Con-founded

Last weekend, Emily and I, accompanied by the incredibly helpful Dan, went to MCM Comic Con in London to sell copies of Footloose, along with T-shirts, postcards, and pants. (Yup, pants. They’re one of our biggest sellers!)

Cons are funny things. Sometimes they go well when you’d expected them to go badly, sometimes it’s the total opposite. This con, though, was a particularly weird one, with a lot of ups and downs.

We arrived at lunchtime on the Friday and set up our table. I’d booked the room we were staying in a few months earlier – we were in a sort of hostel-slash-guest-house where we stayed last Comic Con. I’d booked it over the phone, which turned out to be a huge mistake.

I got to the guest house and met with the manager. That was when the problems started. The con started on 25th October and ran till the 27th. The manager checked his records, and told me that I’d booked the room for the 24th, to leave on the 26th – and that when I hadn’t turned up yesterday, he’d given the room away.

I started to panic. I knew I wouldn’t have booked the wrong dates – I’d had my diary in front of me when I booked the room, and I checked the dates obsessively. It took a while for me and the manager to work out what had happened. Although I’d booked the room over the phone, I’d emailed a few months later when someone we were originally going to share the room with had dropped out. The company who ran the guest houses had obviously looked back through the emails and taken the dates from when I stayed with them in May.

By this point, I was so stressed out I was about to burst into tears – we had nowhere to stay, and the con started too early each day for us to commute between Oxford and London. Luckily, the manager managed to find us a room in another guest house – in Ilford. I didn’t know where Ilford was, but after a cab ride there, a convoluted journey back to the Excel Centre, and a restorative cup of tea, I was ready to join Em and Dan selling.

Sales were slow on the Friday and Saturday, but hanging around with our friends from the Comic Village more than made up for that. Over the years, Em and I have got to know a lot of other indie comic creators, including Matt Dyson (Moo and Keo), Rob Cureton (Orful Comics), the team at Subversive Comics, Josh Clark (The Elemals) and many many more (don’t worry guys, you’ll all get shout-outs sooner or later!) One of the best bits about conventions is getting to see and catch up with them. Subversive Comics were just behind us, and we spent probably more time than we should seeing how many stickers we could stick on each other without the stickee noticing.

Another great thing about conventions are the punters. Footfall was heavy on the Saturday – around 100,000 people, according to rumour – and getting away from the table to use the loos or buy tea was a nightmare. Despite the crush, we saw some amazing costumes (including an entire family dressed up as Transformers, right down to a tiny newborn baby Optimus Prime). I got to meet an online friend of mine, who had turned up as a character from World of Warcraft, and some older faces who I recognised from years before. Conworld is different from Real World, in that I often recognise people more by their costumes than their faces.

After a few drinks with Comic Village people on Saturday night, we went back to the guest house, where things got weird again. We were sharing the house with a Swedish canoeing team, who stayed up incredibly late and got up incredibly early, but were pretty decent housemates.

One guy, however, wasn’t. At 1:30am on the Sunday morning, Em woke up to hear knocking on the door. (I had earplugs in, because I’m an incredibly fussy sleeper, so it took me a little longer to wake up – and Dan was out for the count). The knocking stopped, then started up again. Thinking it was something really urgent, Em got up and answered the door.

“Do you have a lighter?” asked the guy.

Em was too flabbergasted to do anything other than tell him “No!” At this point, I’d woken up, and the guy seemed to realise that it was the early hours of the morning and we’d all been asleep. He apologised and wandered off, looking very sheepish. We never saw him again, and I can’t help but feel that he just wandered in off the street.

The next morning, we went to leave the room, and the door wouldn’t open. The lock worked fine, but the handle wasn’t pulling the latch back. We tried to get out via the French windows, but that just took us into a garden, which we couldn’t escape from. In the end, Em used her rogue skills and jimmied the door with a plastic bag.

We were very glad to leave that house.

After having a few downs on the previous two days, the Sunday was full of ups. I met Tab Kimpton, who writes Khaos Komix and Shades of A (warning for adult content in both comics!), and he bought a copy of our latest volume of Footloose for a friend of his (Em and I geeked out about this for ages, because we are both massive fans of his work). I also picked up my Kickstarter reward from him, and accidentally stole a T-shirt, although I’ve paid him back for it now. I met up with my friend Helen, who I almost never get to see, and we ended up taking more money than we ever have at a con before. (We celebrated with chips and burgers on the bus home, although unfortunately Dan sat next to a snooty man who wouldn’t let him eat his).

Next convention is at the end of November – Thought Bubble in Leeds. It’s our first time there, and I can’t wait. For one thing, we’ve *definitely* got the right dates for the room.

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About Alice Nuttall

Alice Nuttall is a caffeine-guzzling knitter who divides her time between Oxford and the various worlds in her head. She is the author of a YA fantasy novel, Spider Circus, and three webcomics, Footloose, Cherry, and Black Market Magic, as well as several short stories.
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