoyment of the day is the main reason we do what we do and the reason we continue to do it!” Stuart Mulrain talks True Believers Comic Festival 2018

Convention season is just around the corner, and it gets underway with one of our favourite events of the whole year – True Believers Comic Festival 2018 in Cheltenham. Now in it’s 4th year, we can’t wait to head to this fantastic event, but don’t just take our word for it. We catch up with organiser Stuart Murrain to find out more about what will be going on this year True Believers Comic Festival 2018.

It’s that time of year where the convention season is about to get under way, what can we look forward to at this year’s event, what guests have you got and what events are happening on the day?

SM: This year, we’re thrilled to welcome Antony Johnston, Christian Wildgoose, Kev Hopgood, Phil Winslade, Staz Johnson, David Leach and Guillermo Ortego to True Believers for the first time, as well as welcoming back Mike Collins, Robin & Lorenzo Etherington, Dylan Teague, Jack Lawrence, Rachael Smith and Emma Vieceli for another year.  We’re also delighted that both Vince Hunt and Tony Esmond from The Awesome Comics Podcast are joining us again, and this time they’re bringing Dan Butcher with them too! 

On the events side, we’ll again have a great selection of panels; which are a must for both comics fans and people interested in the craft of creating comics.  We’ll also have a couple of workshops on the day- including one with the mighty Sarah Millman, who will be showing people how to create their own comic zines.  There will also be the return of the regulars like the Tabletop Gaming area and the Celebrate Cosplay Hall and Catwalk show.

The main thing to look forward to though is the comics community coming together again for another convention year and the new projects, friendships and creativity that comes from it.

You’ve got a great mix of returning guests and newcomers, are there are any guests you are particularly excited to have at this years event that you would recommend people check out?

SM: It’s always been important to us to have a mix of new and returning guests and Small Press/Indie creators at the event as it’s an important part of the community and family that is True Believers. It means so much to us that people come back year after year and that more and more people accept our guest invitations or seek us out to be a part of the event.

I know it’s a bit of a cop out, but I’m genuinely excited to catch up with a lot of familiar faces and meet some new ones too and would recommend people take the time to speak with as many people as they can on the day and check out at least one of the panels too, as it’s a great way to discover new comics and creators. 

And are there any events which you are running for the first time that you would like people to check out?

SM: To be honest, the event isn’t far from what we want it to be at this stage, so we’re not really looking to add much more to it, although we are adapting some things to hopefully give people a better experience on the day.  One of the things we’re changing is how we do workshops, which will now be located on the balcony of the main hall.  The area will be set up all day, so that as well as the organised workshops, it will also have some activities that people can just drop in to take part in at their leisure, including a Draw Something Sunday (or Saturday in this case) Jam Piece that will be left out for anyone to add a drawing to throughout the day.

Do you enjoy being the season opener, as it seems to really focus people’s attention on to the day?

SM: It’s weirdly only something we’ve become aware of being a thing that people have started commenting on and getting excited about in the last year or so and it wasn’t something we’d really thought about when we picked the date (in hindsight, it would’ve been smart to market the event as such had we realised).  It was really nice in 2017 when people were commenting on how they bookended their year with two great cons; with us as the opener and Nottingham as the closer.  

It was lovely to hear people talking about how much they were looking forward to starting the 2018 convention year with us.  As with all of the things that seem to happen around True Believers, the real enjoyment for me is the way people feel about it and the way the community embraces it, supports it and grows with each year.

You are launching an anthology at this year’s event, can you tell us a bit about how that came about? What and who are involved in it, and what made you choose to put out an anthology this year?

SM: We’ve wanted to do an anthology since the first event, but with finding our feet – as both an event and within the Small Press/Indie comics community – we wanted to wait until we could do it right.  In the end, this year felt like the right time to take the plunge and Tales From Beyond Infinity became a reality.

The idea was to put together a comic that featured exclusive stories by small press creators, set in the world of the comics they’ve created.  So we’re really lucky to have stories from Vince Hunt (The Red Mask From Mars), Susie Gander (Perrywinkle),  Stuart Jackson & Leon Reichel (The Inheretic), Mike Garley (Samurai Slasher), Jon Laight (Brethren Born), Craig Turl (Wages Of Sindy), Robin Jones (Griff Gristle), Sam Webster (Unfamiliar Skies) and Mo Ali & Andy Bloor (Midnight Man). 

The anthology is 100% for charity, so all of the people involved gave their time and stories for free – which means so much to me personally because the comic is in memory of my brother in law John Lawson, who died in 2009 of a brain tumour.  Like me, he was a massive comic book fan and would’ve secretly loved (but publicly hated it) having a comic book dedicated to his memory, so it seemed like a fitting tribute to him that our first anthology would be in his memory.

The comic is available exclusively at the event and costs just £5 for 36 pages of comic (and some other bits) goodness, with every £5 from each book sold going straight to the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, who cared for John in his final days.

There will also be a number of other new books launching at the event, can you tell us a bit about these and what we can look forward to?

SM: It’s fantastic that people are launching new titles and issues at the event.  We’ve not been told about all of them yet, but what we do know so far is that Todd Oliver will be launching Issue 4 of the fantastic Boxes, Grayham Puttock will have issue 2 of Circuside, Asa Wheatley & Kat Willott will have Tails Of Mystery, Kev Brett will be launching Artist Angst and The Awesome Comics Podcast team are launching their – highly anticipated – Anthology comic!

As well as that there is of course Tales From Beyond Infinity and (True Believers co-founder & graphic designer) Andy Hanks is finally – after years of prompting – releasing a sketchbook of his Robots & Other Stuff, which he’ll be launching at TBCF2018.

We have a page on our website with all of the titles that are launching at the event and some extra info, which we’ll be adding to as we get more titles.

And finally, how will you be spending the day this year? Are you still in ‘firefighting’ mode on the day or do you get a chance to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy what you’ve put together – or does that only come when you start looking at the social media feedback the next day?

SM: I think I’ll always be in firefighting mode on the day, but I’m lucky that I have a great team of volunteers (or Agents as we call them) who have been with the event since the start, who deal with a lot of the things I used to take on myself, which allows me to enjoy a bit more of the day than I had previously.  Last year I had a bit more time to catch up with people and take the time to talk to with them about their day, their work and more, which was really nice.  

There is still a real buzz that comes from reliving the day and filling in the gaps through people’s photos and posts on social media, so that will always be a huge part of how I enjoy the event and soak up the atmosphere of the day.

People’s enjoyment of the day is the main reason we do what we do and the reason we continue to do it.

True Believers takes place at Cheltenham Race Course on Saturday February 3rd from 10:30. You can purchase advance tickets from OKTrueBelivers.com for just £10!