MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

Regular readers will know that a visit to the NEC in Birmingham for MCM Comic Con is on the cards at least once a year.  I missed the earlier event as the gang and I were at Sci Fi Weekender, however we were able to make the November Con.

My intrepid companions and I arrived at the massive site and after parking up, wandered down to the event hall.  Already there were dozens of cosplayers around, showing their awesome costumes.

After a chill in Wetherspoons, we made our way towards the hall.  Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait before we could enter.  This year we had regular tickets rather than early bird, so although this gave us later entry we had no problems.

Inside Comic Con, the aisles were busy and we formulated a plan of attack on how best to navigate our way around the stalls.  There were hundreds of people there, so not always easy to get to see some of the merchandise.  With a little patience and a bit of skill we were able to get a good look around.

The guests this time weren’t particularly inspiring – it seemed like all the best stars would be at Wales Comic Con the following week!  We were happy to spend the day viewing the displays and stalls to see what amazing paraphernalia we could afford.

Sadly, despite buying some fantastic items, there’s never enough money.  Oh, the damage I could do with a lottery win.  Seriously, there were dozens of action figures (for a start) that I could have give a home to.

Besides the joys of spending hard earned cash, there were of course the magnificent cosplayers out in full force.  A mind boggling array of characters, some well known and some more obscure, were to be seen.

Due to various organisational issues, I had forgotten to bring along my trusty Canon camera.  There’s always something, right?  Forgetting to bring the camera was a new low though!  Never mind, I was able to take photos with my phone – and the cosplay superstars were just as friendly and happy to pose as ever.

My thanks to all those who posed for a pic, much appreciated!  You were all great.

After hours on our feet wandering round, wishing for the cash to buy more stuff, the day was finally over.  After another Wetherspoons break, it was back in the car for the long drive home.  Another great day out – looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to Adam for driving and Greeny and Kurt for the company.

There are numerous pics of cosplayers here, feel free to let me know your favourites,  Or if you know the people in the [pics, please let them know.

Finally, i any one in the pics would rather they didn’t appear here, just let me know.

That’s all for Part 1 – stay tuned for Part 2.

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Phoenix

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day 2 at SFW, and again it’s all a blur.  I recall it was a lazy start to the day for me, breakfast and chilling in the caravan.  Kurt was feeling better, but Greeny was starting to suffer with the illness.  It would be mostly be another day of watching Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and Top Gear for those two.

Adam had got up early and made it to see a showing of a new independent film called Pandorica.  Classed as an action-horror, reports about the film were very enthusiastic.  The Q&A with Director and cast was my first event of the day – it was interesting although I’d not seen the film!  Definitely one to keep and eye out for: word of mouth was very positive.

The highlight of the afternoon was, undoubtedly, an appearance by the incomparable Brian Blessed.  Larger than life and twice as loud, Blessed’s sci-fi credentials are suitably top notch.  A life long fan of science fiction, as well in starring in numerous genre pieces – you may have heard of Flash Gordon – his enthusiasm was both apparent and infectious.

Professor Elemental hosted the Q&A with Brian Blessed, who wisely let the great man get on and tell his tales!  A solid job from the Professor – a daunting task well executed.

Blessed’s talk ranged from his acting work to his many explorations and mountaineering adventures.  His recollections of the Flash Gordon movie, and it’s well deserved appreciation by audiences the world over, were affectionately told.  An unmissable audience with a real living legend.

In the afternoon I took some photos and looked around the stalls again.  Unfortunately, this years SFW again clashed with MCM Memorabilia in Birmingham, so genre based merchandise was thin on the ground.  I picked up some cool Elvira cocktail glasses though!

A good feature this year was the retro gaming section, where numerous old consoles could be played for free.  This was very popular, and although I don’t play video games it meant I always knew where to find my crew if we split up.  They were always playing games…

Every year at SFW, the Cosplay final is something to behold.  There’s always a sense of excitement in the air, as the costumed competitors take the stage.  And every year, the audience and competitors are enthusiastic and good natured.  Everyone cheers for each other, and there’s a real sense of community.  It’s nice to witness all the attendees rooting for each other; even though there will always be favourites, there is no bitterness.

The costumes were exceptional, as you can see (hopefully) from the photos here.  Not everyone entered the competition, but there were so many great costumes whether they were entering or just dressing up for fun.  Massive respect to everyone.

I find it great fun spotting and naming the characters.  The variety and imagination on show is consistently astounding, not to mention the talent that goes into making the costumes.  So again, thanks to all the Cosplayers for letting me take your photos.  Too many of my pics didn’t work out.  I also missed far too may opportunities.  But I hope that the photos here capture some of the creativity I witnessed.

And I sincerely apologise for not dressing up!  I lost count of the number of people who chastised me (with good humour, of course) for not dressing as Tony Stark…

Anyway, there can only be one winner of the Cosplay final, and that was the Robot Overlord fellow.  I can’t remember the character’s name, but I swear it was truly incredible!

Later on in the evening, I zoomed over to the Prog Rock area to catch some music.  I was very happy to catch the Focus set; the song “Hocus Pocus” was an obvious highlight.  I only saw a couple of songs by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) – though they were impressive – before heading back to the spaceport.

For the rest of the evening, my compadre, Ste and myself had a few beers and hung around with various SFW attendees.  We saw some old pals and met a few new ones.  I took more photos – including the now traditional “no photos” social media-proof shades pics.  And we managed to stay up partying till after 2 in the morning!

Not such a good thing going home Sunday…

Still, another great time at Sci Fi Weekender.  And yes, Greeny and Kurt got better, thanks for asking.

If you were there, it was good to see you.  Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

And big thanks to Adam, who organised the whole thing for us!

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

The HRH Prog site is here.

PS: There are photos left unpublished, so there will be Bonus Scenes in a few weeks.  Be warned!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cosplay winner!

The Return of Wales Comic Con 2015

IMG_4591

Wales Comic Con – Sunday 29th November 2015

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Back in April, my family and I attended the first Wales Comic Con of the year, held at Glyndwr University in Wrexham.  However just one day was not enough – November saw a second event in a similar vein.

So that meant star guests signing, merch for sale and dozens of cosplayers – all gathered together for a fun day.  Whatever you’re fan of, from the realms of film, television or comic books; be it sci-fi, fantasy, or other genre – there was something there for everyone.

At the previous event, we were lucky to have some stunning warm weather.  No such luck this time – the rain lashed down and the wind blew mercilessly.  Even for November, this weather wasn’t great.  No matter though, the atmosphere at the event was still every bit as sunny as previous.  Quite surprisingly, everyone’s spirits were high and there was still an air of excitement.

Comic Con was largely about Star Wars for my family, with my daughter Eloise dressed as Princess Leia in classic A New Hope style outfit.  She had a fantastic time having photos taken, and running after stormtroopers trying to shoot them (with a blaster from my collection!).  Meeting Chewbacca was also a highlight.

The costumes were varied and impressive – though due to the weather, lack of time and a technical fault my photos were limited.  Which was a shame as there were many more photos I’d have liked to take.

So another great event at Wrexham, and an excellent afternoon out.  We’ll definitely be back for more next time.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 2

Way back at the start of 2015, I wrote an article speculating about the content of new Star Wars films.  Not Episode VII, which we know is just a few short months away.  Rather, I was intrigued by the “spin off” movies that would focus on characters and events within the Star Wars galaxy, but not directly within the continuity of the major films.

Of course we now know that these “spin offs” will be called Star Wars Anthology movies.  The first film we will see is “Rogue One”, directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and centred on the adventures of resistance fighters, stealing the plans for the first Death Star.

There are also plans for a Han Solo movie, telling of his early exploits before the events of Episode IV.  Those of you who read my original blog on this topic may remember that a solo Solo movie was considered back then.

So with that earlier success in mind, here are a few more ideas for Star Wars stand alone movies I would like to see:

Rogue Squadron

I’m assuming that “Rogue One” will not be related to legendary rebel pilots Rogue Squadron.  A film exploring the adventures of Wedge Antilles and comrades would therefore be pretty cool.  It would need to be set around the time of the original trilogy, tying into events as the Rebel Alliance fight against the Galactic Empire.  No thoughts on a new Wedge yet, but I’m working on it.

Lando Calrissian

One thing that currently troubles me about Episode VII is the total lack of Lando Calrissian.  The other major players are present and correct (except Denis Lawson/Wedge, but more fool him), so where’s Lando?  I’d love to see how the biggest scoundrel in the galaxy managed to “acquire” Cloud City.  Think Oceans Eleven style heist movie maybe?  But who to play Lando…

Mace Windu

Surely Samuel L Jackson would be up for his own stand alone movie, starring the enigmatic but under used master Jedi?  Hell, make it into a Clone Wars movie and get Ewan McGregor in as Obi Wan too.  This one HAS to happen – we saw hardly any Clone Wars on film.  Tarantino to direct.

Jabba the Hutt

Why not dive head first into the seedy Star Wars underworld with a film about intergalactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt?  Intrigue and menace would be the order of the day, with the big old slug up to loads of nefarious exploits to maintain his criminal empire.  Scorsese to direct; Robert De Niro as the voice of Jabba; Ray Liotta as Bib Fortuna and Joe Pesci as Salacious Crumb (obviously).

Admiral Ackbar

Just how did Ackbar get to command the Rebel Fleet, what are his experiences and motivations?  This could explore the struggle against the Empire from another angle, and also show how the Rebel Alliance developed to topple it.  You can guess the tagline.

Any more ideas for Star Wars Anthology movies?  Who should direct or star in them?  Leave a comment below if you have a suggestion…

You can read Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 1 here.

Sci-Fi Weekender 2015 – part 1

Sci-fi Weekender 19th – 22nd March 2015

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Hard to believe it’s been a year since our last visit off-world to the magnificence that is Sci-Fi Weekender.  But here we were again, for our second journey to the stars, with a guest list of thousands from the realms of science fiction and fantasy.

As a convention, what makes Sci-Fi Weekender stand out is that all the guests stay on site at the Hafan Y Mor holiday park in North West Wales.  For one weekend each year, the geeks inherit the earth and take over in intergalactic style.

This year our band of explorers included Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself as per last year, but with good buddy Ste along for his first voyage.  Amongst the features on offer were all day gaming, merchandise for sale, props to view, films to see, and numerous luminaries being interviewed and partaking in Q and A’s.

Let it be said that the entertainments were many, and that much alcohol was consumed.

On the Friday, I was eager to see an interview with actor Julian Glover.  He appeared as General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back so this was a pretty big deal.  I have at least three different Star Wars figures of this guy, for a start.  He also appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, For Your Eyes Only and Quatermass and the Pit, for good measure.  Mr Glover was extremely interesting to listen to and seemed like a thorough gentleman.

Next up was James Cosmo, who I remembered from Highlander (classic!) and as Ewan McGregor‘s dad in Trainspotting.  He’s also appeared in dozens of other films and TV shows, not least Braveheart, so his Q&A was top notch.

I took a few photos and milled about a bit, we had some drinks and I caught the One Man Star Wars show.  For the uninitiated, this is one bloke recreating all three films from the original trilogy (Episodes IV to VI, fact fans!) in an hour – on his own.  There are no effects other than what can be recreated with his own voice and actions.  I have to admit that this was very impressive.  The audience laughed along, but me as a full on Star Wars nerd was engrossed in how he made the sounds.  I need to learn that R2 whistle for my action figures!  I AM A NERD!

The finale of the day was once again the genius of Darth Elvis and the Imperials.  What do you get?  A band of Dark Side troops, fronted by an Elvis Jedi, rocking the stage like a crazed Bantha herd.  They look great, they sound awesome! IMG_3978

Elvis classics are re-worked to suit the Star Wars theme, so we get “Return to Endor” and “Viva Mos Eisley”, amongst many more.  Brilliant!  The band rock out and also put a huge Hutt-like grin on your face with the genuinely witty spin on various classics.  Not just Elvis either – nice to hear some Faith No More in the set this year.  Absolutely epic entertainment and a perfect end to the night.  Hot Dang!

What’s more, I can personally vouch for the fact that the band are 100% decent folks.  I got a signed poster!  Greeny got a poster and a photo with the Dark King himself!  I got excited and forgot to ask for a photo of myself with Darth Elvis!  I AM A NERD!!!

Part 2 of our adventure to the stars soon…

Here’s the Sci-Fi Weekender website.

Check out Darth Elvis and the Imperials on Facebook or follow the Dark King on Twitter: @darth_elvis

The Urban Troopers are cool guys – follow them on Twitter: @yodasbitch

The Urban Troopers!

The Urban Troopers!

Me with tw of my childhood heroes...!

Me with two of my childhood heroes…!

Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 1

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.

Boba Fett

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? MF1

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…

Palpatine

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.

May the Force be with you!

Star Wars Episode VII – Why I’m not thrilled about the sequels

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.

Final Episode

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.

EU-rrghh

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.

New Talent

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.”

Let’s hope the Force is with us.