Nottingham Comic Con Mastermind Kevin Brett on the UK Scene

Interview: Toby Johnston
Monday 15 October 2018
reading time: min, words

Kev Brett is the mastermind behind Nottingham Comic Convention, and the artist behind Piddley Pix and The Monkey and the Mouse, to name a couple. Ahead of his fifth consecutive Comicon which, according to his book The Making of a Comic Con, should have given him roughly five heart-attacks by now, Kev answered a few questions for LeftLion…


What made you start the Notts Comic con?
Back in 2013, I’d just completed my first comic book, The Monkey and the Mouse: Where’s the Cheese? and I was looking for somewhere where I could sell it, become a millionaire and retire. The esteemed Thought Bubble in Leeds had just opened up for exhibitors to table at their event and so I applied. I was told that the tables had been filled and I’d be put on the waiting list.

In my despair, I hunted around for a local con to sell at and couldn’t find one. Struck by an ingenious idea, I told the wife I was going to put on my own show. Within seven months the very first Nottingham Comic Con (then titled Nerd Fest) was held and was hailed as a great success. By me, at least. And here we are, six years later.

When most people think about comics, they think about the huge superhero film franchises, but what’s the scene like for British artists and labels?
Honestly I think it depends on who you ask. There’s a good argument that the success of the tie in films will aid the dwindling sales of the comic industry. With the likes of Marvel and DC, they seem to be more focussed on the film industry, in my opinion, as it’s a bigger money maker. This of course has a knock-on effect in the comics world, not only in the US but also here.

As a convention organiser, I’ve seen a massive growth in the indie small press scene with people realising they no longer have to wait for the “big two” to come knocking. They can do it themselves, further advanced with the likes of Kickstarter and Patreon.

Which comic superhero would you like to get a film?
Growing up I always loved Batman and Spider-Man and for me it’s amazing to see that a number of great films have done those characters justice.

I’d love to see a Strontium Dog (2000AD) film or TV show and an animated Desperate Dan.

What’s your Kickstarter all about?
We recently ran a successful Kickstarter to help fund this year’s NCC 2018 Anthology Comic, Vol 3: Inter Space. We have a number of big names in the industry as well as some of the leading small press creators, who have produced some short comics revolving around the theme of sci-fi. The Kickstarter was used to raise the funds for the printing of the book.

This is our third volume, the first being Forest Tales and the second; Outlaws: Wanted. Once printed, we’ll sell the books with 100% of the money raised being donated to the year’s chosen charities; this year being The Royal British Legion and their Poppy Appeal, Macmillan Cancer Support and local charity the Friary.

As a convention organiser, I’ve seen a massive growth in the indie small press scene with people realising they no longer have to wait for the “big two” to come knocking

So, there are loads of comic cons around the country. What makes the Notts one special?
Our main focus at Nottingham Comic Con is comics! We don’t have film actors or TV stars; we have comic industry professionals. We want to help get comics out there and into people’s hands, especially kids. We target families and children and want to get kids reading. We have Q&A seminars where the likes of Luke Pearson (creator of the Hilda comic book – now a major Netflix series) can share their knowledge of comics and how to make them and thrive in the industry.

We have workshops and talks where creators of any age can come and learn to further aid their creations, or just be entertained. We will be screening some locally made short animated films, showcasing local musical talent as well as holding a charity raffle, with all proceeds again being donated to our chosen charities. The UK Garrison will also be attending in full Star Wars costumes, creating photo opportunities for all the family to look back at fondly.

The day is all about fun and reading comics!

Why Notts in particular? What cool things have happened between Notts and comics in the past?
Nottingham is my home. I’ve lived here for nearly fifteen years and I love it. At the time, there was a hole in terms of comic conventions in and around the city and I wanted to try to plug that hole. Nottingham has always had a great comics history in terms of creators, with the likes of D’Isreali and Ian Culbard, and it’s a great central location for creators from Birmingham, Sheffield, Lincoln and further afield.

Any Notts comics or comic stores you feel people should see more of?
There are some great comic shops in Notts, but what we would really like to see is more access to comics for all. Libraries are great for borrowing books and discovering a new genre, author or creator. So, we would like comics and graphic novels to have a bigger part of local libraries. Also, it’d be good to see more one-off pop-up comic shops. Let’s spread the word of indie talent!

What are some of the highlights from other Notts Comic cons?
I think the main highlight, from a personal perspective, was when we’d finished the very first con. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing, or if it’d work, or if anyone would come to it. We managed to get the likes of Gary Erskine, John McCrea and Marc Laming, three big Marvel/DC/Dark Horse artists as guests, and people came. We had a queue to get in and the day went better than we’d ever imagined.

Since then, we’ve been able to attract other big names, but most importantly we’ve seen the number of small press creators with their own comics increase, inspiring others to read and make comics! We got to raise a ton of money for our chosen charities year in year out.

A really big thing though is that we have had feedback from parents who have said that their children have been inspired by meeting people to make their own comics or read more and that is fantastic. Mission accomplished.

How do British Comic Cons line up against American ones?
Honestly, I’ve never been to a US show. I imagine ours tend to be a bit smaller. When you talk about the likes of San Diego Comic Con, I think that’s becoming more of a show for film and TV studios to advertise their next big project and no longer about the comics.

What does the future look like for British comics and for comics overall?
The small press scene is definitely on the up; the talent you see is incredible and more people are realising that you can still produce high quality books without having to be employed by Marvel.

Anything else to add?
The potential for the UK comic scene is definitely there and the future looks orange!

Notts Comic Con takes place on Saturday 20 October, at the Nottingham Conference Centre.

Notts Comic Con website

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