Back in 2017, Events Management Student Peter Burke came with a novel idea for his Masters Course: organise a comics convention in Birmingham. Not simply as a thought exercise, but as a full-blown addition to an already pack UK convention calendar – bold! The end result was Not Another Comic Con, a unique one-day event, held in that first year at the Novotel Hotel in the heart of the city, a show which had attracted a strong list comic creators and guests from TV / film for its debut.
Three years later, and Not Another Comic Con continues from its academic beginnings and grows from strength to strength, with this year Aston University hosting the show this August. We’re pleased and proud to run this submitted interview from comics journalist Neil Patel, in which he spoke to Peter about the growing success of NACC, the up and downs, the trials and tribulations, of running such an event, and also his thoughts on how Peter compares other comic conventions to NACC. More importantly, there’s big news about NACC 2019!
NEIL PATEL: Looking back, you staged the first Not Another Comic Con as part of a university course – how did it help you ultimately, with your studies?
PETER BURKE: I achieved a commendation in my Masters Course, which was a great grade, but also the experience of running a show, planning it, attempting to make it appealing to people… it was a great but stressful experience. Good stress, though.
NP: What was the general response from the members of the public to that first show?
PB: We ran a survey to use as part of the Masters Course and the feedback was great – we had some lovely comments, some very happy customers and have made some wonderful connections within the industry.
NP: What made you decide to put another NACC event in Birmingham?
PB: I still think we have a great amount to offer the comic book inspired crowd in Birmingham. I want the convention to be the alternative convention to MCM or Showmasters.
NP: How did you manage to get Aston University as a venue for the show?
PB: I originally wanted another university in the Birmingham area, and they became very unreliable. I was giving up, NACC was dead and by chance I had contacted Aston just for a basic price assuming the venue would be unobtainable. Within days, everything was signed, sealed and delivered inside and NACC ’19 was happening.
NP: What do you have planned for the convention this time round?
PB: We are going for more comic creators than last time, we have more space, bigger budget and we want to make a comic convention about comics and the people who make them. We have more entertainment with the bigger space, and we also have more opportunity for small press creators to get themselves involved and be sat next to a mainstream creator. It’s a great networking opportunity as well as bringing the best of Birmingham’s small press to the masses.
NP: Do you think comic creators and media guests were more responsive to you now that the convention is established?
PB: Comic creators have a tendency to reply to emails, tweets, direct messages, etc.; you can then discuss how to move forward together. Media guests usually come with a representative who is looking at pound signs and looking to how to charge big money for what their client has done, regardless of how prominent or not their parts were in the various mediums. On the flipside to that, there are some agents, who are great to negotiate with and find something that works for everyone, which is really positive.
NP: For you, who are some of the main guests for NACC this year?
PB: So far, from the comic world, we have the likes of: Al Ewing, Emma Vieceli, Jamie Delano, John Wagner, Mike Garley, Kev Hopgood, Ian Edginton and D’Israeli. This is still to be added to and we are working hard to add more of the comic industries favourite names.
NP: There’s quite a lot of conventions happening in the UK – where do you think Not Another Comic Con fits in?
PB: I think we have a local market presence and the main aim is to increase that and, as I said before, be Birmingham’s alternative convention.
NP: Let’s look a little more bigger picture. What are your thoughts on the UK comic convention scene?
PB: I think there is a lot of money spent unnecessarily, I think people staging the conventions are focused on profitability as a first and foremost and over spend on guests, especially media guests. Then, when they don’t bring in the volume of people an MCM would, they are living off pennies. This then drives the price of guests up because there is someone willing to pay £500 for the third stormtrooper to the left who has never had a line.
This is why NACC is the alternative: we only bring people in based on their popularity and how it will reflect in ticket sales. This means we do miss out on a few guests but the balance sheet always reflects favorably and allows us to keep going. This is how smaller conventions should work – sadly, it isn’t.
NP: Do you feel the bubble could burst on comic conventions?
PB: I think it’s possible as the interest in comics decreases – it’s fine people loving DC and Marvel films and TV but that then becomes a media convention. This has its place, but I just fear for a comic convention that isn’t comics focused.
NP: And, to wrap up, what do you feel makes a successful comic convention?
PB: The feeling of community, when you walk in the door, seeing people like you, who like what you do and are feeling like you are in an all-inclusive environment. I think the soulless treating people as a commodity not as a guest is driving down interest from the convention enthusiasts. NACC is here to eternally try and fight that change.
Special thanks to Peter Burke for his time in participating in this interview, and thanks to Neil Patel for conducting it and letting us share it with our readers. If you are a fan of the comics convention community, and you want to share your thoughts, reviews or interviews with everyone, we would be more than happy to host guest submissions. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Not Another Comic Con at their official homepage, https://notanothercomiccon.wordpress.com/, as well as on their social media (Facebook and Twitter). You can also buy tickets at their EventBrite page, here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nacc19-tickets-51706409262.
We’re lucky enough to have been invited along as a panel guest and are looking forward to checking out this comic con that everyone has been ranting and raving about and has been telling me off for missing the past couple of years…!