• Joe Altin (Pyp from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Sarah Louise Madison (Weeping Angel/Time Zombie from “Doctor Who”)
• Peter Davison (5th Doctor from “Doctor Who”)
• Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill from “Doctor Who”)
• Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett from “Star Wars”)
1) If this is your first time on "Shangel's Reviews", I'm currently reviewing every single episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" in depth. A list of all the reviews I've written so far can be located here. Yes, I haven’t written one in a while due to my degree, but I am starting up again in a matter of weeks so keep an eye out.
2) If you enjoy my reviews, please subscribe to the blog! Over on the right-hand side there's a little box that says "Follow Shangel's Reviews by Email!". If you put your Email address in there and click "Submit", then confirm your subscription, you will get each review sent straight to your inbox! No junk mail, no bullshit, just my reviews.
With that being said, let’s dive in...
A mere 24 hours after the conclusion of the 2016 edition of “Worcester Comic Con”, I’ve decided to keep those pesky post-con blues at bay temporarily by writing an oh-so-detailed review of my time at the event. Accept no substitutes. This was the first ever event under the “Worcester Comic Con” banner, but the team behind the convention were an experienced bunch, being led by Em-Con’s mastermind, Lee Wallis, and artist extraordinaire, Lee Bradley. With these two at the helm, the rest of the crew was an assortment of Em-Con regulars and experienced guys and gals, including my friends Clare and Kev, amongst others.
Coming into the event, my expectations were low. That’s not to say that I didn’t have faith in the team or that the line-up was poor. In fact, the line-up was terrific for a first-time event and I had full faith in Double Lee (might have to copyright that...). I simply went in with lower expectations because this was a first-time event. Historically, for me personally, first-time events are pretty hit-and-miss, so it’s better to go in low as the only way is up...there’s a dirty pun in there somewhere, I’m sure. Thankfully, this strategy worked to my advantage as I ended up having a fucking wonderful time at “Worcester Comic Con”. Even if I went in with high expectations, I would have been satisfied. Not only was this convention a success for a first-time event, I would have considered it a success even if it wasn’t.
“Worcester Comic Con” took place at the Worcester Arena in, you guessed it, Worcester on Sunday the 21st of August. This was excellent for me for two reasons: 1) I’d never been to Worcester so it was going to be a new city and a new experience. 2) I ONLY LIVE 40 MINUTES AWAY! For people that attended the event or have attended the odd convention, a 40-minute drive might not seem like anything to get excited about. However, the experienced amongst you will know that this is the convention equivalent of a holiday. No hotel needed, no getting up at 6am and travelling for 3 hours...in fact, myself and my friend John didn’t even leave Stonehouse, Gloucestershire until 9:15am! I’d already been queuing for three and a half hours by that point for ‘LFCC’ a few weeks previously! Oh, sweet summer child, it was bliss. Bliss, I tells ya! In addition to the convenience it allowed us, Worcester was a great choice of venue for a multitude of other reasons, chief amongst them the fact that Worcester Arena is an amazing venue for a convention. “Worcester Comic Con” was a legit sellout of 2,000 tickets, plus a few hundred reserved to sell on the day. It was busy enough to give the event an amazing atmosphere filled with excitement and wonder (especially as so many of the attendees had never been to a convention before), but was small enough to not be cramped, overcrowded, and detract from my time with the guests. Attendees go to conventions for different things. Some for Cosplay, some for talk panels, some to catch up with friends, some to browse the merchandise...the list goes on. For me, it’s always been about the guests. To interact with them, hear their stories, and in many cases build a relationship with them that has endured and evolved into friendship.
It was a testament to “Worcester Comic Con” (I can’t abbreviate it to ‘WCC’, as that’s what I call “Wales Comic Con” and I’ll only end up confusing myself...it’s easily done, you know) that even at 4pm, an hour before the scheduled closing (I think), the main hall was still pretty full. Most conventions start to thin out dramatically at 3-4pm, even humongous flagship shows like ‘LFCC’. The attendees were clearly having too much fun to leave early, even with staples of the convention diet being absent from the event, such as Cosplay competitions and stage talks. UPDATE: The ‘Worcester Comic Con’ brain-trust have since announced that the event will be back in 2017 and will bring with it Cosplay competitions and stage talks. Kudos!
Another great thing about the Worcester Arena being used as the venue for the event was that it had a cafe upstairs serving the types of food you expect at conventions – hot dogs, fries, panini’s...basically anything that’ll kill you faster. The prices for such foods were much more reasonable than they usually are at these types of events, which was a pleasant surprise. Best of all was the fact that there was outdoor seating as well as indoor, with the outdoor balcony overlooking the venue and a section of Worcester beyond. I totally forgot to take a picture from up there, but it was awesome.
On yet another positive note, the crew were all friendly, well informed, and spectacular at their jobs. Many of the crew were Em-Con’s regulars so I knew a few already and some others recognised me from Em-Con and came to say “hi” as well. Sadly, the ‘well informed’ part isn’t always true at conventions, so it was great to see that this team were all efficient and up to speed. The ‘early bird’ (10am) ticket holders went into the venue on time and the regular ticket holders (11am) were in on time as well (or even a few minutes early!). As this event was so local and by my standards was relatively relaxed (four autographs, four studio photos), I decided to go for a regular entry ticket on this occasion. I swear, everything I attended at this event started on time. Whether it was the entry queue, guests being at their autograph tables on time, or the studio photo schedule, absolutely everything on my agenda started bang on time. No ‘convention time’ in sight at all. For those of you confused right now, ‘convention time’ is the standard procedure whereby everything is 10 minutes late, which is considered normal and acceptable. While the event didn’t have instant printing (no event of this size does), all four of my studio photos were ready to collect within 15 minutes, and two of them were event brought over to me personally by the crew...now that’s service! Many conventions without instant printing take an hour or two to get the photos developed. This is pretty standard and usually isn’t an issue whatsoever unless you have a photo right at the end of the day. I absolutely hate having everything done at a convention by, say, 4pm, but then having to sit around with little to do until 6pm waiting for the final photo to be developed. It’s a necessary evil and unavoidable, but it can get annoying. I remember at ‘LFCC 2013’, we were all exhausted and ready to go home after a gruelling weekend, but had to sit there for an extra couple of hours waiting for the final photo...it was mine, so suffice to say my friends weren’t too pleased with me on that occasion. The company line for this event was that they’d be developed in 30 minutes. I thought that might be tight, but not only did they deliver, but they halved that time for the four shoots that I was involved in. Very impressive work all around.
You know, at some point I should probably get into the chronological breakdown section of the review...that’s right, ladies and gentlemen, everything until now has been intro. Don’t fret, gentle readers, this review won’t be too much longer...for me, at least...as I only met four guests and there’s little to say about photoshoots. Some of these reviews, when I’ve met 20 people over a weekend, can run into the 25-30 page mark, excluding pictures. Alas, one compliment I always receive about my reviews is that people appreciate the depth and detail, so this is a necessary evil, even if sometimes the prospect of a thirty-page review sends me into a minor meltdown...but the nerdy convention kind.
Myself and John, A.K.A. Johnny Wag-Wags (don’t ask), whom many of you will recognise from a number of my previous reviews, left a dreary looking Gloucestershire at 9:15am, dazed and confused over the fact that we were leaving Gloucestershire for a convention at 9:15am! We arrived at Worcester Arena just before 10am, joined the regular entry queue, and were in the venue by a little before 11am. Simple, easy, relaxed. After entering the venue, docile like a baby rhino, I wandered over to Julian Glover’s autograph table first.
Julian Glover: I’d actually met Julian twice before this, amassing a studio photo and a couple of autographs along the way, with the autographs being on Pycelle (“Game Of Thrones”) and General Veers (“Star Wars”) 8” x 10” pictures. Julian has been in so many damn franchises, that I still wanted to get an Aragog (from “Harry Potter”) 8” x 10” signed, as Julian provided the voice for the creature in “Chamber Of Secrets”. Seriously, Julian’s résumé is ridiculous. In addition to the aforementioned three franchises, Julian has also appeared in James Bond, Indiana Jones, Merlin, and Doctor Who, amongst others. If he so chose, he could make a very respectable full-time living solely off of the convention circuit with a résumé like that. The first time I met Julian, he was only appearing at the convention for half of one day, so his line was insane. Therefore, I had a pleasant, brief conversation with him, but I wanted more. The second time I met Julian, I had a longer conversation and felt more connected to him. The third time, at “Worcester Comic Con”, I had my longest and best conversation with him to date. That’s one of the biggest perks of an indie event like this with a 2,000 (or so) capacity! You actually have time to talk to the guests for more than a couple of minutes (or less than that). Even though I was getting a Harry Potter related item signed, we discussed “Game Of Thrones”, as since the last time I met Julian his character was killed off of the show in spectacular fashion. From a death-count perspective it was the most brutal episode in “Game Of Thrones” history, killing 10 named characters (including Pycelle) and destroying half of the capital city, King’s Landing, which certainly lived up to its name in that episode, as the King took a swan dive any Olympian would be proud of. While Julian doesn’t watch “Game Of Thrones” and has never seen an episode in its entirety, he did watch the opening fifteen minutes of “The Winds Of Winter”, which includes Pycelle’s death, and he thought that it was beautifully done – especially the musical scoring. I happen to strongly agree with those sentiments. Julian and myself also marvelled at how long Pycelle was able to survive, given that many, many, many characters that were stronger and more able died long before him. Julian joked that Pycelle “was about 104 years old at the time of his death, so it was time for him to take the long dirt nap”. Bless him. I thanked Julian for his time, snagged a picture with him at the autograph table for £10 (you all already know how I feel about selfie charges), noted how energetic and spry he was for a man of his age, and then departed. Guest Type = Responder.
Yes, Julian did draw the little spider in the bottom-right corner.
...Get ready for the copy-and-paste section, long-time readers...
“What the feck is a ‘responder’?”
I’m glad you asked, random voice in my head representing the new people reading one of my reviews. Many years ago, after attending numerous conventions, I devised a system whereby to categorise my experiences with guests and their level of interaction in order to compare the quality of my experiences across conventions and time. I have O.C.D., shut up. The following three types were found :-
· The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you comment on something, 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 basically. 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 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.
Feel free to let me know your experiences with guests in the comments!
Jeremy Bulloch: After departing Julian’s table, it was time to mosey 10 feet to my left and meet Jeremy Bulloch. I had attended 9 events with Jeremy before this one (yes, I have records...), but had never gotten around to actually meeting him. He was always one of those guests I wanted to meet, but as he was at so many of the same events I was, he was always added to the ‘I’ll meet them next time’ list. With the recent passing of Kenny Baker (R2-D2) fresh in my mind, I decided that I simply had to meet Jeremy now. I’d met Kenny many, many times, had conversations with him, but never got around to getting a photo with him because I always assumed I could do it at the next convention. It sucks I’ll never get that chance now, but I feel blessed to have gotten his autograph and speak to him so many times before his passing. If I had one word to describe Jeremy, it would be ‘class’. You can tell that Jeremy is an old pro. of events like these and he always makes an effort. He always dresses in suits or fancy shirts, he always looks presentable, and he always stands over on the peasant side of the autograph table with the attendees. This is something he doesn’t have to do, it’s something that very few people do, but he does it. He stays over with the fans all day, stood up, to give them the best experience possible. I cannot overemphasise how much respect I have for him for doing this. Ordinarily, coming into an event, I try to do some research on the guests and come up with questions and talking points that they likely haven’t heard many times before as I can imagine that telling the same five stories over and over again must be tiresome. Alas, due to my Star Wars fanboying, I probably asked the same questions that everyone else does. After I told Jeremy my name for the autograph, Jeremy referenced that ‘Shane’ is his favourite Western film. We also talked about my snazzy red tie with the “Angel” logo sewn into the bottom (it was a custom-designed present from my friends Enza and Chrissy for my birthday a couple of year ago), and Jeremy told me about one of his friends that always wore a dark suit and a red tie. It was a charming story. Soon afterwards, we discussed “Star Wars”. Jeremy filmed all his “Empire Strikes Back” scenes in a couple of weeks, but the hours were devastating due to the hot, claustraphobic conditions inside the Boba Fett suit. Jeremy joked that he was happy to return as Captain Colton in “Revenge Of The Sith” as it meant that he could breathe easily without a helmet constricting him. Jeremy also noted that the trick was to not talk much, as talking made the minimal air inside the helmet significantly warmer. We talked for a little while longer and I even managed to grab a free picture with him at the autograph table before I left. Totally classy man. Guest Type = Responder.
...Is Jeremy presenting? I feel like he's presenting.
By this point, it was 11:40am, giving me just over an hour before my first photoshoot of the day with Jeremy. That gave me one hour to get Sarah Louise Madison and Ian McNeice’s autographs. Easy peasy.
Sarah Louise Madison: Sarah turned out to be the biggest highlight of the day and one of the greatest guests I’ve ever met, which was particularly special as she was my main reason for attending “Worcester Comic Con” in the first place. Myself and Sarah have attended a couple of conventions together before over the years, but due to a run of bad luck I’d never gotten the chance to meet her yet. However, we are Facebook friends (welcome to the 21st century, people) and have interacted on that social platform numerous times before. When I got to Sarah’s autograph table, Sarah instantly recognised me, greeted me enthusiastically, stood up, came around the autograph table, and gave me a big hug. I assure you, this is not the standard autograph table greeting, so it was a very pleasant surprise and an instant ice-breaker. I don’t know if it was because of the time of day or what, but there was nobody behind me in Sarah’s autograph queue at this particular time. Therefore, Sarah, her lovely crew member, and myself, were able to talk for a solid twenty minutes! It was awesome, and definitely one of the best convention conversations I’ve had in a long time. We talked about so many different topics too – “Doctor Who”, conventions, the United States of America, Cops and Monsters, Supernatural, The Originals, the theatre, bandanas...and I dared Sarah to steal Andrew Lee Potts’ hat. See, Andrew always wears a hat. Like, always. Even in the shower. He’s also very protective of his hats. He doesn’t let people wear them. In fact, we all wondered if he was secretly bald under there except a fringe and some hair at the back...it would explain a lot. Anywho, after the convention was over, I got home to find that I’d been tagged in a post by Sarah...
She did it. While I still maintain that witchcraft was involved, Sarah assures me that it was just her charm. The next time I see Sarah, I shall be checking for voodoo dolls and hex bags. In an interesting twist, Sarah has never met David Tennant, as she’s basically been every important Weeping Angel since “Blink”, so has exclusively worked with Matt Smith at this present moment. A mutual friend of her’s and David’s told David about Sarah and he was enthusiastic to meet her after one of his theatre performances. However, some other people had gone to visit him the same night, so Sarah and her friends decided to go to the local pub and go and meet David a little later. By the time they returned, he’d gone. Ouch. So much ouch. Sarah said that the seats in the theatre were amazing though, so it could have been worse. We’re also gonna start a campaign to get Sarah hired as the Doctor’s new assistant after Pearl Mackie eventually departs the role. You heard it here first. Sarah also really wants to work with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor before he leaves, which is rumoured to be at the conclusion of series 10 or right after that. We talked about “Suicide Squad” a lot as Sarah is a massive Jared Leto fan and was looking forward to the film for a long time. Our opinions of the film were basically identical too. I had such a blast talking to Sarah (and her crew member!). She was definitely worth the trip. Even got a picture with her at the autograph table too! Guest Type = Conversationalist. I have nothing but excellent things to say about this experience. I would meet Sarah again in a heartbeat if I’m ever at the same convention as her, and I fully recommend that you meet her too. You won’t be disappointed.
Ian McNeice: Shortly after finishing my oh-so-glorious conversation with Sarah, it was time to meet Winston Churchill himself (well, in “Doctor Who” at least), Ian McNeice. A little known fact about Ian is that he was actually in the original “Game Of Thrones” pilot episode as Illyrio Mopatis. However, after the pilot was filmed, major editing work was needed and they ended up re-shooting almost everything, which in turn meant a couple of casting changes too, including replacing Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys Targaryen with Emilia Clarke. As most of Illyrio’s scenes involved Daenerys, they all needed to be re-shot too. While most versions of the story say that Ian was unavailable for filming for the re-shoot, Ian says that’s not true. He was available, but was told that they were changing most of the Essos characters to Asian, including Illyrio, so he could no longer have the role. A couple of weeks later, it was announced that Roger Allam, a white British actor, was to play Illyrio in “Game Of Thrones”. Suffice to say, Ian wasn’t amused. However, he did emphasise that he had a splendid time while filming and would be happy to return to the show for the final couple of seasons if a role presented itself. We then transitioned from “Game Of Thrones” to “Doctor Who”, and I expressed my love of his version of Winston Churchill on the show. Ian told me that they recently finished recording four audio dramas, which were collectively released as “The Churchill Years Volume 1”. The 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctors are all present in the four stories, but Ian had to voice them as well as Winston is narrating all of the stories. It took one day to record each story, and Ian had a blast doing it, even if all of his voices sounded the same. Ian says that this is realistic as Winston Churchill wouldn’t be able to pull off a convincing 10th Doctor-esque London accent anyway. They’ve also recently announced that a second volume of the audio dramas is coming. Ian was a great guy! Once again, a picture at the autograph table for free too! Can’t go wrong with that. Guest Type = Conversationalist.
By this point, it was time for my 12:45pm photoshoot with Jeremy Bulloch, and I was on cloud nine from my most recent two conversations with Sarah and Ian. There was just one photoshoot area for the day, which was all that was needed for a convention of this size. The photoshoot ran smoothly, I rejoined John, and we chilled out for 45 minutes, looking around the merchandise stalls and sitting on the floor, ready for my 1:45pm photoshoot with Joe Altin.
Joe Altin: I was the only person in Joe’s photoshoot queue. This was likely because Joe was only announced a little while before the event. I had previously met Joe at “Em-Con” three months before this event, and I had gotten to know Joe pretty well then and had stayed in contact with him since May. When I entered the photo area, Joe came over and greeted me affectionately. We got so caught up with catching up that we completely forgot about the photoshoot. He told me about what he’d been up to, the projects he’d been recording over the summer (he told me a lot of stories about these, but I don’t want to say too much as some of them haven’t aired yet), we discussed the MCM Hannover event that Joe attended in June and how European conventions differ from those in the United Kingdom. We talked about Joe’s dyslexia (that’s still the cruelest name for that particular infliction) and how he learns lines for projects. We talked about filming scenes out of chronological order and how that can be challenging as you might be having a scene with a character whose death scene you just filmed and now you have to act in a way that suggests no hint of the demise to come. We talked about film vs. TV acting and how TV acting can be troublesome with script changes frequently after you’ve just finished learning your lines. We talked about how amazingly well Joe’s career is going lately. The dude is in everything, I swear. We talked about how impressed we were with “Worcester Comic Con” and the attendance figures...at this point, the photographer (who was awesome, by the way) politely interrupted us to get the photo taken before he forgot about it. We took the photo, it came out great, and we went back to talking. We talked about “I Dream of Zombies”, a short film he recently starred in. We talked about the art of aggressive scenes and how you need to speak up if someone is being overzealous. We talked about the training area for “Game Of Thrones” and how you could learn to fight with pretty much any weapon between your scenes...basically, we talked for the entirety of his allotted 15-minute photo session, and then started talking on the walk back to his autograph table after Julian Glover arrived for his photo session. We talked about Jeremy Bulloch and the recent passing of Kenny Baker before I thanked Joe for his time and the delightful conversation, and left him to interact with the people forming a queue at his autograph table. I will freely admit that I think Joe is an awesome human being. He’s humble, passionate, hard-working, caring, and comes from a similar background to me so I find him relatable. I have met many actors over the years...hundreds, in fact. Quite a few of those have gone on to become friends. I consider Joe one of those friends. Guest Type = Conversationalist, even though our conversation was an inpromptu one during a photo session. Photo turned out great too. The crew even brought my photo over to me before me and Joe left the photo area. Efficient and kind.
A matter of minutes later, it was time for Sarah’s photo session. Sarah greeted me with a hug and a warm smile, the photo was taken, we started chatting about bandanas (not bananas) as I was the final person in her queue, the photo was developed a matter of minutes later, and myself and John had an hour and a half to kill before my final photoshoot of the day, Peter Davison. At this point, I went over to Lee Bradley’s art stand and fell in love with the “Daredevil” print. If you recall, during my review of “Em-Con 2016” I mentioned that I won 6x A3 Marvel art prints in a competition. Lee Bradley was the organiser of that competition and it was his artwork I won. I needed “Daredevil” to add to that collection, so I bought it for a very reasonable £15. Lee – who was running around all day – happened to return to the table at this time (one of few times he was able to), so he kindly signed the print for me and we started talking about “Worcester Comic Con”, how it was going, plans for next year, and some of his upcoming events and projects. Both Lee’s running this event are awesome people and truly deserve success, so I’m so happy to be able to write such a positive review. Even thoughI like them both, it would be my duty to write negatively if the experience was such, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. I managed to see Lee Wallis oh-so-briefly as he was running past and he gave me a manshake (handshake with the hands up instead of down) and wished me well, which was appreciated as he was so busy. Joe Altin joked earlier that Lee was probably upstairs counting the money, just pretending he was busy.
Myself and John went upstairs to the cafe for lunch, chilled on the balcony, went back downstairs for my photo with Peter Davison, Peter was sporting a beard(!), the photo was taken, it was ready for collection 15 minutes later, it came out great, and it was time for myself and John to head back to Gloucestershire at 4:30pm. What a whirlwind of a day! As I’ve said repeatedly before, the mark of any decent convention hinges on the simple question, “would I go back again?”. The answer here is a resounding “yes!”. Obviously, it’s line-up dependent for me, but there is a very high probability that I’ll be back next year. It’s a great venue, a superbly organised event, with excellent crew, and is only 40 minutes from my house.
I shall be back next week with my review of this coming weekend’s “Stars of Time” event in Weston-Super-Mare, and then the following week with my review of “Bournemouth Film & Comic Con”...unless Julie Benz cancels. Then I probably won’t go to that one. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this review, and I would greatly appreciate it if you could share it on social media and/or tell your friends about the blog. Thank you.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10