Last weekend’s Dublin International Comics Expo (D.I.C.E.) hosted by The Big Bang comic shop went off with, well, a bang. It was the attention to details and relaxed professionalism that really made the event shine.
The expo managed to curate a balance between big-name comic professionals, a strong footfall and compelling industry panels – all while accommodating the growing small press scene here in Ireland.
Nailing an effective mix of programming, while also paying attention to practical things like location and access is a hard thing to pull off, but D.I.C.E. achieved it.
Firstly, the show itself was in an ideal venue, Dundrum Town Centre, one of the biggest shopping complexes in Europe, with good access to trams, taxis, eateries and cash machines.
This wasn’t a giant industrialised warehouse where Gamma bombs had been routinely tested. It was well-presented, well-lit and appropriately signed to capture passers-by.
The general public had free access to the small press hall upon entering the venue, with pay-to-pass in place for the main hall, which is where the majors were signing. Pre-paid access was also available for eager fans and this helped stagger out the crowds throughout the day.
It worked well as comic fans were always likely to prioritise their day around meeting their heroes first and exploring whatever else (i.e. small press) second. Coupled with the public entrance model, the more than ample crowd from passers-by (families, couples, friends, etc.) was enough to keep the small-press hall busy on both days.
Kudos has to go out to the extremely helpful stewards at the event. Throughout the day I was routinely asked how I was doing, whether I needed water or if I needed anyone to mind my stall if I needed to nip out for a coffee. As a small-presser, it’s par the course to *not* be asked any of these questions, so to have stewards helping everyone was a sign that the organisers had got their staff selection right. People genuinely wanted to make sure the event went right.
As a Londoner in Dublin, it was also interesting to get a first-hand glimpse of the Irish small-press scene, which I’m happy to say is bubbling. It reminded me of the UK scene back in 2007 and the emerging appetite among comic fans for different, more idiosyncratic works and the rise of local indie heroes.
The trend is only likely to increase. I suspect year-on-year, as Irish indie creators become even more established on the circuit and more people begin producing their own books, we’re likely to see the small press hall grow and match the size of the main one.
John and Bruno from the Big Bang got it right by being extremely focused on the details and I’m told that planning for next year’s event is already underway.
D.I.C.E. 2014 is likely to be an assured success, and by maintaining the relaxed and welcoming vibe to comics and non-comics people alike, it’s sure to become one of Ireland’s premier comic book events.