Anyone who has attended a comic convention knows that it is a microcosm of the comic book industry, as it’s a place where the barriers between content creator and content consumer is divided somewhat, with results that range from joyous to tolerable to uncomfortable. And it’s not just this creator/consumer interaction on display; fans from all walks of life meet one another and creators catch up with one another, depending on the level of familiarity. In short, comics, like any subculture, has its own unique decorum, social cues, and currency of communication.

It’s this comic convention culture that writer Paul Cornell throws the spotlight on in Con & On, debuting today from AHOY Comics. In Con & On, Cornell examines the goings-on and attendees over the years of the Vista Al Mar Comics Festival, a fictional con featured in the series. With this year’s San Diego Comic-Con beginning next week, this is the perfect book to get you in the convention spirit, with Con & On focusing on a cast filled with aspiring creators, ardent fans, stars of yesteryear, comic book pros, and everyone in between.

Mr. Cornell spoke with me recently about the idea behind Con & On, why he wanted to examine comic conventions for this story, the creative team behind the comic, and what the series has to say about con culture. Paul Cornell is a master of character study and interactions, so Con & On will be a real treat for readers.


FreakSugar: For folks who are reading this, what is the conceit of Con & On?

Paul Cornell: We’re covering several decades in the life of a big comics convention across five issues, with a big cast.  It’s a satirical tragicomedy about how the comics industry has changed in that time and how it damn well hasn’t.

FS: How much did you draw on your own experiences with cons and con culture for this book?

PC: Oh, hugely. There are anecdotes here that happened to me and anecdotes I’ve heard from other pros.  I’m actually in it for a couple of pages in one of the later issues.

FS: There are characters from across the spectrum that you’d meet at a con. What can you tell us about the cast we learn about?

PC: We have a couple of young aspiring pros, a couple of toddlers, a rising TV star and his agent, and three of the first wave of Brit comic creators in America: a dapper chap; a cosmic explorer and a wild man. Everyone changes across the five issues. Other characters arrive.  Not everyone survives.


FS: What is it about cons that made you want to focus on them as the subject for this comic?

PC: They’re just such a huge stack of human experience, and wild stuff happens there, and fortunes and destinies change there across a few days.

FS: You’ve had experiences at cons as a comic creator. Is there anything about con culture that you reconsidered or now see in a new light as a result of working on this book?

PC: I did a lot of research into the security staff, the cleaners, the people who actually make this stuff work. We cut to what they’re doing across these issues.

FS: The look of the first issue is perfect. What has the collaboration process been like with the rest of the creative team?

PC: Marika Cresta is a great artist, great acting, great character design. Paul Little’s colours provide exactly the right atmosphere for, for instance, a bayside park inhabited by masquerade contestants and the homeless, and Rob Steen’s letters are just perfectly arch.

FS: Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to promote?

PC: I’ve got a strip in the first issue of AHOY’s Project: Cryptid, an anthology of comedy stories about weird beasts. I fit right in.

FS: Beyond being entertained, what would you like readers to take away from Con & On?

PC: Anger, a viewpoint on deep-ish time, a sense of the industry as seen from inside and from out.

FS: If you had one last pitch for the book, what would it be?

PC: It’s the story of everyone in comics, unfortunately.

Con & On #1 is on sale now from AHOY Comics.

From the official press release about the book:

This July, writer Paul Cornell (Doctor Who), artist Marika Cresta (Doctor Aphra), and AHOY Comics will present a fantastic and funny satire of the comic book industry and its biggest conventions. CON & ON is a brand new five-part tragi-comedy which follows a fictional but all-too-familiar ensemble cast of pros and fans down through the decades of America’s most colossal comic book convention: the Vista Al Mar Comics Festival on the California coast. The series debuts on July 12, 2023, ahead of Comic-Con International.

CON & ON is the story of five different years in the life of the Festival—one year per issue, spanning three decades—from the points of view of a diverse bunch of desperate people whose lives revolve around this greatest show on Earth. Meet close friends Eddie and Deja, aspiring young comics talents whose ambitions threaten to tear them apart; Anthony, Don & Finn, brilliant, boozy and bombastic British creators; and all of the crusty veteran editors, forgotten TV stars, and enthusiastic fans who make the convention experience something to revisit year after year.

CON & ON is the romance of every big convention, the bittersweet journey through time and success, the highs and the lows and the silliness,” said writer Paul Cornell. “It’s the story of every fan and every pro and everyone who’s just trying to make a buck in the midst of extremity. Through the narratives of our large cast of characters we see, in miniature, the story of the last few decades of modern comics: how some things have changed and how some things have stayed exactly the damn same.”

CON & ON is the real mirror of the panorama of conventions,” said artist Marika Cresta. “Anyone who has ever lived in this comics world will surely find themselves in one of the many characters who animate this story and make it feel alive and unexpectedly real. I loved working on it because it’s a world I live in and I’m passionate about the idea of being able to depict it, both in its positive and negative aspects!”

“I’ve never read a comic quite like CON & ON,” said series editor Tom Peyer. Paul and Marika expertly balance the pomp and spectacle of a huge convention with small, intimate moments among flesh-and-blood people you’ll be glad to know.”