Last Saturday, I attended the Birmingham International Comics Shows aka BICS. I expected to be as big as the San Diego Comic Con, but it turned out to be smaller, even smaller than the annual Komikon that we have back in Manila.
The hall probably had 30 or so tables, with the usual mix of creators with photocopies comic books and offset printed books. (UPDATE: Based on this report by Richard Bruton in the Forbidden Planet blog, it seems like I missed an entire hall of other exhibitors. I wonder where that was located. I didn't see any signs.)
I was hoping there would be a comic book store like Forbidden Planet would have a table there, but there was none. So, I even though I got to see Bryan Hitch, Charles Adlard, Duncan Fegredo, and Charles Vess, I wasn’t able to get anything signed since I didn’t have any of their comic books with me at the time.
There were several talks happening that day and I stumbled into the “BRIT PACK”. I looked at the program guide and it read: “Tim Pilcher gives us the low-down on the state of the comics nation, as he explores the current UK comics scene, plus special guests.”
It was the tail end of the talk when I entered the hall, but what they were talking about was no different from things that have been discussed at komikons, at message boards, and on blogs over here.
How do we get more kids to read comics?
Is the printed comic book on its way to extinction?
Will all comics be digitally distributed?
One of the speakers made the fearless forecast that the monthly comic book will disappear in the next 5 to 10 years, to be replaced by the digital comic book, and the printed comic book will be a compilation of the digital monthlies.
They also talked about how whenever great new talent appears in British comics, they end up working with Marvel and DC and get locked into exclusive contracts with the American comic book companies.
It was also mentioned that aside from the small press / indie press / creator-owned books, there were not a lot of venues for new comic book creators. Looking at the comic book shops there, the longest running comic book titles are probably 2000 A.D. and JUDGE DREDD. Mark Millar’s CLiNT is just on its second issue and he’s devoting 3-4pages for new talent, but obviously, that’s not enough.
Makes me wonder what were the conditions that brought about this kind of comic book scene in Britain.
I looked around that hall and noticed that most of attendees were men in their 30s. Where were the teen-agers? Where were 20-year old guys-- and girls? Considering that the venue of BICS was near a university, I was wondering, where were all the college kids? If they were there, there were not a lot of them.
So, it’s a bit encouraging to know that whenever we have comic book events in the Philippines that we get a good mix, a good age range of readers and creators.
And yet, our little local comic book scene still needs to gain the strength and momentum to become a thriving industry once more.
More about that on a future post.