Dublin 2019: Comics At An Irish World Con
From the moment that I heard that James Bacon was going to be Chairman of Dublin 2019, I knew comics were going to form a big part of it. I got to know James through mutual friends, like Michael Carroll, and we have met and chatted at many conventions over the years. Through this time I grew to see his love of comics and his knowledge of Irish comics in particular.
What did we get?
The convention had a multitude of panels that covered comics or at least covered subjects where discussion of comics were appropriate. There were signings for creators as well as a number of Kaffeeklatsch, coffee and a chat with a creator. (You can check out my list of events here for a taste of the comic book content). Two of the featured artists, Maeve Clancy and Jim Fitzpatrick have worked in the medium. The Irish comic participants included a plethora of people working in comics outside Ireland including Maura McHugh, Michael Carroll, Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney and Will Simpson. International guests included Sana Takeda, Kieron Gillen, Paul Cornell and Charles Vess. Lots of comics guests that attendees could interact with in a number of ways.
So how did it work out?
On the trading floor, we had a number of creators selling. From what I could see, those that did well were ones that also worked in other media. Paul Carroll, of Limit Break Comics, did well as he had a variety of his novels and short stories to sell. That’s not to say he didn’t sell a few copies of his sci-fi anthology Plexis. I heard that Big Bang did well on sales of books by creators in attendance. They had a couple of signings at their table and a Sana Takeda signing in their store. There were slow sales for others even though some of their books particularly catered to science fiction fans. There were also issues with the number of attendees at some of the comics panels. A lot of this can be attributed to the number of panel options available to attendees, with some comics items going against each other. That is something nearly impossible to avoid given how many comics panels the convention had. Not that it was entirely negative. Those that attended the panels I was at were very enthusiastic and interested. I was happy to answer questions from some foreign visitors in the Irish Small Press panel (we should see Sweden as an English speaking market comics people!). I also got some nice feedback on the 2000AD panel I moderated. I think the latter drew people partly based on the personalities involved (not me, the creators). Will Simpson brought some excellent insight into the art process and was very entertaining. Michael Carroll and Maura McHugh brought their knowledge of working with 2000AD. Both are great conversationalists and helped ensure the panel was free flowing. Both of them are active in other media too, which probably brought in some non comic fans.
So what was the issue?
The convention didn’t do a lot wrong. James and his team had attended a number of Irish shows in recent times to build awareness of the show amongst Irish comic fandom beforehand. They went to great lengths to make comics a big part of the show including flying in big name guests. From what I have been told, Dublin 2019 had more comics related items than previous World Cons. They certainly had far more comic guests than other conventions with comic in their name. I think it is the same issue that comics face in general. A lot of the general public watch TV and film versions of comics properties but this doesn’t translate to more sales of books. In both the case of the general public and those likely to attend a World Con (and an Octocon), it is a matter of education and letting people know that the comics are out there and that comics is a worthwhile medium. I think the more cons like Dublin 2019 include them as part of the conversation, the more people will be convinced to check them out. I’m looking at you New Zealand.