Usually we would begin our annual True Believers Comic Festival show report with some kind of grumble about the weather. However for one glorious weekend, the heavens shone on the geeks of the south west and we were able to make our journey to the Jury’s Inn Cheltenham without having to battle snow or rain storms!
The traditional curtain raiser of the UK comic convention, True Believers (or Troobs to it’s nearest and dearest) is a firm fixture in the Pipedream calendar. Now in its second year at the Jury’s Inn it has settled into it’s role as the annual jump start for the small press scene. And indeed, the chat on the day was one of real positivity and optimism about the year ahead – which is rare for the traditionally grumble-some small press world!!
The Jury’s Inn is a fantastic venue for a convention as it has that old school Ramada Inn vibe to it, and also allows the comics area and cosplay to be split up, meaning the comics hall isn’t filled with selfie taking teens and the cosplayers aren’t constantly being glared at by disgruntled small pressers for blocking their tables. The two can flow from one to the other, and with the event taking over the whole of the ground floor of the hotel it means everything is nicely spread out, without some areas getting lost (as was increasingy happening at the old race course venue). You also get the fantastic experience of seeing a bunch of League Two footballers or hung over hen partiers attempting to negotiate the convention floor while checking out!
Troobs has always been an incredibly small press friendly event and this year it was perhaps even more so. With the ‘big name guests’ being regulars like Mike Collins and Dylan Teague along with The Beano’s Laura Howell, and so it was time for the indie scene to shine. This year’s event had a cavalcade of familiar faces occupying tables, and our day started by catching up with Matt Hardy from Mad Robot Comics, who was able to give us a first look at one of our most anticipated books of 2020 – A Study In Scarlet, his all ages gender flipped reimagining of the classic Sherlock Holmes tale which he has produced in conjunction with Russell Olson and Portsmouth Council. (Needless to say it is a wonderful book and a full review will be following shortly!).
Alongside Russell was the winner of our Indie Comic of The Year Gustavo Vargas, and it was great to congratulate him on his epic award win, and also hear about the exciting projects he has in line for 2020 (or rather the fantastic top secret project he couldn’t tell us anything about!!) Joining them on the centre table was Slang Pictorial’s Nick Prolix, Fragment’s Adam Falp (whose uniquely weird work reminds us a lot of Shaky Kane and really stands out from the crowd) and John Tucker – whose book the King was our favourite debuting title of this year’s show, (and the most challeniging review we have written in ages as we had to avoid spoiling the big reveal.)
Opposite them was the always entertaining Emily and Gav Mitchell, who had Gav’s new Monsters In Your Pocket book which he Kickstarted in 2019, and we caught up with him about his work on the new series of Rum Row (full review here). While flanking them were the duo of Sara Dunkerton (MULP) and Sarah Millman (NPC Tea). Sara was still basking in the joy of having finished the glorious MULP and we talked about the potential for future collected volumes which we think would be an essential read. While Sarah was constantly checking her phone with updates for her Kickstarter for issue #8 and the collected volume of NPC Tea which was already going great guns, despite being just 24 hours old.
As we toured around the room there was a fantastic mix of familiar faces from last year’s event and old friends who we have not seen for ages. Samuel George London was basking in the success of last year’s Beyond Milford Green and new book Project Hoax, and was running his stall like the seasoned pro he is quickly becoming. While another newcomer from last year, Nick Bryan, was back with the wonderful Catalyst and ideas for new work in the coming months. Joining them in the side room was the team from Big Punch Studios, who we had not seen as a complete unit since the Comic Summit of 2018. It was a great chance to catch up with them and hear about their continued plans for world domination, which include revamped Sandwich Masters, as well as much more Afterlife Inc and Cat and Meringue comics.
Returning to the main room we were able to catch up with Vanguard;’s Dan Butcher about the awesome third volume of his webcomic, which we reviewed here. As well as see his Awesome Comic co-presenter Vince Hunt who we’d not seen since Thought Bubble. They were joined at the entrance by Hardline Comics Rich Carrington who had the excellent Mahoney’s available on his table, including some amazing original art from the series.
Moving through the room, we were able to catch up with the final few friends we had not yet scene. We had a long chat with Pete Taylor from The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard about the incredible world which he has created for this character and also the huge variety of amazing sounding spin offs which he has lurking in the back of his brain. Before also catching up with Accent UK’s Dave West who had a fantastic new artbook/comic available on his table. We also caught up with Dan Harris from Attic Studios who was having to rewrite the Cosplayer That Doomed The Earth’s latest issue in order to make sure he kept it’s all ages premise in tact.
Along the way we were constantly followed around by Griff Gristle artist Rory Donald who seemed to be at every table we went to, and we were also joined by Pipedream Reviews Supremo James Blundell who was collecting new titles to add to his every growing reviews list!
While this year’s show was perhaps a bit quieter than previous events, this was still a fantastic comics focused day out. While we could complain about the fact there weren’t many really big name guests, and some tables said they had a relatively quiet day, the overall sense of this year’s Troobs was of positivity towards comics. Everyone was in fantastic spirits and were looking forward to checking out new books and discovering new titles. With so many familiar faces on offer at this year’s event we didn’t get a chance to discover much in the way of new content, which is our fault more than the Troobs’ organiser’s. However, we would hope that if you were heading to the show to discover something new then sheer variety of books on offer would have supplied something for everyone.
With panels, workshops and the annual Cosplay Cat Walk going on throughout the day, this really is the ultimate example of how a comic con should be run. As an indie comics fan there are few conventions that feel give so much emphasis on the medium. (It has the passion of Thought Bubble, but without the over whelming size.) However this emphasis on comics, is never to the detriment of the overall experience as it feels like there is plenty for everyone going on here. If every comic convention was run like this, then UK comic scene would be in very fine health indeed, as we could not ask for a better comics based day!