Show Report: Bristol Comic Expo 2016

Bristol Comics Expo 2016After a two year hiatus, the Bristol Comic Expo is back! With a new creative team, led by Cardiff Independent Comic Expo (CICE) front runner Mike Allwood, and held in a new location, the Doubletree Hilton (home to the Expo in it’s early days), the BCE, or is it now BICE, is ready to put Bristol back on the convention map. But, can this new look con shake off the memories of the last time a major comics event was run in Bristol?

Event: Bristol Comics Expo 2016
Dates: August 6th 2016
Location: Doubletree Hilton, Bristol

Our rating: [star rating=”4.5″]

As I made my way to the Doubletree I was apprehensive, as memories of the last Bristol Comic Expo were fresh in my mind. Could this new era of Expo be an improvement upon what had come before? I was unsure and, indeed, these feelings of concern were not helped upon arriving to find a small queue outside, making me think that many others shared similar memories and were avoiding disappointment. However, these concerns quickly evaporated as, upon entering the hotel, the loyal attendees were treated with an open, relaxing and, overall, happy convention – one that more than made up for the cluttered, hectic mess of 2014.

Bristol Expo 2016 pic1

With several big-name guests in attendance the Bristol Expo certainly didn’t skimp on the talent, with DC scribe Rob Williams, top rated artist Lee Garbett and living legends Alan Davis and John Burns all in attendance. However, the guests appeared to be only a bonus for many, with visitors travelling from far and wide, just for the comics. Organiser Mike Allwood told us about “A guy who bought a stack of Tarzan comics. He came up from Devon. No, Cornwall even. He couldn’t give a toss Alan Davis is in there!” reminding us that comics are still the primary draw for comic conventions!

For, me though the main draw was the huge range of small press creators in attendance. Although there were a few familiar faces missing from the line-up, the Bristol Comic Expo still featured small press veterans like Hellbound Media, Lou Scannon’s Dan Harris and The Pride’s Joe Glass alongside up and coming talent like Close 2 Immortality‘s Jay Martin, MULP’s Sara Dunkerton and the Swansea Comic Collective. “I’ll always promote Small Press” Mike Allwood told us and you could not argue with that. With the exception of some comic book sellers like Bristol’s Excelsior Comics and Forbidden Planet, the Doubletree Hilton was wall to wall with an eclectic array of indie talent, or “80% small press” as Allwood promised of his shows.

The entire day was a vast improvement upon what had come previously, a sentiment seemingly confirmed by many in attendance. “Better. Definitely better” was the opinion of Excelsior Comic’s Marcus Kent, whose store had avoided the 2014 event because of its problems, with many echoing his thoughts, including Shaman Kane’s David Broughton and Disconnected Press’ Lizzie Boyle.

Bristol Expo 2016 pic2

Of course, nothing in this world is perfect and the Expo did suffer, at least aesthetically, from a lack of cosplayers (no more than a dozen during the day by my count) as well as not holding any panels to offer up a bit of variety for the day. However, neither felt like they were really missed as conversing with the various talents really took pride of place, both with established creators and newcomers. Some of our highlights for the day including discovering the works of point and click artist Andrew Scaife, 80’s style comic writer Neil Sambrook from Fly Comics and I Wish creator Jammy Scribbler (not her real name) – all of whom I would definitely recommend checking out.

In fact, if there was one major concern with the entire day it was the apparent lack of visitors overall who were wandering the alleys, as it made the con look a little sparse. Far from being a problem for those in attendance (especially those with memories of the hideously cramped conditions at the 2014 show!), it was more a concern for the potential future of the event.  Thankfully though, with Allwood already planning an expansion and more guests for 2017, the ghost of previous expos have vanished and the future looks bright for the Bristol Comic Expo!