Monday, 27 April 2015

Wales Comic Con 2015 Part I - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review :-

• Nicholas Brendon (Xander from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)

• Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam from “Firefly”)
• RVD (Wrestler)
• Eric Bischoff (Former President of World Championship Wrestling)
• Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon in “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ross Mullan (The White Walkers in “Game Of Thrones”, The Silence in “Doctor Who”, and The Teller in Doctor Who’s “Time Heist”)
• Conan Stevens (The Mountain, Gregor Clegane in the first season of “Game Of Thrones”)
• Mark Sheppard (Badger in “Firefly” and Crowley in “Supernatural”)
• Andy Kellegher (Polliver in “Game Of Thrones”)
• Josephine Gillan (Marei in “Game Of Thrones”)

Before we get started, a quick note...




If you enjoy this review, please subscribe to my blog! Over on the right 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 doing “Game Of Thrones”, “Firefly”, “Chuck”, “Dollhouse”, “Supernatural”, “Doctor Who”, “The Walking Dead”, and more, in due course.






Yesterday, I attended my third “Wales Comic Con” event, which seems to increasingly deliver the utmost quality with every passing one. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, once again, your friendly, neighbourhood Shangel has finished quickly...that's what she said. As far as I’m concerned, Jaime and the Mercury Promotions team run the best signing events in the UK, bar none. In fact, I said as much when I ranked the conventions I attended in 2014. Now, this review will be slightly shorter than the last two (still not short!) because I’m not going to spend much time talking about the layout of the event. I’ve done that in depth twice already and nothing has changed in regards to the buildings used, where the autograph areas are, where the photo area is, etc., so if you’re looking for basic information such as the layout and structure of the event, check out this review or this review. Like the events preceding it, “Wales Comic Con” took place at the Glyndŵr University in Wrexham, Wales, which is a fabulous event for conventions. When I attended my first event here, I was sceptical about having an ever-growing convention spread over a university campus, but I’ve grown to adore the campus and consider it my favourite venue for events these days.

 

I’ve mentioned this repeatedly before, but it’s worth mentioning again for the new readers, that i consider “Wales Comic Con” to be the ECW of the convention scene. For those of you unaware, ECW was a wrestling company in the mid-90’s and early 2000’s. It wasn’t the biggest company, it didn’t have the financial luxuries of the big two companies, but it made the audience an interactive part of the show. Everyone felt included, everyone felt like they were a family, and everyone bonded through this mutual love. This is exactly how “Wales Comic Con” has operated since I started attending their events. They make each and every person feel included, welcome, and important. I don’t think any signing event can compare to them in regards to caring for their attendees, listening to constructive criticism, and tweaking their almost-perfect system for the bettering of everyone’s experience. Listening to constructive criticism, eh? Who’d have thought that listening to your fans and making their experience more positive would lead to growth?! Mind-blowing development, people! Yet, so few companies do it. Especially the bigger ones. Jaime and the team truly go out of their way to give attendees an experience as opposed to a straight-up signing event. There’s a gaming zone, there’s the Owl Rescue team (accompanied by real owls you can hold!), replica movie and TV vehicles, a gigantic inflatable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters”, an area to play card games, and the usual merchandise stalls, autograph areas, and photo areas that make up the core of a signing event. Usually after an event, I have a handful of complaints or things that annoyed me. In this instance, I have zero. The only thing worth noting is that the autograph area where some of the bigger guests were situated (Nicky Brendon, Sean Maher, Matt Ryan, Emmett Scanlan, Mark Sheppard) got rather congested between 11am-1pm, which made it a little confusing as to who was queuing for which guest. However, this is merely a by-product of growth, and it wasn’t anywhere near a big enough deal for me to warrant it being a ‘complaint’. I could see that effort was made into trying to avoid this, as the merchandise stalls towards that end of the building were as far away from the guests as possible within the space available.

 (The autograph hall - photo credit Howard Crowe)



With the one minor confusion out of the way, let’s concentrate on the hundred or so positive things about the event. My last two “Wales Comic Con” events were ranked as 8.5/10...and I’m a notoriously harsh ranker (I’ve also been called a word many times that rhymes with ‘ranker’). These scores are the highest I’ve ever given for a signing event...until now. I consider this event a solid 9/10, and it’s closer to 9.5 than it is 8.5. Part of this is the atmosphere of the event, part of this is the temperament and attitude of Jaime and the team, part of this is the great photo backdrop...there are many reasons why “Wales Comic Con” is closing in on a perfect score, but one of the most significant is the line-up! I will freely admit that Jaime’s tastes match mine rather terrifically. He’s a big wrestling fan, big “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” fan, and big “Game Of Thrones” fan. In fact, earlier in the year we discussed “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” guests, and I gave him a list of people to consider for future events that wouldn’t be ridiculously expensive. Taking this event as an example, I had six studio photos booked, seven autographs to get, and another ten people were on my ‘maybe’ list, depending on funds and/or time. Some of the more notable names from this event included Nicholas Brendon, Sean Maher, Mark Sheppard, Mark Addy, Matt Ryan, Emmett Scanlan, Eve Myles, Rob Van Dam, Eric Bischoff, Dave Prowse, and Garrett Wang. When you add in the other 30+ guests, you have one helluva line-up!

 (The photo building)



Summing up “Wales Comic Con” is easy, so I’m going to use a quote from one of my previous reviews before diving into my day...



“You don’t have to be a diehard convention attendee to enjoy this event. You don’t have to be going with a group of friends. If you go alone, you’ll soon find yourself talking to people in queues because every person at “Wales Comic Con” shares a plethora (good word!) of common interests. It’s every bit as much of a family day out as it is a gathering of sci-fi nerds. Don’t let the stigma of the word ‘convention’ scare you off, gentle readers. These events are not just comprised of a collection of basement-dwellers taking their annual trip out their parents’ basement. Granted, there are a few of those too, but mostly it’s a group of people that have been brought together because of their passion for something. That’s the word I’d most associate with “Wales Comic Con” in all honestly: passion.”



Also, before diving into my day, I’d like to take a moment to specially thank the people at WCC that approached me and said “hi” because of this blog, and said that they attended “Wales Comic Con” because of my insistent nagging on my Buffyverse fan page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BTVSFC). I really appreciate you guys coming over to say “hi” and to say that you enjoy my writing work! Also, I’d like to thank the Buffyverse fans in attendance for being so talkative in Nicky’s queues and making the day even more enjoyable. Talking about Joss’ work always makes the day go faster! As far as friends that I saw at this event goes, I’m going to avoid naming anyone for the most part (unless I spent significant time with them). I have a habit of missing someone out and then I feel bad, so I’m gonna name nobody instead!

 

Okey dokey, let’s dive in!



Mere hours before “Wales Comic Con”, DISASTER STRUCK...pause for effect, pause for effect...Hayley - my housemate – was having car troubles. In that it broke. Like, destroyed engine broke. Those of you that have read my previous convention reviews know that I despise driving to conventions. I’ve always got so much to think about, to worry about, to remember, and to plan that I simply cannot abide having to worry about driving as well. Plus, I have insomnia, and with all those adrenaline peaks and falls through a convention day, there’s a very good chance I’d fall asleep at the wheel. Don’t fret, gentle readers! My friend and fellow Buffyverse obsessive, Clare, was there to save the day. Despite my incessant mentioning of the event, Clare failed to realise that “Wales Comic Con” was so close and that it contained a certain Mr. Nicholas Brendon. When I mentioned it to her, she quickly snapped up the opportunity to meet Nicky and thankfully drove us to the event and back! One less thing to worry about! I think this merits a patented Shangel arm-flail of joy ----> \O/



We left sunny ol’ (read: still dark) Gloucester at 6:30am (ugh), ready to arrive at WCC somewhere between 8:45-9am. After a smooth, painless, the-car-has-seat-warmers trip, we arrived in the beautiful Wrexham by 9am and were in the queue by 9:05am. Of course, Clare deciding to come last minute meant that she was in a different queue to myself and Hayley, having to buy her ticket on the day. Myself and Hayley bumped into Jules, notable James Marsters obsessive and all-around lovely lady, and spent the next hour discussing conventions, our plans for the day, and, you guessed it, James. The hour’s wait flew by and before I knew it we were in the entrance building receiving our wristbands. Coming into all conventions – especially busy ones like this one – I write a detailed guide for myself on what I have to get done at what times. I plan my day thoroughly. I find out my photoshoot times and talk panel times, as these are fixed, then I fill in the autographs and other activities around them. With my first photo not taking place until 12:00noon, I had about an hour and a half to get some autographs done before my manic afternoon was upon me. With Hayley by my side to play Hannah’s usual signing event role of designated photo-taker, I headed over to Rob Van Dam’s queue first. RVD is a wrestling legend. He’s a former WWE and ECW champion, he’s been on mainstream television for almost twenty years with very few breaks, and he’s in my top 15 favourite wrestlers of all-time. Suffice to say, I was a little nervous.



To be fair to myself, I don’t really get nervous talking to celebrities anymore. Don’t get me wrong, if face-to-face with Sarah Michelle Gellar or Nathan Fillion, a geek would squeal, but outside of that I’ve become pretty confident and remember that they’re just people. Yes, human beings just like you and me. It’s easy to forget this fact when face-to-face with a childhood hero or someone you’ve admired for most of your life, but they’re simply regular people. They just happen to be on TV. Before attending conventions, I like to do some background research on everyone I’m going to meet – usually with a few things from their lesser known work because they’ll be answering questions about their most known work all day – and use these as ice-breakers and means by which to steer the conversation. Previously, I devised a three-category process by labelling convention guests. These are :-



·       The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you give them a comment, they’ll respond or smile gratefully. However, they won’t carry the conversation forward, you have to. These are the most common type of guest, and this is what you expect when meeting someone at a convention. This is a great category to be a part of.

·       The Groucho/Big Guest: There are two aspects to this category. Firstly, you have the groucho. The groucho is there for monetary purposes or is generally just having a bad day, or is a bit of an ass. If you meet enough people, one of them is bound to be an ass! The grouchos aren’t interested in conversations above a few words. They’ll say ‘hi’ (sometimes they don’t bother with that), sign, say ‘bye’ (sometimes), and you’re on your merry way. Of course, in certain situations this is relevant and expected, which brings me to the second part of this category, the big guest. Some guests are going to be insanely popular. Such as Stan Lee at LFCC ’14, who had an entire building to himself. When you get a huge queue like that, the guest can’t take a lot of time with everyone. If they did, many people would go home disappointed at not getting to meet them at all. Therefore, the convention company and the guest want to get through as many people as possible. You cannot have a huge guest and expect to get above a minute or two with them, which is perfectly fair.

·       The Conversationalist: This is easily my favourite type of guest. They’ll answer your questions with a smile, ask you questions in return, and are happy to chat for an extended period of time (extended = above 2-3 minutes), regardless of where the conversation leads or how long you’ve been talking. Obviously, there has to be some cut-off point if there is a queue behind you, but you leave the experience feeling euphoric and like you gained a lot more than just the autograph you queued for.



I will be giving each guest I met one of these three labels as a reference tool in case you have the opportunity to meet them in the future. By the way, zero of the people I met at “Wales Comic Con” fell into the ‘groucho/big guest’ category. Even the people with large queues like Nicky Brendon and Sean Maher gave me adequate time. More than that in Nicky’s case.



RVD’s autograph was £20, which is more than reasonable for a wrestler of his stature and legacy. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that RVD was offering photos at the autograph table for free, which is quite rare for the larger guests (£20+). I spent a solid 5 minutes talking to Van Dam about the wrestling industry. I knew he’d wrestled for Preston City Wrestling the day before, so I asked him about the experience. He loved it. He also adored the fans at the venue and said it felt more like a party than a wrestling show. We talked about the state of independent wrestling in the UK and how it seems to have gone through something of a boom period in the last couple of years, with small independent companies managing to get 1,000+ people into local leisure centres and sports halls. We talked about “PCW”, “Superstars of Wrestling”, “4FW”, and some other local indies before moving on to discuss the indie scene in the United States, and how “Ring Of Honor” posted their most financially successful year in history in 2014. With Jeff Jarrett’s (who was at this event!) new promotion starting up in 2015, TNA still clawing to life, Lucha Underground, Ring Of Honor, and more starting to get into the swing of things, there’s more choice around than just WWE than there has been for the past decade. RVD said he’s having so much fun on the indies (and making good money) that he may stay there instead of returning to the WWE at any point in the near future. RVD is also a huge comic book fan and owns his own comic book store. As the new Avengers film, “Age Of Ultron” is already out here in the UK, I asked Rob if he’d had a chance to check it out yet. He said he hadn’t because he wasn’t aware it was out here, but said he’d be sure to watch it before leaving and thanked me for notifying him. RVD is exactly how you’d imagine him to be. Completely relaxed, totally chilled, says ‘dude’ a lot, and loves to talk! I got more time with Rob than I was expecting, plus a photo at the table, and left the experience very happy. Guest level: The Conversationalist.


 

I knew that RVD, Eric Bischoff, Nicky Brendon, and Sean Maher would have the biggest queues out of the people I wanted to meet, so I wanted to get them out of the way as quickly as possible – before the regular entry ticket holders could come in at 11:00am if possible. While I didn’t get this done, I did manage to get RVD done, Sean Maher done, and was with Nicky by 11:00am, which made my day so much easier. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of having a good plan at conventions. After leaving Rob’s table feeling rather euphoric, I decided to head over to Sean Maher. Sean, Sean, Sean...Sean has been the most elusive creature I’ve ever encountered on the convention scene. The first three times I was supposed to meet him over the past four years, he cancelled. This is absolutely fair. Work must come first. I completely understand. However, I was getting a little desperate to meet him by this point. I didn’t allow myself to think he was coming – despite reassurances from Jaime – until he was in my eye-line. I knew he’d landed in England, but he could have been sick or had to fly back. Therefore, until I caught a glimpse of that glorious beast, I was going to allow myself absolutely zero excitement. This worked great in theory. However, when I did catch a glimpse of Sean, a noise echoed from the back of my throat that I swear wasn’t human. It was more like a mating call for a possum. Luckily, I did this out of earshot of Sean. Thank you, God!



Sean’s queue was the biggest of any guest at this point in the morning. However, even with that said, I wasn’t in the queue longer than 10 minutes because it was still before 11am. Sean had a “no posed photos” sign up, which was fair based on his queue size. After getting to the front, I proceeded to exclaim – rather enthusiastically – “YOU’RE HERE!”, to which he replied “I AM!”. Hilarious start. I’ve got to mention that Sean’s sporting a beard right now that really suits him. I had to get that out of the way. We talked about “Firefly”, which was mandatory, and that his speech in the pilot episode, “Serenity”, regarding River was epic. We talked about “Con Man” and how excited I am for his role to come in the first season (reuniting with Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion!). At this point, things got a little deep. I explained to Sean that three of my closest male friends are gay, and I’ve spent the past 10 years watching them all struggle with their identity and trying to hide from who they are. Having famous people be out and proud in the public eye makes their struggles that much easier. The fact that these people are incredible human beings, like Sean and Neil Patrick Harris, is all the more inspiring. Sean seemed genuinely touched by my words and maintained eye-contact with me throughout my entire one-minute monologue on this issue. He felt wonderful, I felt wonderful, and it was a magical moment. I thanked Sean for coming and was on my merry way. Guest level: The Responder. However, this was due to Sean’s queue size, not Sean. If he were less busy, he’d easily have fallen into the conversationalist. Two down, two wonderful experiences that exceeded my expectations. Next up: Nicky. The most important of the day on many levels.

 (I love the 'FINALLY' part *wipes away tears of joy*)

 

Nicky’s had a rough time the past six months. A really rough time. He’s been battling severe depression, he’s been arrested a few times for silliness while intoxicated, and he’s been struggling. He talked about all of this very openly at the Buffy Fanmeet in Frankfurt in December. Nicky is very open about his struggles. Therefore, after his most recent problems a month ago, I decided to arrange a little “Support Nicky Project” on my Buffy Facebook page. If anyone wanted to give something back to Nicky. To send a little gift or write a letter offering words of love or support, or encouragement, they could. I gave everyone an address to send the letters/etc. to, rounded them all up, and placed them in a bag that I bought, which stated the phrase “I’m going to make you smile (lots and lots and lots and lots)”. After buying the bag, one of my friends pointed out that I could have easily bought this bag in a sex shop. I did not, but now I can never look at the bag the same way again. I also printed off some messages that people sent to me online, put them in envelopes, and added them to the bag too. The Buffyverse fandom has given me so much throughout my life since I was eight years old. When my father left, the show helped me through it. When I was being bullied at school, the show helped me through it. When I was battling my own depression, the show helped me through it. Depression is an issue that is very dear to my heart, as I battled with it extremely badly for four and a half years. Hearing about Nicky’s struggles made me want to do something to help. Just to give him a little encouragement and improve his mental state in some small way. While this conversation was going to be a deep one, I always like to open with a joke. Nicky remembered me from the Fanmeet in December, and I referenced the fact that the first words he ever said to me were “weren’t we just in the bathroom together?”, to which Nicky laughed and said “yeah, that sounds like me”. Then things got serious.

 

I mentioned to Nicky that he was very open about his struggles with alcohol and his struggles with depression at the Fanmeet, and it left me wanting to help. I told him about the “Support Nicky Project” and then presented him with the bag of positivity. Nicky said it was very ‘sweet’ of me and looked as though he might burst into tears. You could just feel that it meant a lot to him. He was completely sincere in his thankfulness. After he had a little time to take it all in, we had a very long conversation about depression. I talked about my previous struggles with the disease (which I’ve already talked about in great depth on this blog repeatedly before, so I’ll skip the details here), and Nicky was genuinely interested in my story because he would relate to it so much. While ensuring I was comfortable with answering his questions, he probed further (minds out the gutter!). He respectfully asked how my two closest friends passed away in 2007, he asked how I tried to kill myself. The reason for me telling Nicky my story wasn’t simply to bond, it was to show him that it’s possible to beat depression. It doesn’t matter how hopeless, numb, and lost you feel. It doesn’t matter that you’re in such a dark place that you can’t envisage ever crawling your way out. You can. I have. I was in a mental state for years where I thought I’d never, ever be happy again, let alone happier than ever before. In 2011, I didn’t want to live anymore feeling the way I felt for so long. In 2015, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I told Nicky that he is capable of beating this disease, that he is going to overcome it and be happy again, and that he needs to remember that he’s important. Not just to us, not just to his friends and family, but to himself. A lack of self-worth is one of the most significant aspects of depression, so I really emphasised to Nicky that he needs to realise that he’s special. I obviously won’t go into what Nicky said because it would be inappropriate and disrespectful, but I feel that Nicky and myself really bonded over our respective battles with depression. I told Nicky I’d see him later in the day at the photo op., grabbed a photo with him at the table, and left feeling wonderful. Nicky looks great at the moment. He’s smiling again, he seems happy again, and he looks to be in a much better mental state than he was in at Fanmeet in December. I’m supposed to be receiving a message from Nicky over the next couple of days, giving his thoughts on the letters, so keep an eye out for that on the BTVSFC Facebook page. Nicky was reading them all on his flight home. Guest level: The Conversationalist. It felt more like cheering up an old friend than it did meeting a celebrity.

 (So great to see a legit smile etched across Nicky's face again)



After the conversation with Nicky, I was a little bit drained. In a good way. But I was a little mentally fried. So, I decided to get Eric’s autograph later in the day, and proceeded to the photo building to relax for 15 minutes before my photo with Eric Bischoff. Photoshoots run like clockwork. You queue, you get to the front, you get a couple of seconds to say ‘hi’ and shake hands, the photo is taken, you say ‘thank you’, and leave. Very quick, very easy, very fluent. “Wales Comic Con” takes a couple of hours to get the photos developed, but I had absolutely zero issues with this. I had six photos to collect at the end of the day, all of them were ready, all of them were easily located, and the lovely lady behind the desk even had four of mine grouped together ready to collect because she remembered me from last year! Customer service level: upgraded. The Eric photoshoot went off without a hitch and I was finished by 12:20pm. He was very friendly. With my next photo, Nicky, scheduled for 12:40pm, I decided to just hang around the photo building. I got talking to a wonderful couple that were both huge fans of Whedon’s work, so we talked our way through the waiting time before the photoshoot started. Nicky’s queue was big. Bigger than anyone else’s except Mark Sheppard. However, I was pretty near the front, so I wasn’t stuck in the queue for too long, which was useful as the sun had come out and I was outside. I’m practically translucent, so more than 5 minutes in the sun results in lobster-Shangel emerging until reverting back to pale a few days later. Nicky remembered me, by name, which is always a wonderful little moment. The photo turned out well! I actually prefer it to my photo from “Fanmeet”. As I was leaving, Nicky whispered “thank you”, and I feel as though he was talking about the letters and the talk, not the photoshoot. I was intending to say goodbye to Nicky later in the day, but sadly he left at about 4:30pm, which was before I was back in the autograph room to say goodbye. Sad times.

(There must have been a glare across this photo of a photo when I took it because my teeth look Simon Cowell-level white)  


With a break before my next photoshoot (2:55pm), I headed over to the “Game Of Thrones” talk, where I queued with Hayley, Clare, Paige, Gabs, and Tom. I wasn’t sure if Mark Addy was attending the “Game Of Thrones” talk as he already had the “Atlantis” one to contend with, and sure enough he wasn’t present for this one. Something else of note is that Brenock O’Connor (Game Of Thrones’ ‘Olly’) was missing. I didn’t see him at the convention all day in the end, but don’t recall seeing a notice or social media announcement that he had to pull out. To those of you that were there, was I being blind or was Brenock absent? Brenock was on my ‘to meet’ list, so this was a bit of a shame.



However, the line-up of guests present was still strong – Conan Stevens (The Mountain, Gregor Clegane, in the first season), Ross Mullan (all of the White Walkers from seasons 2-4), Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon), Andy Kellegher (Polliver), and Josephine Gillan (Marei). While there was no main cast member, I felt the line-up was more than adequate for a “Game Of Thrones” panel. Unfortunately, I was unable to take detailed notes of the talk like I usually do because my phone battery was starting to die rather rapidly, so I’ll be listing the highlights from memory. If you attended the talk and I missed anything of note, please let me know in the comments section!

 

·       Josephine is hilarious. She has no filter. Nor does she have any insecurities whatsoever regarding her body or her role on the show, which I can’t help but respect. She’s also completely honest. No fake niceties. After getting heckled to “get her tits out” from some female attendees, Josephine quipped that she would, but there are children in the audience. This was made even funnier by the fact that the first question of the panel, coming from what must have been a twelve-year-old boy, was “does it make you uncomfortable that everyone in the room has seen your boobs?”. Kill me, kill me now. *dead*

·       Ross Mullan mentioned that the makeup process for the White Walkers is five hours. FIVE HOURS. So he starts at 1am, ready to shoot at 6am, then shoots for 12 straight hours. By the time he gets the makeup and prosthetics off, and showers, it’s somewhere in the region of a 22-hour day. Luckily, he only needs to shoot 3-4 days at a time.

·       Conan Stevens has never seen the show (bar the first season in which he appears), but has read the first five books. He’d read the first two and was a fan before he got the part of The Mountain. In fact, he first auditioned for Khal Drogo.

·       Ross’ most embarrassing moment was falling off a stationary horse. This clip is available on the DVD bloopers and it’s absolutely hilarious. He was also riding bareback, which got a massive chuckle from the audience and a roar of laughter from Josephine because we’re all dirty-minded.

·       Kerry’s most embarrassing moment took place during the first scene of the show that she filmed. Three days before recording, Kerry broke her foot. She’d had her foot in a boot cast for three days before filming and took it off for the first time to record the scene. When she ran to hug Stannis, she tripped, and headbutted him straight in the chest. Oh dear.

·       Kerry also mentioned that because she’s under 16 (16 next month!), during table reads they would use different words instead of the swearwords. She was left thinking, “why are you doing this? I can read!”. She said that they read out the Jon-Ygritte cave scene, which was...interesting.

·       The universal consensus from the panel was that they want to see Tyrion on the throne at the end. Although, Kerry wants to see Stannis sit the Iron Throne...can’t imagine why. They also came to the conclusion that Daenerys is the most realistic choice.

·       Conan hates working with horses. I think he would it a little therapeutic to fake-butcher one in the show. However, he loved his time on “Game Of Thrones”. When asked what he’d change about the character from the books to the show, he said “The Mountain was the same character for all the books”, making a light-hearted joke at the fact that he was replaced for season two. I believe this was down to scheduling conflicts of some kind, but this wasn’t confirmed by Conan himself.

·       Conan has a size 14 (UK) shoe. He’s over a foot taller than me, but we have the same shoe size because I have clown feet...FML.

·       Kerry has two replicas of her face in her bedroom from “Game Of Thrones”. One of them is polystyrene with the greyscale added in, while the other one is an actual wearable version of her face that the show used and let her keep. How weird is it?! You could go as yourself for Halloween! It’d be perfect if you had a spot or bags under your eyes, wouldn’t it? Just slip on another version of your face! Kerry said she likes to leave them out in her bedroom to watch her friends’ reaction to it when they first enter. They get freaked out, which she finds amusing. I’d totally do that too.

·       Ross mentioned that his character, the White Walkers, could use some moisturiser. Kerry quickly said “me too!”. Hilarious.

·       Somebody asked the guests to do their best impression of Ygritte’s “you know nothing, Jon Snow”. Everyone seemed a little hesitant because they didn’t want to offend the people in the audience from the north of England, but Ross decided to say it in the sassiest American accent he could possibly muster, which was beyond brilliant. That man should have his own stage show.

·       When talking about awkward moments on set, Josephine said that it’s somewhat awkward to have a nude scene with 35 crew members in front of you who “are all staring straight down my hole”. Dirtiest. Panel. Ever. I love it!

·       That’s pretty much all I can remember right now. If anything else pops into my head, I’ll add it in due course. I would like to say that the panel went very well. It was entertaining and informative, which are the two key components to any panel. I’ve seen Ross on stage before at “LFCCW”, and he was just as entertaining and interesting at this one. I’ve also seen Kerry on stage before at last April’s WCC, and it’s easy to see how much more confident she’s grown. She was great a year ago, but she’s even better now. Such a smart young woman! Josephine, as described, is hilarious. I haven’t laughed so much at a single individual in a panel since Brad Bell and Tom Lenk at “Hallowhedon 5” in 2013! If funds had permitted, I’d have totally gone to meet Josephine later in the day. Conan was also funnier than expected and it easily showed that he’s a fan of the book series and very educated on the subject. Also, that dude is jacked! 7 feet tall and nothing but solid muscle. Andy was also great as well! All five of them were!




The “Game Of Thrones” panel started about 20 minutes late (happens at every convention), which meant that I had to pace-walk to my photo with RVD, which started about 10 minutes later at 2:55pm. In hindsight, I didn’t need to pace-walk, as 10 minutes was more than adequate time to get there, but I’m a worrier when it comes to convention timings. The RVD photoshoot went incredibly smoothly as well, with Rob doing the ‘R-V-D’ thumb pose with the fans. It was great! He’s always so energetic and friendly! You can’t help but smile when you’re around him. Just the coolest dude on the planet. One of the awesome things about this convention is that Nicky, Kerry, RVD, and Sean all remembered my name from our previous encounters at this convention or at others, which adds a little extra something to the day. Straight after Van Dam’s photo, it was time for Sean’s and Mark Sheppard’s, which happened to be running at pretty much the same time. Luckily, the two photo areas that “Wales Comic Con” uses are both right next to each other, so it was easy to go to Sean’s (I was first in the queue, barring the V.I.P. ticket holders), then bounce across to the back of Mark’s. As I mentioned, Sean remembered my name, shook my hand, wrapped me into a hug, the photo was taken, and I went to the back of Mark’s queue...which was the longest of the day and stretched from the photo building to the autograph building. I’ve never seen a queue that size at WCC for a photo. Perhaps they have been that big before, but I’ve not been there at the time. After Mark was at the event in November, I was expecting his queue to be quite a bit smaller this time. I was so, so wrong. Furthermore, I was pretty much at the back of the queue. No matter, the weather was nice. I had a photo with Mark back in November and while it was good, I knew we could get a better one! And we did! I much prefer this one! Also, Mark told me very enthusiastically that he loved my suit. Hello, ego-boost! Mark’s always a bag of fun. You can tell that people like Mark and Nicky do a lot of conventions. Mark’s totally at ease, always joking around, chatting to the fans outside as he’s walking to the photo building...just a total pro who knows what he’s doing and how to act. Definitely recommend meeting him (same goes to everyone from this convention, actually).

 

Five photos down, one to go! Three autographs down, four to go (which actually became five by the end of the day)! Sadly, due to the schedule change for the “Atlantis” panel, I couldn’t attend the “Firefly” panel, as it clashed with my final photo, Kerry Ingram. I decided to stay in the photo building after my shoot with Mark because it was only about 20 minutes until my photo with Kerry, and I simply couldn’t be bothered to walk back and forth. I’d barely slept in 36 hours, I hadn’t eaten in two days, and the adrenaline spikes and falls of the day were starting to take their toll. However, I was still in exuberant spirits because everything had been tremendous. Kerry arrived, waved at me in the queue because we’ve stayed in semi-contact over the past year, and my last photo of the day was taken! Woohoo! I always feel a weight lift off my shoulders after the last photo at conventions. Granted, I still had a few photos to take at the autograph table, but to some extent I can let myself look a little more shit. So what if the wind messes my hair up?!

 

One and a half hours left to get four (five) autographs! Let’s do this shit! Get yo’ game face on, Shangel! Next up: Conan Stevens. Conan is a giant. I’ve never seen a man in the flesh that was that big. Furthermore, as a former wrestler and a body-building enthusiast, Conan is tall and ripped. I have pretty broad shoulders and arms myself, but you could fit my head into Conan’s upper arm. Very, very physically impressive!...And not just physically! What a guy! Before a convention, as part of my research phase, I distinguish between the “yes” and “maybe” guests based on what I find for those I’m on the fence about. If I’m torn, I research. If I find interesting things to say or interesting things about them, I go for it. Within 30 seconds of researching Conan, my mind was made up. We’re both former wrestlers, he’s read the “A Song Of Ice And Fire” book series, and he instantly struck me as a highly intelligent individual, which was most accurate. Looking at him, it’s easy to get intimidated about going to say ‘hi’ – especially as he pretty much always plays villains. However, if you ever get the chance, I’d strongly encourage you to go meet him. I had a pretty long conversation with him. Longer than I was expecting. We talked about his wrestling career and how he almost signed with WCW back in the day (the president of which was sat next to him, separated by a fire door), but nerve damage forced him out of the wrestling business. That and the lack of money in Australia for wrestling. Conan’s damage was so bad that he couldn’t lift a water bottle above his head! We talked a little about the business and the fact we were both former wrestlers before moving onto “Game Of Thrones”. Conan originally auditioned for Drogo, but they offered him the part of “Sandor”. Conan said “are you sure it’s Sandor?”, wondering who the hell they were gonna cast as The Mountain if this were the case (as he’s much bigger and stronger than his younger brother, Sandor), and they replied saying it was a mistake and that it actually was Gregor, The Mountain, that they were offering him. He joked that in hindsight he shouldn’t have asked them because Sandor went on to be a much bigger character. I told Conan that he was my favourite representation of The Mountain (true story, not just ass-kissing) because he was the closest to the way I imagined him in the books, physically and personality-wise. I said I loved the way he played The Mountain, to which Conan quipped “fucking angry?”. Conan always assumed that Gregor had some sort of medical issue or a brain tumour that made him act the way he did. This holds some weight, as people with acromegaly or dwarfism can have physical complications, one of which is headaches from what I read. It was really interesting and impressive to see the dedication that Conan had showed his character. He said that a friend of his once told him that “there are no small roles, only small actors”, and this is the motto by which he works. And a role, regardless of the amount of lines or screen-time, can be memorable if you make the effort. Conan said that him doing this lead to opportunities such as “Wales Comic Con” in the first place! What a great attitude to have! I asked him if he foresees a Gregor vs. Sandor fight down the line (as Sandor’s death wasn’t seen on screen, it was just imminent, and Gregor’s being experimented on by Qyburn, and the fight has been built up since season one), and he’s of the opinion that it will happen. I am too. I grabbed a photo with Conan at the autograph table (looking like a child in comparison), thanked him, and headed over to Ross Mullan. Guest level: The Conversationalist.

(Who wants to buy me a scanner so these are a higher quality when uploaded? :P ) 


As I mentioned before, I saw Ross at LFCCW last year, but a lack of funds dissuaded me from getting the autograph that I desperately wanted after watching the talk. Nevertheless, I prepared this time. I knew I wanted to meet Ross, so I kept the money aside. Wanna know something cool? Even though the “Wales Comic Con” forums stated that Ross was £15 per autograph, he was actually £10! I’m never gonna complain at being charged less than advertised, but I’d have bought it even at £15 because Ross is such an interesting, intelligent, humourous man. When Ross first auditioned for “Game Of Thrones”, he had no idea what it was. In fact, he went in and said he was there for the “King Of Thrones” audition. Oops. Ross explained the differences between the “Game Of Thrones” and “Doctor Who” experiences. The White Walkers on “Game Of Thrones” are makeup and prosthetics. They take 5 hours to apply (what do you do for five hours?!). The Silence on “Doctor Who” was a mask that he slipped over his head, and The Teller from “Time Heist” was done using animatronics, which Ross enjoyed working with! As I’ve said before, I thoroughly enjoyed The Teller and “Time Heist” in the last season and had the episode second only to “Listen”, so I took even more enjoyment out of meeting Ross. Ross talked about the animatronics processes for a while, before I asked him a question...“what role do you think the White Walkers will play in the end-game of the show?”. Ross doesn’t believe a White Walker will sit the Iron Throne, but believes that they’ll play an important role and eventually be stopped by Daenerys (ice vs. fire). I talked about my theories, and how some characters won’t necessarily be on #TeamFire, such as Bran, who’s currently north of the wall with the Three-Eyed Raven/Crow. I also said I don’t think someone is going to sit on the Iron Throne at the end, and that it’ll either be seven individual kingdoms again or the Iron Throne won’t be of as much importance as the war between White Walkers and humans will be. What a great conversation! So much fun to speculate! Ross also gave me a leaflet for “I Cosplay”, an anti-bullying campaign to stamp-out bullying within the cosplaying community, which sounds like a very worthwhile cause that I intend to read more about in the next few days. Guest level: The Conversationalist.

   


Soon after this, I headed over to Mr. Eric Bischoff, who’s something of a rare convention guest, but absolutely perfect for diehard wrestling fans, as he was one-half of the figureheads of the Monday Night Wars wrestling period, which was easily the most amazing time to be a fan of the business. At almost 60 years old now, Eric still looks pretty damn good! He was everything you’d expect him to be, to be honest. Friendly guy, happy guy, opinionated guy, passionate guy! Hilariously, we spent just as much time talking about “Game Of Thrones” as we did wrestling, as he’s currently halfway through the fourth season. Just after he said that, he yelled “NO SPOILERS!” just in case any were about to come. I said, “no, no, no, no! This is spoiler-free zone, Mr. Bischoff!”, which got a chuckle. I got a picture at the autograph table too! The only difference is that this one cost an additional £5. As Ross was £5 cheaper than advertised, I was more than comfortable with paying it. Guest level: The Responder.

 

I couldn’t do it, gentle readers. After waiting four years to meet Sean, I couldn’t just get one autograph. With Andy Kellegher leaving at about 5pm (I was intending to meet him) and Brenock O’Connor being absent, I decided to use the money to get a second Sean autograph! Why? Because Sean. I had another wonderful little conversation with Sean about his time at “Wales Comic Con”, his career, and the fact that Sean and Jewel (Simon and Kaylee) were the first real ‘happy ending’ couple in any of Joss’ first three shows (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, and “Firefly”). Sean wasn’t aware of this fact, and found it pretty cool. I told Sean it was great to meet him and thanked him immensely for coming. What a top lad!

 

At 5:30pm, it was just Kerry left! As I mentioned, I’ve stayed in contact with Kerry to some extent over the past year, and we talk on Twitter D.M. every now and then, so talking to Kerry was easy! No need for nerves or awkward silences here! We chatted about her day, how her queues compared to last year, and about life in general. She’s sixteen next month, but her birthday falls bang in the middle of her G.C.S.E. exams! I feel her plight. My exams and A-Levels always seemed to fall on my birthday (21st of June...bloody summer birthdays!). Summer birthdays are glorious once you reach adulthood though. I can’t talk about a large section of my conversation with Kerry because, like Nicky earlier, it was too personal, and it’d be disrespectful to do so. I do recommend that you check out Kerry’s YouTube channel, and the hilarious “Let It Go” outtake video. Highlights include “SAY IT WITH MORE EMPHASIS!” and “skillage is an African bum disease”. I laughed. Hard. Meeting Kerry is always fun. She’s an intelligent, smiley young lady that’s clearly dedicated to her craft. She exudes passion whenever she talks about acting, singing, or “Game Of Thrones”, and I’d strongly recommend you go say ‘hi!’ to her in the future if you get the opportunity. The sky’s the limit for her in the future! She’s gonna kill it! Guest level: The Conversationalist.

 

After a wonderful fifteen minutes talking to Kerry (most of which I can’t discuss), I found Jaime, shook his hand, thanked him for putting on a spectacular event, and started the 2.5 hours back to Gloucester. It’s usually at this point in a convention review where I have a summarising paragraph about whether or not I’d attend again and I discuss the overarching pros and cons of the event, but this isn’t needed here. Everything kicked ass! Is there a little room for improvement? Sure! There always will be. However, “Wales Comic Con” is the closest thing in the United Kingdom to a perfect signing event. Guest atmosphere, great line-up, great guests, great organisers, terrific venue...it ticks every single box and makes you want to relive the day again and again. Would I attend again? If you can’t answer that question for yourself, you haven’t been paying attention. If Jaime keeps running these twice a year, I’ll keep attending twice a year. He’s one of the humblest, most hard-working guys on the scene, and I cannot wait to watch “Wales Comic Con” continue to grow and become even more successful. I strongly recommend that you attend in the future. Cannot emphasise that point enough. Oh! Also! I'm sad to report that unlike last time, Hayley didn't trip over a leaflet and slow-mo to the floor. I was as disappointed as you all are.



I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of “Wales Comic Con”. If you attended the event, please leave your own thoughts about the event in the comments section below! If you didn’t attend the event, feel free to leave a comment anyway! See y’all again at WCC in November!


FINAL SCORE: 9/10

10 comments:

  1. Shane, thank you for this wonderful review! Mark Sheppard, oh my god!! You met Badger, Crowley, Tanaka, the X-Files pyro... and so, so many others..
    Nicky, if by any chance you're reading this.. You're an amazing guy! I had the pleasure to meet you in Frankfurt, and it is a memory I'll always cherish. Looking forward to seeing you again soon :) Lots of love.

    ReplyDelete
  2. SHANE I feel really bad because I was right by you in the queue for Kerry's photos and I didn't speak to you! One of the only things I regret about the day actually xD Just thought I'd say that yesterday was my first convention ever and it's thanks to reading your reviews that it managed to be the best day I've ever had :D I knew that I had to get to the photo ops early and I was always near the front of the queue which was amazing! So yeah sorry I didn't actually speak to you if you go next time I won't be so shy and yeah thank you so much for (indirectly) helping me have a really great day! It's also nice to see fellow Gloucestershire people going to conventions I might see you around Gloucester one day you never know ;D

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm so happy to hear Nicky is in great spirits and doing much better. I love reading about other people's interactions with him. He actually cares about and wants to get to know his fans. It's a rarity in today's world. He is one of the most kind snd sincere people I have ever had the please of meeting. Our prayers and love are with you as you continue your journey. DO EPIC. <3

    Shane, thank you for the well written review! I'm glad you had such an awesome Con experience :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Where should I begin?? This is an awesome review! Like every review is. When I read it I want go to a convention right now ^_^. Wales Comic Con sounds really great. If it wouldn't be that far away ;). They also had awesome people. My favourites would have been Mark Sheppard and Eve Myles <3 And my favourite of the favourite is of course our beloved Nicholas Brendon <3. I love him... He is such a wonderful man. As you now I met him two times and he is always so lovely and friendly. I am sooo happy to hear that he is feeling a bit better. Thank you again Shane for this awesome fan project to support Nicky. I hope it helps him and as you wrote in the review he was very happy as you gave him the bag :D That was the intent and the most important thing ^_^.
    And the bag is awesome too ;)

    all the best,
    Melly

    ReplyDelete
  5. Shane thank you for an amazing review. Oh I need to be rich and travel over so I can attend!! I really need that photo of you and Conan though. For the sheer fact I need to see such a tall man looking short!! (I love when people are taller than me)

    I am so glad Nicky appreciated the letters - Nicky you are a treasure and you are awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  6. As bummed as I was that Nick wasn't able to attend Oz Comic Con a couple of weeks ago, I'm so glad he made it to Wales (my Dad would love that, he's welsh :P) so you could give him the awesome gifts and letters. It's so great he's doing better, his character got me through my own depression (I'm sure many others too) and still brightens my day - so for you to show him how much he means to us all was a wonderful thing :) As always, love your reviews!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a wonderful write up, Shane. Makes me wish I could have left Australia to attend it :)

    To Nicky, if you ever happy to read this, it's great to see you smiling again. We missed you at the Oz Comic Con and hope you return Down Under again soon. I too have suffered depression to the point that I wanted to end my life. Some days I still struggle with it (today is one of those days) but having good people around me keeps me together. Knowing that someone loves you is a powerful force. I'm glad to see you look happy and healthy.

    Keep on fighting the fight. The end result is worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for such an excellent review! I know who you are now and remember speaking to you at the front of the Sean Maher photo op queue while I was doing a quick stand in for one of the crew members to take a quick break :) It is so gratifying to know that our visitors enjoy themselves so much at this event especially as every single crew member is a volunteer and we do it for you guys :) Apologies for the initial queue size in the autograph area. A couple of conventions ago we introduced a virtual queue system but this time for some reason the ticket books were forgotten so one of us when on a mad dash shopping trip to obtain them.
    One thing I like about your reviews is finding out about our guests. We're so busy on the day that we don't always get the opportunity to talk to any of them for long beyond making sure that they're ok and have everything they need so it's great finding out a little bit more about them through your words.
    Keep fighting the depression, I know personally exactly how it feels. We'll get through it even if some days it feels like we're hanging on barely by our fingernails :)
    Hope to see you in November!

    Mav (aka 'The Man with the Hat' by the crew)
    @MercuryMavMH

    ReplyDelete
  9. Awesome review. I was the guy who was "chilling" by the photo collection point earlier on in the day, I knew I recognized you from somewhere, turns out that it was from this blog! I found one of your older reviews when I was trying to find out more about the event, so thank you for that because the information was really helpful.

    ReplyDelete