I was filled with a certain, nervous level of trepidation for my first Comic Con event, itself now a myriad of memories and experiences but one that presented itself as one of the larger and more commercially viable of the national events throughout the UK, one that of course presented a great deal of opportunities to spend money and indulge in a hobby and pastime to whatever degree you felt comfortable to experience. For me, with no great desire or predication towards comics or comic books, perhaps with a certain naivety I was somewhat dubious to what degree I would enjoy the event in contrast to a more dedicated fan of the art. Thankfully, my fears were greatly resolved in short order with a plethora of exhibits and attractions to enjoy and entertain, from the panels and platforms for the performing artists to a whole range of merchandise stands selling everything from gaming statues to scented candles and bath oils and everything and anything in between. For better or for worse, Comic Con represents an opportunity for fans of a broad spectrum of genres to come together to find commonality and cause with those of a similar disposition, to express themselves in costume for example to whatever degree they wish. Equally, business that caters and provides for fans of a vast range of series and genre types find themselves with a targeted audience in their thousands looking to indulge in their pastimes for the duration of the event. From the large established international studios such as Sony and Warner Brothers to smaller national chains such as Forbidden Planet or even independent comic book sellers and stands, with exclusive merchandise available only on the day, it was a prime opportunity to seek out and purchase those collectables or items, to get a photo or autograph, to just enjoy the day for what it was. For this entry, a look at some of the items from my bag of swag I took away from the day, some treasured memories and a few recollections.
Having made the decision to attend one of panels I was hoping to make was the stage with a discussion from Akira Himekawa, the artists behind the Manga adaptation of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Though not the biggest fan of the art style I’ve always held a fondness for the Zelda games, indeed I was rocking my Hyrule Kingdom T-Shirt from Nintendo World New York so of all the stands or panels to attend that was the one I intended to set out and enjoy. Alas, as with all intentions it slipped away as I lost track of time and awareness however towards the middle of the day as I was wondering around the south hall browsing the various comic book stands I came across the Viz Media with a range of the Manga Zelda titles. Perhaps good fortune or happenstance I decided to pick up the Ocarina of Time novel as a memento of the event, adheeding to my rule of the day to push myself outside of my comfort zone and embrace the culture around me. The seller I was talking to briefly as I purchased the book then informed me they were giving out 100 tickets to fans of the series and did I want to meet the authors. Delighted I accepted and my latest acquisition and a fancy green drawstring Zelda bag I returned later in the day at the authors signing corner with a queue of more purest and excitable Zelda fans. If ever ‘buyers’ remorse presented itself in a strange way it was in the queue when I was stood next to a very dedicated Princess Zelda cosplay fan, going above and beyond any simple efforts who hadn’t been quite so fortunate to acquire one of the vouchers and left the queue in a forlorn fashion, for a moment I did have to question my morals and sensibilities having crushed the dreams of the Princess. I’ll readily admit this wasn’t good planning or a strategy on my part purely being in the right place at the right time and I guess, supporting the Viz stand by actually buying a copy of the book which even better was being offered at a discount. The options for signing were restricted to one item, either an item of your choosing or one of the card square images of the series provided by the organisers. I will admit I did desire one of the card images but also having purchased the book I did have my heart set on this being signed, it seemed a nice personalised memento of the day and something I can enjoy. Amazingly they provided the image regardless, presumably they had enough stock for the allocated ticket holders so I managed to pick that up. Meeting the authors was quite a surreal experience, as I discussed previously they were going through the queue and taking names to translate to Japanese for the authors to sign, I’ll readily admit its a far more challenging language and wouldn’t have been put off or thought any less with a ‘best wishes’ generic message but I did appreciate the effort. This was my first experience of the series and somewhat surreal to be meeting the authors surrounded by passionate fans and to be in a position where I was just there for the atmosphere. They were really delighted to be meeting the fans and of all the names they knew, ‘Charles’ was one of them in English so that drew a smile and a chuckle. The strange photo rules of a convention did confuse me somewhat with the main ‘stars’ of the event charging for a photo whilst others such as the authors quite willing to pose for a picture for no cost. Which just added to the value of the experience, both were quite happy to stop for a moment and pose for a picture with this goofy fan of Zelda and just gave a lasting positive impression. As I finished and took my book away the last gift was one of the posters with the character design from the series featured advertising the Twilight Princess manga adaptation into one of their books. Of all the series I’ve experienced and enjoyed over the years, the one that has continued to have a resonating impact has been Zelda, transformed to some degree with a greater appreciation towards the legacy and design over the games now principally through lack of ownership of a Nintendo console since the release of the Wii. However, with a continued focus on the legacy artwork and games, specifically those I enjoyed in Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and here Twilight Princess I can continue to feel part of the community to some degree, and hey I travelled all the way to New York City to pick up that shirt so have to gain some respectability from that. Whether this was the exception to the rule I’m unsure, but as an experience, I couldn’t commend Viz highly enough, I played my part by purchasing one of their books they’ve brought over the West but from there on, every single moment after was a memory to treasure, the signed book, meeting the authors, the posters and pictures to take away, for me, that’s how you build a fanbase.
I’ve enjoyed the Bethesda games to varying degrees over the years, playing and sinking a great many hours into both Fallout and the Elder Scrolls games although never finding that same form of connection that I’ve experienced with Bioware. Nonetheless, as a crafted and technical example they have excelled over a considerable period of time, faltering, perhaps with their attempts to enter and gain traction as a game as service title but still even with all the criticisms of Fallout 76, it cannot take away from the legacy and commercial success of Skyrim which continues to see release and set records across an entire range of consoles and platforms. I’ve enjoyed, I find it a deep and absorbing game, perhaps somewhat as an exercise in solitude and lacking that companionship and warmth as found in Baldur’s Gate or Dragon Age for example but still a well crafted game. As one of the main studios in attendance they had a wide range of merchandise and items from their various franchises, all for relatively reasonable prices, it never felt
with any of the big merchandise stands you were being taken advantage of as a captive audience. One of my great weaknesses in life are mugs and glasses, I’m a sucker for a licensed glass product, add a sticker decal or engraving and I’m sold. So of course from the Bethesda stand it meant indulging in my penchant for glassware and going for the tanker with a slight nod of humour and the macabre and the Dead Man’s Drink tanker dedicated the bar of its namesake in Skyrim. The print is a nice quality and, though somewhat simplistic in colouring in contrast to my Zelda glass I enjoyed the style and ink quality of this tanker. In addition, with a fairly solid base it feels like a quality and durable product and was only around £12 or so which for other licensed merchandise is a remarkable sum to pay. There was merchandise from the studios other franchises, none of which I’ve been drawn to or enjoyed specifically but credit where it’s due, I did spend a lot of time exploring the world of Skyrim and to a similar extent Boston and Washington in the Fallout titles, as such I felt comfortable showing my dedication to Bethesda with a raised mug of ale to their well being and hope they find direction following ’76 to enter the next generation of consoles with a healthy focus to go with.
There were a number of films on promotion at the event that I picked up on, certainly the biggest releases in the upcoming months on show included the soon to be released final chapter in the Fox X-Men film series Dark Phoenix. I’ll admit I’ve not been blown away by the promotional material to date and have discussed in some length at the purpose or value of releasing the film with no seeming connectivity to the merger with Disney. However, as an experience and promotional stand it was second to none with two varying opportunities to engage with the marketing team and material, first and most basic the movie poster pose as shown with the inclusion of the glasses from Cyclops provided an opportunity to show your X-Men credentials, it was fun and allowed me to indulge in my mutant credentials. The main attraction of course was the green screen moving image promotion that imposed you into a scene from the movie with the Dark Phoenix herself throwing destruction down before her. It was fun, the moving image is fairly impressive to see but I enjoyed this capture. I’ll admit, the tone was somewhat ‘off’ but if you were really standing before a super mutant sure you could cower in fear but in the true British tradition of making fun and light of an insane situation it only seemed appropriate to ‘geek out’ before Jean Grey, did she seem impressed? it’s hard to say, I like to think for a moment she was distracted by my mutant powers of height and girth. Also, a free exclusive Dark Phoenix poster for attending and getting your picture taken so nice promotional work here. Besides X-Men the remaining movies tended to veer towards the horror genre with a promotional stand for It Chapter 2. I was a huge fan of the original adaptation in the early 90’s with, in my opinion the definitive Pennywise Tim Curry however I did enjoy the remake, it was faithful to the books to a large extent, removing certain controversial elements but still adding a few nice twists for those who had read both the books and enjoyed the tv mini series. I’m looking forward to the next chapter and the conclusion of this story. Seemingly, as with the book and tv adaptation they will present a dual narrative in the second chapter which differs from the first movie which featured the children’s passage of the story in its entirety and differed from the book. However I have faith with the original director back on board and no seeming ill will from Stephen King for how the film was adapted it should be a great, concluding sequel. For the photo shoot, not quite sure how it was accomplished but seemingly my legs seem to vanish below the balloons. Lastly, purely as it was there and the set looked really interesting I checked out the Annabelle stand, seemingly part of The Conjuring universe. I will admit I am growing a little fatigued with the ‘shared universe’ approach, when it works it does create a strong and rich environment to draw from but the opposite of course are films without a single fulfilling storyline or attempting to set up to much in its opening movies and leaving the paying viewer frustrated or upset they’ve effectively watch a prelude or incomplete experience. Whether The Conjuring set up a shared or open universe I can’t say. All I do know is a horror film with a scary looking doll in the cabinet does come across like a demonic version of Big. Having witnessed the doll push forward screaming and scaring the hell out of a unsuspecting member of the audience I was quite ready for the cheap jump thrill. Thankfully she didn’t emerge and I was able to pose awkwardly waiting for my photo to be taken. As I was leaving towards the end of the day I did come across a Child’s Play exhibit that seemed to be promoting a new release of the movie with the option to have your photo taken in a booth with Chucky, I’m presuming. Interestingly the booth staff were being fairly strict with their age policy turning away a couple of children who wanted to have their photo taken, for that I respect their convictions, of course it meant I could go straight in and get my photo taken crouching down to fit within the confines of the booth. I was just beyond the cusp of the original film series so for me the legacy of the film is all I have to go buy but it seemed like a good opportunity.
Voice Over Artists
Ostensibly, the motivation behind attending Comic Con was to experience and partake in the gaming aspects of the event, the basis for starting my venture over a year ago. In truth, whilst I tried the Playstation VR units I had experienced this platform before and didn’t enjoy the confinement or heat generated from having a weighted apparatus in close proximity. I enjoyed the game I tried but always getting some air afterwards. Away from the games on show however the presence of Nolan North and Troy Baker were of interest having enjoyed The Last of Us in recent years and of course the plethora of characters brought to life by these two men. I managed to attend their panel held in the North Hall which last for just under an hour, all credit to Nolan who was struggling with his throat on the day but it was just a really fun, informal discussion panel covering a variety of topics before concluding, bizarrely in a game of Mario Tennis on the Switch. Quite what the organisers thought engaging with two voice artists whose most renown work was exclusive to Playstation however they were both game for the conclusion and despite some technical faults it was a great little segment during the day. They were scheduled to record an episode of their web series Retro Replay on the Sunday however as a Saturday only guest this was my one chance to attend one of their panels, I just appreciated the off the cuff and relaxed nature of the talk, no revelatory moments just good banter and discussion between the two voice stars and the host. Afterwards I decided to go for a signed picture from the man himself and experienced my first sustained queue. The British are accustomed this noble art, we’ve practised all our lives to wait patiently for our turn, but still it was a long experienced, perhaps manageable if I had someone to wait with but as I was on my own no such luck. However when I got to the front, it was decision time, what to sign, there were fans who had brought games or books, no such luck for me but a range of photo’s were on offer which presented a Sheldon Cooper esque decision, subvert the expected, ignore the Nathan Drake images and go for the more obscure, the divisive, in short, yes I got a Desmond Miles from Assassin’s Creed image signed by the artist himself. I enjoyed the games, it made sense. Towards the end of the day, well for me with a tired back and sore feet it was one last queue for the photo section. I do have to commend MCM who run the conventions, they have organised the process into an efficient operation, queues divided by actor which thankfully, saw Nolan’s queue of fans taken in first rather fortuitously and meant I was able to get my picture taken rather quickly. Even from the brief moments of interaction he was a really decent guy, happy to share a few pleasantries and with the light reflecting off my glasses not fussed about retaking the photo. I’ve only done this a couple of times before, if I recall a number of years ago with a couple of actors from the TV series Angel but I do have to say, despite having obviously been up and around for a number of hours signing autographs and taking pictures there was no change in demure or attitude, he was just a really friendly personable guy. And left a great impression and signed picture of Desmond as a memento to take away.
The exclusive branded t-shirt, the haute couture of the fandom, elevating a casual attendee from a mere observer to a shrewd elite participant with the right top chosen. Without the nerve to venture into the world of cosplay I opted of course to show my credentials by wearing one of my shirts from Nintendo World in New York. I discussed this last year when looking at some of the items I picked up from NYC, as a company they do know how to market towards the nostalgia based fan, I’ve admitted to allowing the franchise to move on in different directions and whilst the new audience is catered for there is clearly still an incentive to cater towards older fans and as such I was proudly rocking my Hyrule Kingdom shirt. Forgive me if I tangent slightly towards fashion attire and advice but I do love the shirts from Nintendo World and find it somewhat annoying and frustrating being restricted to attending the store itself in Manhattan. But, despite a large attendance you don’t tend to see the designs as commonly in the UK or indeed even in around the city as other more commercially available shirts. So, I get the incentive to feel in an exclusive club and of course part of the attraction of attending Comic Con was to pick up one or two shirts from the event. I had presumed there would be some concessions selling general merchandise and tops, the events organisers MCM had a range on their website advertising the event and a collaboration with Marvel to sell their products at their stand. I will admit it was a little difficult to find in the North Hall and when I finally came upon it I would probably say it could have had more prominence but still a decent range of clothing and shirts. I decided to go with a shirt combining two recognisable commodities, everyone’s favourite merc with a mouth Deadpool leaping off a London double decker bus. Obviously there’s a contention to be made it would have felt more timeless and classic to use one of the original double decker buses not the new iteration but I suppose for new visitors its a recognisable commodity on the street and does give it a modern feel and design. I liked the fact the colour combination worked with Deadpool and the bus colour coordinating, whether the tone or pitch was adjusted slightly as I’ve never stared at a bus and thought to myself that’s probably how ‘pool gets around when in town. But there we go, a new addition to the t-shirt collection. I did want to pick up another shirt and found myself at the Forbidden Planet stand, one of the national chains in the UK that cater towards fans of geek culture. Hosting a variety of exclusive content and events such as signings during the weekend event my eyes were drawn to the classic world of Dr Who. I’ve always held a certain fondness to the series, granted it lacks the budget and panache of a modern American studio show, certainly from a visual perspective when the show is at the top of its game it can pack an emotional punch and I did watch the Tennant era rather faithfully over the course of his tenure. Any fan of science fiction living in the UK has probably watched an episode or two of the Doctor. So for my second shirt I opted for this exclusive royal navy blue Dalek exterminate shirt. The main design was slightly bigger than I had envisioned when I open the shirt but this was a welcome find, I do loathe discovering a great design only to find it minimised or reduced down in scale. Certainly there is a time for minimalism or discretion but when you are proudly proclaiming your genre credentials the time for conservatism is long gone. In short, when I walk around in a royal navy Dalek top I’d probably suggest rocking a small logo or image would suggest some form of shame, shout it out loud and proud your love for your series of choice. I enjoyed the colours used, ideally I would perhaps have not used the straight borders as the dalek emerging and bursting out is a more dynamic image but either way, a great exclusive top for the convention scene.
One of the last stands I came across that proved to much of a temptation was a poster store being run by Awesome Arts Europe offering an assortment of retro minimalist style posters with alternate perspective posters on a variety of movies, games and tourist locations. I adore this style of imagery and artistic design, the simplistic and muted colour palettes with intricate and detailed imagery that instantly reveals the subject matter, I decided to go for a variety of prints across film and gaming with a number of films from my youth. I could go into detail on all the prints but the most prominent of those I’ll discuss or review in some detail include The Goonies poster, using a prominent gold background reflecting the final shot from the movie with the pirate ship sailing into the sunset certainly having enjoyed the film on multiple occasions as a child that final moment of triumph and celebration is etched into my memory, the tones of the iconic score echoing before transitioning into Cyndi Lauper. I love the use of shadows of the figures and the foreground but equally there is just a warmth and charm about the image, instantly recognisable for the movie its advertising but unique in its own right. In contrast my second pick had a somewhat darker tone and nature to it with a stylised shot of the Terminator standing in the post apocalyptic future, presumably one of the early sequence shots of the exoskeleton contrasting to the crumbling ruins of the LA cityscape behind it. Terminator was and remains an iconic movie, its sequel one of those rare occasions where its seen in only in a positive way and succeeded far beyond the expectations of the original. In contrast to the poster from The Goonies it uses a darker tone reflective of the nature of the destruction scene from the opening of the movie. Again a strong use of shadows to detail the figure of the Terminator whilst the background is a blend of muted colours of varying tones, I really enjoyed the wisp of orange and red of the burning fires and the green and blue hues in the background. One specific feature which I really enjoyed about the poster was the red robotic eyes of the exoskeleton. It was just a nice touch but one that really identified the figure as the Terminator. I could go into more detail but I really would suggest if you can visiting the supplier, and the Etsy store, they have a variety of posters and prints to view and purchase, from an entire series of Star Wars posters to more specific locations both real and fictional, one for London using shadows of Sherlock Holmes and Watson was a nice touch that created a certain level of resonance with the location but was distinct in its own right.
So there we are, a detailed description of the various goodies and presents for myself I brought and picked up from Comic Con this year, an indulgent and enjoyable day celebrating and embracing the culture around me and one I have spent a good part of the last year describing and writing about on the periphery. Whilst I didn’t have that, personal connection with the fan base, I’ll openly admit to finding the experience quite overwhelming to comprehend, a creeping sense of isolation that permeated my day, but I did really enjoy aspects such as the panels, the various exhibits and the generosity of the Viz stand and the effort they put in to making the Zelda signing session a success. I’ll definitely go again, the energy is incredible, there is a great deal of passion amongst those attending, the range of merchandise to buy is vast from the small independent traders to the larger international studios and companies, whatever your taste or predication you are catered for. Now, I just have to find a convention buddy in the next year.
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