Welcome to a very Special Comic Expo Edition of SBC’s The Panel, the place where you have a chance to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Lee ‘Budgie’ Barnett, inspired by this weekend’s UK Comic Expo (http://www.comicexpo.net) and is as follows:-

“Since Comic Expo is coming up what’s the best and worst experience you’ve had at a convention?”

Kev F Sutherland :

Best and worst experience would be running one!

It was good to devise a way of bringing a new, young audience into a comics event, and seeing my plans succeed, boosting the audience, seeing families and kids at such an event for the first time in years, and making the dealers and creators happy. That was Comics 99, where I managed to create an event you could attend for pocket money prices, which the whole industry supported financially, which appeared in all the media, and to which everyone came. The upward trend continued for a few more years.

Unfortunately the downside is that these events don’t make enough money. To generate about 3 months income, I’d be putting in 6 months work, which is fine when the whole idea’s novel, and everyone’s enthusiastic, but wanes over the years.

Worse than the financial hits you take is the perception of fanboy attendees that you must be making a fortune from it, and they start griping and complaining that they’re not getting what they deserve, or that they’re being in some way ripped off. And my events reached a nadir when, after running a charity event every year which raised over £20,000 for our nominated charity ChildLine, without every having to take a penny in running costs, at our last event we had to use a small portion of the charity event’s turnover to cover unforeseen running costs. Not an unusual occurrence and something most charity events do most of the time. But unfortunately a former comics journalist decided to make this into some sort of cause celebre and started berating me in the press to such an extent that he did real damage to the image of the event. More than that, he made it hard for me to continue running the event, or to even want to. So I got out of the comic festival running business and back into drawing comics, which is far the better option.

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.

Peter David writes:

Best experience: Probably getting a Wendy Pini drawing of Leetah tattooed on my arm during San Diego in order to generate a thousand bucks for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Worst experience: Attending a convention that was so mobbed, with the fans en masse behaving so insensitively in their rush to grab free comics being thrown to them by some equally unthinking pros, that a small boy was almost crushed right in front of me before he was pulled to safety.

Peter David is a writer. He writes comics and books, he is currently writing The Incredible Hulk for Marvel, the excellent Fallen Angel at DC (currently, but not for long) and he is also my Dad’s favourite writer of Star Trek Novels…

Shawna Ervin-Gore:

My best convention experience was when Will and Ann Eisner treated me to breakfast a few years ago. It was the first time I’d met Will in person, and we’d just started working together a few months before. I was Dark Horse’s publicist at the time, and Will and I were working pretty closely on the promotion for his then-upcoming book, Last Day in Vietnam. I think I was 25 that year, and just in awe of getting to work with Will-freakin’-Eisner! But it didn’t take me long to get to know Will over the phone, and I quickly realized what a warm, sharp, down-to-earth guy he was. By the time I sat down with him and Ann for this breakfast meeting, we were pretty chummy, and I just remember us cracking a lot of jokes and having a great time. Will had a really great sense of humor, which I’m not sure a lot of his fans are aware of
… and Ann is every bit as funny and charming as he was.

Worst convention experience? I broke my right pinky finger at the knuckle in the middle of the show floor at San Diego last year on
Friday afternoon. It was really painful and I got pretty loopy right away from the shock of it, AND there were about 2 million people crowded into the booth, which didn’t help me think straight. It wasn’t until I showed it to Mike Mignola and his wife Christine, holding my newly bent-in-the-wrong-direction finger up for them to see, that I realized how bad it was. Mike looked like he was going to pass out for me, and Christine convinced me to leave the floor and get to a doctor.
I made it back from the downtown urgent care clinic just in time to sit through the Eisner awards.

Ah, conventions.

Shawna Ervin-Gore is one of Dark Horse’s newest editors.

Richard Emms:

I’d have to say that there’s nothing bad to say about comic conventions… the late nights and early mornings don’t help… but overall the shows are a great experience for everyone. And so they should be!!!

As long as I have a coffee in-me-hand and people to chat to about APC’s titles and the industry in general – then count me in… EVERYTIME!!!

The only thing that does make me a little pissed is relatively unknown creators with massive egos. It’s not good… and just so unprofessional. After all it’s that fans that got them there (and the train into Temple Meads!!).

I’m really looking forward to Bristol this year more than ever as we have the best line-up of creators that have ever worked for us… and some really great books that every creator involved with should be extremely proud of.

No sleep ’til Bristol!!! And San Diego!!

Richard Emms is the publisher behind AP Comics, their editor-in-chief and writer of a number of their titles, including our favourite, Monster Club.

Sean O’Reilly:

Best experience I’ve ever had at a convention was at the Toronto Comic Con where we were announced winners of the 1st ever Shuster Award for Outstanding Publisher. It really was an incredible recognition that we will never forget…as for the worst experience at a convention, I would guess it was at MegaCon in 2004 where I flew south to Orlando…and my luggage (including MANY books) flew east to Montreal. It was unBELIEVABLE but Tina Gully saved the day and managed to get my stuff before noon the next day!

Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.

Frazer Irving:

Best experience was getting hired at Comics2000 in Bristol. I’d been to the one before and some of the London shows but this one finally gave up the goods. Worst experience was the London Winterfest in 2003 when I drank too much and spent 7 hours puking in a shared room. Needless to say I have no plans on repeating that.

Frazer Irving: Essex boy, artist, philanderer. Did the small press for 5 years, then 2000AD for another five, moved onto the glorious silky pages of DC recently. Not one for pigeonholing, he rejects the penciller-inker-colourist team-up and has merged 3 clones of himself into 1 so that he does all jobs. Possibly known for work on 2000AD’s Necronauts, Judge Death and The Simping Detective, currently doodling Klarion the Witch-Boy for DC.

Lee ?Budgie” Barnett:

Best experiences without doubt have been the hypotheticals panels over the past five years, working with Dave Gibbons on them. Other than that, the fun, the drinking, and the meeting up with comics pros and readers.

Worst? Lord, take your pick…
– mistaking Alan GRANT for Alan MOORE (at one of my first UKCAC conventions)
– the feeling you get upon waking up at half-eight on a Monday morning, having not gotten to bed until past six that morning
– going back the year after announcing a project with Marvel… that didn’t happen because EPIC went tits up. Yeah, not my own personal fault, but hated, hated, hated the fact that I’d announced something that then didn’t happen.
– one final one, a loathesome experience: being present in a queue for a signing in 1998 when a ‘big name’ pro slagged off another pro (who wasn’t there). As far as I was concerned, it said more about the pro doing the excoriation than the pro on the receiving end, and it tarnished my view of the former.

Lee ‘Budgie’ Barnett is a writer of comedy and comics, firstly Imperium’s TRAILER PARK OF TERROR, then X-MEN UNLIMITED #4 (Aug 04). Online, he has GOING CHEEP at Pulse, and his novel YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE A MAN CAN FLY here. Famed in UK Comics for Hypotheticals (devised with and presented by Dave Gibbons), he’s been described as being to accountancy what Indiana Jones is to archaeology.

Daley Osiyemi:

My best experience was at last year’s San Diego Comic Con when we launched ‘Brodie’s Law’ to the American public. We did not know what to expect been the first we had a stand at any convention. It was fantastic the reception we got and the feedback form those who bought the first issue and we nearly sold out. It was then we knew we were on to something with our comic and it’s been great ever since.

I haven’t had any worse experience at Cons so far. I Hope it stays that way!!! See you all at the Bristol Expo. It should be a blast.

Daley Osiyemi creator of Brodie’s Law and co-founder of Pulp Theatre Entertainment where he works as producer and creator on various new media and comic projects. Writer and producer of online animated comic series None But Us, developed a character to help promote broadband and is currently working on a graphic novel and a film idea.

Bart Thompson:

Each convention gets better and better each year, but I’d say the best was last year’s Wizard Chicago. I met so many established pros like Greg Horn, who was a large highlight for me. He was really down to earth and you could tell he really loved what he did for a living… that was very inspiring and his excitement and love for the medium really left a positive impression on me. I met a lot of fellow up and coming creators and those connections and relationships have really been invaluable to me.

A worst experience? That’s pretty hard considering there has been so many good things that have happened at conventions, which is another reason why in the next few years I can attend more on a regular basis (I hope to at least make it to the San Diego Comic Con and Wizard Chicago every year). But I guess the worst thing that has happened at a convention was a year we had a small press booth and we came late the second day only to discover another small press group took our spot! It was resolved well- we were given another place and either Brenda or Karen signed the table to approve the move.

Conventions are an amazing experience and a highlight of every year. Hope to see you guys/gals there!

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the writer of Lethal Instinct from Alias Enterprises and publisher of Myriad from Approbation- both in stores now!!

Vince Moore:

The best experience I had at a convention, in all its geeky honesty, was the first year I attended Comic Con International as a professional.
It felt like I had arrived at that moment, even long after the project I was working fell through with the publisher. I haven’t had any bad experiences at conventions yet. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that streak continues for the foreseeable future.

Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.

Gary Spencer Millidge:

Picking up the National Comic Award for Best Self-Published/Independent Comic in London in 1997 was probably both the best *and* the worst at the same time.
It was, of course, a tremendous and unexpected honour to receive the prestigious new Award from TV personalities Jonathan Ross and Paul Gambaccini – but the circumstances were rather awkward and embarrassing.
I had absolutely no idea that I was even up for the Award (there were no pre-announced nominations), and as the day leading up to the presentations went on, I was approached by various organisers and people associated with the Awards asking if I would be attending.
“Yeah, probably, I guess” was my answer – until someone presented me with a ticket to the event (Dave McKinnon of Sleaze Castle fame I think) and with about an hour or so to go, he had to actually spell it out to me – I was REQUIRED to attend – as I was oblivious to all the nudges and hints I had been receiving all day.
Overcome with a sudden attack of stage fright, I drank as many pints as possible over dinner as I could in the short time available to me and by the time my name was announced as winner, I was comfortably cocooned in an alcoholic haze. Unfortunately, the Award statue itself, the infamous first “Jimmy” fell apart, and I was told to “fill” on stage while Ross and Co. were hastily gluing the figure to the base.
I was then carted off for a TV interview with sponsors Comicana for the SciFi channel, so my alcohol and embarrassment fuelled pink face was immortalised on film.
After a few more celebratory jars, I adjourned to my hotel room, but was incredibly ill the next day; a combination of the travel, the excitement and the alcohol had induced a migraine of epic proportions. This meant that I had to forego the second day of the last ever London UKCAC, leaving my table between Dan Clowes and Terry Moore to attempt to drive myself home, stopping every few miles to puke up into the gutter.

A weekend I’ll never forget.

Gary has been self-publishing his award-winning Strangehaven comic book series for ten years and his third trade paperback collection Strangehaven: Conspiracies will be published later this summer http://www.millidge.com

Alan Grant:

BEST: Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was the only overseas guest who actually showed up–shame on you, Bisley and Breyfogle–and the organisers kept the con open till midnight three nights in a row to accommodate fans wanting autographs and photos. When it was finally over, a thousand fans lined the street outside; they all chanted “Maestro” (though it might have been “Wanker”) as our car drove past them. For a few minutes I felt a tiny fraction of what somebody like
Diego Maradona felt every time he went on to a football pitch. No wonder he turned to cocaine, which leads me neatly to…

WORST: Buenos Aires, Argentina. A well-meaning Bolivian fan gifted me a gram of coke. Being unused to narcotics, I promptly overdosed and spent the next three days waiting for my lungs and heart to start working again. They didn’t, hence my elevation to the Legions of the Walking Dead.

Best wishes, see you in Bristol

Alan Grant, writer of Dredd, Batman, and the slightly mad Doomlord, can be seen currently with Arthur Ranson on Judge Anderson in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the superb Com.X trade collection of The Last American.

Donna Barr:

The answer to the first one, though controversial with some is as it has always been: “If God is for us then who can stand against us?” So the answer is Jesus.

I wish I could remember.

Worst…. throwing up alone in a hotel room with an iguana on my head.

Best…. throwing up alone in a hotel room with an iguana on my head?

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!

Jesse Leon McCann:

Best: Hanging with Jack Kirby at the ’91 San Diego Con, and listening to his WWII stories. What a treasure that man was.
Worst: Also at San Diego Con, a few years ago, I witnessed some asshole in a Klingon outfit, screaming at his son in Klingon-ese. The child was only three or four, and it sickened me to think of how this kid might grow up a mixed-up crazy person, all because of his parent’s unhealthy, fanatic obsession with a TV show! Worse still was my inaction. I let it pass without saying anything because I was so very shocked. I still kick myself for that, although it may have traumatized the tot even more had I laid into the dad.

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.

Well, my best convention will hopefully be this one… my worst was probably last year at Comics 2003when I planned to do loads of filming by couldn’t because I had hurt my shoulder and couldn’t carry my camera. Meeting Jim Lee was great though, and also getting to know lots of new people. Make sure you come down and say hello to us at the Portent Comics table and the SBC table. Craig Johnson, Glen Carter and Me will be there, Craig and Glen will also be promoting our sister site http://www.mangalife.com – check it out. I will be filming the expo video, launching Portent Comics with 7 titles (http://www.portentcomics.com) and doing my bit for SBC… make sure you come and say hello!

“The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it – James”

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