This weekend saw the return of Comic Con to Portsmouth Guildhall.
Portsmouth Comic Con continues to be one of the top events I look out for each year. With enough going on to keep you entertained all day long; maybe even two days if you're looking at those weekend tickets.
"Portsmouth Comic Con, International Festival of Comics, returns bringing you the best in Comics, Film, TV and Pop Culture entertainment! Welcoming some of the greatest writers and illustrators in the industry, alongside stars of the screen and the wonderful world of cosplay! With panels, displays, exhibitions, gaming, VR, Steampunk and an incredible range of merch and collectables." - Portsmouth Comic Con Team
This year I used the Park & Ride and while on the bus (on the way in and out) I overheard conversations about Comic Con and people's excitement and/ or previous positive experiences; which was lovely.
Someone on the way in mentioned they were arriving earlier than they did last year to have more time at the event. I'm not sure you can get a much better review than that.
During the morning I walked around the site, finding different areas, exhibitions and exhibitors. For the first couple of hours I'd thought I had found/ seen everything and then I'd find a new area I'd missed. There really was plenty to keep you entertained and engaged throughout the day, and it was definitely worth making time to wonder around a few times.
There was a really nice mixture of exhibitors, which felt wider than in previous years. The inclusion of exhibitors like 'The Parenting Network' and Andy's Man Club, adds a local support element to the event. With wellbeing and mental health being indirectly mentioned in a couple of the talks I attended, having that local support network element represented in this way was a nice addition. There was the wellbeing/ quiet space room, which Portsmouth Guildhall seem to always have at these larger events now. This seemingly small thing makes a big difference. Cosplay, 'world building/ exploring' and comic fandom (from my experience) can play such a big role in the life of some experiencing mental health illness(es). So it is great to see an acknowledgement of the needs people potentially attending may have (mental illness or not), by providing a spaces to pause, reflect, breathe, away from the crowds and noise.
As our society becomes more aware and engaged with different sensory needs as well, again having a space to point to if and when someone needs it can make a big difference in the accessibility and experience someone has at the event.
Comic, cosplay and fandom can be an opportunity to explore a new world, to escape our day to day struggles. To have the release of pretending to be someone else or be somewhere else, where you are removed from your day to day, even if just for a short while. This can make a huge difference when someone is struggling. I know from my own depression the importance of breaking the negative thought processes that can cycle in our heads.
This year I did wonder around a lot. With our baby on the way for late July/ August I tried to make the most of being able to run around an event freely before the papoose or buggy come into play. Pre event I had planned to visit a number of the talks and workshops. However, a combination of wanting to visit a few of these, the length of these sessions (around 45 minutes) plus my desire to have time wondering around, meant I generally only saw part of sessions. I did miss some I'd planned to attend because I was chatting to people or got caught up taking photos. However, I was keen to make the most of the opportunity to move around the site as much as possible.
I think the panels and workshops is where the Guildhall comes into it's own as a perfect venue for Comic Con. Having the different rooms/ spaces for the sessions to happen upstairs, areas for meet and greets, signings, games, exhibitors/ sellers, Speakers Corner in the main hall, along with the stage and exhibition space throughout the building and outside. There's a really nice mixture of activities and things happening. The workshops and panels, for me are what builds up an event like this. Having the opportunity to hear creators, experts and fans talk and discuss interesting topics provides more than an opportunity to sit down for 40 minutes, it's an opportunity to listen and share; to feel engaged and part of an event and not 'just' a visitor.
As you walk through the building too, there were framed pieces of artwork and comic strips displayed on the walls, which for me really made the building feel like it was part of Comic Con, and not just a space it was happening in. Again, sometimes these seemingly small things make a big impact on how the space feels and your experience.
Read more about those here.
This year I had the joy of meeting a few people as I wondered around Comic Con. I'll add a little more about them below, for this 'summary' I'll just say it was lovely to chat with people throughout the day and hear a little about their day and how they had created/ developed their products and businesses. Though I had my lav mic with me, annoyingly I did not have the connector, so I couldn't use it. Next year I would definitely make sure to bring that, as it would be a great way of having some short conversations with a few people and sharing that on the podcast. I am hoping that post event I'll be able to invite a couple of guests on and follow up some of those conversations later this year.
Because there was more going on this year and a few more things I wanted to see or people I wanted to chat with, I ended up missing the Cosplay Parade. While it was a shame, it did mean there was more time to talk to some of the exhibitors and see more of the other spaces while most people watched the Parade.
There were so many amazing costumes, which were great to see throughout the day. If you would like to see photos of the Parade, I recommend following the Portsmouth Comic Con's social media pages. There were 10+ photographers next to the stage taking photos, I'm sure there will be many amazing photos being shared by the Comic Con Team in due course of the Cosplay Parade and cosplay at the event.
More thoughts & experiences
During the day I had conversations with a few people and wanted to share a little more about them and their work.
It was lovely to chat with Keri and hear a little about Zookie, a friendly dragon that loves dounuts. I was particularly drawn to Keri's table because of the bright colours she uses. On reflection it was also nice to see a family/ child focused illustration. Personally, I feel the young adult and horror comics seem to have boomed in the last few years. So seeing Keri and Zookie was lovely, and with our baby hopefully arriving this year I'm already on the lookout for a future favourite.
The Jurassic Park Experience
Having a bigger area to create a mini experience space at the back of the Guildhall building was great. I'm not sure if there was more Jurassic Park 'things' than previously, but putting them together in a cool outdoor space definitely felt more of an "experience" space. I really liked this and it seemed super popular with families and young ones. I can't believe I missed the big gates!
Saying hi and chatting to Illustrators is something I think that is massively overlooked. It definitely is for me. Rarely in the past have I stopped to chat with Artists or Illustrators at events like Comic Con. In part because there is so many things to get around to and see. But even just stopping for 5 minutes can be a really interesting experience. For me this was most noticeable when chatting to Nomi, who I found out has been at Portsmouth Comic Con events before, but I've never noticed them. There are lots of Artists to see and chat too, maybe saying hi to everyone isn't possible, but I definitely recommend taking the time to visit the Artist Galleries and Comic Cities to check out their artwork and say hi. Find out which Artist has work that speaks to you.
It was really interesting to hear Olly from Dream Team Portsmouth talk about getting into cosplay and gradually building or developing a character and their attire. Using Etsy, eBay, your friends 3D printer, glue and dirt from the garden. There's lots of ways to develop your outfit; if you want to. Olly's also talk nicely overlapped with...
Another Speakers Corner session which did involve questions about building a social media following, but interestingly incorporated very similar messages of focusing on why you are doing this, keeping it fun and enjoying it. With the following aspect coming after. The speakers also discussed the differences in creating one Cosplay character/ attire or multiple, which was an interesting insight to how cosplayers can have different experiences or aims.
Dr Who Experience
Like the Jarissic Park experience having a dedicated space was great. However, it seemed strange to not have that space near the celebrity meet and greet, which was on another floor. The memorabilia and displays were great and really cool to see, but it did feel far less interactive than the Jurassic Park and Star Wars experience spaces. I think this could be my dyslexic brain having different expectations from the word 'experience', as I thought this was more of an exhibition space than experience.
University of Portsmouth, VR, comic and badge making
So this might sound strange, but the comic and badge making looked way more interesting and engaging than the VR. Admittedly, I've seen this VR display or one similar to it a few times at different events. So my take is slightly skewed view.
I think the VR did play a role in showing different options with graphic development, design and careers. However, the comic strips and badge making felt closer to what people were here for and allowed multiple people to be engaged at once. This was such a good space, and well located just after walking through the Artist Gallery. 'You've seen theirs, now it's your turn' type feel. Mega well done to the staff and students hosting that space.
MCU Phase 4 & into Phase 5, Panel Room 1
Unfortunately this was one panel I had to leave early, so I missed a lot. But even just the beginning was so interesting. Hearing a room full of people not just the panelists, being passionate, enthusiastic and positive about the things they like and enjoy was just wonderful. Along with a few interesting views and insights which were great to hear. I wish I could have stayed in this room longer.
The Star Wars Franhise 40 Years On, Panel Room 1
Similar to the MCU Panel, this session was filled with people that were interested and passionate about the different worlds or ways the world of Star Wars has evolved. With conversations about movies, tv shows, comics, and animation shows. How different generations have their own Luke, Rey, Ezra, Grogu depending on when and what they have watched/ read.
There were of course many many other talks, panels, workshops, Artists, guests and exhibitors. I saw and chatted to a few more than mentioned, but hopefully this extra insight from some of my interactions and experiences provides a better idea of the opportunities and experiences at Portsmouth Comic Con.
Comic Con felt busier and was definitely larger this year, I'm still thinking I missed sections even now. Hopefully the organisers are delighted with how the event is continuing to grow, develop and the added interest there seems to be each year in this event.
I would like to say a big thank you to the event organisers for inviting me along and allowing me to experience this event once again. As regular readers will know, I only attend a limited number of events. With work and home responsibilities my capacity for events can be limited. However there are a few events I would always try and make time for. Because of the experience and the way this event is managed and organised, Portsmouth Comic Con is definitely one of those.
Tickets for next years event are already available.
I had a great time at Portsmouth Comic Con, each year its lovely to be in this welcoming, friendly positive environment. Hearing people talk about their favourites, seeing the amazing cosplay and experiencing the wonderful experiences and activities. Im already excited for next year.
Blogger's note: This post does include sponsored content; I was provided a media pass for the event. However, Portsmouth Comic Con (and all exhibitors and speakers) did not ask to and have not seen this post before it is published, nor have they instructed me on what to say. The views, experiences, thoughts and insights expressed in this post are my own.