Show Report: Bristol Comics and Zine Fair 2018

After the hectic release fest that was this year’s Thought Bubble it was time for a more serene event this weekend as we headed to Bristol for the annual Bristol Comics and Zine Festival, one of our favourite events on the indie and small press friendly convention circuit.

With it’s mix of old school zines and cutting edge illustration, BCFZ offers a more diverse and eclectic range of exhibitors than any other event we attend, with a mix of familiar faces but also a fantastic range of creators whose work we only see at an event like this.

As we took in the layout of the venue (which was the same as last year’s, with the cafe used as an overflow) it was great to see such an amazing wealth of talent on show, as well as a steady flow of eager punters. With it’s later start time and free entry policy it means this is one of the best attended shows we go to and by mid afternoon was getting uncomfortably busy with the [relatively] small Station being packed to the gunnels.

Our first port of call was to catch up with some familiar faces, and we started off with Good Comics’ Sam Williams, Rozi Hathaway and Josh Hicks who were all bunched in on a row together. Rozi was showcasing her new book Moon and this was our first chance to see it in print and the newsprint finish really made the most of Rozi’s beautiful artwork. Meanwhile Sam was showcasing the final issue of Dead Singers Society and he reflected on what an important albeit difficult series it had been to compile – although one that was worth the effeort. And last but by no means least was Josh whose latest Glorious Wrestling Alliance book is another winner, and it wouldn’t be a trip to BCZF without a catch up.

Behind him was the excellent Todd Oliver who we spotted thanks to his striking banner, and he claimed he instantly regretted bringing it and being one of the few people with one. But that’s the difference between BCZF and other more comic focused conventions. He was fresh off a successful Thought Bubble with his new books Smedley and Not Your Cuppa Tea and the constant buzz around his table made us think he did OK here as well.

Other familiar names included BCZF regulars like Sammi Borras, Simon Moreton, Lottie Pencheon and Crom, while we also got to chat to Deadendia’s Hamish Steele for the first time since we picked up Pantheon in black and white at our first ever BCZF event back in 2016.

The final stop off on the familiar faces round up was Ricky and David from Avery Hill. It was great to finally see the epic On A Sunbeam and sublime Follow Me In in print and they were essential purchases for us, although our aching shoulder regrets ur choice of is picking up these weighty tomes so early). Ricky and David were reaching the final few events of their convention tour for the year but reflected on a highly successful year all round. They even had a surprise debut on the day, in the form of Terrible Means, the new Ismyre book from B Mure which had arrived back from the printers earlier than expected and which we’ll be covering on the site soon.

Having seen the familiar faces it was time to find something new and perhaps our favourite discovery of the day was the excellent Shane Face from artist Shane Melisse. His bright and vibrant artwork really stood out from the crowd and we can’t wait to see more from him in the future. His stablemate Sajan Rai aka Childish Butt Vomit won the award for best pen name, and his Scream inspired book was a hilarious looking read, and a complete contrast to his beautiful looking collection of Haikus.

We also had a chance to catch up with Russell Barker from Lunchtime For The Wild Youth, a father and daughter zine producing team whose books mix 90s music journalism with comics – a perfect storm for us. It was great to see the future of zine making start here and we loved their can do attitude towards putting out comics. (And with their books coming in at only £1, they were also a stark reminder for those other creators whose books cost upwards of a fiver+, which was one of our only negatives on the day as it meant we weren’t able to pick up as much as we would have liked!)

Other highlights included a stall full of adult colouring books based around Wes Anderson, Breaking Bad and more, which all came in a brown craft paper style box. The Laydeez Do Comics. Izzy Ward’s new book Ink Witch (one of a number of really strong animation inspired female creators we saw on the day). The wonderful Illustration by Soph, who we picked up Taffeta Witch from last year. It was also great to see a fantastic open table with favourites like Joe Stone’s Stutter and Nicholas Cage: Actor For Hire among many others. We even got a chance to catch with friend of the site Vince Hunt, who was there as a punter and checking out the world of BCZF for the first time.

As the event drew to a close, we got a chance to catch up with organiser Es and reflect on another fantastic day of comics in Bristol. Although it was busy to the point of bursting in places, BCZF is one of those events which could be seen as reaching the limits of it’s venue and needs to expand into something grander in order to allow more creators and more punters in. However, that could also be to the detriment of the audience and atmosphere that it has cultivated in it’s current format. For now it felt like an event which knows it’s audience and isn’t attempting to push things too far too fast and instead is a perfect example of how a comics and zine fair should be run, and is an incredible showcase for the best comics the south west (and beyond) has to offer.

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.