Malta Comic Con

A guide for exhibitors

2014 marks the third year I have been an
exhibiting guest at the Malta Comic Con with my project, ‘School of Bitches’.
What I have written below is not an account of what I got up to during my time
in Malta as I do not wish to incriminate myself, but is a ‘guide’ of what you
can expect as exhibitors who may be interested in attending the Malta Comic Con
in the future.
To begin with, the event is incredible, I
have exhibited at a number of events across the U.K. and Ireland and have yet
found any event similar in terms of the organisers hospitality, the attendees
enthusiasm and the opportunities for guests and artists to explore a beautiful
country as one group, all of which is organised by the team at ‘Wicked Comics’
via one of their low priced travel packages.
The travel package for myself cost 160
Euros, expensive you may think, but read on to find out what the package
provides, and remember, the price is in Euros not Pound Sterling. It includes,
transport, table, 4 nights at a 4 star hotel as well as a tour and evening

I arrived at Malta airport and walked out into a
bright day where the temperature would put the British summer to shame, even in
the month of November. Tired needing a whiskey and ice, I was pleased to be met
at the arrivals gate by one of the events organisers who picked me up and drove
me across the island to the seaside town of Bugibba, where I was dropped off at
our 4 star hotel and left for now to my own devices. I settled in on the top
floor and sat out on my balcony smoking my newly purchased cigarettes that cost
half the price of those back home. The pound goes much further in Malta,
cigarettes, alcohol, food and public transport, it’s all far below your average
prices back home. 

I had arrived early so spent the first
couple of days taking in the sights and enjoying being outside in shorts and a
t-shirt as the other guests began to arrive one by one. Old familiar faces from
the comic’s world would find me on the way from one bar to the next, for a week
Bugibba is turned into a treasure trove of some of the greatest creators within
the scene. I know a number of them from previous encounters, but others I feel
no hesitation in introducing myself and having a conversation as the relaxed
atmosphere provides an ideal opportunity for everyone to unwind after a busy
year. For independent creators like myself, there is no other like Malta for
networking and making friends with those you only previously could aspire to

Although the majority had already met each
other either around town or at the hotel bar the previous nights, a ‘meet and
greet’ was organised on the Friday before the convention to give everyone a
chance to introduce themselves if they hadn’t already done so. It also provided
the drinkers amongst us to get another nights drinking in with the excuse that
we were ‘being socially organised to do so’.

The convention itself takes place within
the fortified capital city of Valletta,
and two buses are provided to take us and our belongings to the venue, St.
James Cavalier, a beautiful setting that gives you the impression that you have
stepped back in time to a period of knights, Grandmasters and pirate
adventures. This year was incredibly busy for me, we have a substantial following
on the island and this year was very successful as we held our own exhibition
alongside Clint Langley and Yishan Li and was interviewed by The Times of Malta
reporter Ramona Depares, which appeared on the front page of the culture
section the Sunday prior.

The first thing you notice about the
convention is how relaxed everyone is, no one is stressed out (except occasionally
the organisers) and the whole event seems more like a get together than a money
making project. The thing I hate about many events within the U.K. is the fact
that these conventions are held by a company simply wishing to make money off
those that put in a lot of work to make a livelihood, or ‘fan boys’ that seem
to organise the events to simply meet their idols, whilst also making money. It
makes independent artists feel disrespected at a place that announce that they
are supporting the scene. Those in the U.K. feel more like specialised car
boot sales where attendees spend so much money to enter, and British creators
are pushing so hard to make a sale that everyone feels intimidated and can’t
relax. This isn’t the case in Malta.
If you sell well that’s cool, if you didn’t for some reason then that doesn’t
matter so much, you’re on holiday rather than somewhere grey, cold and wet.
In regards to sales, attendees are far more
willing to make a purchase due to the fact that there is only one comic book
store in the entire country and its overpriced and don’t sell much more than
the titles published by either DC or Marvel, so if you’re independent or are
published through a different publisher you are sure to do well without any
hard selling at all.

Saturday night arrives and the organisers
plan a night out in a bar reserved for the guests, exhibitors and organisers
that looks like a mad house once we begin creeping into the early hours of
Sunday morning. Yet another opportunity to get to know each other, chill out,
enjoy the winter heat as you continue to wear a t-shirt throughout the night
whilst others impress with their singing skills on the nearby karaoke machine.
Sunday arrives, another busy day that
kicked off for myself with a guided tour of the ‘School of Bitches’ exhibition
followed by a Q & A session hosted by the pop culture hound himself, Mr
Chris Thompson. The organisers always appear throughout to see if you need
drinks or would like a helper to watch your table to allow you to go outside
and grab some food or to simply walk around the city’s bastions and see the
views of the Grand Harbour, St. Angelos fort or Manoel Island.
The two days are over far too quickly and it doesn’t seem long before you find
yourself wishing for next year’s event.

Sunday night is relaxed, many of us have
become friends and grab dinner together or do our own thing before returning to
the hotel bar to unwind after a busy weekend. Of course it is entirely up the
individual person if they wish to participate or not but I highly recommend it.
It is not simply networking, when there I don’t think of networking at all, its
spending time with those you are soon able to call friends that are at the top
of their game and have a huge amount of knowledge and experience to give for
those in the early days of their career. Malta has been hugely influential to
my progress, from the audience’s reaction to the fellow guests that provide
advice. Again, I repeat, Malta Comic Con can not be rivalled.
On Monday a trip around the island is
planned which changes each year. The capital city of Valletta is explored before a lunch break and
a venture around the small island to some of the beautiful sites such as Mdina,
Birgu and Dingli. This year I didn’t make the trip as a number of us went out
to the clubs the night before and discovered the seedier side of the Mediterranean that I’m sure rivals those of Ibiza or Majorca without
the invasive union jack shorts wearing post teens that tend to repulse. A night
out is cheap and a good time can be had on a dime. I’m considering proposing to
the organisers next year that I plan a ‘Seedy Sunday’ tour where those wishing
to take part can follow Dhalia into the night and experience the night life of
Paceville and St. Julians for themselves. Although I’m not sure that would go
down too well…

At this point the guests begin to return
home, deadlines need to be met, work needs to be completed and we begin saying
our farewells. Even for those wishing to achieve a higher level of recognition
in Britain will hugely benefit from Malta as a large number of us continue to
meet throughout the year at events closer to home where Malta is talked about
as though it is a secret of ours, our own retreat that we plan for and discuss.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the
write up, this is just a guide, a walkthrough of what can be expected for those
wishing to exhibit in the future. I have tried to keep it concise, and remind
you that all the above is provided as part of the travel package paid prior to
arrival. All that needs paying for is the flights and when you consider that my
flights with Ryanair from Bristol
cost me £55 return, it becomes difficult to find a reason not to attend Malta
Comic Con in the future.
To those I have enticed, the event takes
place either on the last weekend of November or the first weekend of December
and all information is on their website by using the link below.

~David Dhalia

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