Comics Anonymous


LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON 2014 by G-Man

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Last weekend (11th-13th July) saw the annual London Film and Comic Con hit – a new con for me to attend but one that had me hyped with the guests in attendance and possibility of a weekend to remember.

On the run up to LFCC I watched the Facebook page drop new big name guests into the mix and while they were mainly Movie/TV names this all seemed to add to the hype that had built-up in my mind…..the fact we already knew Stan Lee was in attendance in his last European appearance gave this a definite once in a lifetime feel to it.  True we had seen Stan The Man grace the UK soil with his presence a few years earlier at LSCC in 2012 but there’s been a significant focus on the popularity of the comic book medium in those 2 short years.  Movie & TV have played their part but the big publishers have, in general, raised their game with the titles they release…..as much to match (or tie-in) with the big & small screen offerings as it is to face the challenge from a market where the likes of Image, Dark Horse & IDW are flexing their comic muscle on a regular basis with innovative releases.  While Stan Lee was the biggest comic guest to appear there was still some other comic names to draw the fans as Gail Simone, Howard Chaykin, Erik Larsen and many others would be certainly more accessible than Stan himself as we could chat face to face with them about their work that we follow.

Friday saw a Preview night take place and the organizers had also arranged an additional Stan Lee signing that afternoon to allow Stan to see more of his fans……..although in actual fact, it was really more of a chance for the money to start rolling in.  Hundreds queued to see Stan and have their prized issues (or soon-to-be eBay items) signed by one of the most recognized names in comics and I include myself in those queuing masses and while some may vilify Stan, there’s still a level of awe that he generates.  The biggest disappointment for this signing was the extreme approach taken by security – no touching, no photos, no filming while he signed took the shine off the chance to meet a great but it took the pressure of the rest of the weekend so the Preview night, and the Saturday/Sunday were freed up to see what I could see.

Friday night helped me get the lay of the land……queues for entry were no real surprise but initial a lack of organization gave this a haphazard feel to it which didn’t seem to match the hype generated online with their notice of new guests and schedules for the weekend.  Hype leads to visitors leads to big spending seemed to be the main order of the weekend as Saturday saw the biggest queues I’ve seen at a con before……folks queuing in the baking London Sun JUST to get in but getting in was only the first hurdle as when they DO get in they queue again to get that signature or photo opportunity they were after.  The chance to see the likes of Michael Biehn, John Hurt & Carrie Fisher were always going to busy though and this was well organized.  Staff kept control of the queues given the massive crowds that were in attendance and the heat of the day and the cramped feeling of Earl’s Court itself gave the venue a claustrophobic feel that made the Saturday in particular, one of the most difficult days to get around in…..at least for the main venue.  The highlight of the Friday night would be meeting Robert Hays aka Ted Striker from Airplane!

Robert Hays

While the main venue held the big name TV/Movie stars it also hosted the dealers selling comics, merchandise and anything else that could be tagged into the vibe of the event.  Dotted here and there were some of the small press too – which I had some initial problems trying to find given the crowds but I made my way to their tables and caught up with old friends from the UK small press scene as well as meeting new folks I’d been in touch with recently about their latest releases.  The Lou Scannon gang were there (Dan Harris, Kris Carter & Jim Bampfield), part of The Kill Screen team were there (Mike Garley, Josh Sherwell), the artist behind Moon was there (Steve Penfold) to name but a few.  I sifted my way through comic boxes picking up some gaps in my collection and saw some pretty cool props (Cap shield being my favourite).

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The second venue held the bulk of the comic book guests & small press and I caught up with Charlie Hodgson at the Dead Canary Comics table (Trained Medic, Frogman/Frogman Returns), Rachael Smith (House Party, I Am Fire), Jim Alexander (Wolf Country, Savant, Food Chain)….and also got to chat to the Howard Chaykin, Chris Weston, Gail Simone and more.  The main issue with the second venue seemed to be the lack of signposts to let people know it was actually there…..and this gave the comic book element a feeling of being bolted on as a secondary thought.  That being said, the second venue did seem busy across the Saturday & Sunday which is more likely to be because this venue held some panels over the course of the weekend that got people through the door.  Once in the second venue there was lots to see – as well as the small press and comic guests…..we had the game zone (which I lost some 16-bit gaming time to) and a couple of bat-mobiles on site.

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Panel-wise we had a wide choice to choose form but the schedule had to be carefully looked into as the photo sessions, signing sessions and panels were sure to clash if you wanted to try and see EVERYTHING.  An impossibility but this is the first con where I’ve had to pay extra on-top of the ticket price to attend panels  so again the money element drifted in and budgeting played a far more significant part of this weekend than most……as a result, the number of comics I bought was down other than the usual small press buys that I make.  The panels I DID make it to were well organized in terms of their queues and the start/finishing times were stuck to and ANOTHER highlight for my weekend was shaking Admiral Adama (aka Edward James Olmos) by the hand as he made his way through the silver/gold pass holders and the standard ticket holders alike.  His BSG panel with Jamie Barber was great although light on overall numbers in attendance which was a surprise……although the budgeting element for everyone at the con for the weekend no doubt played it’s part in that.

BSG panel - LFCC

The weekend would also see The True Believers Comic Awards being announced at an event on the Saturday night with Anthony Stewart Heading presenting the mish-mash event which descended into hilarity quickly and provided one of the highlights of the weekend for me.  Stan Lee & Jason Mewes were also on-board to help present some of those awards – full list shown below:

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All in all the whole weekend was fun to be part of and thankfully the frustration of high numbers on the Saturday didn’t take away anything from my visit to the Con.  Speaking with some of the small press folks there was a number who were left in the dark with arrangements for the weekend until the last-minute which adds to the notion that the comics were running in second place to the crowd-pulling guests that were prepped for the cha-ching of photo’s & signings bringing in the big bucks for guests & organizers alike.  That being said, I would consider going back to the event as the organizers did keep the queuing well controlled inside the venue which didn’t seem to be the case outside as after the event there were stories of problems actually getting in – something that Showmasters themselves have addressed among other concerns over on their Facebook page.

One thing I will say is that I don’t think I’ve been to a Comic Con that is the perfect experience for everyone that attends and while I’m a fairly flexible guy and open enough to vent my disappointment or praise where it’s due…..the bottom-line is…..I enjoyed my weekend…..I REALLY enjoyed my weekend.  I got my small-press fix, I met some of the geekiest/coolest people around & I wandered freely among the crowds & cosplayers with ease and while there were flaws over the weekend which lead to disappointment for some as they maybe didn’t get to meet Stan Lee or other big guest or maybe didn’t make it into the event at all….I think the volunteers & organizers tried their best to help everyone enjoy their LFCC 2014.  More signs highlighting there were 2 venues, an earlier indication of the schedule, a heads-up for the small-press folks and other dealers about the arrangements for the day AHEAD of time and a few other improvements and this should all hopefully improve for 2015.

G-Man


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