Show Report: True Believers Comic Festival 2019

With much of the country covered in snow and ice, like something out of Game Of Thrones, it was time for the UK comic scene to make it’s grand entrance with the annual True Believers Comic Festival 2019. With a new venue and a host of familiar names would we get a warm welcome or the cold shoulder?

True Believers is traditionally one of our favourite events of the year and not even a nationwide snow shower or a new venue could stop this one from being the best one yet. Having moved away from the Cheltenham Race Course, into the more easily accessible Jury’s Inn, it may have lost of of the unique charm of being in such a large and impressive venue. But it has gained a very easy to find venue (just a quick turn off the M5) with a very old school comic convention atmosphere.

Upon arriving, we were a bit disappointed not to see the usual True Believers Comic Festival 2019 banners on show everywhere, but once we entered the hotel we were met with the always familiar site of cosplayers and comic fans queuing to get into the event – along with one or two baffled guests trying to check in or get a late breakfast along with Kylo Ren and Spider-man.

The venue was split up into two sites. The main comics area was in the conference area just next to the entrance. While the cosplay was further down the reception in a sunny and light atrium with meeting rooms off to the side. This allowed the ‘church and state’ of comic cons to not over lap too much, but without making either group feel isolated or too stuck out on a limb.

The comics area was packed with loads of old friends and many new ones too, and taking a loop around the two conference rooms to catch up with everyone was an epic task – but we were up for the challenge. With the tables more closely packed in, it gave the whole day a much busier and more bustling feel as you had to push past peoples or squeeze through gaps in order to get round, and this was a great change from the often gaping aisles at the racecourse which could be quite sole destroying during quieter times of the day.

On our first lap we were able to catch up with old friends such as: Community Champion nominee Aaron Rackley, who was there with new Gallant and Amos books as well as the excellent, Make Comics With Springworth which was making it’s debut; the unmissable Steve Tanner of TimeBomb Comics who was excited about a new Clockwork Cavalier story appearing in the ComicScene annual (as well as more Flintlock coming soon); the wonderful Russell Olson (who we met for the first time at last year’s event) who was still riding high on the success of the Gateway City trade paperback, and making plans for the year ahead; the Horde Comics team who were celebrating the launch of their new one-shot Revenant with it’s excellent Andy Bloor cover (full review coming soon!); Sarah Milman whose wonderful NPC Tea had a new issue that we had not seen in the flesh before, and who was being regularly wound up by her neighbours Emily Owen and Gav Mitchell – who we’d also not seen since last year and was great to catch up with them and hear about new projects and also canine antics.

Small Press and Indie Creators galore at True Believers Comic Festival 2019

Continuing our epic first lap we caught up with Rachel Leigh Carter who told us all about the Bath Art Market which we were very excited to hear all about. Before catching up with Samuel George London, who was there building up contacts ahead of the new Milford Green Kickstarter. He was another person we met for the first time last year, and then he didn’t even have a table so it was great to see him doing so well – inlacing news of his podcast which we will be guesting on soon. And next to him was the fantastic Gustavo Vargas, whose South American Future Shocks Trujillo and L1ma were worthy entrants in our top 25 of 2018 and it was great to see his incredible artwork in the flesh.

With lunchtime looming, we were able to squeeze a lengthy chat with the excellent Sam Roads about his new book Cryowulf – which we reviewed here – and Sam was good enough to answer a lot of our very specific questions about what certain scenes were meant to symbolise. Then last, but by no means least, we were able to catch up with the always entertaining Darrell Thorpe – who gave us a sneak peak at his new book and also a piece of original art from the cover of the Pull List which he drew for us in 2017 – and next to him was another Pull List cover artist, Nick Prolix, whose new sketchbook looked as great as ever and with that it was time for a breather!

After a quick refuel we returned to the fray, and headed straight for the Comichaus table and a great chat with it’s head honcho Pete Genepool. Despite being west country neighbours this was our first chance to meet face to face and it was great to chat about the Comichaus app and also their anthology and new titles. Next to them were the Awesome Comics crew of Vince and Dan, who were doing great guns with the new issue of their anthology (and Dan was even parking in a bit of Vyper cosplay, which he said was sweltering!)

Returning to the main part of the room we were finally able to catch the excellent John Tucker, whose Plan A Plan B book was one of our highlights of the build up to this event, and we also got him to produce one of his Death Roulette sketches for us – which was the must have time of the convention – and the cause of him having a ‘hand like a monkey’ which we met him.

Next to him was newcomer Nick Bryan, whose new book Moonframe was another pick of the day for us. (Not to mention being on our best of list with the excellent Little Deaths of Watson Tower), and finally in that corner was Nic Ho Chee with BaadFood #1 which we had reviewed earlier in the week and is in the midst of kickstarting issue #2. It was here we discovered our only downer of the day, with the guys in this corner complaining of quiet footfall compared to the others, which was a shame to hear as their books were well worth discovering!

Our final few visits of the day saw us catch up with the always great value Andy Pawley of Galaxafreaks fame, who had a new Cthulu Kids card game that was going great guns. Hellbound Media who were still revelling in the success of Mandy the Monster Hunter (as well as a hectic slate for 2019!), and finally Rachael Ball whose Wolf was the second best indie book of 2018, and one half of our first ever Community Champions, Robin Etherington (who was flying solo as brother Lorenzo was off celebrating his birthday with family instead – good job we interviewed him last month!). We chatted Kickstarters, comics and more with Robin, which is always a really fascinating and insightful subject and a fantastic finale to an excellent day.

As we made our way home, attempting to avoid the potential bad weather (there was none), we realised there had been several people we had missed out – so apologies to the like of Jed Mcpherson (The Show), Dan Whitehead (Hex Loader and Frankenstein Texas) and Graham Puttock (Circusside) whose stands we completely forgot to visit or didn’t even manage to find! We also missed out seeing guests like Mike Collins (whose work on Apollo we absolutely loved) and Dylan Teague or Nick Brokenshire who always seem to have exciting work on their tables too.

And also we missed organiser Stuart Murrain who we only saw fleetingly as he fought fires, and call raffle results, but still managed to put on one of the best comic conventions we have been to and a perfect example of what a a fantastic comics focused event is all about. Not even the cold weather and a new venue could stop True Believers Comic Festival 2019 from giving it’s fans a warm welcome, and for us, it was the perfect comics related day out!

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.