The first weekend in September (3rd & 4th) saw the NICE Comic Con hit it’s fifth year and the third year I’ve attended, but with a constantly impressive guest list & relaxed vibe to the two day event it’s no wonder it’s one that I go back to time and again.
The event moved back to it’s usual venue at the Bedford Corn Exchange and while I didn’t really mind last year’s location it was a welcome return to the layout of the tried & tested home of NICE. The Saturday of this and any other con always seems to involve mainly queuing and while that was still the case here it never really seems like too much of a chore given the attitude of the guests, the other visitors & the staff who make the con what it is. The only minor suggestion I’d have on this would be to start adding a ticketed numbering system for the big name guests who will be sketching all weekend because otherwise it can feel like the other guests/stalls miss out somehow.
That being said I was lucky enough to get my usual pile of hardbacks & comics signed and all while getting a chance to sit an talk with the creators there. Lengthy chats with the likes of Steve Dillon, Greg Tocchini, Duncan Fegredo, David Hine, John Bolton, Jamie Delano and more just makes NICE a much more sociable event where the love of comics is front & centre to the whole weekend.
The mix of interviews and discussions during the panels reflects that same outlook and Jeff & his team seem to keep that same idea in every corner of the venue for every minute of the two-day event. The buzz in the Corn Exchange on the Saturday was great and although I missed the chance to catch-up with a few people I eased into the Sunday getting a chance to see more of the small press/indie titles on offer as well as flicking through the long boxes of comics for the hidden gems I never knew I needed.
Also on hand this weekend for the first time were CBCS who were available for grading submissions & to witness autographs where needed. I sat down with Lee from CBCS UK as I had been toiling with getting some of my signed comics graded sometime soon. Great advice and they felt like an extension of the NICE team with their approach.
So the big question with this year’s event was ‘Could the consistency be maintained from an event like NICE?’ and it was a resounding HELL YES! It keeps the TV & movie takeover of superhero comics at arms length which is a key difference to many other cons that flood the calendars more and more these days. There’s also the added bonus that all signatures over the weekend are free and while guests choosing to charge for this has crept into other events up and down the country it’s NICE that bucks that trend to keep things much more grounded…….the artists & writers are successful because the fans have already bought the comics, graphic novels and more and a signature seems like a fair trade for that loyalty…..at least to me.
It goes beyond that though as NICE feels fairly unique in it’s ability to maintain it’s high calibre of guest while a solid mix of comic sellers and small press titles remain on-hand to provide the next big title you’ll get lost in. The guests, the team Jeff has built up and everyone visiting the event embrace the common ground that they all have as their enthusiasm for comics in all their weird and wonderful forms are just as much on show as the artwork, books and figures that help promote them. I have two hopes for the NICE event……#1 that it doesn’t change from it’s focus on comics & #2 it grows to become a bigger and bigger success and helps break the mould of what a Comic Convention should be by maintaining that focus on comics at its the core.
Great work again from Jeff and his team and you can check out more on the NICE Comic con website, Facebook & Twitter pages. You can also join the event page to keep track of what’s happening at NICE 2017.