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The friendly neighbourhood con is back...

...only this time, it’s in another neighbourhood. Teodor Reljic speaks to Christopher Muscat, Fabio Agius and Chris Le Galle of Wicked Comics, organisers of the Malta Comic Con – who are gearing up for this year’s edition, which will be moving to the prestigious Mediterranean Conference Centre 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
17 October 2017, 10:03am
A reference point for the Maltese comic book and pop culture scene since 2008, Malta Comic Con – organised by Wicked Comics – comes to the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta this year
A reference point for the Maltese comic book and pop culture scene since 2008, Malta Comic Con – organised by Wicked Comics – comes to the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta this year
How would you describe the evolution of Comic Con from its first edition, until today? 

Chris Le Galle: It has been a slow and challenging process, but also an exciting one. When we first started – back in 2008 – we didn’t really know if there was a market for it. We were just comic fans dreaming of having a comic con in Malta. So we decided to organise one ourselves and see how it goes. We were also lucky that we found a lot of help along the way, particularly from comic connoisseur John Bamber (who in Bristol introduced us to many creators), Chris Gatt, former director of St James Cavalier, pop culture journalist and current comic publisher Chris J. Thompson and also many comic creators from all corners of the world. When we started most people were unfamiliar with the concept of a convention so our plan was always to start small and grow gradually. The positive response we got from the first convention was encouraging and allowed us to continue to build and grow. 

The event has encompassed various venues – from St James Cavalier to the Magazino Hall to MFCC in Ta’ Qali and now, the Mediterranean Conference Centre. What were some of the pros and cons of these shifting venues, and would you say that these changing venues reflect the changing nature of the Malta Comic Con itself? 

Fabio Agius: Our show started off at St James Cavalier, which was perfect at the time, but eventually our crowd grew more and more until we could not host it at there anymore, we “needed a bigger boat”. Our first post-St James Cavalier venue was the Magazino Hall/Powerhouse at the Valletta Waterfront. The place was huge and perfect for our needs, but we always like to experiment and test the waters, so we switched to MFCC in Ta’ Qali which is more appropriate to host a show like ours, since it was made to fit the convention format. We had a huge amount of space there where we could invite more guests and retailers. We had also plenty of space to do more activities and expand our gaming sections. This year we are doing it at the Mediterranean Conference Centre for the first time to see what people really want, tackle new ideas and see what the new location has to offer. 

Part of the team behind Wicked Comics, organisers of the Malta Comic Con: Chris Le Galle, Fabio Agius and Christopher Muscat
Part of the team behind Wicked Comics, organisers of the Malta Comic Con: Chris Le Galle, Fabio Agius and Christopher Muscat
Running a Con of this scale is no mean feat for a group operating in a small island like Malta, where the number of attendees will always be on the modest size owing to the simple fact of the island’s population. What have been some of your main challenges in keeping the Con running so far, and what keeps you going year in, year out?

Christopher Muscat: Considering that we keep organising this event year after year on a voluntary basis, with the ever-increasing costs entailed in holding such an event – such as increasing cost of venues – I believe that we are truly a dedicated team  and loyal fans of this medium. One of our main challenges is related to the yearly funding of such an event. In fact, we would love to bring actors to our show but we currently can’t afford to do so. As to what keeps us going... ultimately it all boils down to the ongoing  support from our friends, family, sponsors, the ever increasing attendees and the genuine positive feedback provided by the guests following the event.

Would you say the Con has enabled the evolution of a ‘comic book culture’ in Malta, or at least, that it’s helped shape it? 

Le Galle: My take on this is that although the Maltese always had a passion for comics, the convention helped bring various elements together and foster a sense of community. It has also helped make this community a legitimate component of pop culture. The worldwide boom brought about by TV Series and comic based movies certainly paved the way for the convention to play its part. But one thing that gives us great satisfaction is that the show has given local creators a point of reference and continues to encourage them to hone their skills, create and in some cases even pursue a professional career in the industry. When our guests, especially those who have been with us in every convention, state that the local talent has increased considerably since the first show, it not only validates our work but encourages us to continue on our path. 

The Con has hosted some notable names in the international comics field over the years. What would you say draws such names to the Malta Comic Con -- especially the ones that keep coming back?

Agius: I think Wicked Comics has the right formula to attract foreign guests and fans to the Malta Comic Con. We are always straightforward with our guests from the day they recieve our first email to the day they depart from Malta. Our islands are sometimes a mystery to our guests so they are also intrigued to visit such an interesting place, and our convention is a bonus for them. 

There’s also the fact that our Con is a more intimate experience when compared to the larger Cons abroad. This is part of the reason why we now have international ‘regulars’ who keep coming back to our show... they’re keen to meet their Maltese friends and fans again!

Finally, what’s in store for the upcoming edition of Malta Comic Con?

Le Galle: We always strive to make our next show bigger and better and come with innovative ideas to keep the show appealing to both our fans base and new attendants. So far we have already announced voice actor Ivo De Palma as one of our guests which is a first for the MCC. We also have some new and interesting talks and workshops planned for this year which we will announce shortly. We’re still working on a few surprises which are as yet not officially confirmed but we’ll reveal in due course.

However, what we can say is that we are very happy with our roster of guests this year, also proud that a lot of new local creators are exhibiting and new retailers are coming on board.

Through the year we have also focused on improving the cosplay and gaming components of the show. All in all, in my opinion the biggest selling point of the convention is the unique experience that it offers so I encourage everyone to join us for two fun filled days. After all the strength of the MCC lies in its community something which is reflected in this year’s tagline – ‘Your home, your place to shine’!

Malta Comic Con 2017 will be taking place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta on December 2 and 3. For more information and updates on the programme, log on to http://www.maltacomic-con.com/ or follow 'Malta Comic Con 2017 – Your Home, Your Place to Shine' on Facebook 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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