Shane Chebsey Organiser of the International Comics Expo

With  the International Comic Expo, Birmingham’s newest convention, taking place on Saturday 2nd August we thought that it was about time to probe a little deeper into what fans could expect from the con and its sister event Comics Uncovered. So we pinned down con organiser Shane Chebsey and tickled him until he talked.

Geek Syndicate: What do you think are the key ingredients to a successful comic con? What are the bad?

Shane Chebsey: I think it’s having clear aims about what you want to achieve and making sure you achieve them.
For me it’s about treating everyone as though they are of equal importance. Guests, Exhibitors and visitors all want to get something from the con and the event will always be judged by their personal experiences no matter how well you do across the board. So organisation and planning with lead time and an attention to detail are essential.

I think if you are a small con like ours you can really concentrate on giving every person who steps through the door the best con experience possible, Where as with large monster cons it’s very hard to do that.

Then again if you are in it just to make money then numbers through the door are your main priority. You have to know what your priorities are before you even start planning anything in my opinion.

GS: With comic cons reaching a saturation point what is ICE’s unique selling point?

SC: Initially I would say our Guest list. It contains some artists and writers who have never, or rarely, done a UK convention like Winter Solider Artist Roland Boschi

However, as alluded to in the previous question – we are quite a small con. I think we are suited to a really wide range of people which is quite unique as most cons are either only aimed at hard core fans or cosplayers.

Those who really love the comics artform and want to talk to creators without massive queues and those who want to buy cool stuff they might not be able find anywhere else directly from the creators will love ICE.

We also offer a much more relaxed and slower paced buying experience than some of the really big events and we’re very inclusive of those who may not be hard core fans and who are curious about what comics are all about. Of course hard core fans will love ICE too simply beacuse of the great Guest list and exhibitor selection and Cosplayers are very welcome too. In fact one lucky cosplayer will be chosen by the Legendary Artist Steve Rude to be his model when he conducts his art class at Comics Uncovered.

GS: Why a one day con and will it stay that way?

SC: When starting a new event a one day show is really the best option. Your venue and hotel costs are cut in half and exhibitors can attend cheaply without such huge hotel bills. It generally means everyone is more willing to take a chance on you.
If the demand is there we’ll always consider the option of a two day show but I do love the immediacy and excitement of a one day show.
The last show I helped to organise in 2011 was a one day show and it was the most successful, financially, of all the events I’ve ever been involved with so that’s certainly another consideration.

GS: Why have you gone with International Comic Expo and not the Birmingham Comic Expo?

SC:  Better acronym 🙂 he he
Also ICE can happen in any city anywhere in the UK. It’s not limited to Birmingham. The “International’ part is important for us too as we will always have guests from other countries at any ICE event.

GS: Now there is a big move at the moment for making Cons a safe and harassment free environment for everyone. What steps have you taken to that the end with ICE?

SC: As with all of my previous events there will be security at ICE. The venue itself also has a great reputation for being a safe and secure environment for conferences and conventions.

Personally I have very strict policies about any sort of harassment at my events… quite simply that is “If you cause trouble or harass anyone you are out!”
Thankfully I have never had to deal with anything like this as comics folks are generally nice people and our events tend not to attract trouble makers so it’s never been an issue. All the same we do have a zero tolerance for anti social behaviour at all of our events and this is impressed on all of my staff too.
If anyone at ICE feels they are being harassed or victimised by another person please report it to myself or a member of the ICE Security Team and it will be taken very seriously indeed.

GS: Are there any incentives for folks to buy their tickets sooner rather than later?

SC: Yes, if you order online in advance tickets are half price at only £5.00. It really is a great deal! These advanced ticket are limited though.

GS: What comics are doing it for you at the moment?

SC: Most of my pull list is Image or Dark Horse.

Really enjoying Alex & Ada, Morning Glories and Fatale and I’m a die hard Buffy fan, so I get all of those plus anything Hellboy related. It’s a good time to be reading comics. There’s so much good stuff out there, but I think I’ve been saying that for years now 🙂

GS: What can you tell us about the sister event Comics Uncovered?

SC: A lot! 🙂
Comics Uncovered is exactly the same formula as the previous conference Comic Launchpad.
The conference grew from a need in the UK for a focal point for aspiring comic creatros to find contacts for work, inspiration to carry on trying to make it in comics and to learn from some of the most respected professionals in the world.
There really is nothing quite like it here in the UK and I’m very proud of the event and what it represents for new comic creators who are struggling to find a path to a career after leaving college or school or even those who’ve been struggling for years to find work due to a lack of established channels to publishers.

At the last conference many artists and writers found work with major publishers and the same opportunities are available to aspiring creators at Comics Uncovered.
As well as all of Seminars and Masterclasses there are one to one portfolio reviews with editors from DC Comics and Titan Comics and there’s a fun evening networking party after all the events so that creators can cement the contacts and friendships made and wind down with some complimentary food and drink.

The importance of the event has also been recognised by The Arts Council of England and they have supported us with an award of 25% of our running costs which is a huge help, as paying for all of the professionals to be there and hiring such a state of the art venue does not come cheap despite the massive good will from many of the professionals who have asked only for expenses.

GS: What do you think an indie can gain from attending comics uncovered?

SC: It’s a rare chance for indie publishers to meet face to face with major distributors Diamond Comics to find out more about getting there titles into Previews.
Gazelle Book Sellers will also have a representative present scouting out new titles for distribution. There may also be a few surprise industry big names floating about the conference looking out for new talent and new books to publish, although I’m not allowed to announce them as I think they’d like to keep a low profile.

GS: What’s next for you ?

SC: Well the day after the Expo and Conference I have to go into hospital for surgery so I am guessing a couple of weeks rest.
After that I hope to do some more events if the demand is there.
I have an idea for a really special event in 2016 but I can’t tell you about that yet. Sorry to tease.

For now I just really hope that everyone who attends has a great time.

Sources: ICE / Comics Uncovered

Interviewer: Nuge

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