Malta Comic Con turns 10 with two-day convention this weekend

Malta Comic Con will be celebrating its 10th year anniversary next weekend. Co-organiser Fabio Agius (Wicked Comics) speaks about how the two-day celebration has evolved from a small event into a pop culture flashpoint on the island

How would you describe the evolution of Malta Comic Con from its (relatively) humble beginnings to its upcoming 10th anniversary edition?

The Malta Comic Con had very humble beginnings – that’s a fact. When we (Wicked Comics) started testing waters here in Malta we faced a huge challenge, as there was no comic scene at all and the majority of people’s knowledge about comics was very limited. Surprisingly enough, given our limited budget and publicity, we had quite a nice turnout at our first convention. We saw a great potential in this show and we wanted it to grow.

With the help of social media – which was just emerging at the time – we started making contacts and reaching people who were interested in the scene. Comic book movies and TV series were gaining popularity among people and showing them that comics are not just kids’ stuff; that they’re packed with great stories and wonderful art expressed by great minds. People wanted more of all that, as it turned out... and we were more than happy to deliver.

Fabio Agius
Fabio Agius

In fact, we began to expand so exponentially that our first venue at St James Cavalier – still very much dear to our hearts to this day – became a bit too small to host our event, and we needed “a bigger boat”. Today, we’re at a stage where we all have to look for sizeable venues to accommodate the event, which now hosts a wide variety of guests from all ‘categories’ of the comics and comics-related world: from artists, writers and cosplayers, to retail outlets and, of course, the general public.

What has helped the event sustain its momentum over the years?

I think that being able to give people what they want, while remaining honest with them at all times, is our greatest strength as an organisation. We treat all guests equally; be they  local, foreign, celebrities in the field or self-published independent creators – everyone is treated the same way when they come to our show, which has actually contributed to our reputation in international circles. We make sure that the public is updated about any news and changes in the programme ahead of time, and we always keep the public’s needs in mind. As comics fans ourselves, we know what’s expected from such events, and do our utmost to emulate the best convention experience that we can manage.

Apart from comic book readers, the Malta Comic Con appeals to a number of subcultures. Would you say that the event serves as something of a rallying call for these subcultures, and have you seen them grow and develop over the years?

Comic conventions around the world do not just cater for comic fans but for other subcultures too. The comic scene is not limited for just comics – it walks hand in hand with other interests and hobbies like movies, gaming and cosplay, are just a few subcultures that fall under the same niche of the comic scene. Taking cosplay as an example, we started by having a small contest with very few contestants but it has since developed into something much bigger. Cosplayers  work very hard to show off their craftsmanship, and they’ve taken it to an international level. In fact, we sponsor every year’s winner to participate in comic conventions abroad. The gaming section grew considerably as well, accommodating all genres of gaming, including retro gaming sections for the particularly nostalgic fans. We are always a platform for anyone who has new ideas, concepts and projects.

On that note, in recent years ‘geek’ subcultures have unfortunately given vent to some toxic elements – from the misogyny of Gamergate to an unceremonious backlash against diversity on a number of other platforms. Given how the subtitle of this year’s event is ‘Your Home, Your Place to Shine’, would you say that inclusivity and creating a welcoming atmosphere for all is high on the agenda for Malta Comic Con?

Unfortunately yes, we’ve seen these issues come up of late. I personally think that this does nothing but harm to the industry. The world has changed and comics have evolved with it, so we are certain that certain issues will fall eventually in the same way that they have arisen. Luckily, at our show we have never experienced such incidents. We always had a friendly, laid back atmosphere where people express their opinions without being judged, irrespective of their religion, race, culture or sexual orientation. That is why our tagline is ‘Your Home, Your Place to Shine’ because everyone at our show is one big family.

That said, we also organise discussion panels where people can contribute their opinions on the scene in a free manner – but so far this has always panned out in a friendly and respectful way.

Finally, what’s in store for the 10th anniversary edition of Malta Comic Con?

This year marks a milestone in our history: ten years of celebrating comic culture in Malta! To commemorate this occasion, we have teamed up with Heritage Malta in issuing a publication which incorporates artworks by artists who attended our show over the past ten years and volunteered to contribute to this project.

The book will be launched at the Malta Comic Con and, speaking on behalf of Wicked Comics, I wish to thank everyone who was involved in it. We have also launched our first app, which is a suitable event companion for everyone who is coming at the show. It features guest bios, workshop/discussion program, maps and much more and it is available for everyone – just search for ‘Malta Comic Con’ on Google Play and download it for free.

Joining our guest list we have Hollywood actor Mark Ryan, famous for starring in Black Sails, Robin Hood and the Transformers films. We have also Brian Muir, sculptor on many Hollywood movies like Star Wars, the Indiana Jones Trilogy, Harry Potter and much more. Something which is relatively new at our event is the section of Mercs Malta, where people can watch Medieval, Norman or Viking themed duelling combat.

We also have a record number of guests and exhibitors this year. Now, we just look forward to welcoming the crowds for the Malta Comic Con’s 10th birthday!

Malta Comic Con memories
On the occasion of its upcoming 10th year anniversary, recurring international guests at the Con speak about their experience of the Wicked Comics event over the years

 

Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson

Chris Thompson – Brand Manager at Titan Comics

“Malta is a special place to begin with, but what really sets it apart is the people. I’ve met so many wonderful people, made numerous lifelong friends, and seen such incredible local talent being able to flourish because of the work the Wicked Comics team do. Aside from watching local creators develop, I’ve also seen the organisers develop and grow from a small fan-led initiative to the incredible force it is today ... Gearing up for the tenth edition, it feels like they’ve taken it up a notch again.”

 

Tim Perkins
Tim Perkins

Tim Perkins – Artist

“At Malta Comic Con, we are all looked after really well and its core guest list, organisers and fans have over the time from its inception to now become more like a family than an organised comics event. I only know of one set of organisers of four similar events organised in the UK that come close to this event, and I have said this publically. They feel honoured to be associated with Malta Comic Con in this way too.”

 

Sean Azzopardi
Sean Azzopardi

Sean Azzopardi – Artist & Writer

“Malta Comic Con is special because it’s organised and run by people who really care about all aspects of the event. They are firstly fans and want people who attend to have the same kind of excitement and engagement. It’s developed in the size of venue, audience and international reach of exhibitors. More importantly they have focused on developing the local talent, and giving that a platform.”

 

Michael Dialynas
Michael Dialynas

Michael Dialynas – Artist

“Malta Comic Con is great for meeting other creators and bonding over the experience of visiting this lovely country. I can safely say that I’ve made some really important friends with people I’ve met here and with the organisers themselves. Now that its 10th year anniversary is coming up, I look forward to having a great time.

Malta Comic Con 2018 will take place at the MFCC, Ta’ Qali on November 3 (10:00-18:00) and November 4 (11:00-19:00). For more information, a full programme and tickets, log on to: http://www.maltacomic-con.com/

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