If you like your reads at the artier end of the comics spectrum – and live outside the M25 and so don’t get to go to events like LCAF – then the Bristol Comics and Zine Fair is a perfect day out for you. Now in it’s sixth year the event is held in the old fire station in the city centre, and features a fantastic range of genuine small press talents, from ‘names’ like Avery Hill and Mike Medaglia, to up and coming artists and zine makers from all over the country, not just the West Country.
Location: The Station, Bristol
Date: Saturday October 1st 2016
Entering the hall, you are treated to a world of fashionable young things with trendy haircuts and tattoos – not a cosplayer in sight – checking out some incredible and diverse printed creations. But don’t think this is an elitist hipster event as the whole thing felt really inclusive and welcoming. Even though it had only been open for twenty minutes when we arrived the hall was packed and a large part of that was thanks to the late midday start time, but also because it was free to get in – something which co founder Simon Moreton told us was an important part of the day as it was an essential way to get people in the door, and also to bring in people from the non-comics community to check out what was going on. And who could argue with him with this many people enjoying small press comics.
With the exception of Avery Hill (who were there launching Tim Bird’s new Grey Area book) and Joshua Sherwell (who was there with PI Charles and The Kill Screen), nearly all the comic creators exhibiting were new to us, which meant we had an amazing time discovering new and diverse books from creators we had never encountered before. Not to mention many which were out of our usual comfort zone of reading. We discovered so many great books while circulating the room, and met so many cool people that rather than list out our days activities we thought we would pick out some highlights:
Grey Area: Our Town (Tim Bird/Avery Hill Publishing)
Tim Bird’s tale of British melancholy is a subtle delight, and we felt sorry for his poor wife who apparently has to fold all the origami birds that get sent out with each volume. (Tim also told us about his future plans to release a book about Ronnie O Sullivan, told in shot by shot detail. We really hope this becomes a reality!) We’ll have a more detailed review soon!
You can Purchase Grey Area from the Avery Hill Store
Cat Disco (Rebecca K Jones)
As sold to us by her table mate Peter Morey, Rebecca’s tale of what a cat called Mogslie gets up to at night in a secret cat night club is brilliantly funny, incredibly witty, and if you’ve ever owned a cat, just a little bit plausible. The cover had an amazing use of colour and the other artwork she had on her table also looked incredible!
You can purchase Cat Disco and more of Rebecca’s work via her website
Phrenology (Alex Screen)
As recommended to us by co-founder Esme, we found this on the communal rack that was populated by books from creators who couldn’t table at this year’s event. We picked up one of the last copies as it was flying off the rack and we can see why. Made to read like a medical journal it explores the lost art of reading people’s head bumps to tell personality issues, and focuses in on analysing newspaper readers. This is one of those books which you take a while to work out if it is being serious or joking, but there are some cracking illustrations and some laugh out loud passages that made us glad we picked it up.
Purchase Phrenology from Alex’s Etsy Store
Part Time Cafe Assistant (Lottie Pencheon)
While most artists dream of being creative for a living while working in dead end jobs, Polly has a rewarding art career and great group of friends who she can hang out with, but really dreams about being a part time cafe assistant and so puts all her effort into achieving that dream. It’s a brilliant inversion of the struggling artist story and Lottie manages to make what could be a one note joke fill out an entire issue of sublime hand drawn humour.
Purchase Part-time Cafe Assistant from Lottie’s Big Cartel Store
Glorious wrestling Alliance (Josh Hicks)
This tale of intergalactic grapplers has already received rave reviews here on the site, but it was great to finally see it in print and hear that Josh has plans for more volumes of this brilliant book that combines two of our favourite hobbies!
Purchase Glorious Wrestling Alliance from Josh’s website
Grimes – Art Angels Fanzine (Sammy Borras)
This collection of pin ups from various small press artists was dotted around on several people’s tables and features some absolutely beautiful pieces from a really diverse group of creators. It has an amazing cover from compiler Sammy Borras as well as an interactive cut out section in the rear which is a lot of fun. We also treated ourself to a copy of Sammy’s wonderful Zines In Space book, which is a fantastic quirky sci-fi tale and one of the many music themed books on Sammy’s table which we wanted to pick up!
Purchase Grimes from Sammy’s Easy Store
Honourable mentions also go to Good Comics the team behind Dead Singers Society and were releasing James Howard’s Chicken Boy (goodshop.bigcartel.com), Alice from Comic Book Slumber Party (comicbookslumberparty.tumblr.com) and The Sad Ghost Club (thesadghostclub.com) who were all super lovely and had some amazing books on show. Plus the excellent Benjamin Wright (benjaminography.tumblr.com) who had a fantastic collection of pop culture inspired comics, especially Turtle Fighters which he had created panel by panel in conjunction with his absent tablet mate Isaac. (And who gave us some great insights into neon inks!)
There were also quite a few books which we didn’t get a chance to check out in full, but which had some really eye-catching covers, such as the brilliant Giant Crustacean (the name of the creators we unfortunately forgot to take note of – let us know if it was you!!) and Girl Zine from Lorna Cowley (www.lornacowley.co.uk) which had a great punky attitude and use of eye-popping neon green colour tints!
With several other events happening in tandem with the fair (Drink and Draws, Karaoke After Partys etc.) that we had to miss in order to get our train home, the Bristol Comics and Zine Fair ended up being one of the most enjoyable and inspiring comic events we have been to in sometime and we can’t wait to go again next year!
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.