Chester Comic Con was held recently, on a mild summer Sunday afternoon at Chester Racecourse. It was Father’s Day, and I made sure that my personal choice for the day was to attend this event for a fun filled afternoon.
I’ve not been to a comic con in Chester for a couple of years, due to the pandemic and all that kinda shiz. As previous, the racecourse hosted the event and it made for a good venue, with plenty of open outdoor space. Indoors was a bit more compact, but there were enough trader tables to fill the place without getting too manic.
There were also a few showbiz and comic book guests in attendance, though my main aim was to plunder as much action figures and comic books as possible. But have no fear, I also had my camera with me, to take some photos and hopefully provide an idea of what it was like to be there.
Here you’ll see some photos of the excellent Cosplayers, who were all very friendly and gallantly agreed to pose for pic. Thank you all.
Despite the smaller scale of Chester Comic Con – in comparison to some of the bigger events at Liverpool or the NEC for example – it’s a fantastic convention with a good family atmosphere. I had an excellent time, and bought a load of old 70s Marvel comics. Very happy indeed.
Welcome to the second part of my reminiscences of my old Star Wars figures. This time, we’ll complete the rest of the Empire Strikes Back waves that came out in the early 1980s. A little less words maybe, a few more photos.
Last time we looked at the first wave of Empire figures, plus an early arrival (Boba Fett) and a late comer (Yoda). Whereas the figure selection for the first movie was never exhaustive (we could’ve done with more, to be honest) – the remaining Empire waves would deliver a bundle of key characters as well as some background oddballs, to pad out your playing experience.
The first wave gave us a classic Leia, this time in Hoth Outift. Again, the figure shown here is my excellent condition version, which I bought myself at the end of the line’s run, to replace my sister’s slightly beat-up one.
Next was Han Solo (Bespin Outfit), hands down my favourite Han figure. This guy saw a lot of play. Great sculpt, holds his blaster well, just awesome. The only negatives are that his trousers are too light in colour, and they packed him with the wrong gun.
The Rebel Commander was a welcome addition – you can never have too many troops! Lots of detail, but the blaster he came with is pretty lame. The Medical droid, 21B, was also a very detailed figure. I loved the transparent torso. Sadly, I lost his medical tool/needle thing years ago, so I should replace that.
A couple of Bespin characters next: the Ugnaught, who is exactly the type of minor character I have to own! He comes with a soft goods apron, presumably to add more value a la cloaked Jawa. And lastly, Lobot – a really cool looking guy who I’d have liked to see get more screen time.
Finally, with this wave, we got an Imperial officer! Named Imperial Commander on the card, this late-to-the party figure would have to double up for every Imperial officer in all three films – including Tarkin (don’t get me started on that thorny issue) – despite the black, not olive outift. So better get as many as you can! I have two; there’s a slight difference you’ll see in the pics below: one has no hair (I assume this is a paint app production error, or some one scraped it off – not a genuine variation).
At this point, the biggest toy around – biggest in size literally, but also in impact and desirability – was the AT-AT. I couldn’t believe that a toy would be made of this huge vehicle. Of course Kenner did, and thus I needed at least one, preferably two AT-AT drivers.
Last from this wave, another cool bounty hunter: Dengar. The first mail away figure I ever sent off for (Palitoy waved it’s proof of purchase nonsense this time), he took months to arrive. As in, literally months. Palitoy were swamped with requests, but one magical day, after ages spent in anticipation, a clean white box with Dengar inside arrived in the post. What a wondrous day that was…
Let’s start the next wave with the droids: C-3PO with Removable Limbs and R2-D2 with sensorscope. I wasn’t really expecting these figures as a kid. C-3PO was kind of cool as he came with a bag you could put him in, on Chewbacca’s back – though Chewie could never stand unassisted with the extra weight. R2’s new feature was interesting, though this version could never take the place of the very first R2 figure, my first and most loved Star Wars figure of all.
Luke in Hoth Outfit was a much needed alternate look, ideal to place on your Tauntaun toy. However, he came packed with that weird gun instead of the obviously more preferable (and accurate) blue lightsaber. The black Bespin Guard was an instant troop builder and a nice early nod to diversity. Twin Pod Cloud Car pilot was definitely a cool design, but he’s less “blink and you’ll miss him” and more “was he even in the film”? This figure was a necessity so someone could pilot the vehicle, I guess. I’ve lost his communicator sadly, this extra accessory was actually a good feature.
To finish the Empire figures, the “bad guys” from this wave. AT-AT Commander (or General Veers, if you knew your SW trivia) was another handy addition to the mighty AT-AT toy. And at last, a TIE Fighter Pilot, so stormtroopers could be relieved of their flying duties. You’ll notice here that the TIE Pilot isn’t holding his gun, I just couldn’t get him to grasp it for longer than two seconds. Interesting side note: my TIE Pilot had a nice fruity smell when I first opened him, which remained for years. Must’ve been the paint – anyone else have the same experience? Unfortunately, that smell has long disappeared now.
The last two bounty hunters shown here were two of my favourite action figures in the line so far: 4-LOM and Zuckuss. Both were really detailed and despite limited screen time, they were amazingly cool. Awesome weapons too – two of the best guns in the entire line. This adherence to showcasing the myriad background characters is exactly what I loved about Star Wars figures: I could scene build and create whole little worlds. “Which is 4-LOM and which is Zuckuss?” you may ask. The answer’s on the card name lozenge, that’s all I’m saying.
There we have it: all of the action figures from The Empire Strikes Back. The line was particularly strong at this time, with improvements in the sculpts and some great character choices, not to mention a masterful piece of cinema inspiring it all. This really was a magical time in mine – and many others’ – childhoods.
I was surprised how many of these figures I could actually remember buying, and from which now long-gone small toy shops around the country I found them (there was no Toys’R’Us in those days). I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief nostalgia trip, maybe we’ll meet again soon for the next chapter…
Leia and Hoth troops
General Veers – prepare you men for ground assault!
1980: by the time the Star Wars sequel was due to appear in the cinema, I was excited and more than ready for it. We’d waited three years, endured numerous playground rumours (“Luke and Darth Vader will have a lightsaber fight!”), but we knew that it wasn’t going to be called “Star Wars 2“.
It was going to be called “The Empire Strikes Back“. I was seven years old and had no idea what that could mean.
I was the first kid in my class to get to see the movie (I’d been the last for the first film, despite being forced to utilise relentless pester power). Of course, Empire was amazing, though not as good as the first: there was no cantina scene or similar. I do remember my Dad whispering to me “Did you just hear what he said?!” after Vader’s revelation. Mind blown! But let’s concentrate on the toys…
Over the previous couple of years, Star Wars toys had to compete with other toy lines for my attention (Action Man, Dinky and Corgi cars, etc etc) – but by 1980, I was pretty much laser focussed on Star Wars figures as my main priority.
Which Empire figure did I pick up first? It may have been Lando, as I thought he was cool and he was a major new character who hadn’t been created in plastic before. My original Lando is pictured, though I replaced the vinyl cape with a repro version recently. Note he’s not the white eyes/teeth version, which I thought I had as a variation somewhere in my collection, but apparently not when I rummaged through for these photos. So that’s one I may track down in the future.
Or maybe Luke was first, in his Bespin Fatigues. This figure is one of my favourites, in an outfit that became his new standard Rebel uniform. This was probably thanks to the great run of Marvel Star Wars comics between Empire and Jedi, where Luke wore it all the time. As a result, this Luke Skywalker went on many missions, though I sadly lost his yellow lightsaber. One to replace.
My sister bought the original Leia figures. This was cool by me as I was bizarrely self conscious of buying a girl figure. Or maybe it was because I figured out that I could still use my sister’s figures, and use my own money to buy a different character (two for the price of one, ha!). My sister didn’t look after her figures as well as I did mine, so I replaced all of her well worn toys with my own when the line came to an end in 1985 and I could pick them up cheap. Here’s my excellent quality Leia in Bespin Gown.
I was never a big fan of the Han Solo (Hoth Outfit) figure, with his hood up he could be anyone. So I didn’t pick that figure up till much later. Cool holster feature though.
Also pictured are the Hoth Rebel Soldier and the first Bespin guard, complete with snazzy moustache.
Boba Fett? I was never a fan, really. Overrated character who did very little in Empire or Jedi. I just never got the cult of Fett. My lack of enthusiasm probably dates back to when he was offered as a mail away. Palitoy required proofs of purchase for several figures, which I obviously didn’t have – so I couldn’t send off for him. So maybe it’s just sour grapes. Eventually, I warmed to Fett, but if i ever hear one more person say how this figure is really rare, I’ll go space loco.
Fett wasn’t technically a part of this wave, he predated it – but here he is anyway for completeness sake. Also pictured are the Snowtrooper (complete with vinyl “skirt”) and two way cooler bounty hunters: IG-88 and Bossk. Both are nicely sculpted figures with loads of details, and cool accessories.
Finally, one figure which I believe was held back from the rest of the first wave to avoid spoilers: Yoda. I picked this guy up as soon as I saw him. He’s tiny, but features some nice accessories to increase value for money. Unfortunately, his gimer stick is long gone and will need to be replaced.
I think that’s enough on this wave (of sorts) for now: this will have to be a two-parter. We’ll reconvene with the rest of the figures from The Empire Strikes Back soon.
Luke carrying Yoda in the backpack from the Survival Kit mail away.
Is this a variation? Hoth Rebel Soldiers with different chest insignia.
Original vs replacement Leia Organa (Bespin Gown), showing turtle neck variation.
And now we return to Birmingham NEC for Part 2 of my MCM Comic Con report…
Despite forgetting my camera, which is a new low even for me, my trusty phone was at hand to document everything. So luckily, I managed to take plenty of photos during the day – and there are plenty of awesome cosplayers still to see.
Which is good, because I don’t have much else to write following the previous post.
But you’re not here for my ramblings, are you? Enjoy the pics instead.
Joker and Hela
Meg and Herc
Black Cat and Spidey
Darth Talon and Scarecrow
I’ll leave you with one final image: the Stan Lee memorial. This was a massive mural to commemorate the life of the recently departed genius – a nice touch.
One more Comic Con for the year, to finish 2017 off in style. It seems like I’ve done a lot of conventions recently!
I didn’t make it to Wrexham for Wales Comic Con back in April, but I’ve been there previously and it’s always a fun event. Now expanded to run over two days, this winter edition of the Con was bigger than ever.
Most impressive was the calibre of the guests that appear here. It’s a far more impressive line up than even the mighty NEC could muster recently. Wrexham definitely punches above it’s weight in that category.
Abraham and friend
Carl and Daryl
Being December, the weather was sometimes a challenge. The Spring gathering has been lucky weather-wise, and the outside expanse has always been a fun place to hang out and take photos, meet people etc. Cold and rain took more of a toll this time, but didn’t seem to dampen peoples spirits too much.
This event wasn’t without some criticism. Although we had bought tickets prior, we had to queue (outside, in the rain) for about forty minutes after the doors opened to get in.
When we did get in, we marched off to the Signing Zone to find the guests from The Walking Dead (our prime reason for being there). After scouting around the entire area, it turned out that these particular guests were in a different Signing Zone! Notification of this passed us by completely, if it was available at all.
Despite these organisational issues that we perceived at first, things settled down and this Comic Con turned out to be a great success.
The first hit of the day was the Q&A panel featuring Scott Wilson (Hershel) and Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) from The Walking Dead. This was really interesting, with some quality questions from the audience. Both Scott and Michael came across really well, with amusing anecdotes and genuine appreciation for the show and it’s fans.
Wednesday meets Jareth
Wednesday and the pirates
We could have happily listened to these guys for much longer, but all good things come to an end and this had been unmissable.
It was then time to queue up (again! Haha) to meet the actors from The Walking Dead. We’re big fans in our house, in particular Mrs Platinum Al – and she was really keen to meet Michael Cudlitz.
The queue wasn’t too long or arduous, and we got to meet Mr Cudlitz and get a selfie and autographed photo. He was very cool and gracious; he joked with fans and was very friendly. Despite only having a short time to meet people, Michael did an excellent job of remembering names and making everyone feel very welcome.
Superb stuff, and Mrs Platinum Al’s Christmas present was now in the bag!
Talking about acquisitions, Wrexham has upped the ante with the amount of traders selling goodies. In the past the number of dealers seemed limited (probably due to space), there were far more this time. Good news in a wallet endangering way.
Doesnt like Daleks
The Prop Knife
Remember those trick knives you used to find in joke shops? Plastic, with a blade that retracted into the hilt when you “stabbed” something? We took one as a prop for my daughter, who was dressed as Wednesday Addams. Turned out to be a cool idea. Michael Cudlitz, bless him, allowed Eloise to “stab” him in the head, walker killer style, to “stop him coming back”. From the dead that is, not back to Wales. Michael played along brilliantly – I didn’t get a photo though, curses!
The trick knife also came in handy for a cool zombie killer pic featuring Mrs Platinum Al (see below).
With tons of guests, Q&As, memorabilia to peruse and other activities, there was plenty to see and do.
Of course there were loads of great Cosplayers at Wales Comic Con too. I took a few photos, but the usual issues of time and the weather meant I didn’t get too many. I’ve shared the pics here. Unfortunately some photos didn’t turn out (as always), hopefully these shots will provide a flavour of the event.
Thanks again to these amazing people, who have created fantastic costumes and let their creativity flow. Thanks for allowing me to take pictures and more power to you!
If Wales Comic Con keeps developing as it has, then 2018 should be even bigger and better. The fact that the organisers can entice such amazing guests is fantastic. Let’s hope the success continues.
My buddy Dan acquired some tickets and I was off to my first Chester Comic Con. Amazingly, it was held at that den of drunken depravity, Chester Racecourse. So for once, that almighty dignity vacuum would feature some actual culture.
To be fair, the racecourse was a pretty good venue. There was plenty of space, with the indoor stalls surrounding a courtyard where numerous cosplayers, fans and geeks of all types could gather. As it was decent weather, this outdoor section was a handy addition as it got fairly crowded indoors.
The stalls were many and varied; it was good to see a large number of merchandise stalls selling all manner of collectable paraphernalia. There was plenty to drool over and spend hard earned cash on.
I picked up some comic books and Lego figures for presents, incredibly managing to resist adding more Funko Pops to my collection (there were lots). As always with these events, however, there was tons I regretted not picking up later!
The cosplayers at the Con were superb. There was all manner of fabulous creations on show, as seen here. You’ve go to admire the dedication, hard work and creativity that goes into making these costumes. I also think they’re also very brave, it takes some guts to proudly display your geek pride.
Well done to all the cosplayers – costumed heroes, every single one! And thanks for letting me take your photo for this blog.
A highlight of the day were the Q&A sessions. I caught a very interesting talk with Christopher Fairbank, who discussed his roles in film and TV from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet to Guardians of the Galaxy – and tons of other stuff. His recollections provided loads of fascinating insights behind some of the many projects he’s been a part of.
Later on, there was another Q&A with Martine Beswick, Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith. I’ve met these wonderful ladies before, but it was great to hear them talk about their experiences with Bond, Hammer and beyond. The session was light hearted and lots of fun, with some genuinely interesting stories. All three came across very well; they were warm and friendly and really happy to be part of the event. Superb, my favourite bit of the whole day.
All in all, Chester Comic Con was a total success. It was a great day out and I’ll definitely be repeating the experience next year. Let’s hope that 2018’s Con is expanded to two days!
It’s been a couple of years since the gang made a trip to Birmingham NEC for Comic Con. Not that we didn’t want to, other stuff just got in the way, sadly. November 2016 however would see us return to Comic Con for all the usual fun and games.
Right from the off, the number of cosplayers seemed to be even higher than previous. There were all kinds of characters on view, and plenty of them, from every franchgise you could think of.
The most popular costume this year was undoubtedly (and unsurprisingly) Harley Quinn. Harley has always been a regular sight at conventions such as this whenever I’ve visited. Following the success of the Suicide Squad movie, there were dozens of Harleys, of all types, everywhere. Not to do any of the cosplayers a disservice – they all looked fantastic, whether they were original comic book or Margot Robbie inspired.
I tried to take as many photos as possible of the amazing costumes. Everyone had obviously gone to great trouble to create outfits that were well made and accurate.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get photos of everyone, some people just slipped by and I missed them!
Always loved Black Canary
Plus, as always, I appear to have had a slight technical issue – resulting in several photos that would have been very cool not turning out at all. My apologies to Storm and Walking Dead Daryl (amongst many others) – both of whom had awesome costumes, but my poor skills resulted in terrible pics!
The stalls were full of incredible paraphernalia as always. So tempting, but regrettably I’m not made of money. I saw dozens of very cool items, picked up a couple of things, left loads more. I’m still missing not buying the Elvira Funko Pop…
Canary and Arrow
Joker and Harleys
My Star Wars collecting has retired these days. I’m now only picking up (affordable) figures from the Original Trilogy; as I’m up to date with all that stuff there wasn’t anything to concern me.
Still, I had a good look around and thoroughly enjoyed scavenging for groovy collectables!
All in all it was another great day at the NEC. Always spectacular, a great atmosphere and loads to see. Looking forward to returning in March for more of the same!
2015 is a big year. Audiences around the world will get to see Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Something I honestly never thought I’d see – a continuation of the Star Wars saga.
There is another disturbance in the Force, however – the prospect of new, stand alone, spin off movies set in a galaxy far, far away. These films are to feature characters from this rich universe,but who they will be at the moment is a mystery. Will they be minor characters or well known favourites?
There are various rumours about who the projects will concentrate on, of course. I’ve decided to add to the swirling speculation and anticipation with some thoughts who I would like to see appearing in their own Star Wars movie.
Let’s start with some of the obvious choices.
To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Boba Fett. He’s only in the films for a few minutes, and doesn’t do a great deal I always thought the pre-Empire buzz about this new character was a bit of a let down, so I never got the cult of Fett. He does have one of the coolest looking ships in the Saga, however.
Regardless of my ambivalence to the character, Boba Fett would be a great choice for a stand-alone movie. He’s got a ready made, massive fan base – and it would be an ideal opportunity to flesh him out and show exactly why Fett is the top bounty hunter in the galaxy. His mercenary buddies from the Executor bridge in Episode V could also make welcome cameo appearances.
Just one thing – the film would need to be set during the Original Trilogy. Why? Because Fett dies in Return of the Jedi. That’s right – he died, and HE DOESN’T COME BACK. Clear?
Plus I love the Original Trilogy and it would be great to explore more of this time. Let’s see Boba Fett in action, as one of the bad guys (because he is a baddie, face facts) causing trouble for the Rebel Alliance.
Han Solo and Chewbacca
The Corellian space pirate and his Wookiee pal have featured in their own series of novels years ago. Their popularity makes them a great choice for a spin off film. Again, this should be around the time of the Original Trilogy, maybe prior to Episode IV; or between that instalment and Empire. What exactly happened to the reward Solo got for his part in the rescue of Princess Leia?
The problem with a film of this type is casting a young Han Solo – whoever got the gig would have their work cut out for them playing Harrison Ford. That’s not to say that it can’t be done – River Phoenix did a fantastic job of impersonating Ford in the third Indiana Jones movie!
What would be really scary though is recasting such an iconic character as Han Solo could be a stepping stone to that horror that none of us want. That’s right – a “reboot”/remake of the original film.
May the Force protect us from that ever happening…
How did Palpatine become a Dark Lord of the Sith? How did he weasel his way into the role of Senator of Naboo? Just exactly what was he capable of, and what did he do to attain such power?
The early years of the Emperor to be could be a really fascinating story, full of Jedi Knights, Sith Lords and galactic intrigue. Betrayal, deceit, evil plots, darkness on a massive scale. Sign up Peter Jackson for this one now.
That’s all for now, though I will return to this subject soon, with more potential spin-off movie ideas.
Those of you who know me well, will know that I am a fan of Star Wars. Just ever so slightly. Oh alright then, I’ve been completely obsessed with that galaxy far, far away since I was five years old. You may be surprised that this is my first Star Wars themed blog post on the Virtual Hot Tub, infact. However, you may be more surprised about my feelings for the new Star Wars sequels.
I remember being sat at this very computer on that day in October 2012, when Disney announced it’s acquisition of Lucasfilm – and the planned seventh episode of the saga. I was not impressed.
Not that Disney being the home of the saga bothered me. At the end of the day, Star Wars is a kid’s film – and what better home for it than the House of Mouse? I have no problem with that.
What bothers me is setting the new films after Return of the Jedi. The sixth episode has been the final episode for a long time. Sure, I wanted to see more films back in 1983, when I was a kid. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve been happy with the conclusion of the series. It’s an upbeat ending. The Empire is defeated, the Alliance is victorious – peace and freedom from oppression is restored to the galaxy. It’s exactly what the story needs, and it’s perfect in it’s intention (if not always it’s execution).
But if that’s not the end, then what’s next? If the battle against evil goes on, then to some extent the sacrifices and hardships of the “middle” trilogy lose some of the potency. Of course, in a real world, conflicts and rivalries continue. But this isn’t the real world, it’s a fairy tale – a big, outer space fairy tale. And there was no “Snow White 2” or “Revenge of the Wicked Step Mother” when that story arc came to an end.
I guess I’m most afraid of the horrors of the Star Wars Expanded Universe taking hold in the film versions. I did read a lot of EU stories – novels and comics – before Episode I was released. After that, I gave up on non-canon works as they often featured contradictions to what was appearing on screen, such as the origins of the Death Star.
Much worse than any slight inconsistencies, however, were some of the bafflingly bad concepts splurged onto the page by EU creators. A criticism of the Star Wars EU is a topic for a whole blog post of it’s own – and I admit it’s not all bad. I was never a huge fan of the Thrawn trilogy (too much of Zahn’s own creations with ridiculous names, not enough film characters), though other series were much worse. The big problem I had with the EU though, was the lame device of bringing back the bad guys – Emperor Palpatine returns! Boba Fett didn’t die!
Oh, come on.
I enjoyed many of the comics and the books set within the time frame of the original movies. And I think this is where the big problem lies: all those brilliantly dastardly bad guys are dead. How are they going to replace them? One thing’s for sure – the new writers have a hell of a lot of work to do. Let’s hope they steer clear of the EU for inspiration. I don’t even want any sly nods to keep the fans happy.
So talking of the new talent: is JJ Abrams up to the job? To be honest, I have never seen anything that the guy has done, so I can’t comment. The good news is Lawrence Kasdan, who scripted Episodes V and VI, is back onboard. Thank God. Why was he never involved in the Star Wars prequels? Any help with answering that conundrum much appreciated.
Another interesting rumour (or more-than-rumour, these days) is the return of the original cast. There’s been a huge amount of interest in the return of Hamill, Ford and Fisher to the saga. I’m not sure about this either, sorry. Baby Darth Vader in Episode I was hard enough to accept – do I really need to see a 65 year old Luke Skywalker? I’m not sure about seeing my childhood heroes as old people. I’d sooner they were timeless and forever as they were at the end of Jedi.
Who else will we see return? R2-D2 will return, it has been reported. So what about C3PO? If we have Luke, Leia and Han, then surely we will need to have Chewie and Lando? Please bring Chewie along, Lucasfilm – you can’t let him die in one of those awful books!
A New Hope
I don’t want to be totally negative about this new venture. One thing that does excite me is the news of stand alone movies, possibly featuring lesser characters. These stories could – and should – occur within the time frame (or immediately preceeding) of the earlier six films. Again, Episode VI should be the end, but I’d love to see the early years of the Rebel Alliance. That would be very cool. More on this in another blog post…
Whatever adventures we experience with Episodes VII to IX, I want to be optimistic. I’m a Star Wars fan, and I hope my fears above are wrong. I have my doubts, though I would love them to be cast aside. Will that happen? In the words of one wise being: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”