We visited the East European Comic Con

Did you know that the East European Comic Con is held here, in Bucharest? It’s a real, huge festival! It had forty thousand visitors in three days. I wouldn’tc believe it, if I wouldn’t have seen it.

A short overview: the first meeting was held in 2013, back then it had a humble number of 9.000 participants, at the Children’s Palace. The following years it moved to the large pavilions of Romexpo, being visited by a growing number of participants and international film stars. The East European version of Comic Con gives you everything just like the original: cosplay, gaming, film and cartoonist celebrities, huge fair and many happy fans. This year the festival took place during the 5th– 7th of May and it had Christopher Judge and Craig Parker as special guests. Tickets were on sale months before the event, for a much reasonable price, or on location, 90 lei for three days. For meeting the stars or taking photos the fares were 55- 110 lei in advance. The event has a good website; you can read about the program and guests in detail, in English because that is the official language of the festival.

The three of us, Matyi, Kriszta and our friend Vízi Géza, thought that one day (Saturday) should be long enough to see everything, but we were wrong. The first surprise was the long queue at which we had to wait for more than half an hour in the drizzling rain just to get in. In the meantime, we could watch youngsters dressed in manga style passing by the line, just to fight boredom.

When we finally got in (adults received bracelets, showing that we were allowed to drink beer), I could hardly believe the mass of people that I saw was there. It seemed a lot of people even though those pavilions are gigantic, and they had four of them open for the event. At the stands, in the first pavilion, you had to hustle if you wanted to spend your money. Then there were so many interesting things: first, I saw a decorative space partitioning moss, grown inside a glass wall. Then we came face to face with the Pope, who was walking by twiddling on his cell phone. A guy with scary zombie eyes was spreading brochures advertising zombie eyes, or contact lenses! To make it even more special, you could ask to get a rotten corpse face paint at the makeup salon, but you could choose to be a superhero, too. Next to it there was a T- shirt printer, and if you were not satisfied with the at least two thousand kinds of printed T- shirts that you could buy, you could ask for whatever you wanted. They made tattoos at that same place, too. On a large desk saying “Do not touch!”, we could see Darth Vader’s helmet, assault squad and headhunter helmets, next to those, there stood the Millennium Falcon made of Lego bricks, X- wings, Y- wings, imperial walkers, star destroyers and the whole fleet, and for little girls, a take-down Death Star, resembling a doll house that you could furnish. We lingered here for a while, because we liked it, and at least we knew what it was showing. Because later we saw young people dressed up and collectibles sold at the stands that we had no idea what they were, we only suspected that those were manga and gaming products.

In the meantime we made our way to the other pavilion, where you could take photos in the original throne chair of the Game of Thrones series, but the line was so long, I couldn’t even take a long distance photo. I couldn’t take photos of the stars, either (a security guard waved me down), even though they were sitting at their assigned places, fans hurrying towards them in crowded lines, to exchange a few words for a good amount of money. I was very tempted to shake hands with Craig Parker, because with that, I would have been to an arm’s length distance from the whole staff of The Lord of the Rings.

Wacom was selling digital drawing tables in a corner. Matyi tried one and he calmed down finding out that he enjoyed drawing bare hands a lot more. Just across there was a board game section, where you could try the freshly marketed products of toy companies. There were a lot of people here too many immersed in playing others humming and staring around them. Before we could reach the gamers’ paradise I was amazed how popular this dexterity toy Kendama is and how many people are juggling it.

Because the greater surprise came only after this: in the other pavilion, a dozen game making companies, computer vendors and software developers set up hundreds of computers and at least a thousand youngsters were gaming standing, sitting, lying. I am not exaggerating, a thousand! Whoever was not playing, could watch on the projector from comfortable bean bags how the others were playing. We felt a little weary just seeing this so we went out and had some very tasty sandwiches after standing in queue for half an hour.

On our way back we met a tall Batman and a Sith lord snatched Géza’s throat. There was a little space at the virtual reality section so we gave it a quick try: well, this was a most intensive experience, we had to succeed on a wrecked spaceship and my stomach got really upset when in the virtual lack of gravity I turned upside down, but t was really really cool! We took a look at the two stages, too, one of them was reserved exclusively for cosplay, for the lack of time we only peeked in here, otherwise it was a regular competition, and the winner gets to go to the European finals in Paris! On the other stage there were taking place the so called panels, public meetings with the film stars and cartoonist celebrities, we sure would have loved to sit in there and listen to the Creative Monkeyz, for example.

In the end we looked around at the fair and we looked up the comics. Yes, I felt comics were marginalized a bit, though the Comic Con was originally a comics festival, but by now it is suppressed by gaming, cosplay and merchandise. Well, you could buy all kinds of things here, I think the rent was very high because there were stacked all kinds of goods that you can imagine on very small stands: steam-punk clothes, thousands of smart printed T-shirts, manga plush hats, masks, wigs and other accessories, cups, beer mats, pillows, plush toys, thousands of action figures, music CDs, plane and other assembly models, baseball hats, badges, bags, backpacks, wallets, fridge magnets, and have I mentioned stickers and posters. Of course these were not ordinary everyday items, each of them had some connection with films, comics, manga, anime, games, so this was the thing they call merchandise. The best of products fans would buy. I’d like to highlight the game themed bracelets, hobbit- and Game of Thrones key chains and medallions, and wall clocks carved out of vinyl records I’ve seen at the Punto Art bazaar, wood back mission notebooks, fossil claws of the ArtiFactory, the play station skins, and the V-Cube toy that we could not try out. We liked to see that everyone was genuinely undertaking this frame of mind, and the stands were bravely named: Geek-corner, Gothic Fairy- beware, zombie sanctuary, Komikslandia, Heroshop, Maginarium, and, the best, Subkultura!

In the meantime, we discovered the book- and comics- sellers, too. There were publishers of sci-fi and fantasy novels (Nemira, Paladin, RAO), then there were online sellers (Books Express, Lex-Shop), that import new and vintage comics, as well as bookstores. The best bookstore was the Fandom Cărturești, we took our time here, and we would have liked to buy so many things, they had such a great selection of manga, great quality original American comic books, professional literature, and delicacies. After a long hesitation we bought Fight Club 2 and we got a DC Comics model book with it, it has a collection of the redesigned superhero serials’ first episodes. We find it very useful because we get to know many cartoonists’ drawing style studying it.

We spent even more time at the Supererou’s stand, where they presented the next book of Haiganu, fantasy novel by Marian Coman. But actually, we were curious about the latest issue of HAC! magazine, to learn from it so that maybe next year we’ll be able to be at the Comic Con with our own comic book. I have to tell you, their level was highly professional. They redesigned their package especially for the Comic con, they gave a free energy drink with the gift pack, they put it in a shopping bag and they hid a pack of yummy toffees with all of that. But their professionalism did not stop there. They had a beautiful stand, polite salespeople, rich variety of comic books, and besides these, they were selling so much funny stuff that most o fit I could only identify later looking at my photos. On a poster the Red Emperor’s daughter was holding her skirt in Marilyn Monroe style, there’s a USB stick in a jar, eraser on wheels, spaceship shaped pen, Quality Farts in a Jar, purse woven out of comic book strips, and you name it, what was all that I could see there. At the Vintage comics section Matyi bought the special editions of the Alien. But above all some of the HAC! magazines had no print on the cover, and the two cartoonist celebrities of HAC! (Andrei Moldovan, Bogdan Chelaru) and the writer, Marian Coman, were drawing the covers with different unique drawings live.

Lex Hobby Store was selling magazines published by them, Romanian translations of American comics: Thor, Iron Man, Deadpool, Spiderman (there’s an Iron Man in diapers on one cover!).

Comics Café was selling vintage comics, but even better, you could get old but not used comics for 5 lei at Târgul Cărții. We bought some comics here and wondered about how many kinds of comics exist, superheroes are only the tip of the iceberg and we know nothing as Jon Snow.

Artist’s Alley. That was the reason we came here for. The aim of this section is to present local creators, cartoonists, who have no publications, but who would like to introduce themselves to the audiences. Anyone can register here, not only the professionals, amateurs and hobby artists are welcome here. While Vendors pay a high rent for a place, artists can reserve desks for half the price, and those who are selected among the Comic Con’s guests, get to pay only a fraction of the rent.

At the first desk in the line we found our Victor Drujuniu, and I say our, because he is from Székelyudvarhely, he graduated at the same art high school in Sepsiszentgyörgy as we have, he speaks perfectly Hungarian, and we are proud of him- so he is ours, sort of. You have to know about Victor that he mingles around in the highest circles, he works for the American DC Comics, Marvel, Dark Horse and for the French Soleil. Recently he had an exhibition in Sepsiszentgyörgy and he met the students of the art high school. We admired the colored drawings on his desk and we loved even more his original pencil drawings that were hidden in a large album and we studied it with the thirst of the eager to learn apprentice.

Sitting next to Victor, was another celebrity, Puiu Manu, comics-grandfather, who was drawing comics as early as the seventies. The “All sails up!” novel was adapted for the comic book version by the author himself Radu Tudoran, says Mr. Manu, and we bought a reprint of this book and a story of a Bucharest outlaw. He kindly dedicated these books, and while I was spelling my name, his face brightened up: Do you know Rusz Lívia? Well, of course, we do, I replied, she illustrated most of my childhood storybooks, though I have never owned any comic books by her. We smiled and nodded, he was a very friendly old man.

Șerban Andreescu was very kind too, he explained a lot, most of his books are for children, he is a very experienced illustrator, from his works we finally bought “Mr. Goe”, because I like Caragiale.

Looking at the modest desk of Octav Ungureanu, one wouldn’t even think that you’re dealing with the project coordinator of “Revista Comics”, organizer of the București Comics Fest, father of the Zobb. What you can’t miss is that he is an exceptionally humorous drawer. He published those short jokes in leaflets that you can see on his blog. They are worth looking at!

Ionuț Popescu was drawing one of the participants. He is a very complex artist, he even adapted Tom Sawyer to accompany an audio book, he is a permanent cartoonist at the Revista Comics, and he participated in a lot of projects, for example, “The next frame”. This is an interesting experiment, in which several artists were asked to draw a story together, freely, without a text as a starting point. The artists are supposed to draw one frame alternatively without discussing previously on the story. Ionuț was selling Alex Talamba’s comic book, the “Subteran”, a story about the poorest drug consumers of Bucharest. I have been waiting for a long time to read this book, and it was definitely not a disappointment, the drawings and the text were more than great, both!

The next stand belonged to Pillowzoid studio, a project of the Buturuga brothers that has been running for a few years now. These guys make up their own characters and stories but they do all the hard work too, meaning they draw them all the way and publish them too with the help of Geek Network. We bought the AD-23 serial; this is a four part post apocalyptic story about a disturbed scientist, a coward soldier and a gifted boy. They have some very good outputs, for example they introduce their characters with different drawing and text styles, or they start the chapters with exciting quotes.

Șerban Anghel was next, who works alone but with equivalent good results. He publishes his stories by himself, in a modest number of copies. We bought two booklets; one of them is a black-and-white nightmare of a burnt WWII soldier, who ends up in an asylum because of his sense of guilt. This booklet is all poetry, without frames or any other boundaries. In the second booklet he complies with the rules and I think he has very good drawings. It’s an interesting fact that the key figures are the soldiers of WWII, also, but the main character is a well-meaning young doctor, who discovers that the carnival’s disguised personas are in fact the guardian spirits of the forest.

Adrian Serghie brought great original drawings and other interesting stuff; he even had a sketchbook for sale containing his original unique drawings. Cat lovers immediately fell in love with him because almost everything was connected to cats, Meow and Meuw were his permanent characters. For instance, he created Verne’s Captain Nemo featuring tabbies, using the original title: 20000 leagues under the sea.

Another person with cats was Alexandru Ciubotariu. Because his pen name is “Square Cat”! Lately he has been performing as a street artist, it is worth the time to look up his work, and he has been blogging about comics since 2011. We bought his booklet The Story of I, it’s a very beautiful artistic comic book, and the story itself is about the artist’s existence, his credo.

And then there was Serebe, a very self-conscious artist (lady), who has created her own world and style, and right next to her, Max Dima, I couldn’t even distinguish, which creation belonged to whom, anyway, they even had little luminescent bottles for sale in a box.

Fredo & Pidjin should have been there, too, but I couldn’t see them anywhere. Nevertheless, their website speaks for itself!

In another line there were the artists who are not cartoonists, but their creations refer to fantasy, sci-fi or pop-culture in style or topic. Great names to mention are Cristian Chihaia and Hueala Teodor who at present are designing at Ubisoft. Sebastian Luca had at least as good drawings, too. According to her website, Raluca Porumbacu’s activity is far-reaching, Bogdan Gurău named his world Ctr Art Delicious. You can visit the websites of the following: Mihai Radu, Giorge Roman, Simona Simpson, Alina Popovici, Oana Birtea, Cristina Birtea, Alexandra Gabor, Paula Nicodim, Andreea Felicia Popescu, Bianca Jerpelea and Bogdan Turcu.

And then we had to go, the end, a glimpse at the empty hall, a guy’s still playing a virtual game, but in front of him tired elves are sitting on the ground, tired cosplayers outside, and not little garbage.

It was all well; we’ll be there next year, too, hopefully, with our comic magazine!

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