Showmasters Film & Comic Con Belfast was my first con in a couple of years. The con gods weren’t smiling on me in 2018 and almost every single event I did want to go to I was either away for – or had other plans that I couldn’t get out of.
To be honest I’d debated whether or not to go to this one. The entertainment guests this time round held zero interest to me. Only the announcement of Comics guests John McCrea & PJ Holden persuaded me to go.
Looking back at the con there are some features and norms of conventions that you usually see and they are the things I look for when judging a con.
There was almost zero queuing at this years Showmasters Belfast Comic Con. This was the first time I’d EVER gone to a con without a pre-purchased ticket. This could have turned out to be a disaster but it didn’t – we turned up around 11.15 and we were able to buy our tickets ( in my case via card ) and gain entry all within 5 minutes. This wasn’t due to there being no one there, it was due to the efficiency of the volunteers on the entry desk, who were really friendly and welcoming, as well as fast. In addition £7 is a great price point for a ticket. This immediately put me in a good mood from the beginning.
As already mentioned in the introduction I had zero interest in any of the entertainment guests on this years guest list. The standard of guests at Belfast conventions across the board have been dropping not improving in the last few years. This is obviously just my opinion, there people out there for who this line up might have been a dream lineup. I’m just not one of them.
If you are unsure of some or all of those names you aren’t alone. I live for the day that Belfast could attract a star like Jason Mamoa but I can’t see it happening any time soon. All of this said Star Wars, Doctor Who, James Bond and Game Of Thrones fans all were catered for with the guests in attendance and the queues for photoshoots lead me to believe that these fanbases were happy to spend their money on the lineup.
Without doubt the absolute star attraction for me was Belfast born 2000AD, DC, Marvel and Image Comics artist John McCrea. Any convention in Belfast that fails to add John is missing a trick. He is an amazing talent, and above that a great guy to speak to. He always has time for everyone that approaches his table, doesn’t charge for signing books and is always happy to take commissions on the day. I went for a blank cover sketch form John at £70 which as far as I’m concerned was a bargain.
In addition to John, fellow local comic artist PJ Holden who has worked for Image, Dynamite, Dark Horse, 2000AD & Marvel is another great addition to any con. He kindly signed my copy of his Dark Horse World of Tanks that I had already signed by writer Garth Ennis.
Lee Bradly is another great name and in particular his 80’s themed prints seemed to be going down well with the crowds visiting his desk.
While there were a couple more artists spread around the venue I really missed a small press artist alley. I know for a fact that Belfast has a thriving small press industry. I can only imagine that it’s not important to the show runners, or they simply ask too much for tables from small press creators.
Prop Displays & Photo Shoot Opportunities:
There were two photo display areas that I saw – a Stranger Things themed living room & The Iron Throne. In my opinion these weren’t of the standard of some of the prop displays I’ve seen in the past at Showmasters events such as Jurassic Park or the Tardis. So much so in fact that I didn’t even try to find out how much the photo’s were. This was a let down for me as it’s part of the con experience I now really enjoy.
The merchandise selection at Showmasters Belfast Comic Con this year was exceptional. The range of goods was just what I want from a con. Everywhere I looked there were different stalls selling different things. Shirts, posters, crocheted Nifflers, even art made from circuit boards added to the variety or merch available. Comic Book Guys, Bob Kat Emporium and Forbidden Planet all offered a comics presence which is something that I feel has to be present at events like this.
Again due to my lack of guest interest I didn’t attend any of the talks this time round. The ones I did see seemed well attended by fans.
The Titanic Exhibition Centre is a great venue for a con. Easy to get to with good parking facilities nearby & on the Glider Bus Route from The City Centre. The con was well laid out and even at it’s busiest ( and it was busy ) it never felt oppressive or claustrophobic. The cafe was reasonably priced and the seating area was a welcome one for a mid con break.
Staff were very friendly both the volunteers from the con itself and the venue staff. Every single interaction I had was a positive one.
I want to make it clear that despite some of the negative points above I had a great time at Showmasters Belfast Film & Comic Con.
It’s rekindled my love affair with cons and I am patiently waiting for the next one. Lack of Guests can be made up for by a positive overall experience. Four of us went and we all had a blast and for £7 a ticket what more can I really ask for?