Tuesday, 15 July 2014

London Film And Comic Con 2014 - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise I most associate them with personally) :-

Stan Lee (no explanation needed)
Anthony Head (Rupert Giles from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)
Juliet Landau (Drusilla from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”)
Summer Glau (River Tam from “Firefly”)
Robert Knepper (Tommy Dolan from “Carnivale”)
Billie Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian from the Star Wars franchise)
Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon from “Game Of Thrones”)
Sibel Kekilli (Shae from “Game Of Thrones”)
Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas (wrestler)
James Storm (wrestler)
Al Snow (wrestler)
David Yost (Billy Cranston from “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”)
T. J. Thyne (Dr. Jack Hodgins from “Bones”)



Before we get started, a quick note...if you enjoy this review, please subscribe to my blog! Over on the right-hand side there’s a little box that says “Follow Shangel’s Reviews By Email!”, put your email address in, confirm you’re human, click the validation link, and voila! Reviewy goodness! No bullshit, no spam, just my reviews. I’m currently reviewing every episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” in depth, but will also be exploring “Game Of Thrones”, “Firefly”, “Chuck”, “Dollhouse”, “Supernatural”, “Doctor Who”, “The Walking Dead”, and more in due course.


It’s currently 4:23am, on the morning of Monday the 14th of July. I’m running off of 2 hours sleep in the past two nights. Why, you ask? Because I just spent the weekend at frickin’ comic con! London Film and Comic Con (LFCC) is the largest convention event of its kind during the calendar year in the UK. This year’s LFCC was my 4th time attending and the best way to describe this weekend would be ‘a mixed bag’. I’ve been a regular convention goer for years now. I usually end up going to around 5 events a year. By this point, I know how conventions work and I know what to expect. You expect everything to run 5-10 minutes later than scheduled, you expect to spend most of your day queuing, and you expect lots of people. Events that are the size of LFCC are always an exciting and daunting occasion. On the one hand, the guest line-up for this year’s LFCC was incredibly strong. It was able to boast such names as Stan Lee (his last ever European appearance), John Hurt, Carrie Fisher, Jenna Coleman, Lena Headey, Ian McDiarmid, and a whole host of other ridiculously talented people. On the other hand, this strong line-up inevitably leads to more people, more chaos, and more drama. Over the course of this weekend, I’ve seen a lot of negative backlash aimed at Showmasters’ direction from people that attended the event. Ranging from poor organisation, a lack of air conditioning, gold and silver members feeling cheated, people queuing outside for 6 hours in the sun only to not get in...the list of complaints is endless. My review, however, will only explore my personal time at LFCC. I will discuss the issues that were present at the event, but only the ones I saw firsthand. No hearsay, no rumours, only facts...and a little speculation (which I will explicitly state is speculation).

Historically speaking, I only attend LFCC on Sundays. This year, there were so many people I wanted to meet, I decided to go both Saturday and Sunday. Even though a few people I wanted to meet pulled out (Sean Maher, Pedro Pascal, Natalie Dormer), I can say with certainty that I couldn’t have gotten everything done that I desired without that second day. Jeez, if those people hadn’t pulled out I’d have been royally screwed (I still don’t understand where that expression comes from). 

Myself and my friends Hannah, Hayley,  and John departed a dreary Gloucestershire in the wee hours of Saturday morning (read: it should be illegal to be up at this time). We had a three-hour car journey ahead of us, so I had the foresight to make a mixed CD for the occasion...I did not have the foresight to make two, so we listened to the same 17 songs over and over again to the point of madness. The journey only took us two hours in the end because apparently my friend John (the driver) sometimes feels that motorway speed limits are advisory and not actually the law. We dropped the car off at the hotel, met my friend Kaylee (who’s a member of this blog community), and walked the 10 minutes to Earls Court. Last year, we arrived at about 8am and were two sides of the building from the front of the queue. This year, we arrived at around 7:30am and were five sides of the building from the front. Don’t forget, this year’s event was also spaced throughout two buildings. We sullenly joined the back of the pre-paid early bird’s queue and settled in for an hour and a half’s wait, filled with small talk and flailing over the weekend to come. I know this makes me a bad person, but I was taking such satisfaction in watching the facial expressions of the people joining the queue behind us. By 8:30am, the queue snaked back towards the entrance again, giving a double queue effect! Some people were walking down the queue looking for the end, then realised that the end they already passed facing away from the EC2 entrance was actually their queue! It was priceless!


(a rough layout of both buildings used for LFCC)

Once the doors opened at 9am, I was surprised to see how quickly our queue was moving. We were in the building by just before 9:30am and the first thing on my agenda, sadly, was the sales desk because I needed to buy my Anthony Head studio photo ticket and my Isaac Hempstead-Wright studio photo ticket due to them being announced after the online store closed. The sales desk queue moved at a snail’s pace. I could have driven back to Gloucestershire, had a nap, made a cup of tea (thus enforcing the stereotype about English people), watched some “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, and headed back to the arena and I’d have probably moved about two places further forward (note: some hyperbole). Being stuck in another queue for an hour wasn’t as bad as it should have been because I bumped into so many people I know! The sales desk was located just inside Earls Court 2, so you could see everyone that walked in the doors as long as they didn’t veer off to the left or right as they entered. One of the best things about conventions is the family atmosphere. LFCC this year didn’t have as much of one as it usually does due to the overcrowded nature of the event on Saturday and most people feeling too flustered and sweaty to be enthused. Even with that being said, bumping into people you haven’t physically seen in a year is always a good thing...unless you haven’t seen them in a year because you don’t like them. In that case, there are plenty of people to hide behind.

While on the subject of bumping into people, I need to say a massive thank you to the people that stopped me at LFCC to say ‘hi’. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, I was stopped around 50 times by people asking if I was ‘Shangel’ and then proceeding to be highly enthusiastic and friendly. You have no idea how much it means to me for you guys to a) care enough to come and say ‘hi’, and b) be so complementary of my work. Who knew being an over-excitable, fanboy nerd with OCD for researching random trivia about shows I love would be so rewarding and fulfilling. Thank you all so much for making a challenging Saturday not only bearable, but pleasant.

By 10:30am, I had all the photo shoot tickets I needed for the weekend (or so I thought...), so it was time to start meeting the guests! Two weeks before the event, I had a very busy Saturday morning planned. I was supposed to have my Pedro Pascal studio photo at 9:30am, but sadly he cancelled (that one still hurts the most). Then I was supposed to have my Natalie Dormer photo later in the morning alongside my dual shot with Natalie Dormer and Finn Jones, but sadly Natalie had to cancel as well. Due to these cancellations, my first photo of the day was scheduled for 11:30am at photo area B with Robert Knepper, so I had about 45 minutes to kill. I knew that Saturday was going to be an absolute bitch for getting autographs from some of the bigger guests because of how far back we were in the entry queue. The virtual queuing tickets would have been astronomical by 10:30am, so I decided to get Summer Glau, Juliet Landau, and Robert Knepper’s autographs the following day. Coming into this event, I also wanted autographs from Gethin Anthony, Lita, Al Snow, James Storm, and David Yost, so I decided to try and get as many of those as possible before it was time for my shoot with Robert Knepper.

First up was David Yost. Before attending a convention, I always like to do some research on the people I wish to meet so that the questions I have to ask them are a little bit more off the wall. Most guests seem to spend 90% of their day answering the same questions time and time again, so when it’s possible I try to differentiate myself a little - especially if it’s someone I’m trying to arrange an interview with for this blog. David Yost was a very friendly gentleman. He greeted me with a handshake, he had a smile plastered on his face throughout our talk, and he seemed genuinely excited to be at LFCC. As far as I’m concerned, there are 3 types of convention guest – 1) the responder. This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they will respond and be enthusiastic, but they won’t initiate further conversation, you have to. 2) the big guest/groucho. This type of guest is either someone like Stan Lee, whose queue is far too large to allow you a conversation longer than a few seconds, or it’s the type of guest that is clearly there for monetary purposes. They say ‘hi’ (sometimes they don’t bother with that), sign, say ‘bye’ (sometimes), and you’re on your merry way. 3) the conversationalist. This is my favourite type of guest. They’ll answer your questions, ask you questions, and are happy to chat regardless of where the conversation leads or how long you’ve been talking. Obviously, there has to be some sort of cut-off point if someone is in the queue behind you, but you leave the experience feeling like you gained something more than the autograph you queued for. David Yost, for me, was #1 (‘the responder’). A couple of days before LFCC, I watched a video on YouTube of David Yost talking to No Pink Spandex. He talked about how he walked off of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger” early because he was called ‘faggot’ one too many times. He talked about how he tried to ‘pray the gay away’ shortly thereafter. He talked about his suicidal thoughts at that time, and he talked about how he stayed in Mexico by himself for a year to clear his head. Three of my closest male friends are gay. Two are openly gay and one is still in the closet and struggling. David and myself talked about his incredible story and he offered advice for my friend that’s still struggling with his orientation. He also told me to pass along hugs to him. It was a very pleasant encounter and I feel it was worth the £15 price tag. The only odd thing was that David wasn’t offering photos with him at the autograph table, just photos of him. Purely speculation on my part, but I feel this was a clever ploy to encourage people to buy studio photo tickets so that he’ll make more money.

After my time with David was over, I decided to hit up the wrestling section. The amount of wrestlers at this year’s LFCC was surprising. In total there were eight wrestlers this year! That’s double last year as far as I can remember. Out of the eight that were attending this year, most of them were current TNA wrestlers or currently work for TNA in some capacity. Out of those, I really wanted to meet two, plus Lita, who’s retired. I met Magnus and Mickie James at LFCC two years ago, so I couldn’t justify spending money on them again, even though they were both terrific two years ago. Al Snow’s queue was empty at the time, so I decided to go and meet him first. Like David Yost, Al Snow falls into that ‘responder’ category. We talked a little about his action figure being banned in numerous stores throughout the U.S.A. in the early 2000’s because a lot of stores thought that ‘Head’ (his prop) was a severed human head, not a mannequin. He talked about how appreciative he is for his fans that have been following his career for such a long time (I’ve been following it since 1998 myself). He was very friendly and seemed to genuinely appreciate his fans, which isn’t as common as you’d like to think sometimes. He wasn’t the most talkative person I met at LFCC, but he was very gracious and allowed me to take a photo with him at the autograph table, which is always a cool perk. It seems to be rarer and rarer with every passing convention I attend, so when a guest does allow it, it’s special. Honestly, there are quite a few guests that I’d have liked to meet but I decided against it because of the “no posed photo” sign for them. Sometimes that photo at the autograph table swings the decision in favour of the guest receiving my money.

Next to Al Snow, was James Storm. Out of all the present TNA representatives at this year’s LFCC, James was the one I was looking forward to meeting the most. He’s the only active wrestler in TNA that’s been around since day one of the company, so I knew he’d have a lot of stories to tell. James Storm is exactly what you’d expect him to be from television: a strong, southern guy that likes to drink beer, raise hell, and wear studded-up cowboy hats. James was the first guest I met at this year’s LFCC that would fall into that ‘conversationalist’ category. I was talking to him for at least five minutes! We talked about the current state of TNA wrestling and how he feels they can best proceed, we talked about how and why James has suddenly found himself the only original remaining, we talked about Abyss being in TNA since almost the beginning and then both laughed over the fact that neither of us could remember the name he debuted in TNA with (James eventually remembered). James also laughed about the fact that when he was on Steve Austin’s podcast (episodes 118 & 120 here) a month ago, by the time they were recording the second episode, they were both rather drunk. James took beer to Austin’s house and Austin’s wife, Kristin, was also bringing them more alcohol after they ran out. We also discussed the possibility of him joining WWE down the line and he is open to the idea. I thought it might not be on his radar too much because of the hectic travel schedule associated with the WWE compared to TNA. James is a 17-year veteran in the business and a man I have a great deal of respect for due to his body of work in the industry. Upon meeting the man, I respect him even more. He was so talkative, so charismatic, and so interesting that you couldn’t help but leave his autograph table feeling like it was worth the money. Plus, he made eye contact for pretty much the entire conversation. I love that. He also allowed a photo between the two of us at his autograph table, so bonus points for that too. By the time the weekend came to a close, as far as conversations go, James was second only to Juliet Landau.


(myself and "The Cowboy", James Storm...what a legend)

I’ve been going to conventions for a long time. Very rarely do I get starstruck these days. However, Amy (Lita) was my biggest childhood and teenage crush. More so than any other person in the entire world. I was worried that I was going to revert back to the starstruck Shangel that used to exist in my earlier convention years. Luckily, I managed to keep it together pretty well when I approached the front of her autograph queue. Did my hands shake a little more than usual? Sure. Did I cover it? You betcha. Amy falls very much into that ‘Al Snow’ category. Very friendly, very warm...but not the most talkative person. However, I knew this coming into the event. Amy is a relaxed, carefree person that likes to live in Nicaragua by herself. Outside of being between the wrestling ropes, she’s not someone that enjoys the spotlight. We had a very pleasant (albeit brief) chat about why she chose to live in Nicaragua as opposed to Mexico or another of the North or Central American countries. When Amy decided her dream was to become a wrestler, she also decided that she needed to go to Mexico to learn the Lucha Libre style of wrestling. When she called the travel agent, she asked the travel agent where she should go. The travel agent said Mexico City, so Amy travelled there by herself with nowhere to stay and no concrete plans. Al l these years later and she basically did the same thing with Nicaragua. It’s hard to buy land in Mexico if you’re not a Mexican citizen, so Amy went for the next best option. We also talked about her Lucha Libre and ‘Day Of The Dead’ tattoos.


(rough layout of Earls Court 2 for LFCC...'photo E' and 'photo F' were switched)

With these four autographs out of the way, it was time for my first photo session of the weekend. Using Too Tall’s pre-comic con rough floor plan as a guide, I tried to find photo area B. A few changes had been made between Too Tall’s pre-comic con rough floor plan and the actual plan. One of them was that a couple of the photo areas had been swapped around. At LFCC, the photo areas were in the following order... A-B-C-D-F-E (E was the opposite side of the building to all the others)...can someone sense a flaw in that logic? Anyone? What does Showmasters have against ‘E’? Why must they take it out of sequence and usher it into an area all by itself. Do they not care about its feelings? What if it was lonely?...I jest...well, mostly.

One of the things that irked me about some photo shoots over this weekend is that they weren’t called in ticket number order. For example, I was number 13 for Robert’s photo session, which means I should be in that 1-25 or 1-50 range (depending on how they call it). As the ticket numbers weren’t enforced, I was about 100th. In this particular queue it didn’t matter too much, but at various other points I was about 200 people further back than I should have been, which obviously takes up time I could be using more productively elsewhere. Outside of that, the photo session went off without a hitch. It started on time, the queue moved quickly, and Robert was very friendly. For those of you that haven’t been to a convention before, you get very limited time with the guests at a photo session. It’s basically saying ‘hi’, asking for a specific pose if you want one, the photo is taken, and you say bye. It’s a 5-10 second process. If you want a conversation, go to the autograph table. The photo is printed instantly (for the past 2 years at least) and you continue with your day either filled with happiness at the beautiful photo or miserable over the fact that 11 of your hairs were out of place.

My next photo session (Anthony Head) wasn’t until 2:25, so I had a pleasant two hours ahead of me. No autographs to worry about, no photos to worry about, just the free “Sherlock” talk with Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, and Sue Vertue in EC1. There was just one tiny, miniscule problem...there was no room to move. Almost literally. It ended up taking 45 minutes to walk from one end of the hall to the other because of all the people. Simply, Showmasters overcrowded EC2. There’s no other way to put it. If there was a fire between 12-4pm on Saturday at EC2, I feel it would have been a very unsafe environment and that people would have been crushed. It was an absolute clusterfuck. Now, I don’t like to complain - especially when I’m meeting wonderful people that I otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to – but the organisation of Showmasters on Saturday was the most chaotic, disorganised, dangerous display I’ve been a part of in all my years of conventioning. According to their official website, Earls Court 2 has a maximum capacity of 10,750. I don’t know an official count, but it certainly felt like we were over that number for most of Saturday afternoon. One of the guys from Earls Court 2 that was organising the queues on Sunday morning told me that Saturday’s LFCC boasted the biggest queues in the history of EC2. Some people were outside queuing to get in for 4 or 5 hours, only to not get in because the building was at maximum capacity. In itself, that isn’t an issue. The problem is that nobody from Showmasters or EC2 conveyed that information down the queues outside (they certainly didn’t to my friends that were outside queuing anyway). If people had known the building was at maximum capacity, they may have chosen to go home and get out of the scorching sun.


(Earls Court 2 maximum capacity verification)

The lack of communication between Showmasters and their volunteers and the lack of organisation in general was abysmal on Saturday. I’ve never been a part of an event that was so disorganised and chaotic. I saw people queue jumping repeatedly, I saw people sneak in without paying (who obviously wouldn’t be added to the counter of how many people were in the building), and I saw people turned away after they’d nipped outside briefly for a cigarette break to escape the chaos inside. Showmasters clearly weren’t prepared for the amount of people that showed up at the event to meet Stan Lee, Carrie Fisher, and the other headliners. However, surely they must have had some idea of numbers based on their pre-sales and the fact that it was STAN LEE’S LAST EVER EUROPEAN APPEARANCE! Most of this didn’t affect me personally, just friends of mine, so I digress...you’ve got to hand it to the crew, though. These guys are unpaid volunteers that help out because of their love of the events.  Some of them have been crewing for years and are very good at their job, whereas others...not so much. All of them were put in a lose-lose situation for the most part and the vast majority of them handled themselves with dignity. Also, the building had air conditioning, but it was so weak that after a few hours you couldn’t feel it anymore at all. A building so crammed full of people that it takes 45 minutes to complete a walk that should ordinarily take one minute mixed with a lack of air conditioning is not a healthy place to be. I’m gonna give a little public service announcement here for convention goers...anti-perspirant is your friend. Use it, please. Want an example of how bad it was? During the queuing process for my Anthony Head photo shoot (more on that disorganised chaos later), the crew member organising the area asked all gold and silver pass holders to raise their hands. One guy raised his hand and the smell that emanated from his armpit literally made the girl next to him cry...her nose was armpit height and we were crammed together so much that there was nowhere for her poor face to move. Yes, the personal hygiene of the attendees isn’t Showmasters responsibility, but cramming the building so full that you can’t move is. It’s okay, though. Showmasters released an official statement on the forums to address these issues. What was the thread called? “some facts not fiction or drama”...


(oops...)

Way to diffuse the hordes of angry fans that are demanding refunds for the broken promises and complaining about the organisation of the event. The statement from Showmasters has since been deleted. Alongside a large number of negative comments on their forums and Facebook page. Deleting the negativity doesn’t eliminate the problem, Showmasters. Since then, Showmasters have released another statement, which was much more inspiring. They accepted that there were problems, they explained the reasons behind some of the problems, and they’re striving to improve for next time. That’s all you can ask at this stage.

Moving on from the negativity, myself and Hannah finally managed to exit Earls Court 2 and head to Earls Court 1 for the Sherlock talk. Sadly, the negativity is about to reappear. “Super Stage” had a capacity of 2,000 people. That’s significantly larger than the main stage for last year’s LFCC. A better quality of equipment is needed to accommodate the larger main stage. Myself and Hannah were in the centre of row 6 for the talk. Of the 45-minute talk, I only actually heard about 5 minutes of it because the sound quality was so bad. I spent the other 40 minutes trying to lip-read Sue, Mark, and Steven. Luckily, this was a free talk and the problem is an easy fix. If this was a paid talk I would have been extremely miffed. One of the more humourous parts of the talk was that whenever someone asked a question regarding season four, Mark and Steven’s faces would explode into coy smiles and one or the other of them would say “watch season four”, while actually giving nothing away. Steven also mentioned that fans are looking too hard for an answer into how Sherlock survived the fall in the season two finale. He said that Watson definitely couldn't see the point of impact and that Sherlock definitely jumped. The only logical conclusion is that something stopped him between the jump and the landing. Then, Mark said "or did it..." and confused everyone again! Those sneaky, sneaky men! Steven also said that Benedict Cumberbatch would be useless on a real crime scene. He'd be wandering around aimlessly looking for a latte and a ride home. That was hilarious. After the talk, 100 people were chosen at random to meet Sue Vertue and get a free autograph, 100 to meet Mark, and 100 to meet Steven. Luckily, both myself and Hannah were chosen to meet Sue! Sue was really sweet and was happily chatting away with people for ages. The only downside was that no 8x10's were provided for the autographs (Showmasters' announcement on their forums stated that they would be provided). Therefore, a poor girl was giving out page after page of her Spider-Man notepad so that people had something to get signed. If you're reading this, thank you! To thank her, we let her queue jump because she had a photo shoot to dash off to.


(Sue, Steven, and Mark)

After meeting Sue and getting her autograph, it was almost 2:00pm. With 25 minutes to spare until my studio photo with Anthony Head, we decided to rush back to EC2 in case it still took an eternity to get through the building. Upon arriving at EC2, myself and Hannah walked straight on in casually through one of the doors. In hindsight, we probably weren't supposed to do that as people that went outside briefly weren't being allowed back in due to maximum capacity. We got back into the building because of dumb luck, without even realising that people were being kept out! Phew! 

Bear with me, gentle readers, the criticism and negativity is almost over. Out of the two full days I attended LFCC, only half of one day was a nightmare. The other day and a half was great. Please don't be put off by this section of negativity. Sunday was vastly superior in both queue sizes and organisation. I located studio photo E and started queuing for my Anthony Head photo shoot. After 20 minutes of queuing in the heat, I got to the front of the line to be told that the shoot had overran and the remainder of the photos would be taking place later in the day. I asked when and where the remainder would be taking place and was told that it would be at 5:15, but they couldn't tell me where. I asked two other Showmasters crew members for verification and neither of them knew either. Luckily, the fourth person I asked knew the answer and it was to take place at studio photo F. I'm going to be there all day, 5:15 clashes with nothing else I need to do, no big deal! I joined the back of the next queue at studio photo E for my photo shoot with Isaac Hempstead-Wright. After another 20 minutes of queuing, I get to the front to be told that Isaac doesn't have a single photo shoot, just a dual-shot with Kristian Nairn (Hodor from "Game Of Thrones"). The conversation went like this...

Showmasters crew: "Isaac doesn't have a single photo shoot."
Me: "But I have a ticket, see."
Showmasters crew: "IT'S BEEN CANCELLED NOW GO AWAY TO THE SALES DESK AND GET A REFUND *aggressively makes shooing hand gestures*"

Excuse me? I'm sorry that my buying of a ticket for something you're selling has offended you. It later came to light (from Isaac) that Isaac was never supposed to do a single photo session, just the dual-shot with Kristian. Why were Showmasters selling tickets for something that wasn't in Isaac's contract? By this point, my patience was wearing thin. I'd been queuing for 40 minutes in the heat for no reason and now I had to go back to the massive queue at the sales desk to get a refund because of Showmasters' lack of organisation. I managed to get a call through to Hannah (who had wandered off while I was queuing) and asked for her to meet me at the sales desk. I spent the next 20 minutes raging at Hannah before getting to the front of the sales desk queue...then I was told that only one person was dealing with refunds and I'd have to join another queue. Eventually, I gave up caring and exchanged my Isaac photo ticket for one with Sibel Kekilli the following day. To sum up, that's over an hour of queuing for absolutely no reason due to a lack of organisation at the event. To top it off, Billie Dee Williams' photo shoot (also at photo area E) started almost half an hour late for some reason. At least this one took place, I suppose...After my Billie Dee Williams photo was done, the rest of the weekend was rather painless. That three hour period was the most frustrating of my convention life. Luckily, Sunday more than made up for it!

By this point it was 4:00pm. I had collected all the autographs I needed to that day and all that remained was my photo with Anthony Head in an hour's time. I've met Anthony Head three times before this year's LFCC, but I've never been to a convention where Anthony Head is a guest and not purchased either a studio photo or an autograph. It would simply not be right to skip out on Rupert Giles. With an hour to kill and the hall slowly becoming a little less intense, myself and Hannah had a look around the merchandise stalls for the first real time. I've got to give a special shout-out to The Sword Stall. Last year I bought a replica of The Operative's sword from "Serenity" and it currently has pride of place on my bedroom wall. They're currently trying to retrieve a replica of Faith's jackal knife from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" for me to collect at LFCCW! This year's LFCC also had Sherlock's sofa and backdrop from "Sherlock" on display in EC2.

(look at all the Sherlocky goodness behind us!)

One of my fondest memories of LFCC Saturday was bonding with everyone at Tony Head's impromptu second photo shoot session. Everyone in that queue was pissed off and was making friends with everyone else by airing their grievances. It was oddly wonderful. Hannah gave out some business cards for the blog, while I was talking to some people that have read some of my "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" reviews. At 5:25, three hours later than originally planned, my photo with Uncle Tony took place...

(apologies about the quality, it's a photo of a photo. I swear, Tony is the most humble, classy, timelessly handsome man you could ever wish to meet. If you get the opportunity, DO IT! This is also my 5th photo with Tony)

With Saturday drawing to a close, we went outside Earls Court 2 to meet some of my Scoobies (friends that I've met through this blog and my Buffyverse fan page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BTVSFC). These particular Scoobies travelled from all over Europe to attend LFCC. France, Sweden, Holland, and Italy were represented...and one guy from London. All that travel for him! We took some photos, headed out to dinner at a legitimate Italian restaurant, and went to bed far too late considering we had to be up at 6am and hadn't slept in 20 hours. The hotel room we were staying in was a twin room with an extra cot bed. The two girls had the beds and I let John take the cot bed because he drove us down. I used a cushion as a pillow, a towel as a blanket, and drifted into a blissful 45 minutes of sleep.

(Clare, Winston, Myself, Hannah, Kaylee, and Christa)


At the ungodly hour of 6am, we woke up, met Kaylee, and started walking towards Earls Court 2 for another fun-filled day at Comic Con...then it started raining. Hard. By the time we got to EC2, we were all soaking wet and you could have hung your coat on my nipples. Ironically, as soon as we entered the queue (we were about 50th in place this time!) it stopped raining and didn't start raining again until after we entered the building. I deliberately wanted to start queuing at 7am on Sunday instead of 8am because I knew I'd have to get in early to guarantee decent virtual queuing tickets for Summer Glau, Juliet Landau, and Robert Knepper's autographs. It worked! We were in the building by 9:05am and my virtual queuing numbers were 7 (Robert Knepper), 13 (Juliet Landau), and 65 (Summer Glau). I could relax at this point. My photo shoot with Summer was scheduled for 9:30am at photo area C and I could live happily in the knowledge that my autographs shouldn't be a problem. Woohoo! Summer's photo shoot went off without a hitch. She had a big smile etched across her face for the entire photo shoot and looked beautiful...especially when you consider it was 9:30am on Comic Con weekend. I usually look like a troll until at least midday.

(myself and the wonderful Summer Glau...photo of a photo again)

That's three of the "Firefly" cast ticked off my bucket list. Three down, six to go! I exited Summer's photo shoot and found myself friendless. Everybody had left me all on my lonesome. To counteract this depressing turn of events, I joined Juliet Landau's autograph queue. This turned out to be the highlight of my weekend. While waiting for Juliet to finish up with the person before me, I started talking to Deverill, who was with Juliet at her autograph table. He asked me who I was cosplaying as and I explained that I wasn't cosplaying, this is just the way I dress. He asked me what I do for a living and I briefly explained my three jobs...my main job, my job as an agent, and my job writing for this blog (even though the money I earn for this one is minimal). Deverill seemed very interested in the blog and asked me what shows I'm currently reviewing. I explained that I'm reviewing "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" and that the project was going to take 18 months, over 750 hours, and roughly 1,000,000 words. Suffice to say he was surprised. I gave him a business card and explained to him that I'd love to interview Juliet about her time on the shows as part of the reviews. Deverill seemed genuinely happy about the idea and after it was my turn to meet Juliet, Deverill filled Juliet in on the blog and the interview. Juliet seemed equally overwhelmed at the scope of my review project and seemed equally forthcoming at the prospect of an interview. If you had told me a year ago that I'd be working as an agent, be running a successful blog that uploads to MoviePilot and WarpedFactor, and that I'd be interviewing the likes of Juliet Landau, I'd have told you to lay off the drugs. My conversation with Juliet was absolutely wonderful! We talked about her time writing issues #24 & #25 of Angel's comic book continuation series, we talked about her time on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", the possibilities of where the Drusilla character could go, which season she thought was the strongest, and her highly emotional video that she dedicated to her mentor and teacher Susan Peretz just after she passed away. For me, this 5-minute conversation was 16 years in the making. It's no secret that "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" are my favourite shows of all time. I started watching Buffy in 1998, which was during the show's original second season run. Drusilla was one of the most prominent characters of that season so Juliet has always held a special place in my heart. Over the years I've met some of my idols and walked away a little disappointed. In the case of Juliet, I walked away feeling euphoric and had to pinch myself to realise that it wasn't a dream. Throughout the rest of Sunday, I bumped into Deverill and Juliet a few more times and every single time they smiled at me, said 'hi', and made a point of reassuring me that the interview was going to take place. What more could you possibly ask for?!

After my incredible conversation with Juliet, I met Hannah, Hayley, and John again and queued up to meet Robert Knepper and get his autograph. Unlike most people, I know Robert primarily from "Carnivale", not "Prison Break". As soon as I grabbed the 8x10 of Tommy Dolan from "Carnivale", we got chatting about "Carnivale". Robert explained to me that Clancy Brown and himself attended school together and worked together on some theatre performances. Clancy Brown plays Brother Justin in "Carnivale", who is actually the guy that eliminates Tommy Dolan from the show. Oh, the irony. We spent a good few minutes discussing "Carnivale" and Robert was more than happy to keep talking without needing to be prompted by me with further questions. We also talked about his upcoming role in the final two Hunger Games films, where he will be playing Antonius. As I was leaving, I even managed to get a photo with him at the autograph table! SO DID HANNAH, WHO DIDN'T BUY AN AUTOGRAPH! WHAT A GUY!

It was now approaching 11:00am and my photo session with Stan Lee was scheduled for midday. I knew that I'd need to be over by photo area A as early as possible for that session due to the insane amount of people that were going to be a part of the occasion. Before heading over there, however, I decided to go and get Summer's autograph. Summer's autograph queue moved surprisingly quickly and it wasn't long before I was face-to-face with Summer Glau, another one of my idols. Coming into the event, I knew that Summer was a little shy. I'd watched countless videos of her on YouTube and she came across as someone that enjoyed her profession, but also enjoyed being away from the spotlight, which I can appreciate. I didn't get a great deal of time with Summer because she was one of the busiest guests of the weekend, but we talked briefly about her role on Angel's "Waiting In The Wings" and how she got the part of River Tam on "Firefly". Summer never stopped smiling throughout our exchange and she even personalised my autograph with a quote from her character on "Firefly" - "No power in the 'verse can stop me"...


I do wish that I'd gotten a little more time with Summer and left more of an impression, but that's down to me, not Summer. Also, Summer's boyfriend (that's my assumption) was at the convention with her and he was also a really polite guy. As myself and Hannah were leaving Summer's autograph table he wished us a good day and said he hoped that we're enjoying the convention. That was nice of him.

11:30am hit and I ran over to photo area A ready for my Stan Lee photo. Outside of Joss Whedon, Stan Lee had more influence on my childhood from an entertainment standpoint than anyone else in the world. To say that I was overwhelmed about getting a photo with him would be an understatement. I knew going in that I'd have but a few seconds because of the sheer volume of people he had to get through, but that wasn't important to me. What was important was that I was about to create a memory that would last a lifetime and I'd be able to thank the man face-to-face for everything he's done for me. Life rarely gives you these opportunities and this one really was once in a lifetime as LFCC was Stan's last ever European appearance. The amount of people crowding around photo area A was shocking. I've got to give a huge shout-out to Phil, who was running the photo area at this time. People were restless, people were trying to sneak into the queue, but Phil handled it all masterfully. He kept everyone off of the white lines (the queuing area), and boomed his instructions repeatedly so that everyone could hear him. The disabled pass holders, the gold pass holders, and the silver pass holders went first. Then it was people with ticket numbers 1-50, 51-75, 76-100 (me!), and so on. If you gave that role to a less experienced member of the Showmasters team, it would have been a nightmare. Well done, Phil! I believe that Stan got through about 2,000 photos that day. For a man that is 91 years old, Stan doesn't act it. He went to film his cameo in "The Avengers: Age Of Ultron" on Friday morning, did an extra 5-hour autograph session on Friday, then an insane amount of autograph sessions, photo sessions, and talks through the weekend. By Sunday, he was understandably exhausted. Yet, he was still smiling his way through every single photo that I saw. Was I upset that I only got a few seconds with Stan? No way. It's STAN LEE! A few seconds with Stan Lee is incredible! He had a lot of people to get through and it would have been unfair to slow the photo session down and leave some people disappointed.

(the living legend that is Stan 'The Man' Lee...I was so overwhelmed I forgot to smile.)

From Stan's photo session, it was a quick dash to the dreaded photo area E for my photo with Juliet Landau. After the debacle of the day before at this photo area, I was apprehensive. When the photo session started 20 minutes later than scheduled, I was more apprehensive. I was determined to get a photo with Juliet, especially after our wonderful talk a few hours earlier! Thankfully, after the 20-minute delay, everything went off without a hitch. I managed to get my photo with Juliet and I kept it close to me like Gollum with the ring until I was able to safely store it. As I was leaving, I told Juliet that I'd speak to her really soon and she responded with equal enthusiasm.

(the spectacular Juliet Landau and myself)

By this point in the day, it was 1:45pm. I'd done everything I needed to do at LFCC except my photo with Amy 'Lita' Dumas, my photo with Sibel Kekilli, and my autograph with Gethin Anthony. As I had an hour or so before my next photo session, I decided to go and meet Gethin Anthony. Gethin was insanely friendly and exciteable...and much more attractive in real life than he was as Renly Baratheon. Gethin joked about the fact he rehearsed the 'manscaping' scene with Finn Jones in his flat the night before filming it to help eliminate the awkwardness and giggles before filming. Plus, it helped them get their technique down before filming. Talk about dedication! I talked to Gethin a little more about Renly and about his new role in "Aquarius", where he's playing Charles Manson! That should be interesting! I blagged a photo with Gethin at the autograph table and so did Hannah, yet again, without even buying an autograph! The amount of freebies she gets for riding my coattail, I tell you! My eighth and final autograph of the convention and all eight guests ranged from 'great' to 'amazing'. 

Before heading to my final two photo shoots of the weekend, myself, Hannah, Hayley, and John decided to get a group photo around the TARDIS. We ended up taking four different poses and then argued amongst ourselves over who could keep which one. Here's the one I ended up keeping...

(Hayley immediately grabbing for the gear shift...I swear, some things never change)

With no energy left, a bruised shoulder from carrying a rucksack all weekend, four swollen toes, a back ache, and knee ache, I hobbled over to photo area B for my photo shoot with Amy Dumas. There's not really much to say about photo shoots, if I'm honest. It started on time, which is always helpful. Amy was all smiles, the photo was taken, and as I was leaving I wished her a happy holiday in Portugal (she's going straight from London to Portugal to go surfing). Due to Amy's photo session running according to schedule, I managed to get to Sibel's photo shoot with a little time to spare. Amy's started at 3pm and Sibel's started at 3:20pm, so I was a little worried that I'd be stuck at the back of the queue. Thankfully, I was in the first 10 people to get there! The young man who was running photo area D at this time was super helpful and really helped facilitate the process so that it ran smoothly. It was my most relaxed photo session of the weekend. LFCC was Sibel's first convention as far as I'm aware and she walked into the photo area looking a little nervous. I've got to say, like Gethin Anthony, Sibel is must prettier off-screen than she is on-screen for "Game Of Thrones". Our photo was taken and it looks like a wedding photo because I'm wearing a suit and she's wearing a white dress...


After my photo shoot with Sibel, I was finished for the weekend! It was time to relax! All I had to do was wait for Hannah and Hayley to get their T. J. Thyne autographs. I've got to say, even though I personally didn't meet T. J., he was fantastic. He hugged every single person that went to his autograph table (once at the beginning and once at the end), he gave almost everyone a little gift, and he spent a lot of time talking to everyone. That's the kind of guest that comes along very infrequently. If you're a convention organiser and you're looking for a good guest that's going to entertain everyone and allow everyone to leave feeling happy, book T. J. Thyne! Finally, it was great to see a few of the guests browsing the merchandise stalls as I was leaving on Sunday afternoon. Witnessing them be a part of the show as a fan and not just as a guest is always a delight. As I was leaving the venue, I noticed that Showmasters were handing out programmes of the event for free! I paid £5 for that fucker on Saturday!

To conclude, LFCC was a mixed bag this year, but it was certainly more positives than negatives overall. Excluding Saturday afternoon, I had a very enjoyable experience and will be back for LFCCW this October. As far as the problems go, Showmasters have assured us that they have a handle on the situation. They're talking about making next year's LFCC pre-booking only (no buying on the door) and brainstorming other ways to improve the largest convention of its kind in Europe. LFCC this year was far from perfect for me, but I know that my weekend was drastically better than a lot of people's, so I don't really have anything major to complain about outside of the lack of organisation, the overcrowding on Saturday afternoon, and the lack of decent air conditioning.

If you attended LFCC, how was your weekend? Did you have a positive experience? A negative one? How can Showmaster improve? Who was your favourite guest? Were you offended that the "Game Of Thrones" commentary special guest turned out to be a piƱata of Joffrey? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section as first and foremost I'm a passionate fan of conventions. Thank you so, so much for reading my review! If you enjoyed it, please pass it along to your friends and help spread the word. Tweet it, share it on Facebook, print it out and give it to your grandma...I'm sure you get the gist.

Stay safe and exist to inspire.

- Shangel


FINAL SCORE: 7/10

15 comments:

  1. Shane what a great review I enjoyed meeting you Saturday it was an honour I wasn't there long but I still enjoyed it

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  2. Glad to see you mostly had a good time at LFCC! Huge congratulations for landing an interview with Juliet Landau!!! Can't wait for that! No one deserves it more than you. I would have loved to meet her, Anthony Head and Robert Knepper (because of Prision Break not Carnivale :p)

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    1. Thank you very much, Bhavna! :D. Is "Prison Break" worth watching?

      - Shangel

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  3. This is an awesome review Shane! Hope I'll be able to meet you at a Con soon :) Thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

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  4. It was so good to see you Shane! :) Awesome review and very accurate lol

    I agree about Summer, Juliet and Stan Lee being absolutely fantastic! It was such an honor to meet them. Looking forward to your interview with Juliet!
    And TJ Thyne was awesome! Got a hug, a selfie and a bug :P <3

    I hope your feets and back have gotten better and soon you'll only remember the fangasm moments and the bad ones will be forgotten in time C:

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  5. Oh Shane! This review makes me feel as if I experience LFCC right alongside you which is amazing because I am on the other side of the world! It sounds like aside from some not so fun times you had an amazing time!

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  6. Also, it is wonderful to hear that the guests are amazing people. I would love to talk to Juliet about her role as Dru - I want to know what her favourite and least favourite parts of the role were!

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    1. Perhaps those things will be answered in the interview, Tash ;)

      - Shangel

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  7. Amazing review Shane, it's like reliving parts of the week-end through you! And you mentionned me, yay, I feel all special :D. Thank you for all the tips and explanations during the event, I would've been so lost without you, I had no idea how those tickets' numbers thingies worked! And I totally agree with you on the guy who handled the queue of the Stan Lee photoshoot! I was in the same session as you, just way behind (700--something) and he really did a great job, keeping it organised and even with a little humor. Also, as a non-English person lol, I was quite impressed by how disciplined and calm people were during the various queueings. Could've been muuuuch more chaos!

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    1. There are two things us English people are good at, Kaylee...drinking tea and remaining calm in queues :P. Thank you for reading!

      - Shangel

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  8. Thanks for your awesome review!
    LFCC sounds like an amazing event indeed.
    Hope to go to one similar in future :)

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    1. Thank you for reading, Frosty! ;). Where abouts do you live?

      - Shangel

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  9. Danielle Willmott17 July 2014 15:39

    Wow! The first half sounded awful, and heat making everything worse :( I'm glad the rest of the con was good though! I'm so happy you had such a great meeting with Juliet, she sounds lovely and I'd love to meet her one day. Robert Knepper was brilliant in Prison Break, to portray such a vulgar character but still make me like him..

    This was great Shangel, whilst reading this, I felt like I was there with you, good job :)

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  10. Looking forward to your interview with Juliet :) I was crewing in the cosplay area, we are external but still wear the blue tees. Defo issues with communication and crew not being given enough knowledge (from what I could see) but think our team did well, since we tunred into 50% info booth, 50% cosplay area! Had to deal with many attendees, who very understandably were upset, hot and fed up of being given the wrong info by the internal crew. I hope these will be resolved in futire events. I would have loved to have had the chance to meet more guests - but did a get chance to grab a phot with Juliet on Saturday! :) Becca xx

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  11. Written is such detail! Great review! Love your work..

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