I always wonder, at these events, how I can miss meeting up with so many people in such a small area, and I usually feel bad about it. But I'm starting to realise that, fun as these weekends are, they are also actually work, and many of the people I hope to meet up with - my comic-making colleagues - are also working. So really it's not that surprising we can go the entire weekend, at best seeing each other busy across a crowded room, without exchanging a word, as we're all stuck on our tables, talking to expo attendees and selling our books.
But that is one of the things that does make it seem less like work - meeting readers who have sought you out to tell you how much they enjoy your book is hugely gratifying, and is really the part that makes all the hours sitting alone at your drawing table wondering if what you're doing actually has any value, if anyone else will care about it, totally worth it. I know what I'm doing with The Rainbow Orchid is good, just the kind of comic I want to read, but I still feel that slight sense of amazement that other people think so too, and I'm enormously grateful for that.
This was a slightly new experience for me in that I didn't have my own table, but was on the table of my publisher, Egmont, along with another of their authors, Glenn Dakin. Many of you will recognise Glenn's name as one of the UK's most influential independent comic creators, especially active in the 1980s with strips such as Abe and Temptation and contributing to titles such as Escape and Deadline, high points of the British comics scene. His latest work is Candle Man, a novel for children and young adults - and very good it is too.
We were scheduled to do a talk on the Saturday, which we discovered rather late was entitled 'Breaking into Comics', not quite what we were expecting. Glenn joked that I could talk about breaking into comics and he could talk about breaking out of comics. Our event was very well attended (I was worried as it was on at the same time as Pat Mills' talk) - so special thanks to everyone who came along. We each gave illustrated introductions to our books and talked about our experience of working with a mainstream book publisher, which I hope was interesting and useful. The thing about breaking into comics is that everyone has a different story, but in the end it all boils down to one thing - do good work!
Although volume 2 of The Rainbow Orchid is not released nationally until July 5th (just over five weeks away now), Egmont had generously supplied 50 advance copies for sale at the Bristol Expo, and we sold nearly all of them. I would probably have sold the final few had I not had to leave at noon on Sunday, thus missing half a day's sales. As well as talking to lots of interesting people visiting the Egmont stand, and as well as Glenn's company, I also had the excellent company of my commissioning editor and comics champion at Egmont, Tim Jones. It was great to chat with him in something other than a publisher's meeting! Elyssa, my wife, was also in attendance (these events serve as rare away-breaks for us), to help out and - as usual - take some great photographs. I really couldn't do these things without Ellie, or at least I'd only be functioning at half-power!
One thing I missed was getting over to the Mercure to see the 'small press expo'. Despite being with Egmont, I still feel like an independent comic creator, I still operate on 'small press values' (having my own stock and online shop, carrying on with my own promotion and marketing as if nothing's changed!) and so felt the pang of separation from what is, in a large part, the life-blood of the British comics scene. But there was plenty of coming and going between the two venues to demonstrate that, in the end, we're all just part of the same fantastic world of comics, many of which were evident in both venues of the Expo.
Big thanks to Mike Allwood and his team for putting on an excellent event, and to Egmont for looking after me and Ellie so well.