Resides in Vienna, Austria where he constantly wrangles his weird world into shape as a comic book artist, storyboard artist, writer & performer.
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Vienna now has its very own Comic Con, and our Rob Ayers was on hand to give us a report on all that went down in one of Europe’s loveliest cities.
In the spirit of my usual Slow on the Draw theme I will now regale you with my experience at Vienna, Austria’s first annual Comic Con this month! How is it a Slow on the Draw article, you ask? Well, it was also my first Comic Con!
Yes, yes, I know. Shameful. I, who have been working in the indie comic biz for years, have never attended one of the many micro-meccas that regularly erupt in most hubs of society around the world for us comic junkies. That has finally changed with the debut of my adopted city’s first “Comic & Entertainment Expo”, the VIECC.
It being 2015, and with most of the cities in North America, along with many of the more centralized European cities, having had their own Comic Con for many years now, one might get the impression that Vienna just doesn’t have such an overwhelming number of comic fans. One would be right. It would seem that the popular opinion here is “comics are for kids”, or “I never got into them as a child, because I was busy skiing the Alps, and hunting brown bears into extinction with my brothers and sisters”, or “I’m a scientist now, leave me alone — how did you get in here anyway?! Security!”
I must say, however, that the relatively short headcount of comic fans says nothing of the voraciousness of our addiction. We, the comic book junkies of Vienna, are a group that easily rivals any North American city in terms of fandom and veneration for our four-color vices, televised loyalties and cinematic kicks. So it was with great expectations that we welcomed the first annual Comic Con, produced by ReedPop, the same people that created the New York Comic Con, Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, and a fistful of other Comic Cons all across the world including in Australia, India and Seattle (we kid, Seattle- you’re okay by us).
So this first foray into giving us Viennese nerds and freaks what we always wanted was in good hands, and those hands delivered. It was incredibly well organized, flowed very smoothly from the moment I walked in the door, and I had a great time, even if it was for only a short time.
That leads quasi-fluidly into my only recommendation for the second annual Comic Con here: we would like a little more.
A little more everything, I think. What we got was a really great taste of the good life, but not quite a full course meal. I imagine it has much to do with logistics and resources for an event in which there’s no guarantee or evidence that investment will be returned, especially it being the very first event of its kind in a country that isn’t particularly known for comics, or entertainment in general.
It all went down at Hall H, a very large room in Messe Wien, one of the massive convention buildings of the city. The room itself was good for it. No overwhelming human aroma, good ventilation, clear lighting, etc.. Even with sold out tickets for Friday and Saturday it wasn’t too strenuous to manoeuvre through the wide aisles between stands and displays. Granted, I was only sporting incognito street clothes — not one of the many elaborate and amazing costumes I saw there. I would be willing to say a good 30–40% of the attendees were dolled up in self-made, carefully crafted costumes and uniforms that thrilled me to no end. But back to the organization for one more minute.
There were interesting lectures from industry professionals, domestic and international. There were events and celebrity guests to line up for and enjoy. There was a dense Artist’s Alley, also loaded with domestic and internationally published creators. There were premieres, such as Vienna’s first & only horror series Wienerland, which looks very cool. It could easily become a series rabidly followed by fans of Spaghetti Westers, horror, fantasy, science fiction alike. All in all it was more than worth the €25 I paid for the ticket. It was only the times in between the events, lines, guests and signings in which I felt I wanted more. The room was a grid mostly filled in with vendors selling t-shirts, figurines, toys, and costume accessories. There were two stands with American and European comics, and a couple more with manga. There were a couple large stations for tabletop role-playing games. Rounding out the space were a few huge displays for Star Wars, Assassin’s Creed, Playstation, and Nintendo. This is all well and good, and to be expected. I’m not railing against anything here. It’s just that all of the shopping booths sharing room with Artist’s Alley, Celebrity signing stations, and the lecture stage with seating just wasn’t quite… enough. If I wasn’t waiting for an event all I could do in the meantime was make another lap around the small hall of the nerd mall. I can only look at the same t-shirts so many times, and watch the same Stormtrooper get cut down by the same Jedi half as many times.
Like I said, this isn’t complaining. It’s just the way it was, and I fully believe it will be expanded and even more thrilling next year, now that the investors and producers have proof that an event like this is indeed welcome, wanted and financially feasible here.
Okay, now that all the grown-up news about the Vienna Comic Con is done, let’s get self-indulgent. Even though there wasn’t an absurd amount of stuff to see and get there, what was available was pretty darn cool. Let’s see what your faithful writer took away with him, shall we?
From left to right: my own book (shameless, Rob, real shameless) that did not find a publisher at the comic con, because there were none there, another thing that I’m desperately hoping will change in the future now that evidence has been given that Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse & all the others fighting for shelf space in comic shops across the globe have an excited & paying audience here in Vienna.
Next is a Christopher Lee pin-up, plus the first four issues of Captain Berlin, signed by the artist Rainer F. Engel, a consummate pro and really cool guy.
The book Dunkler Himmel (which translates to Dark Heaven), by the supercool Andi Zobernig.
I See Faces in the Dark, an art book collecting pieces from Domo Wasaki, an incredible sculptor, painter, and mixed media artist.
The booklet that came in the bag we all received upon entering the hall, full of words and advertisements. Not bad for proof that one was there.
And finally the main event of Comic Con take-aways: my Jae Lee print of the Hulk and Wolverine autographed by Jae Lee. He sat there in Artist’s Alley, a shining light of smiling, incredible talent, giving autographs to a line of fans that snaked down the aisle, casting all the other artists behind their tables in its shadow. I almost felt a little sorry for them, but if you’re in a line-up with Jae Lee, you can’t really expect to compete fan-wise.
And that was that. This year was good for Viennese comic fans, and we can only hope that next year will even better.
Thank you VIECC, and everyone who brought comic con to Vienna!
Rob Ayers is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @S_R_Ayers
A great start to what hopefully becomes an expanding & flourishing annual event for Vienna, Austria.