Film Convention: London Film & Comic Con 2014

 

12th & 13th July 2014 | Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London

Righto, this is the BIG one! London Film and Comic Con has definitely been growing over the last few years. And this year promises to be an absolute doozy, the BIGGEST yet! The big draw for the weekend is Marvel Comics uber-legend Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and er, Asbestos Man (yes really, look it up!). Needless to say, this one is going to be BUSY...

Ok so I've already decided to give Stan Lee a miss. This is shaping up to be one expensive weekend and my Star Wars needs must come first! Tickets for Stan Lee have been selling like hot cakes so he’s going to be incredibly busy, and I don’t fancy spending half of my day queuing up. Plus the chance to meet Princess Leia herself Carrie Fisher, and also come face-to-face with Ian McDiarmid - Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious is just frying my little geek brain! And that's just the start - there are many, many more icons that I'll be meeting over the next two days!

So, with tickets pre-ordered, posters and pictures all prepared, just a matter of counting down the weeks to July. I’m attending both Saturday and Sunday this time around. ‘Nien Nunb’ will of course be accompanying me as always, and on Sunday we have two extra guests travelling with us to the hallowed ground of Earls Court: Mr Paul aka ‘Boltok’ and his wife 'Mrs Lovett'! And that’s not all – I’ve decided to attend Saturday in my very first cosplay outfit!

 

Day One - Saturday

The big day arrives! I’ve shaved my goatee the night before, leaving the Comedian’s trademark ‘tache. Nien Nunb can barely believe my dedication to this! We’ve opted to drive to Earls Court this time so I can travel in half-costume – not sure what people would have made of seeing a masked man with guns travelling on the tube! We manage to find a parking spot outside the venue (note to self: next time pre-book the car park!). It’s a sunny morning and the day promises to bring scorching summer weather. As we approach Earls Court, the enormity of this year’s event really hits us – those of us lucky enough to have pre-booked our tickets will have to join a pretty long queue. Those who have chosen to buy on the day will be greeted with what I can only describe as the LONGEST queue I’ve ever seen! Three lines deep, snaking around the entire venue and out onto the street, this line will remain for the entire duration of the day, as venue staff filter people in due to overcrowding. Heck, I even saw people still queuing up at 4:30pm, when things were wrapping up! And this is all down to the attendance of Stan Lee!

We hit a bit of luck – when Nien Numb approaches the entrance staff to determine which queue we should join, they mistakenly let us in! They think we have bought the more expensive early-bird tickets. Later in the afternoon, I give our two pre-booked tickets away to two lucky guys in the ‘pay on the day’ queue. The sun is scorching and people have been queuing for hours in the baking heat so at least they were able to bypass the queuing process entirely - that’s my good deed for the day! We enter. Boy this convention is HUGE! It’s so big they’ve had to utilise two buildings (the secondary hall is where all the geeky comic-related stuff – including Stan Lee – will be). In the main entrance sits a dragon skull from Game Of Thrones. This show is becoming quite a feature at LFCC, with many guests from the show attending and many cosplayers dressing up as characters.

We take advantage of getting in early and browse the stalls. Too much geeky stuff for my eyes to look at as usual! Then we arrive at the Gibson Guitars tent where they have set up a high-tech green screen studio. People are invited to play a few chords to a backing track which the Gibson wizards will later cut together and add a cool background, and then upload onto YouTube. Cool! Being a guitar geek too, I jump at the chance, totally ignoring the fact that I’m in costume and chomping on a plastic cigar! Check it out:

We have another wander around the hall again, stopping a few times so people can take my photo - the Comedian is attracting much interest amongst my fellow geeks! I also manage to get a few choice photos of other cosplayers myself!

 Nien Nunb spots a pair of cool lightsaber earrings at a stall that she purchases. I spot some cool Marvel guitars (including a Spidey one signed by Stan Lee) which I don’t purchase! Then  we head over to the other building to look at the comic stuff. Outside it’s still blazing hot and that ticket queue isn’t getting any smaller! We nip into the second hall where we find two full-size Batmobiles – Adam West’s Bat car from the 1960’s TV show, and the Tim Burton 1989 version. Burton’s Batmobile was absolutely layered in dust, I thought they could’ve at least cleaned it up a bit before displaying it! Alfred, get the duster!

I then head to meet my first guest of the day - comic book artist David Lloyd, most famous for illustrating Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta. He doesn’t mention the fact that I’m dressed as the Comedian! I hand him my V For Vendetta graphic novel to sign, and he also signs my replica ‘Guy Fawkes’ mask as worn by the main character V. And as an added bonus he offers to draw me my own personal sketch of V! This is seriously amazing - an actual sketch drawn by David Lloyd himself!

On the next table sits comic book legend John Wagner, creator of Judge Dredd! He signs my Dredd DVD sleeve – Wagner was heavily involved in the making of the 2012 film (starring a certain Lena Headey whom I met last year!), and served as script consultant for scriptwriter Alex Garland. Right, time to meet my main guest I think. She’s on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan but has managed to detour to London – yes it’s time to meet Carrie Fisher! I quickly nip outside back to the car to change back into my ‘normal’ clothes. Ah fresh air! It’s getting unbearably hot inside Earls Court. We head back in, and I quickly steal a couple of snaps of Starship Troopers ‘Roughneck’ Dina Meyer.

Then we join Carrie’s queue and wait patiently as a dealer gets a zillion things signed (probably to later sell on eBay). Dealers are like Jawas, - as C-3PO would say: “I can’t abide those dealers, disgusting creatures!”. Ah my turn! The meeting is short as Carrie is in a rush to leave (I just managed to catch her as she was packing up). She had her little dog Gary with her too – Gary apparently accompanied her in the photoshoots too, a little weird. She signs my TESB poster and I’m a happy bunny! She smiles, says “Thank you for coming” and is whisked away much to the disappointment of people queuing behind me. Phew! My TESB is coming along very nicely...

And with that we decide to head back home. Saturday done, and a fun experience it was too! Looking forward to returning tomorrow with Nien Nunb, Boltok and Mrs Lovett, and meeting the BIGGEST Star Wars guest for me yet...

 

Day Two - Sunday

After spending most of Saturday evening recounting our experiences of the day, Sunday morning arrives and Nien Nunb and I make our way back to Earls Court (sans Comedian cosplay this time!). The queues are nowhere near as huge as Saturday (Stan Lee not appearing today accounts for this) so it isn’t long before we are ushered inside. It’s Boltok’s and Mrs Lovett’s first LFCC and Boltok is unsure of exactly what to expect. He’s at ease immediately once he’s inside and engages in cosplay spotting, his elbow constantly jabbing into my rib cage . “Look there’s Catwoman! And look there’s Harley Quinn! Over there look, it’s Poison Ivy! Oh look there’s another Catwoman!”. Geeks - you can’t take 'em anywhere!

I’ve got quite a list of guests to get through so we start straight away. First up is Mr Blonde Michael Madsen. What a legend! He’s every bit as cool and laid back as his on-screen persona. He signs a Reservoir Dogs artwork sleeve for me and I ask him about Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming The Hateful Eight. “Yeah we start filming next week.” Hey, I’m just having a chat with Mr Madsen here...COOL!

Next is an actor who starred in two of the most influential films for me growing up. He was Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Cpl Hicks in Aliens. Yep it’s Michael ‘come with me if you want to live’ Biehn! I’ve brought along my Aliens: Special Edition laserdisc sleeve for him to add his signature along Lance Henriksen’s. I’d previously heard that meeting Michael can be a random experience – some people have said he spent the entire time yawning, others have said he smelled of alcohol (!). I even read about how one chap had asked him about Alien 3, which understandably resulted in giving the bloke the silent treatment. I’m slightly nervous! My turn comes to meet the man himself and.... well, to be honest everything is pleasantly OK, although slightly weird. We exchange pleasantries, then he gazes at my laserdisc sleeve, looking at Lance’s autograph while smiling. He does this for a rather long time. Perhaps he was recollecting fond memories of filming? He prepares to sign it, and writes my name with ease (it is only four letters after all!). When he comes to sign his own name, however, he seems to struggle. He stops after writing ‘B’ as if he’s forgotten how to spell his own surname. Then he takes about half an hour to complete the rest of his name. I resist the urge to whip out a dictionary and declare “I keep this handy, for close encounters!” He then happily lets Boltok take a photo of us together, shakes my hand and gives me a nod of approval. Well that’ll do for me!

Next up are two big names of sci-fi TV. The absolutely outstanding Battlestar Galactica – the new version, not the camp Dirk Benedict one! – features two excellent actors. Jamie Bamber portrays Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama and the legendary Edward James Olmos of Blade Runner and Miami Vice fame is Admiral Adama. And I’m about to meet them both! Jamie first – I compliment him on his authentic sounding American accent in the series (he’s English). His reply: “Thank you very much, that’s sweet. Glad to know I did my job well!”

Then onto Olmos. He commands such presence. He’s only sitting at a table but he may as well be at the helm of a starcruiser. He writes a quote on my DVD sleeve “So say we all”. My geekometer is at breaking point!

Nien Nunb and Mrs Lovett have gone missing so Boltok and I decide to have a wander around the stalls. Oh, and also take plenty of pictures of the many excellent cosplayers!

Then we all head over to the second hall where the comic stuff is. The Tim Burton Batmobile looks like it’s acquired a fresh layer of dust today, as it’s covered in graffiti written with people’s fingers. Tut Tut Alfred! But the main reason we’re here is to attend the panel talk with Michael Madsen! He talks about his motivations for wanting to be an actor: "I guess all my life, I tried to do a lot of other stuff. I was an auto mechanic. My father was a firefighter. And he wanted me to be a cop (!) And I never lasted very long at the things that I did, but I got a big kick out of movies. I really like Humphrey Bogart, and Robert Mitchum, and Kirk Douglas. These kind of people. I kind of got in to it by accident. I like it. But it’s not paradise." He also recounts stories of filming Kill Bill Part 2, his practical jokes played on Ben Kingsley whilst filming Species, and his voice over work on Grand Theft Auto. This is turning out to be one sweet weekend!

But I’ve saved the best for last...

Oh yes, the moment of truth! I hurry back to the main hall and prepare myself to come face to face with Emperor Palpatine! Ooh yeah, it’s time to meet Darth Sidious himself Ian McDiarmid! I am literally giddy with excitement at this point! As the queue slowly shuffles forward, I see him sitting on his plastic chair – not quite the same grand effect as having him sit on the Emperor’s throne room chair I’ll admit! I'm sure there are a couple of Royal Guards lurking around the corner. And then the big moment arrives! I approach him as if I've been summoned to the throne room. I hand him my A3 Palpatine picture. “Ooh that’s a good one” he comments. After he signs it he shows it to me. “That looks good doesn’t it.” He is easily one of the nicest guys I've met. I then tell him about my childhood experience of watching Return Of The Jedi. I tell him how I used to cry whenever he appeared onscreen as Palpatine. And he makes an ‘oops’ face and apologises! I actually got Emperor Palpatine to apologise to me for making me cry when I was 4 years old!! Attention: my little geek brain has now left the building!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings the proceedings to its conclusion. What a weekend! What an LFCC! Pity about the enormous crowds but that’s to be expected now that this event has gotten so massive. And there’s not long to wait for LFCC Winter 2014 now  in October, and a BRAND NEW cosplay for me! Clue: “Does it come in black?”...