Comic-Con came to London last week and I had a grand time! It’s my tradition to go every year with one of my best friends and since everything was locked down for almost two years, it felt pretty special returning to the altar of geekdom! I love the atmosphere. It’s just so diverse – truly a union of passionate people of all ages, genders and backgrounds meshing together as fans of anime/games/comics/[insert fandom here]. It caters well to most bigger fandoms and some niche ones too, like steampunk/lolita fashion or people who want to drink out of viking horns. Basically, it’s very easy to get caught up in everyone’s enthusiasm whether or not you share that fandom.
For me, Comic-Con is a chance to coo over shiny things and empty my wallet with wanton abandon. I adore trawling the packed stalls of all the talented artists in Artists Alley, picking up anime and art books in the PopAsia section and umming and ahhing over games for the backlog.
Comic-Con was a little different this year, of course. Under health guidance, the number of tickets were limited and walkways were bigger. This was nice since it wasn’t as crowded (you do end up feeling like a sweaty sardine sometimes…) but that meant omissions. There was a notable lack of actual anime and manga vendors. Usually there are several major retailers like All the Anime or Travelling Man but this time only Forbidden Planet (manga/pop culture books) and a smallish anime company turned up – both ended up being pretty expensive and they didn’t have any convention offers (FP was actually worse than usual, considering their London branch typically has a 3 for 2 offer on Viz).
There also wasn’t a proper section for video games, which was unusual (it’s usually one of the biggest areas) but understandable if they wanted to use space efficiently. On the other hand, we saw a few new trends. DnD and tabletop games had a much greater presence this year. I also noticed a new figurine vendor with a beautiful Okami statue I had to stop myself from preordering.
So, yeah, three heavy bags 14,000 steps later, I’ve returned to show off my favourite loot!
If you could look at my groaning bookshelf, you’d see that I have no restraint. Over the years, I’ve collected a ludicrous amount, filling a 4×4 Ikea Kallax to the brink with manga/anime/art books. I like all sorts of art styles: anime, western, floaty or weird surreal stuff. I’ve been into buying otome/bishonen ones or artist compilations recently. I tend to come back with at least three art books at Comic-Con but I outdid myself with seven this time lol.
I’m not into astrology but I like the imagery, if that makes sense? Anyway this Horoscope Witches book by Nona is very pretty and bubbly. It has different witch profiles for your horoscope – a fun idea!
Sarah Mason does cool ink-style art, usually of animals or other natural imagery. I’ve admired her work at other conventions and so finally bought her Masonry sketch book and two colouring zines – they’re almost too pretty to colour in my shoddy hand.
I bought three art books from otaku.co.uk – he’s my go to retailer for art books, either online or at conventions, because he has a great selection of Japanese anime/game books for a reasonable price (no need to worry about shipping costs and free delivery in the UK). I’ve been encountering him at every Comic-Con for like eight years and he always looks damn grumpy but is actually a chill dude, who will let you have a look inside the carefully packaged books if you ask.
I bought two books by Kazuaki (character designer/artist for Starry Sky/Ayakashi Gohan) – one is a game book [the one covered with pretty boys] and the other is an original art/sketchbook I think. Anyway, they’re gorgeous – lots of dynamic poses and detailed backgrounds.
lack is an artist for many games. I already had their Palette art book so I got their RPG one, which features art from Fate Grand Order as well as many other games. I really love lack’s vivid colours and the fact they can draw pretty boys and girls equally well.
Finally, on the right is The Elven Path. This is another collaborative effort from Black Fox Press, who were behind the wonderful Enchanted Forest and Threads books. I love these collections – the production values (all colour, quality paper) are consistently great and the art is always so varied despite sharing a defined theme. As you can guess, Elven Path is based on elves and it is very fantastical indeed! Black Fox books give a lot of space for featured artists to talk about their work and show off their sketching process, which is pretty unique. I imagine it would be a great companion for artists themselves.
T-shirts are a lazy girl’s friend and I picked up four this time. You can usually find some nice film and anime ones for a good price and it’s always nice being able to feel the quality with your own hands!
I’m particularly chuffed that I found Lost Monkey’s stall. Several years ago I bought a hellhound and bike fiend shirt from Lewis (the artist) and I’ve worn them to death because they are so comfy. I also love his designs, which throw together the odd parts of your imagination against urban backdrops. Anyway, I’ve wanted to buy a new set for ages and was so excited to spot his stall. He had actually popped out for a coffee at the time so I just waited like a goon and had a laugh about it with him afterwards. The tiger shirt is bold, the crow is a bit more subdued but I love them both.
I also bought his new artbook, Where The Weird Things Are, which he kickstarted last year. Lewis is a lovely chill dude and he offered to sign and do a sketch in it for me. He proceeded to draw an awesome sketch of an octopus and a girl and really went the extra mile recreating this sketch. That’s one of my favourite parts of going around Artists Alley – there are so many incredibly talented artists and these conventions are one of the few times you can hang out with the person behind the pencil.
I have a sweet spot for the arcana style but I’ve never had a tarot deck, let alone one themed around birds. It was a no brainer then that I immediately snatched up this winning combo by Katie Whittle. It was a touch pricey but so worth it. The designs and dramatic colours are great and I love the thought behind the choice of birds – the crowned secretary bird that stomps on snakes is obviously the empress, while the clever crow is a magician. The cards’ edges are gold foil so when the deck comes together the sides are golden, which is a really nice touch.
If an artist doesn’t have an art book, they sometimes have zines that I’ll happily pick up instead. I like the cheap and cheery nature of zines – they all squeeze into the leftover spaces in my bookcase so that’s good too.
This time, I picked up a bookmark and sketch zine by Onyrica, who creates beautiful lineart and experiments with multiple styles. This zine has mostly anthropomorphic and kemonomimi fantasy designs and it’s also all in colour, which is a rarity for shorter A5 books.
The Troll by Martin Fink is a wordless story about a boy who meets a troll in the woods. Apparently it’s based on the author’s child who experienced a similar tale. I haven’t read this yet but I think dialogue-less stories can be very effective.
Mikiko is the artist and author behind Scars, an R18 comic about a disillusioned female commander fighting a futile war. It’s short, well-drawn and hella steamy! I was invested in the story just from the brief vignette on offer so I want to pick up more of her works when I next get the chance.
Prints (and other merch)
Most artists sell a range of items with their designs. Prints, pins, stickers, keychains, totes… if you can imagine it, there’s some artist who’s been creative enough. I typically prefer buying art books or zines but sometimes I’ll pick up a few cute prints or merch. This time, I bought two cute halloween themed prints (I’m so sorry, I lost the business card with the artist’s name) – cryptid cats and chonky gengar is a match made in hell 😍
This is a wooden magnetic trinket box for tabletop dice. I don’t play but I liked the design and the way the two halves click together satisfyingly so I’ll probably use it for jewellery instead.
Most of the time you’ll find me munching on Asian snacks. At conventions, snacks can be quite expensive compared to my local Asian supermarket but I sometimes treat myself to weird Pocky/mochi flavours. They only had a few places selling snacks this time and I foolishly left it until the last minute to get gifts and they had completely sold out – just wooden shelves of disappointment. Lesson learned, I impulsively bagged some melt-in-the-mouth vanilla and salted caramel fudge. My partner and mum enjoyed it just as well thankfully (sorry I forgot to take pictures before we ate it…😅)
Artists’ cards, leaflets etc.
I can’t possibly buy everything from all the cool artists I see so I appreciate being able to pick up their business cards instead. They often sport nice designs so I’ve started putting them in a card display book. I don’t feel like I’ve experienced Comic-Con unless I bring back these cards – they’re like little mementos of the journey.
Anyway, that was my haul this time! If you haven’t ever been to Comic-Con, I definitely recommend trying it one day (under safe conditions!), if only for the experience. It is The Place to let your geek out, so go rock that cosplay, decorate your bag with a hundred keychains of your favourite bias, or just wear your favourite shirt – I’ll catch you on the other side.