Banner outside the Hall.

On Saturday the 27th of March we headed down to ye olde London Towne for The UK Web & Mini Comix Thing. We’ve been going to the event for several years, but this was the first time attending as punters rather than stall holders, which gave us a new perspective on the event.

As The Thing is mainly a market type set-up I was a little worried that we would get around it in no time and then find ourselves with nothing to do. Oh no, not the case, as it took us nearly five hours to make it round, and even then we didn’t stop at every stall! Obviously we can talk for England!

Stickers I collected at The Thing

Part of the reason we made very slow progress around the hall was due to pimping Caption, as we were keen to speak to people we didn’t know about it, well as chatting to the many friends in attendance. Another reason for slow progress was my desire to take part in the fabulous idea of collecting stickers from all the different stalls, and putting them in the Dinosaur passport. It felt like being a kid again, was really good fun and a great way to find out about different comics, even if we couldn’t afford to pick them up on the day. In fact I love the idea so much I’m trying to figure out a way of stealing paying homage to it, and using it as a networking tool at Caption.

The first draft of this report turned into a massive list of people we spoke to, which wouldn’t be too interesting to you folks out there, and I’d probably be mortally embarrassed by missing someone out. So, here’s some of the interesting titbits and events from the day…

Marc Ellerby’s Chloe Noonan comic seems to be selling far better than his autobiographical work at the moment. Hopefully he’ll continue Ellerbisms online, while concentrating on Chloe in print.

David O’Connell was pleased to hear Jay had enjoyed his surprise Xmas prezzie of one of David’s Monkey prints.

It was great to have a chill out zone on the stage, for those of us who needed fortifying with chocolate and a sit down. The main downside of not being a stallholder is not having a base of operations. I’m sure if we’d asked, someone would have let us stash our bags and coats behind their stall, but we didn’t want to impose.

Several people with tables on the stage were new to comics, or new to us, so the small press is obviously still expanding at the moment, or at least replacing those who fall by the wayside.

Kudos to Teatime Comics for giving out party type goody bags with sweets, flyers and badges. I certainly enjoyed the chews and lollies the next day!

We had an interesting dicussion with the Geek-Girl crew, and others, about whether Caption was their kind of event, as they were looking to pitch to bigger publishers or go down the Diamond route. Our response was that Caption wasn’t really the kind of place to pitch or sell huge amounts, but they might get good advice from others who had gone down similar paths.

Conversations with Oliver Lambden and Jake Harold often turn quite surreal, in this case Jake was demonstrating how to fool a pedometer by shaking his wrist in a very suggestive manner! Oliver has also done some fab hand drawn covers for Curtis and Terrorist. Tip for potential purchasers – think about choosing one of the designs that will take him longer to redraw. ; )

Roger Langridge

Roger Langridge and other creators who hadn’t got stickers printed in advance were busy sketching on blank stickers, meaning we got some tiny original sketches in our passport.

Roger was lamenting the fact that his major work at the moment, The Muppet Show comic was only available in America. It’s such a shame, you’d think it would be a good seller over here so why hasn’t Titan or someone picked up the license for UK editions/distributions? Perhaps the upcoming new Muppet movie will help to tip the balance, and we won’t have to get hold of grey market copies… We had to console ourselves with his new Mugwhump the Great mini-comic instead.

I was also amused by Roger’s ever-changing table sign, which this time read along the lines of “Please buy my comics so my children don’t have to eat out of bins”, and for once, his kids were actually present to prove he wasn’t fibbing. Unless of course, he’s taken to hiring child actors to increase sales…

We met the guys behind successful internet site Edd Egg, and asked for some advice on marketing webcomics. They thought that word of mouth and personal recommendations were the most important thing in building up an audience. So, if you like The Girly Comic online then don’t keep it to yourself – tell everyone you know…

The next several stalls were  bit of a blur, as my stomach had started to demand lunch by that time, but I know we picked up flyers and comics from a few people on that row. Realising it was past one o’clock, we decided we’d better make a dash to Gosh to drop off some Girly Comic books, and grab lunch at Wagamama. We managed to grab the mini-comics Ellen Lindner had kindly put aside for us as we raced out the hall, bumping into Oli Smith on the way, arriving fashionably late. Unfortunately, as Mile End tube station was closed it turned into more of a trek to Gosh than a dash, but we made it back by four o’clock to try to tackle the rest of the hall!

Jay had a good chat with Simon Perrins of Hope for the Future, which we’ve been following for several years. We were pleased to hear that after a few ups and downs, it was back in print and moving full steam ahead towards the final part of the story. If you like good characters, mixed up with sci-fi and humour you should check out Hope for the Future.

The Goodman Brothers didn’t have anything new out, so we grabbed one of Arthur’s cool Year of the Metal Tiger postcards, and chased David for a Girly strip he’s working on.

Ellen Lindner with her new mini-comic

Time started running out and we pressed on, with me accidentally being rude to someone by saying we only wanted to talk to people we knew. I didn’t quite mean it like that, I just meant we’d promised to catch-up with some people before the event closed. I was heading for Will Kirkby’s stall when I got distracted by the beautiful work of Tpcat and just had to pick up a couple of her books.

I finally made it over to Will’s stall to let them know that I’d written a review of the Birdsong/Songbird anthology they had for sale.

With a few stalls left to glance we saw a chappie climb onto the stage to bellow that the show was over. We took this as our cue to stride off to The Half Moon pub and grab a seat before they all disappeared, as in previous years. Another boon of not having to pack up stock and take it back to the car before heading to the pub.

During the evening, we were joined by fine fellows such as Ed Hillyer, Mark Stafford, Roger Langridge and Karen Rubins. We also had Moroccan olives and ritz crackers pushed on us by a slightly scary Irishman! The olives were very nice, but we were slightly intimidated when our olive pimping friend returned after a few minutes to express disappointment that we hadn’t polished them all off yet. We hadn’t realised it was a time trial!

Ed told us a bit about his new novel The Clay Dreaming, which we’ve now acquired, and it’s huge! May take me a while to read that.

Mark’s busy working on Cherubs 2 (with Bryan Talbot) and is still working at the Cartoon Museum. He was brow-beating us all into going to see the excellent Ronald Searle exhibition (demonstrating that Searle’s work extends far beyond just Molesworth and St Trinian’s). Alas, there is never enough time to do everything we want to while visiting London.

Karen enjoyed her recent stint as artist in residence at the V&A, but is now engaged in campaigning for her current employers (a local library) to let her build up and promote an adult graphic novel collection. Go Karen!

All the stuff we got!

We had also hoped to pop into Schmurgencon but needed to make our weary way home instead. Hopefully next year.

Photos from the event and of all the comics we bought can be found over on our Flickr page, and I’ll be reviewing some of them here very soon.

Thanks to everyone we saw, chatted to and hugged at The Thing, for making it such an enjoyable day.