Show Report: Bristol Comics & Zine Fair 2017

As one of our favourite events from 2016, this year’s Bristol Comics and Zine Fair had sky high expectations, but they managed to more than managed to live up these high hopes thanks to an incredibly well run event packed full of exciting and diverse creators in a really fun and packed (and most importantly full!) venue.

As we arrived at this year’s Bristol Comics and Zine Fair the event was in full flow, and what was fantastic to see was the sheer number of people here to enjoy a day of comics. The place was bulging with fashionable young kids all checking out the latest from a huge variety of creators, some local but many from all over the country.

This year’s event was bigger than ever before, with the canteen now being utilised for exhibitors, as well as the main hall, which allowed for a bit of breathing room for punters when the main hall got too full. Plying their trade in amongst the flat white supping canteen patrons were friends of the site Kirk and Gary, the ‘equal opportunity publishers’ of Dirty Rotten Comics, who had a fantastic new issue and who were revelling in a very productive day (better than Thought Bubble they claimed!).

While next to them was the always entertaining Sam from Good Comics (who it’s crazy to think we only met for the first time at last year’s event!) along with Olivia Sullivan, creator of their new book SID. We had a great chat with them both about our recent round-up, the merits of reading challenging books, and not compromising just to get readers. Alas, as with their recent trip to Thought Bubble, Good Comics’ Paddy Johnson was again only there in photo form alongside their wonderful Good Zines books available on the table. 

Also here was the wonderful Rozi Hathaway who was tabling with her micro zine Self Care and Vegetables, as well as the excellent Cosmos And Other Stories (which we’re delighted to hear may get an expanded edition next year!) and who had a continually busy table which stopped us from getting a chance to chat to her for some time.

As we braved the main room we were delighted to bump into David and Ricky from Avery Hlll who were doing great business with their new book Ismyre from B. Mure – who was also in attendance, but we alas managed to miss seeing them. As well as the wonderful Ellice Weaver who was there signing Something City (a book which is destined to be one of our favourites of the year!). Fresh off a visit to SPX in the US as well as a successful Thought Bubble, it was great to see them doing so well and were in fine form telling us about their final book of the year from Alex Potts, as well as what a nice chap Brian K Vaughan is. While this was all going on we were also delighted to see so many people stopping by their table and picking up their fantastic books.

And so, it was finally time to brave the main hall. And boy was it packed!! Attempting to make even a single circuit at any kind of speed was nigh on impossible with dozens of avid small press fans chatting to creators or comparing notes with each other. It gave me flashbacks to ELCAF in June where despite the aisles being packed, everyone was good natured and excited to be there so you didn’t mind the fact it was so busy. In fact you just felt happy for all those involved that it was such a well attended event full of such passionate and discerning punters!

As we made our slow but steady circuit around the main hall, we caught up with the likes of Sean Azzopardi, who showed us his new book 50 as well as told us about his new ongoing project The Voice Of A Hall); Gareth Brookes who filled us in on the recent South London Zine Fair; Sammy Borras’ whose table was laden with dozens of quality zines as ever and she gave us a fantastic free mini comic as we checked out her new music infused offerings; Sara Dunkerton and Matt Gibbs who were there with Mulp and it was great to catch with them for the first time since Swindon; and also Josh Hicks and Ioan Morris who were there with the brilliant Glorious Wrestling Academy: Grappling Road (which may well have been our book of the day!!) We also got a chance to chat to Cristian ‘Crom’ Ortiz whose Golden Campaign we reviewed after last year’s event but hadn’t been also to talk to before this and we got to check out his amazing prints and Inktober Sketch Books.

Taking in the show as a whole it was great to see everyone in attendance was in such fantastic spirits, with lots of talk about the joys of Thought Bubble the weeks before (everyone had tales of how busy the tents were and just how many Gerard Way fans there are in the world!) as well as being full of praise for the day in Bristol.

As we made our second and third circuits around the hall it was time to pick up some new books and of those we picked up our favourite had to be: Izzie Ward’s Nino, which had a beautiful painterly animation quality to it; Ryan Morrisons’ high energy Inter-Stella And The Golden Idol; Korina Wei’s neon infused LDN 2050; and Soph’s Taffeta Witch Apprentice Witch – although we regret not getting her Dragons and Werwolves Zine as well (plus she had a Leslie Knope Parks and Rec badge on which means she wins at good taster in TV!).

At one point in the day we were asked what we thought of the event, and we have to say we were really genuinely surprised by the huge variety of work on offer. Whereas at ELCAF there was a lot of risograph lo-fi books and over priced art school projects, at Bristol there seemed to be a lot of actual comics! Although there were still the highly arty and esoteric books courtesy of the super cool art school crowd, as well as plenty of DIY hand made zines keeping it real, there also seemed to be a nice mix of people who were making very accessible and very imaginative books, which made the event feel very inclusive, which is what it should be all about!

As always with Bristol, the fact it was free to enter definitely helped bring in the crowds, as it brought in a really eclectic and diverse group of people, and made for an incredibly chilled out and exciting atmosphere to be in. In many ways, with the increase is size, and also the addition of panels (which we unfortunately didn’t get to attend, but did enjoy seeing Hannah Chapman marching around the hall with a placard announcing them – a nice touch fellow Con organisers!!), it made BCZF a step above your average indie arts fair. In fact it felt every bit the equal to ELCAF and we hope that it continues to grow and develop in this way as it is a true gem in the comic convention calendar. Especially for those of us based outside London!

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.