Saturday, 18 July 2009

London Film and Comic Con

Today I attended, as if you couldn't guess, the London Film and Comic Con. That's Con as in convention to those not in the know. It's one of many UK based conventions trying to create something on the scale of the San Diego or New York Comi Cons in the USA. They don't quite succeed, but I still enjoy them. Ask if I was having fun whilst I was there and I'd be thinking long and hard, but now I'm safely home I think all the queuing was worth it.

Before I go any further I want to set a few things straight. I'm not a full on geek, in the sense that I know every episode to Stargate. Nor do I dress up to look like a Jedi or other such Sci Fi characters. I dabble. That's all I can say. I enjoy Star Wars as readers of this blog will know, I watched a few episodes of Star Trek, not religiously though. And I've seen episodes of Stargate, but I'm not really a fan (this may disappoint one of my readers. Sorry) Anyway, I do have an inner geek, I know more about comics and films than the average joe, and that's where my interest lies. I still get annoyed when I see charity figures dressed as Batman hanging out with Spiderman. (Side note it was funny today seeing a Star Trek Captain discussing the finer points of phaser handling with a Stormtrooper) So my inner geek needs feeding once in a while, which is why I like this kind of convention. Completely from a fans perspective. There are people there that frankly scare me. Each to his own I've always said, but it is a little strange. But if they leave me alone, I'm not going to bother them.

Anyway, let's continue with point 2. Point 2 is the notion of celebrity. I've discussed many time with Brother Chris, who attended a couple of these events with me in the past. Who decides what will be charged for autographs? It is made clear that if you want something signed you have to pay a fee, which is clearly stated is for the signature not the photograph, which are considered free. (By this reasoning I could get a one of each photo available and just the one signed, but I'm sure if this was tried someone would stop me. Maybe next year) For example, today Mr Scott Bakula was charging £25 for his autograph. Fair enough, I can't afford that but I'll go to his talk, not a free talk though so I queue to get a ticket. Another £20 for this talk. Obviously I make my excuses and left sharpish, keeping hold of my monies. So who set this up. To whom is this cash going to. Not everyone was on my wavelength and forked out the cash, so he must be raking it in. But who decides? Where does it go? All good questions to which I have no answers. So I did pay a couple of £15 for signatures. Which brings me onto point 2B. You pay your money, you get a brief chat (very brief in my case 'cause I'm kind of rubbish at it) and you get a signature. When you think about it, it really means nothing. I could scribble an indecipherable name onto a photo and joe public wouldn't know the difference, or even care. So why is it a good thing? I guess it's an idol/hero thing. I guess if I said more you could say you shared a moment with someone you admired. Or you could just say it's so you can have a brief gloating moment the next time said person appears in something. I don't know for sure but, as I said. I do enjoy it. It brings the famous a little closer, even if it's in a forced transaction based environment. Anyway, I still think I'm a little different to the masses of attendees, a little more grounded, but hey, wouldn't it be cool if I started hanging out with Chris Sarandon.

So here we go. This is just the beginning.

To set the scene, as Brother Chris has a lot of work on at the moment he couldn't spare the time to join me this year. The last time we both went was about two years ago, failing to get Nathan Fillion's autograph and tiring of the day we went for a mercy greet and meet with Alan Tudyk, who had no queue. Then we left. Due to these circumstances, we both agreed that it was a little rubbish and weird and vowed (maybe) never to return. That was until I moved down to Brighton. With the convention now more or less on my doorstep I decided to go. And go I did. Alone.

So I braved London on a Saturday, not the easiest of things, especially with Tube delays, but I successfully arrived at Earls Court and entered Queue 1 to get in. This is where first photos were taken solely for this blog. Here there were Stormtroopers hanging around. I contemplated asking about their state of New Zealand-ness but instead just took the photo. There were also Clone Troopers wandering around. The same musings were thought about but I left them alone, chuckling at the fat Cylons I'd just seen. Not to mention the smallish Jack Sparrow. So I'm inside and I queue for some talks. Having missed the Red Dwarf talk I opted for the Doctor Who (Yeah, I know I don't like Dr Who) as I'd heard that Tom Baker was in attendance (see that's why) I also wished to attend the Danny Trejo talk and the Stargate talk (Again, I know I'm not a fan) which will be explained later on. This is when I literally discovered the price I had to pay to see Scott Bakula talk. No go. I then moved onto the signing alley or whatever they call it, to see who was there, and whether to get any autographs later on. Many faces were seen as illustrated with my assorted photographs.

A lonely Sean Maguire

A bad photo of Chloe Annett. Bonus points - her father directed the film The Beast Must Die as mentioned in Brother Chris' blog here

Interesting fact: the most costumes today were of Paul Foote - a character from The Beast Must Die. Which one was the werewolf though?

It's David Prowse. He was Darth Vader.

It's Bruce Boxleitner. He looks bored.

This is kind of mean. This is a funny picture of Jake Lloyd - he played young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. He looks the same.

The stars of Heroes - Jimmy Jean Louis (The Hatian) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Suresh)

So I took the ticket of Scott Bakula. Number 969. The place had only been open to the general public for 40 minutes and already his tickets were up to 969. No way was I going to see him today. I got a quick glimpse of him through the queues, and that was all. Knowing it was never meant to be I took the tickets of Michael Ironside, to discover once and for all how many arms he actually had, and a ticket for Jewel Staite, star of the excellent Firefly and Serenity, and more recently Stargate: Atlantis (hence attending the Stargate talk), which I'd probably have seen if Channel 5 hadn't stopped showing it. I'd always been a fan of her character, Kayleigh, in Firefly so was happy to fork out the cash. But I'd gotton pretty high numbered tickets so I had time to kill. A lot of time.

So I wandered the hall, looking at stalls, wondering if the DVDs were legal, but generally just waiting for the first talk. Despite me spending money on autographs, I still didn't have much to spend. I can no longer buy any random thing, so I was just looking to see if any cool stuff existed. Plus the novelty has kind of worn off since the invention of the internet shop.

With still hours to kill I decided to get a present for my friend who had just passed a life changing exam in accounting, and he won't mind me saying that it isn't any more interesting than how I made it sound. As I haven't given it to him yet I'm blanking it out as a spoiler. You can still highlight it to read it, but if you're reading this Mr. Martin, just stop and wait patiently. (Click the tiny picture for a massive reveal. So as he'd passed this exam I decided to get an autograph for him from a Red Dwarfer. So after a curious text of who he like best, The Cat, Kochanski or Female Holly, and receiving confirmation that it was indeed The Cat, I entered Danny John Jules' queue. I was determined to get it super personalised, with some kind of well done, but it was hard enough getting the name across that I settled for that alone. Basically his name is Anthony and because we're all lazy we now just call him Antnee. Explaining this for an autograph is one of the most difficult things I've had to do, ending up with me just saying something along the lines of "Just spell it A. N. T. N. E. E. He'll get it, it's a nick name" Still unsure, Danny wrote it. I then got a photo to prove it's real and so I'd get something out of the transaction.)

Finally it was time for the Dr Who talk. I made my way to the talk area and joined Queue 2. For a while I wasn't quite sure what the queue was for, but it lead me into the strangest talk I've attended. Present were Alexandra Moen (from new Dr Who I guess), Philip Madoc, Bernard Horsfall (I guess) and the legend that is Tom Baker. Tom was awesome, not quite sure if he is a comic genius, or actually senile.

There were jokes and slightly detailed description of which actor he'd like to "bed" when asked in an interview for the radio (Johnny Depp by the way, and he went into some detail to do with pirates.) Very strange, very weird but excellent. An annoying follow up to this talk, a group of fans took the opportunity to ask Tom for a photograph. I was with them, however I ended up taking their photo for them, then in the time it took to return their camera, Tom was off with someone else and we were being moved on. So close.
Straight after this was the Danny Trejo talk. Not as weird as the previous talk but very entertaining. Two highlights. First off, when asked about when the film Machete was going to be made he took out his mobile and rang someone, then asked us to shout "Hurry up and Make Machete" I'm guessing, like so many others, that he called Robert Rodriguez. So in theory I'd just spoken to Robert Rodriguez. Cool. The secodn highlight was an answer to the question "Which of your films do you consider the worst?" He simply answered, "None of them. I'm in them" Awesome. He also wouldn't stop when he was supposed to and continued taking questions. Well, it's Danny Trejo, would you go and stop him. So we over ran into expensive Scott Bakula's talk. So there.

Now I had time to kill, time to collect on some autographing. So I headed for Michael Ironside. Closed it said. No reason stated, just closed. Had he left in an angry storp when someone questioned the number of arms he owned? Who knows? I had to move on.

My next port of call was Jewel Staite, who now had an open queue. Now a quick side note - when I get things signed I always like them to sign things to Pete, this is so it's a little more personal than my full name. However, it always seems to confuse everybody, and they repeat it back as though I've given them the strangest name in history. Anyway, back to Jewel. I was thinking after the bizarre interaction with Danny John Jules I'd be better at the whole experience. Not so. Foiled by the lack of interaction with the single (or dual) armed Ironside I reverted back to my good, polite, quiet self and handed over the photograph. It was still cool, and she was very nice, but I failed to get a photograph. This was mainly due to the fact that I was abiding by the "No posed photograph" sign, rather than the fact that there was no queue behind me. Bugger.

So now I felt that I should see someone else. Then I remembered Chris Sarandon. Still not too sure, I approached his stand behind what I thought was a small queue. I took this opportunity to peruse his photographs while deciding if it was the right decision. Then the queue vanished, and I was left on my own in front of Chris Sarandon. Now I had no chance to create any rapport and awkwardly began the transaction for his signature. During this I noticed a photo from Child's Play, the problem on discovering this was all I could think of saying was, "I forgot you were in Child's Play" which would further the awkwardness. Silent I stayed. But I did get a photo, so a small victory on my part. Now I'm just a little fed up that I didn't get the Jewel photo seeing as I did with every other autograph. Anyway, what's done is done.

All this didn't take as long as expected so I wandered the hall once again before joining the Stargate talk queue. Weirdness ensued when I played a couple of tracks of Guitar Hero World Tour. First off, Rebel Yell by Billy Idol. I was reduced to bass on this track, which isn't that interesting, and I began to slip up when I got a little bored. I decided to move on, but when no one took the guitar of me when offered, I stayed for one more. This was well weird due to the fact that the girl next to me wanted to sing. This is fair enough, and good on her to sing in the middle of the exhibition hall. It's not like anyone more than a couple of metres away would hear, but I don't even sing on the game at home, so I was impressed. Luckily she was good singer on What I've Done by Linkin Park. This time I was on guitar so more fun was had.

I then left but had forfit a good place in the Stargate queue. Also after the small victory of extending the Danny Trejo talk, Scott Bakula overran. Eventually we began to move and in I went. No I began to feel like an outsider. As mentioned before, I wasn't really a fan of Stargate, only there for the star of Firefly. The audience was clearly made up of fanactics who knew every episode title and synopsis, as proved when asking and answering questions. The talk was fun, even for a stranger like myself. Firefly was mentioned so I was happy.

And that was it. With no more talks to keep me there I took one last tour of the hall in case I was going to miss some free stuff or something. This is when I found out that Michael Ironside had now returned. Still, it clearly wasn't meant to be, forever wondering how many arms he has. It was time to leave. And leave I did.

So now I reflect on the day's events. As mentioned at the begining somewhere, the London Film and Comic Con still has a long way to go to rivial San Diego. There's just not enough quality really. It's heart is in the right place, but there's a lot of open space, and various stalls just look thrown together. This year the Cos-Players were out in force and there was a CosPlay contest. There was also a lot of support for the two anime voice over actors which was suprising. With a little work it could be as big as San Diego. Overall I still find these events special. Despite all the weird and strange people there is an overall sense of community. I don't think attending is a bad thing, and shouldn't be seen as so. As I said, I'm not the biggest fan in the world, but the chance to see people I admire is a chance I don't what to pass up on. I just wish you didn't have to pay for the chance. I think the stars attending realise what they are a part of. Although at times people can seem a little crazy and a little strange, they're basically keeping their fanbase alive by appearing at such events showing that they care for their fans. They're giving something back. So what if it's at a price, as they say, nothing in life is free.

As a final note, if you're interest in anything I've just said you should check out two films. The first is a short documentary directed by Bruce Campbell entitled Fanalysis, in which he examines the world of fan conventions and what makes a fan into a fanatic. The other is sort of mockumentary called Comic Book: The Movie directed by Mark Hamill. I say mockumentray but this is only half true. It stars Mark Hamill as Donald Swan, a comic collector making a documentary about the new movie based on his favourtie comic Commander Courage. All fictional, but in it he interviews a variety of personalities who, when taking about the Commander, are clearly taking about some real life experiences they've had within the industry. Alongside this he documents his journey to the San Diego Comic Con. I've tried to explain it too much but it basically explores the whole convention culture.

So in a Jerry Springer's Final Thought moment, I say fandom shouldn't be looked down upon, whatever the level of your involvement. I mean, there are thousands of people who dress up in costumes each week in support of their idols. It's just that their conventions are called football grounds.

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