The Best of 2019

Happy New Year, readers!  And welcome back to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub – the web’s number one virtual location for soaking in warm, relaxing waters and enjoying my virtual adventures.

What a year 2019 has been.  I’ve been to Comic Cons; written album reviews for Ever Metal; indulged in another traditional Halloween Horror Fest – and finally managed to get to a few gigs.  Food and drinks reviews, as well as toy and tat blogs, have also made a comeback.

But what have been the most popular and widely read blogs in the last year?  Let’s rewind the clocks and take a look, with a good ol’ countdown from ten to the number one spot…

10. Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

At last!  Some Halloween Horror Fest love, with my final set of reviews breaking into the Top 10.  A first for my horror movie reviews, as far as I remember.  A triple bill of The Wolf Man, Little Shop of Horrors and Lust for a Vampire.

9. New Deck 2019 – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

All about my latest skate set-up, including sexy pictures of a very fine skateboard.

8. Ewok Village Playset

My vintage Star Wars Ewok Village playset made a welcome appearance.  I must feature some more of my collection in the future.

7. That Beer Place

Very happy to see such a cool local beer emporium prove so popular.  Well done, That Beer Place!

6. Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

A great day out, and the blog didn’t fare too badly at all.  No sign of Part 2 in the countdown, though…

5. Death by Tacos, Chester

The number one food place in Chester makes a justified appearance in the Top 5 most popular blogs.  Awesome food and service.

4. Tat Trek Update #8: Jo Guest Strip Pen

Miracle of miracles – an item from my Tat collection rockets into the most popular blogs for the first time ever!  Perhaps the saucy nature of the Jo Guest strip pen is to blame…

3. Wales Comic Con 2019

Always a great Comic Con, with fantastic guests and most importantly – as evidenced by this blog – amazing cosplay.

2. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

The first part of my visit to the NEC for Comic Con made it to the number two spot.  Few words but plenty of brilliant cosplay.

And now – announcing the Most Read Blog of 2019 at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  What could it be?  Why it’s…

1. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

Only a couple of views more than Part 1, but Part 2 takes the crown for the most popular blog this year!

It’s great to see a variety of different topics be successful this year.  Comic conventions, food and skateboards always fare well, but I’m very happy to see Star Wars toys and a bit of tat break through for the first time.I’ll endeavour to deliver more in 2020 – who knows what we’ll see?

My thanks to all my readers over the last year – I appreciate every single view, like and comment.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.

Ewok Village Playset

I have a lot of Star Wars toys.  Not everything, but a lot of stuff.  Most of it was collected when the toys were originally released, back when I was a kid.  Luckily, I’ve kept them all, and since the late nineties I’ve sporadically added to the collection.

The Ewok Village Playset was a toy I never owned as a kid.  Released as part of the Return of the Jedi toy line, it’s a large and feature packed set that provides a perfect home for your cuddly-yet-vicious little Empire destroyers.

There’s a fire for roasting Han Solo; a net for capturing rebels; a throne for C-3PO; an elevator for lifting figures up – and a secret escape chute for them to escape down.  All of these neat play features and more; plus it makes a cool diorama for displaying your ROTJ action figures.

When I got into collecting Star Wars toys again in the late 90s, the Ewok Village was on my list of “wants”.  I tracked this example down to a toy shop in Manchester and picked it up for £60, if I remember correctly.

I don’t think that shop is still there now.  Or at least, I’ve not found it on subsequent visits.  It seems to have vanished mysteriously into thin air…

Although opened, this Ewok Village was complete in box, with all the bits packed inside in little baggies.  It’s easy to assemble – before long you can start to recreate some moments from the film.

And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, with this series of photos: showcase some of my figures from the original line, as they appear in the film.  I decided against doing a further photo session with more modern figures due to time!

There are two scenes recreated here.  Firstly, the Rebels held captive by the Ewoks, whilst 3PO sits on his wooden throne.  Han is held above the fire, about to make a tasty celebratory meal.  The others are gathered (not tethered to wooden poles as in the film, as nothing like that exists for these toys) as they attempt to persuade their way out of the situation.

Unfortunately, a figure of Leia in her Ewok robes was never made for the original line, so she’s not present.  Maybe I will have to create this again with the later figures after all, as that the Princess in that outfit was made later on.  But hey, I’m not aiming for 100% screen accuracy here, just the best I can with what I have available.

I love ensemble scenes using action figures, so another I wanted to recreate was the end of the film.  The Empire has been destroyed, the Galaxy is free: the Rebels celebrate their victory with their short, furry allies and all looks good for the future.

The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin are represented by their vintage figures, plus the main heroes are joined in their rejoicing with numerous members of the Rebel Alliance on Endor.

Ensemble scenes like this are my favourites in the movie, because it’s fun to spot random characters and details that were dropped into the film.  This is the sort of thing that creates the rich diversity of Star Wars, and what constantly intrigues me.  So, it’s nice to try to create something with toys that aims for as wide a scope.

So here are the two scenes: reasonably screen accurate, but not shackled to that original image.  I did the best I could, and it was great fun.

One big mistake?  Yes, I forgot to take a photo of the box the Ewok Village came in.  Never mind, you can Google that, should you need to.

May the Force be with you!

Chester Comic Con

Chester Comic Con

Sunday 24th September 2017

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!

The Chester Comic Con website is here.

Well folks, there you have it – for now.  I have a few more photos from the event to share, however I appear to have reached my limit for images with WordPress.  So for now, this is it.

In fact, this may be the end of Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.

We shall see…

MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

19/20 November 2016 

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!

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…

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!

Wales Comic Con Strikes Back – part 1

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 23rd April to Sunday 24th April 2016

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

It was time for another fun family day out in Wrexham, for Wales Comic Con.  Time to charge up the landspeeder and head over for more sci-fi shenanigans at Glyndwr University

Following on from the success of last year’s events, Wales Comic Con is now spread over a whole weekend.  This was a good move, as there seemed to be less crowds this year  – without losing any of the welcoming spirit.

We headed over on the Sunday, and though the weather wasn’t as amazing as this time last year, it still managed to remain fairly decent.  No matter, there were plenty of things to see and do, both inside and out, at the Con.

Although the guests weren’t of particular interest to me personally, it was nice to see a good amount of celebs in attendance.  The celeb who I was most thrilled to see was none other than Justin Lee Collins, who I didn’t know was there.  Most of the females in the vicinity seemed to be very taken with Jason “Aquaman” Momoa…

The amount of merchandise on sale appeared to be greater than previous, which was a bonus.  We splashed out on a few items, namely a cuddly Harley Quinn doll, a Walking Dead mug and some (delicious) peanut butter fudge.

The highlight, as ever, were the Cosplayers – dressed as all manner of characters from every facet of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror that you could imagine.  Yet again, the ingenuity and creativity on display was astonishing.  I took load of photos, which you can see here.  Despite my best camera having gone to the great Jessops in the sky, they mostly turned out OK.

So a big thank you to everyone who posed for a photo.  Everyone was very friendly and happy to be photographed – they were all super stars!

Speaking of Cosplay, my daughter Eloise was dressed as Princess Leia again and looked fantastic!  Quite a few people commented how great she looked, and asked for her photo!

This was also the first time I tentatively dipped my toes in the water of costuming at an event also.  After having been chided by various people at Sci Fi Weekender for not dressing as Tony Stark, I decided to give it a go.  I wore the same Black Sabbath that Tony wears in the film, and relied on my beard for the rest.  It was OK and a couple of people knew who I was supposed to be.  No one asked for my picture though…

I should also say that the staff seemed to be very helpful and efficient also.

All in all a grand day out for the Platinum Al family.  Looking forward to more later in the year!

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

It turns out that I have loads of half decent photos from Wales Comic Con.  Stay tuned for part 2 soon!

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 1

IMG_20160318_114228066Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Wow.  This year’s Sci Fi Weekender was a blur – it went faster than light speed.  All the usual geekery was in full swing, though I’ll be gosh darned if I can remember everything and what order it happened in.  Too much blue milk?

Never mind, I have numerous photos of the weekend to share; to help report on this cosmic adventure.  Except that didn’t go to plan this year.   My trusty Canon was on the blink, so I resorted to a little digital snapper and my phone.

Not ideal, but sometimes you have to compromise.

So what is Sci Fi Weekender?  For the unititiated, it’s a weekend of events and special guests, all held on site at the Hafan Y Mor holiday park in Pwllheli, North Wales.  Think Comic Con but at a holiday camp and with a party atmosphere.  All manner of interview panels, Q&As, games, and musical entertainment are part of the festivities.

Plus a prog rock festival – HRH Prog – was also being held on the same weekend.  Not a massive tie in with science fiction you may think (at least not without Hawkwind playing).  However it gave additional entertainment for those with musical interests.

Our weekend began with four of us – Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself – driving from our corner of north east Wales to the north west.  On the way we popped into Cob records in Porthmadog to feed our vinyl addition.  Then we settled into our caravan home from home – complete with haul of supplies from the local ASDA – and planned our DVD watching schedule for the night.

Unfortunately the DVD player wasn’t working, and without tickets for the Thursday evening SFW party, we were stuck.  Rather than watch TV, we went for a pint in the onsite pub.  We then popped in to see what the prog rock was all about.  We didn’t think we would get in, but it was no problem.  As a result we were able to see Third Quadrant (quite good) and the excellent Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  Arthur is over seventy years old and jumps around on stage like a nutter.  Highly entertaining and some great tunes.

Friday began with the bad news that Kurt was ill.  He’s only 16 so booze wasn’t the issue.  As a result, Kurt and his dad Greeny were pretty much out of the running for the day.  They watched TV and chilled.  Plus Ste, our remaining member, had burst the inflatable camp bed by leaving it too close to the fire.  He suffered a bad night’s sleep on the sofa as a result.

The rest of us headed over to the arena and started checking things out.  I took a few photos and looked round the stalls.  We caught a Cosplay panel with Tabitha from Artyfakes that was very interesting, with extremely impressive Space Marine costumes and hints and tips about the hobby.  I bottled asking my question though, which was “How do you go for a wee?”.

I also watched an interview panel of comic book artists.  The panel consisted of 2000AD greats such as Glenn Fabry, William Simpson, Clint Langley and Simon Davis.  Hosted by Dez Skinn, the panel was informative and also amusing; it seems some of the assembled masters had been on the pop?  Either way, these guys were like rock stars to me when I was a young 2000AD fan, so it was pretty cool.

The vibe around the arena was good natured as always.  I took some cool photos (thanks everyone) and despite our numbers being depleted, we had a good afternoon.

After a delightful pizza from the onsite Papa John’s (it was great!); we were ready for the evening’s entertainment.  I’m afraid to say that the Imaginarium and magicians weren’t really my thing this year.  It’s difficult to dig the magic when you can’t see it up close.

The highlight was the one and only Professor Elemental, steam punk hip hop pioneer.  His smooth raps mixed with groovy beats like a well tuned gin and tonic.   A pleasure to witness, as always.

At the end of the night, I teleported across the site to see the end of the set by Caravan.  Not only a very apt band to be playing, they were actually pretty good.  The Soft Machine were on last with a more jazz orientated approach.  All very impressive and I’m glad I got to see something different.

I’m ashamed to say that we all ended up crashing out early on Friday night.  Illness and lack of sleep took it’s toll.  I was last man standing, going to bed at 11.30pm.  Pathetic, I know.

In Part 2: Brian Blessed, the Cosplay final, more Prog Rock…

PLUS: will we be able to stay up late?

Stay tuned to this frequency…

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

You really should check out Professor Elemental.  His website is here, plus he’s on that Twitter and stuff too.