Thoughts and ramblings of an ageing, music loving, Sci-Fi geek…

Wales Comic Con 2014 – Part 2

This is it folks, the final Convention of the year (for me anyway). Wales Comic Con which was held at Glyndwr University, Wrexham on November 30th.

This is a fairly new event to the scene although it started in 2008, which has been run in April for the last few years and built to the point where they wanted to try a second one in November and in my view what a success it appeared to be. The event is getting a really good reputation and advanced tickets sold out well ahead of the day and it’s great that they limit these to keep the numbers under control.

WCC Hall

Main signing hall

Initially there weren’t any guests I wanted to meet but I bought a ticket anyway as it’s just a nice event to attend and a last chance to see some friends. Then as more guests were announced I ended up with a few to meet; Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe), James Murray (Defiance) and Shane Rangi (Spartacus) plus Paul Shipper, a great comic artist who I’d ordered something from and wanted to collect at the event.

Because of the limited advance sales it’s not necessary to turn up stupidly early and my friend and I arrived about 9:15am (early entry being 10am) and I hooked up with some other friends in the queue to help pass the time. I must point out that it’s great they have crew members at the end of the queue to make sure you join the right one. Other organisers take note.

Once doors opened, it was collect your wristband and head over to the main signing hall. Being a University campus they utilise different buildings for different aspects of the event which generally works very well and spreads the crowds around though it does mean it’s necessary to have crew on the various doors checking wristbands to make sure no-one tries to sneak in to anything.

The main hall has the guests spread around and also stalls selling all the usual merchandise you need for your geeky excitement. It’s not the largest space and can feel a bit cramped but by going straight there, it’s not very busy and I’ve always been able to get round the guests I need to see well before general entry at 11am.

Unlike other events there’s normally no virtual queue system used here, you just go up to the guest or join the queue for whoever you want to meet. But I’ve never found this to be an issue and have never felt rushed when meeting any of the guests. Though I understand that there were virtual tickets being given out for Anthony Head (Buffy, Merlin). He’s always popular but wasn’t on my target list as i’ve met him a number of times now though he’s always great and well worth meeting if you haven’t.

My main target was Jerome Flynn in order to get him to sign my Game of Thrones poster which is looking rather splendid now. I asked him to sign it under Peter Dinklage’s signature given the relationship of the characters on the show which he was happy to do. I asked him about learning all the fighting stuff and was able to get a photo with him which I wasn’t really expecting, thanks to my friend Gaz who was good enough to follow me around and act as my photography wingman.

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Meeting Jerome Flynn

I then went to see Alaina Huffman. I’d met her before and she remember the event well so we spoke about that and what she was doing at the moment which, now she’d finished on Supernatural, was mostly being a mum to four children. She signed my Stargate poster, writing a nice little comment on it and I got another really nice photo.

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The lovely Alaina Huffman

I then headed over to see James Murray who plays the rather nasty Mayor Pottinger on Defiance. He’s actually a really nice guy, this was the first such event he’d appeared at and seemed to be enjoying himself. We had quite a laugh about the things his character was up to on the show and also a nice chat about classic Guns N’ Roses because of the t-shirt he was wearing. Another great guest meet and only the second person from the show I’ve met.

Shane Rangi was next. Thanks to some friends I’ve blitzed through the TV show Spartacus recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn’t fully decided about meeting him until the day but very glad that I did as what a great guy he was. Standing in front of his table, interacting with everyone, really relaxed and I seemed to spend ages talking to him about that show and other things he’d done. Really interesting guy and seemed genuinely thrilled at meeting everyone.

Finally I went to meet Paul Shipper, a great artist that my friends have introduced me to. In particular I loved the special covers he did for the Star Trek story “The City on the Edge of Forever” for IDW. I’d ordered a signed copy of issue #1 from him and went to pick that up and cheekily asked if he’d sign the other four in the series which he was very happy to do.

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Full set of signed Paul Shipper covers

He had some amazing prints of other work he’s done on sale and if I could afford it I would have bough some but needed to keep to my budget. There will be other opportunities. If you like good artwork, whether that’s comic related or not I’d highly recommend checking out his website paulshipperstudio.com

WCC Owl vanThat done, the hall was starting to fill up so we decided to leave and look at some of the other things going on. There was the North Wales Owl Sanctuary raising money by letting you hold an owl for a donation and what cute birds they were too. There were some Transformers cars, video games, demos of various tabletop games, something often very under represented, and a tent hosting some wrestling demonstrations, not my thing but shows the variety of things going on to keep people entertained.

WCC Owl1

My friend wanted to look in the room with all the tabletop gaming stuff and proceeded to try and explain some of it to me. I must admit that despite a few games of D&D when I was at school, this is not something I have much knowledge of but he’s promised to introduce me to some more after our recent fun evening playing the Spartacus board game. I love that I’m still finding new things to try and have friends willing to show me.

Then it was lunch and this is another thing this event gets so right. As well as vans outside selling burgers, doughnuts and things, the University cafeteria opens, selling a variety of food beyond the usual burgers and this is always good value and a decent selection.

Suitably refueled, it was time to queue for the first of the talks that we wanted to see, the Game of Thrones one. The talk hall is one of the true highlights of this event. It’s a proper auditorium with a stage, raked seating, quality sound system, good lighting and well away from the noise of the rest of the event. Absolutely perfect and a huge improvement on any other event I’ve been to so far.

GoT Panel

Game of Thrones panel

This panel was made up of Lino Facioli, Jerome Flynn, James Cosmo, Ian Beattie and Ian Whyte. All were on good form and it was very enjoyable. I find it hard remembering everything that was asked in these things as I don’t make notes. That’s not the kind of write up I do but I don’t recall anything particularly new or of significance to report.

Next up was the Torchwood panel with Eve Myles and Gareth David Lloyd. I’ve seen Eve do one of these before but this time the wine was really flowing and the two of them together were hilarious. I dare not repeat most of the stories but if I tell you they involved things like a naked John Barrowman, singing and definitely not stealing things from the set (there were Police stood at the back of the hall for this one) you might get a rough idea. They also video called Kai Owen and spent a few minutes exchanging friendly insults with each other and had everyone in stitches.

Kai Video Call

Video call to Kai Owen

One story I can tell was when she met Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor in the Terminator films) who is her hero. She was in a bar at an event and went to ask to borrow a chair from another table and it was Linda sat at the table. Apparently she just stood there transfixed saying “I love you” over and over until John Barrowman came over and basically carried her away. She was absolutely mortified and had to apologise profusely the next day.

WCC Eve wine

And the wine flows

What was clear was there is still a huge demand for more Torchwood. Eve said she sees it all over the world and even though John and her are very busy, they’d both drop whatever they were doing should a new script drop through their doors.

The final panel of the day was for the BBC show Atlantis This featured Mark Addy, Robert Emms, Sarah Parish and Jack Donnelly. I’ve not really watched the show but wanted to take some photos as you don’t often get main cast together at these shows. And I have to say they were very entertaining, worked well with each other and while again there were no revelations to be gleaned, it was a very enjoyable panel and I’m glad I saw it.

WCC atlantis panel

Atlantis panel

All the panels at this even are run well. There’s a compare who keeps things flowing although the crew passing the microphones around could be rather more proactive in their efforts to get questions from around the room rather than just stand in one place and keep picking people near them. That was the only negative point I’d raise from the talks, and that they were running behind schedule but as I had no photoshoots or other autographs to get, it didn’t impact me.

WCC Mark Addy  WCC Jack Donnelly

We then headed back to the main hall which was emptying by now as I wanted to look round the stalls but I didn’t get chance as the friend I’d driven there with wasn’t well so we had to leave and unfortunately there wasn’t really time for me to get back to his and drive back to meet my other friends and join them for the evening. Disappointing but these things happen.

Other than that it was a really good day, the weather was amazing for the end of November, all the guests were just brilliant, the atmosphere pretty relaxed and friendly. It’s only the third time I’ve been to this event but it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable. It offers something a bit different and is run by people who really care for the fan experience and while it’s going from strength to strength, they’re being cautious and growing it carefully to make sure they can keep doing it right and not let it get out of control which certain other events have felt like at times.

While not the easiest to get to it’s well worth the trip. You’d be hard pushed to find such a good range of guests in such a friendly and well run environment.

Details of the next event should be coming soon as tickets are usually on sale before the end of the year. Keep you eye on www.walescomiccon.com for more info.

As usual my full photo gallery is here.

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