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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Photo Review: Carlisle MegaCon 2012

The inaugural half day MegaCon was held in Carlisle's Richard Rose Central Academy on Saturday 18 August where the hot Saturday afternoon made for a pleasant experience outside as well as inside the venue.

For most attendees the first experience of the day was turning the corner to find the gaudily painted Yu-Gi-Oh! Summer Tour double decker bus parked at the entrance to the school. As much as it screamed "manga gaming", what event organiser wouldn't want to have something like this parked at the entrance to their event where all the cars on one of the main roads into the city centre could see it?Barely 10 minutes' walk from Carlisle city centre, the Academy is a ultra-modern, fee-paying secondary school and I'm sure that a lot of attendees' reactions to the venue would have been the same as mine - "wow, my school was never like this".

MegaCon took place on the ground floor atrium of the building and on entering it felt like walking into a big new theatre complex or music venue such as The Sage in Gateshead rather than a local school. Lots of space, multiple levels with stairs and bridges between them, lots of windows allowing in the sunshine, a tuck shop in the corner that looked more like a modern coffee shop, a sunken area with a stage and full of chairs for the talks plus, on the walls, there were large TV monitor screens with the event's schedule details on them for all to easily read.

The dealers tables stretched around the walls, passed the talks area and over into the far corner - there was even a radio-controlled cars section out the back door. While not defined as such, the dealers area could easily have been subdivided as a Games Zone with collectible card games, video/computer games and table top games, a Shops Zone with tables populated by the organisers Waterstones as well as a wide variety of other local businesses from toys to model kits to unusual sweets, and finally the Comics Zone with selection of small press along with sales and signing tables for the comics guests.

The comics guests for the day shared the common background of 2000AD with a Tharg, a script-droid and two artdroids. Writer Andy Diggle is a former Tharg and still writes for 2000AD although he is probably best known these days as the writer of The Losers. Andy's website is here.

Writer Jim Alexander has worked on the Judge Dredd Megazine, DC's Birds of Prey and Tokyopop's Star Trek Manga as well as small press comics such as Gabriel for Glasgow's Black Hearted Press and Amongst The Stars for his own newly started imprint Planet Jimbot and he had a selection of titles with him for sale. Jim's blog is here, the Planet Jimbot Facebook page is here and he was interviewed on downthetubes here.

Artist Graeme Neil Reid has worked on both 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, with original artwork from both for sale on the day, as well as a selection of books including Con Iggulden's Dangerous Book Of Heroes. Graeme's blog is here and he also is part of the daily Scotch Corner art blog here.

The final comics guest was artist Sean Phillips, another 2000AD alumnus, better known now for his American work on Hellblazer and Criminal. Sean sketched and signed during in the afternoon as well as selling copies of his current book Fatale written by Ed Brubaker. Sean's website is here and his blog is here.

Small press comics were well represented with a selection of Scottish, Northern and Midlands titles there.

Glasgow's Black Hearted Press(above), who also run the Glasgow Comics Convention and one of the two sets of Glasgow comic marts, were represented by writer/artist Sha Nasir (left) who was sketching a selection of his Laptop Guy characters and School Of The Damned writer John Farman (right). As well as selling all their current titles they also ran a comics workshop during the course of the day. Black Hearted Press' website is here and the new School of the Damned website is here.

Manchester's Accent UK were sharing one of the long bench tables with Disconnected Press. Disconnected had copies of Disconnected Volume 1 plus the last few copies of their Lost Boys title along with artwork from Conor Boyle who took part in one of the talks during the afternoon. There are more details of Disconnected Press on their blog.

Colin Mathieson (left) and Dave West (right) were manning the AccentUK stall with their large and impressive selection of titles from single issues such as Zulu to hardback anthologies such as Robot Shorts. The AccentUK website is here and their blog is here.

Daniel Clifford is a busy man writing both Halcyon and Tenderfoot and Sugar Glider. Wearing his Art Heroes hat (above right), Daniel and artist Lee Robinson (left) create and publish Halcyon and Tenderfoot as well as hosting comics workshops. Wearing his Sugar Glider hat (below left), a hat that admitted looks much the same as his 'other' one, he writes the various Sugar Glider titles with artwork by Gary Bainbridge (right). There are more details of Halcyon and Tenderfoot at the Art Heroes website and more details of Sugar Glider at the Sugar Glider Comics website.

The North East's Paper Jam Comics Collective came in force to the North West with a multitude of different titles for sale. Below from left to right we have Martin Newman with Taxonauts, Paul Thomson with Tales From The Hollow Earth, Brittany Coxon with Art... And That, and James Wilkinson with History... And That. There are more details of Paper Jam and the various creators who make up the Collective on their blog.

From a comics perspective MegaCon was a general event that included comics/small press in the same way that much larger multi-theme events do. The attendees seemed to emphasis gaming over whatever else was available, comics or otherwise, and there were a few puzzled faces looking around the small press tables, in the same way that some of the small pressers may have had puzzled faces looking at the Magic The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh tables.

That said, with an excellent venue, guest talks, workshops, multiple gaming strands, cosplay and even (bizarrely) cake decorating, MegaCon provided something for everyone in a well run, first time event - and the buzz is that it will very likely return next year.

The MegaCon Facebook page is here and there are many more photos from the event on the Waterstones Carlisle Facebook page.

The MegaCon organisers talked to downthetubes before the event here.

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