Comics, mainly thanks to the success of the Marvel movies, have never been more central to the popular culture. I still find it hard to believe that in the past sixth months we’ve had an Eternals movie and a Moon Knight TV show. Comic cons are equally ubiquitous but they do seem to be missing one very important element: comics. If you want Funko Pops, Gladiators and Marlene from Only Fools and Horses, try most other cons but if you want the cream of the comics industry and the brightest new stars (and, you know, actual comics) the you might prefer Bristol’s Lawless.
Run by Su Haddrell and her team since 2014, Lawless started off as a celebration of all things 2000AD, Dredd in particular, its evolved to became a celebration of all things comic-related, especially British comics-related. Lawless is happy to indulge fans who are interested in the rich history of British Comics. One of the highlights of the con was an incredible exhibition of classic comic art including fully-painted pages from the likes of John Burns, Ron Emberton and Frank Bellamy from Look and Learn, TV 21 and The Eagle. David Roach, author of Masters of British Comic Art was a guest here too.
The sponsors of Lawless however are The 77, the successful British anthology which since its launch two years ago has introduced a new generation of writers and artists to comic readers including Ian Stopforth, Ben Macleod, Andrew Sawyers, Jeremy Dunn and Steven Austin. As its success has grown, so has the talent it’s managed to attract with Ian Gibson, Glenn Fabry, Mike Collins, Clint Langley and Mick McMahon amongst others contributing to the comic or its spin-off publications. Most of the editorial team and many of the writers and artists for The 77 could be found at Lawless over the weekend. The broader UK independent comic scene was also very well represented with the publishers and creative teams behind Shift, Sentinel, Shaman Kane and others in attendance.
For many, the big draw to Lawless is the incredible array of legendary creators present as guests, all happy to chat, sign and sketch. Brian Bolland (The Killing Joke), John Higgins (Watchmen), John Wagner (Judge Dredd), Glenn Fabry (Preacher) and Tharg himself, Steve MacMannus, were all present along with David Roach, Simon Davis, Tom Eglington, Paul Goodenough, Dan Cornwell, Clint Langley and Lew Stringer. Panels running throughout the weekend included The Art of 2000AD-The Early Years, Doctor Who Comics, From Pitch to Page and Rewriting Extinction.
I think the thing that makes Lawless stand out from other cons though is the atmosphere and camaraderie. Su and her team have created an event that feels more like a school reunion, where the invited guests seem as genuinely happy to be there as the paying punters. The fact that the suite of rooms the con is in is located right next to the bar possibly helps too. Everyone there feels looked after. You are given a goody bag full of things you might actually want (i.e. comics) when you arrive and there’s unlimited tea and coffee (not Guinness though: sorry John Higgins…). Lawless also raised money for its nominated charity CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) with an auction of original art, scripts and merch on Saturday night.
Compared to arena-filling juggernauts like MCM, Lawless might be small but it’s perfectly formed and definitely worth visiting when it returns next year.