Edinburgh Comic Con has become one of the few annual events I’ve gotten along to from the beginning and still have on my list of “must attend” Cons at the beginning of each year and that all comes down to the powerhouse behind it – James Lundy.
It all started off as the Something Bloody Awesome 2-day event back in 2014 which seemed, at least to me, to be a slightly ambitious thing to aim for in its first year but having built up a real head of steam in the years since with a change of name, a change of venue and a firm focus on covering a range of different themes & interests under that “Comic Book” umbrella…..it’s ended up feeling like one of the most sustainable conventions around. Having followed ECC from the start I thought I’d take a chance at firing some questions in James’ direction to see how he thinks things have progressed and where the future will take the event.
ECC seems to have gone from strength to strength from the SBA beginnings – will it be more of the same for 2017?
Although ECC will always be a comic book event at its core, we have decided to add a number of new features to the event. With the end goal being that of expansion, and not dilution, we are keeping areas such as the Artist Alley and Dealers Area the same as 2016. However, there will be additional areas such as a new arcade zone, a LEGO zone and a wrestling zone, to name but a few of the attractions. Indeed there will be a number of new exhibitor tables within the additional area, but these will diversify our points of interest to attract fresh attendees who may not have initially attended our event.
In a market which is becoming increasingly saturated, it has been necessary to constantly look for new ways to be innovative while giving paying attendees more value for their money. You won’t be paying any more for your ticket, so if you are only coming along to meet our comic creators or TV & Film guests, it’ll be business as usual, but if you come along for the whole weekend you should certainly notice more bang for your buck.
You’ve always managed to get the balance just right with guests, dealers, small press – is that a challenge?
Lets just say, that it doesn’t do itself and you have to take numerous factors into consideration, which aren’t always apparent and are likely too numerous to list for the purposes of this interview. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging, and there will always be something which you could have done a bit better for someone, but on the whole your opinion seems to be the general consensus.
Is it difficult to get the motivation for the event year on year?
Like everything in life, there are things which can wear you down and grind your gears, but I don’t really have any problem maintaining the motivation. Ultimately, I always try to adopt a beginner’s mindset, looking at everything as if it was the first time, which helps keep that sense of excitement alive and hopefully prevents me from coming across as a know it all. One thing is for certain, I don’t know it all, and in fact have very little time for those who think they do.
I’ll tell you something I do know though, some people work in jobs they find utterly soul-destroying, but they find the motivation to keep going day in and day out due to their responsibilities. If those people can find the motivation to stay on their path and keep moving forward, I should be eternally grateful I get to do what I do for a living.
Do you have a favourite part of the whole convention arranging process?
Actually, seeing it all come together over the weekend is perhaps my favourite part of the process. It’s kind of like doing housework or decorating a room; you don’t get to enjoy the end result without putting in the elbow grease first.
What do you feel has been the biggest success of ECC so far?
Actually, I’d say having a second year was my biggest success. After the lacklustre first year, managing to turn an exceptionally average attendance into a sell-out show the following year was something special, and having it continue to grow has certainly been very encouraging.
Do you start out with a list of guests and then hope for the best on who you can get or who is available?
Actually, I consider a guest list to be a constantly evolving animal, which needs nurtured on an ongoing basis, but still given enough room to breath. Like such a beast, it can snap at your fingers a few times, so you need to prepare for a few little upsets and have the strength of character to give it a good slap on the nose.
Right now I’m still talking to a number of people who I’ve been trying to secure since 2014, but for one reason or another we just can’t seem to align our paths just yet.
What I genuinely have found out about guest lists though, is that the person who pays the bills should always deal with potential guests directly. The reasons for this are plenty, and I don’t have any inclination to divulge them all, but when you look at the fiasco that’s been unfolding with Stephen Shamus at Wizard World, it’s easy to understand why. Some people may be very good at talking the talking, but you never know what’s being discussed, so are really better just taking the middle man out of the picture.
Dealing with agents though, that’s another matter. So far, those I have actually done business with have been amicable, but there has also been a good few I have walked away from during discussions for one reason or another. Obviously this is always done in a professional manner, but there has been moments where people who claim to be agents have double booked talent or would appear to stop working for the talent as soon as we start talking money. Although I’ll never tell someone who isn’t employed by myself how to do their job, I do know the type of people I like to do business with, and prefer to keep such parties out of he picture.
Do you get a chance to enjoy the convention you’ve put together on the day?
You’re never a guest at your own party, but I genuinely enjoy just being there. Walking the floor and speaking to people gives me such a buzz, and I’m grateful I still have the opportunity to do so.
What’s your long-term plans for the convention in the future?
In a lot of walks of life you have to put your money where your mouth is, and pay your dues before people start taking you seriously. Therefore, I just want to keep finding ways to make the show a better experience, and increase our credibility.