Comic Con: Our Twisted Challenge

I have a great time at Comic Cons and, if you’ve never been to one, I highly recommend you try one of the larger shows.

It was only after I decided I was going to write and sell comics that I first attended a convention – it had previously never crossed my mind to go to one, and yes, I was missing out.

My first time at Comic Con

‘The first thing that struck me was the atmosphere.’

I love good films. But even if I’m a fan of an actor or director, I’d never joined the crowds outside a movie premiere and seen them on the red carpet because I’d rather just watch the film. So for that same reason I guess, I didn’t really have a desire to attend Comic Con.

I love good comics (I have hundreds of trade paperbacks on my shelves) but I just wanted to read the comics. When I finally went to Comic Con, it was mostly to see how it all worked because I would be an exhibitor in the future, but what I found was not what I expected.

The first thing that struck me was the atmosphere: no judgement. Whatever you’re into, that’s cool. Fancy dressing up as Wolverine? Knock yourself out! You want to cross dress? Have fun! Always liked pretending to be a cat? Go for it!

Some of the things you see at comic con.

There’s one memory that really stands out for me, and that was my first New York Comic Con. I noticed these massive Star Wars fans at a booth opposite me (turns out they had lightsabre duels which they organised on rooftops around New York) and they were having so much fun, no matter their skill level! Seeing the smiles on their faces, and the fact they had found like-minded people who loved the same thing, I thought was a great thing.

Costumed Characters? Must be Cosplay

The cosplay is also extraordinary – the skill and talent of some people is truly outstanding! I remember a Japanese cosplayer being amazed when they came to the UK because in Japan, cosplay is apparently limited to specific areas whereas, in the UK, people wander about in their costumes wherever they like.

Just two of thousands of impressive cosplay you get to see.

I know a lot of people mostly attend Comic Con just to see people dressed up, so it makes sense that there’s also an etiquette for photo taking. For example,  some cosplayers put so much effort into their work that they don’t like it if you randomly take their photo. You have to ask for their permission to photograph them, and ifthey agree, they will often pose and hand you a card with their details so you can tag them on social media. You probably know this already, but for me, it was a learning experience – especially because I am not the best at social media!

Comic Con: Attracting New Readers

There is a lot to see at Comic Cons, so to make things (more) interesting, we have a gimmick called The Twisted Challenge.

I deliberately made the first story in both Twisted Dark and in The Theory very short so people could get a feel of the material as if they were browsing it in a shop.

But at Comic Con, we realised we could go bigger. We invited people to take part in a challenge – read the first two stories in either Twisted Dark or The Theory, and then try to put the book down. That’s it. Try not to buy it.

If you can, you pass, but usually 80% of people who read the first two stories end up buying the book (we have a scoreboard where we mark down who passes and who fails). If you haven’t read the comics yet, give it a shot. The series gets better the more you read.

I used to visit a lot of Comic Cons until my second child was born. When he arrived, my wife told me I had to cut down. It seems being away 26 weekends of the year was no longer an option!

Then and Now. One of the earliest cons we ever did. We didn’t even have tablecloths at that point. Our stall has improved a bit since starting. You can see it in the background here.

Comic Cons are an important part of the comic business, not only for attracting new readers, but to also meet long time readers, see old friends and collaborators. But the best part of Comic Con is  making new connections (it’s also where I met a few writers I work with and several artists). Not to mention the fact that you also get to see some cool new gear and play cutting-edge VR video games! But my favourite thing about Comic Cons is this: converting people with no or little experience with comics into comic book fans.

Showing People the Magic of Comic Books

It’s my mission to get more people reading and creating comics, simply because I love the good ones so much. I’ve found that a lot of people who go to Comic Con do it for a day out or to support a friend or a relative, but have never even read a comic, which is a shame as they don’t know what they’re missing!

‘A lot of people who go to Comic Con … have never even read a comic.’

I want them to truly experience the magic of comics. So in my attempt to convert them, I’ll ask people what TV shows or books they like and then recommend titles based on their tastes. If they love romcoms and gaming, then I know my comics probably won’t appeal to them, but I’d recommend the romance webtoon ‘Let’s Play’ by Mongie, and I can show them how they can read it for free. On the other hand, if they like a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, then I would recommend Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I don’t push my material or the Twisted Challenge if they are after something I don’t make.

It’s a fantastic feeling when people read my comics and get hooked, but really, the greatest pleasure I get at these events is converting non-comic book readers into avid comic bookworms, because I love the medium and think people are missing out by not giving it a go.

Are all comics good? No! Some are rubbish, but the best comics are amazing. In fact, in a later blog post, I’ll tell you why I like comics so much and which ones are my favourite.

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