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Glasgow Comic Con: Visit Glasgow!

Two years ago the Glasgow Comic Con returned after an absence of 15 years, with headliner Mark Miller ensuring that the event was sold out two months in advance. Last year the promise of Grant Morrison and Jim Starlin stretched the packed out venue to bursting point, and the 2013 convention coming up in July has been announced as moving to a larger stage.

With a guest list so far including John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Alan Grant, Rufus Dayglo, Mike Ploog, Hannah Berry and more, this years Glasgow Comic Con is clearly looking to build an even bigger notch on the convention calendar. I spent a weekend in Scotland's biggest city, soaking up the atmosphere and scouting out the best places to eat, stay and do stuff - including of course buying comics!

Hotel View

View from my hotel room - Glasgow by night.

Scotland holds a rather unique spot in the worlds of art, literature and comics. For such a small country, it has seemed to always punch above its weight, with Glasgow alone giving us Morrison, Millar, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant amongst many others. Judge Dredd of course was hatched up by two Scotsmen, Wagner and Alan Grant, and between them all the Scottish writers and artists have surely covered nearly every superhero currently on the shelves.

In previous years it was a little difficult to combine a trip to the Glasgow Comic Con with taking the time to visit some of Glasgow, as the venue was a little way out of the city centre in a very pretty - but slightly impractical - Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed church. This year however, proceedings have moved to the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall Street, also at the centre of the annual Glasgow Film Festival which was held earlier this year. Sauchiehall Street is one of the main commercial streets in the city, with practically everything you need within easy walking distance.

The hotel I stayed in - the Buchanan Galleries Premier Inn - is literally right next to a gigantic Cineworld boasting 18 screens over 9 levels, and directly across from the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre - one of the largest in the UK. The Galleries houses all manner of shops from Lipsy to Burger King to a ginormous John Lewis. Right outside the hotel there is also a Starbucks, with a Forbidden Planet around the corner, and a Pret a Manger below the actual hotel.


Lunch at Mono - om nom nom.

From my 18th floor room I got an amazing view of the city (see top photo!), still buzzing at night time. Of course the hotel was being extra nice to me, but I've stayed in Premier Inns frequently on my comic travels and always found them great value. The one in Glasgow though really takes the cake - I've booked a night for the upcoming Glasgow Comic Con in July already and the cost for both me and my partner is £44.

So all of this is just ten minutes away from the CCA where the Glasgow Comic Con is being held, and it is also close to some fab places at that end of town - Plan B Books is the foremost indie comic shop in the city, with A1 Comics only a street away. For art lovers, and within that same ten minute walk there is also the Gallery of Modern Art, the Glasgow School of Art, and Trongate 103 - but really, with the subway circle it's possible to visit anywhere you fancy within the city fairly quickly.

But back to comics. Plan B Books is a must visit little shop, specialising in graphic novels, coffees and some friendly chat. They have a huge number of signing events throughout the year, playing host to everyone from Kieron Gillen to Bryan Talbot and more. It's pretty impossible to visit without spending money, which would be a downside if it wasn't for the great selection of books they have on the shelves. Most of my Jason collection comes from here now I think about it... They also have a large range of local and independent comics for sale, and a well stocked second hand bay.

If single issue comics are more up your street, have no fear - A1 Comics is literally right around the corner fulfilling all your DC, Marvel and Image needs. And as my boyfriend will tell you, lots of toys as well (he has no interest in comics believe it or not!). A1 is actually two shops in one, and you walk through the first shop (which is mostly toys) to get to the promised land beyond. They seemed to be particularly good at having those comics that Forbidden Planet had sold out of.

And speaking of Forbidden Planet, the Glasgow branch is well worth visiting. Though bear in mind, it is quite small! It goes back a lot further than you expect, giving it a somewhat TARDIS like appeal, and while the front shelves looked a little sad with all those Before Watchmen issues taking up space, there are some real treasures to be found in the back.

Jim Devlin

Jim Devlin - hard at work.

Since I was nearby I headed over to Hope Street Studios, home to Glasgow's greatest comic artists including the lovely Frank Quitely. I've been there a few times now and yet I'm always surprised by how friendly and happy everyone is to see me, even when they are clearly so busy being artistic geniuses! Sadly, or happily really, the studio cat Groucho now has a permanently heated home of his own so there was no grumpy fluffball to greet me. Instead I got to have a sneak peek at the brand new comic coming soon from Morag Kewell (who also made all my favourite earrings!), and dropped in on master colourist and artist Jim Devlin who was busy working away on his own project while I spied his Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards peeking out of a shelf above. Such a lovely guy and I'm sure he'll be making an appearance at the convention in July.

Back on Sauchiehall Street, and on the way to the CCA, there is a great Waterstones with a genuinely fantastic graphic novel section. There are at least 12 bays packed full of both the expected goodies, and some very well chosen cult and indie titles. They often have displays to coincide with whichever comic events are happening in the city. A while back there was a particularly wonderful Women in Comics display which practically bankrupted me, ouch. Bays dedicated to UK talent and all age comics are other highlights, and manga fans shouldn't be disappointed either.

There are a few other comic shops in the city I didn't get a chance to visit, including City Centre Comics, and of course the Glasgow Comic Con itself will have plenty of stalls present.


Stereo - sneakily hidden away.

For food there are three places I recommend above all others: the Saramago at the CCA itself, and the two sister restaurants Mono and Stereo. Mono, out near Plan B Books and A1 Comics, and Stereo, 5 minutes from the hotel towards Hope Street, are both fantastic value for money with the best food in town. Mono is the larger of the two with the better bar and a huge selection of zines and vinyl on sale. Stereo is closer to the centre and particularly good for lunch, with live gigs almost every night. My fella is a huge foodie and will happily travel the 140 mile round trip just to eat at either place!

The CCA does great food and at pretty decent prices, and I should just point out right now that the pizza is friggin' HUGE. And very delicious. The downside is that it may be super busy during the convention hours - and it's closed on the Sunday - but it does serve until 11:30pm on the Saturday. But definitely check out Mono and/or Stereo if you can - especially as they are huge supporters of the local comics industry.


Stereo - fab in the evenings too.

And finally when it comes to pubs, bars and music... well, it's Scotland! There is a plentiful supply of booze all around. Other than the aforementioned Saramago and Stereo, you perhaps can't go without visiting the infamous King Tut's. If you fancy something a little different, try Bloc, or maybe  The Art School would suit after-con drinking. Also close by are the popular Nice'N'Sleazy, the cool Flying Duck, and the pretty chilled Universal. Though we all know many will just wait and see where the comic creators look to be heading!

Of course I haven't even mentioned the fantastic theatres nearby, or the various music venues, but there's only so much you can fit into one weekend. What I would recommend is checking out my coverage of the previous Glasgow Comic Conventions, book your hotel asap, and enjoy your stay!

Further reading:
Glasgow Comic Convention 2011 - Mark Millar
Glasgow Comic Convention 2012 - Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Glasgow Comic Convention 2012 - John Wagner, Alan Grant, Jim Starlin, Rufus Dayglo, and Karrie Fransman

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