Sci-Fi Weekender: Back to the Future

March is usually the time for Sci-Fi Weekender: a weekend long, stay-over-and-party Comic Con that’s full of entertainment. From special guests, interviews, signings, screenings, games and all manner of live entertainment, this event has always been a fantastic, full-on experience for all your geeky desires.

Sadly, the Covid pandemic exterminated the event this year. It should have been taking place this last weekend. It’s a real blow, as Sci-Fi Weekender offers just the kind of escapism that we need right now.

Have no fear, however: I’ve used my Indiana Jones-like archaeological skills to rediscover some long lost photos from the past.

Cosplay is always a big deal at SFW. All manner of glorious, gruesome, magnificent and marvellous costumes can be seen on display, worn by some of the coolest and most down-to-earth people you’ll be likely to meet this side of Tosche Station.

Thanks to my old pal Darf Dork (that’s Adam G, to you), I’m able to present some photos from the past that will bring back some fond memories. These pics are all Adam’s work – he’s been kind enough to thaw them out of carbonite for your enjoyment.

Hope in my Virtual Hot Tub Time Machine and let’s go back to SFW past. Hope you enjoy the photos. And keep dreaming: one day Sci-Fi Weekender will return…

MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

16/17 November 2019

Right back atcha with some more fabulous photos from the recent MCM Comic Con at the NEC in Birmingahm.  Here’s Part 2, ‘cos one blog post just wasn’t enough.  So many photos, you see.

There’s not much else to report that I haven’t covered in previous editions of my MCM Comic Con blogs.  You know the drill, right?

So let’s just crack on and you can witness the awesome Cosplay photos of these amazing, talented people.

Here’s a bit of fun for you, though – can you spot my pal Darf Dork hanging around in one of these pics?  There might be a prize for someone who can…

Finally, another big THANK YOU to everyone who posed for a photo – the true stars of the day.  See you at the next Comic Con!

 

MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

16/17 November 2019

OK, look – I won’t write a blow by blow account of this years MCM Comic Con at Birmingham NEC.  I’ll just provide a little info; a flavour, if you will, of the attractions and atmosphere.

That way, we can cut to the chase and you can see the photos I took of the many and varied Cosplayers at the event.

Maybe you were there?  Maybe a photo I took of you is featured here?  If so, I’d like to thank you for your contribution.  Also, I’ll offer my apologies, if the pic isn’t that great.  Fingers crossed some of these images look alright.

The main goal of the day was to see as many of the stalls as we could, and spend a few quid here and there.  There were a great many treasures to be seen – oh, if only I had the money to buy them all…

I did buy the following:

  • A ReAction figure of Jerry Only from the Misfits (to go with my Misfits Fiend I’d purchased previously).
  • A ReAction figure of the classic Universal monster, the Mummy (bargain price).
  • Freddie Mercury Funko Pop – the yellow jacket version, the first I’d ever seen in the wild and a steal for only a tenner.
  • A Marvel comic book: Master Of Kung Fu – cos I felt I needed to add at least one comic to my collection.

Not a bad little haul, really.

Over all, though, the greatest success of the day were the amazing Cosplayers.  Thanks to all of your for posing for a photo.  Hope you all had a great day!

That’s it for Part 1 of the MCM Comic Con write-up: stay tuned for Part 2 very soon, with loads more photos to enjoy…

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 2

Avengers

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

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.

DC gang

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.

R.I.P. Stan Lee

Stan Lee

28.12.1922 – 12.11.2018

This week we lost another hero, the one and only Stan Lee.  Writer, editor and publisher at Marvel comics – not to mention creative genius behind some of the 20th century’s most memorable characters.

I use the words “hero” and “creative genius” in relation to Stan for completely legitimate reasons.  The work of this man was ground breaking and had a massive impact on culture; he was also a genuinely decent human being.

Together with a creative team including legends such as Kirby, Ditko, Romita and Buscema, Lee was responsible for creating some of the most imaginative and ground breaking characters in comics.  Fantastic Four.  The Incredible Hulk.  The Amazing Spider-Man.  The Uncanny X-Men.  Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers and on and on.

Marvel characters may have been heroes, but they were not perfect.  For the first time, comics characters had real world problems.  They wrestled with the same everyday issues that their readers faced.  These superheroes leapt from the page with a load of personal baggage – and this new approach was revolutionary.  And very successful.

My favourite example is Spider-Man.  Spidey was a cool wise cracking hero, but Peter Parker was a nerdy kid; an outcast.  The guys didn’t want to hang around with him and the girls didn’t want to be with him.  As time went on, he struggled balancing classwork, relationships, a part time job and superhero-ing.  At any point in Spidey’s adventures, any or all of those issues could tumble out of control.

You can read numerable tributes to Stan Lee online, by all manner of people from all walks of life.  One positive from his passing is seeing how universally admired he was.

Reflecting on my own experience, I can remember seeing the Spiderman cartoon and the Hulk TV show as a tiny kid in the seventies.  By the age of seven, I’d graduated to my first Marvel comic (I vividly remember buying it and still have it to this day).  I was hooked.  I devoured comic books; all I wanted to be as a kid was a comic book artist.  To this day I attribute any grasp of the English language that I possess to these publications.  Including English exam results.

Stan Lee’s creations fired my imagination and inspired my creative aspirations, and those of millions all over the world.  They still do to this day, both in comic book form and the hugely successful movies.

This Marvel Universe – Stan’s Marvel Universe – was one where the outsider was welcome.  Bigotry and intolerance were not his way, nor that of his creations.  In making the underdog the centre of the story, Lee emancipated millions of us.

I’m proud to proclaim Stan Lee not only an innovator, but a true legend and one of the greatest creative individuals of the 20th century.

Excelsior!

Krull – The Black Coast Album Review

Here’s my latest album review from EVER METAL, reproduced here with permission.  Enjoy! 

Krull – The Black Coast

Iron Shield Records

Release date: 27/04/2018

Running Time: 42.32

Review by: Alun Jones

6/10 

KRULL!  Did you ever see the movie?  It’s GREAT!  On the ancient world of Krull, Prince Colwyn brings together a band of scoundrels to help him rescue Princess Lyssa from the clutches of the evil Beast, who threatens to conquer the planet.  It’s a sci-fi fantasy adventure with a Cyclops, cool weapons, vile baddies, Tucker Jenkins and Lysette Anthony.  I mean seriously, you need to see this film.  How metal does it sound?  Even the bad guys are called “Slayers”!

The band Krull occupy a musical space which is openly very inspired by fantasy, battles and all things sword and sorcery.  And right from the off, it’s a whole lot of fun.  The atmospheric intro “In the Woods” grabs the listener and plunges them into the ethereal world that Krull have concocted, and it’s pretty much full on from there.

Pace-wise, “The Black Coast” is like riding shotgun in a barbarian’s chariot, charging an army of Orcs.  Stand out tracks for me included “By Steel” and “The King and the Sword”, but the whole album is energetic traditional metal.  If you’re a fan of Priest, Maiden and the mighty Manowar you’ll find something to enjoy here.  Only midway track “Valhalla” slows things down a little, otherwise it’s a fast and brutal campaign.

So why only 6 out of 10?  Well there are lots of plus points with this album.  The vocals are suitably bonkers, ranging from powerful cries, deep growls to a high pitched, witchy cacophony.  The musicianship is great, and the rhythm section successfully keep the march relentless.  The songs are fast and filled with fantastic tales of battles and bravery.

But the guitar tone was just off for me.  I like something with more crunch; more skull smashing intensity.  After the cool intro, first track “The Witch”, whilst a great song, suffers from a languid guitar sound that slices the records hamstrings before the fight is really on.

Don’t misunderstand me, the playing is great – it’s the production that’s slightly lacking.  The guitars should be much more axe in the face, blood and brains everywhere.

There’s still a lot to recommend Krull’s “The Black Coast” though.  Especially if you dig your metal as a soundtrack to a rampaging berserker, attacking a horde of evil ghouls.

Oh, and get down to your local Blockbuster and rent the Krull video.  You won’t regret it.  It makes Lord of the Rings look like a bad Dungeons and Dragons game in a crack den.

Click here for the EVER METAL website, where you’ll find tons more reviews of albums and gigs by awesome bands!

www.facebook.com/krullheavymetal/

https://krullofficial.bandcamp.com/

www.instagram.com/krull.official/

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 3

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Well here we go, as promised, one more recap from Sci Fi Weekender 2018.  In previous years, my SFW blogs have run to two parts – with some Director’s Cuts (featuring alternate and unused photos) occasionally cropping up too.

This year though, there were so many photos that the only way to get these out (without delaying these things too long) was to create a Part 3.

Please accept my apologies, all those who have waited to see their photos.  Your patience is really appreciated and I’m really sorry you’ve had to wait.

I just hope these pics are OK – remember I’m no professional photographer, it’s all done for fun.  Regardless, the awesome feedback I get from SFW attendees is always great to hear – thanks!

I’ve covered all the antics I can remember from the weekend, so without further ado, lets get on with the pics, shall we?!

Big Trouble in SFW

Awesome Walking Dead cosplay

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 2

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Right back at ya with Part 2 of my report from Sci Fi Weekender 9.  Apologies for the delay, I’ve had some issues with memory banks getting wiped.

Day 2 of the festivities began with a monumental shock for our crew.  One of our team, Ensign Davies, had succumbed to a strange, planet borne virus.  When we awoke, there was no sign of our comrade.  He soon made contact however with news that he had beamed back up to the ship to recover.

Never the less, yet again the crew were falling prey to illness.  We would need all our stamina to see this campaign through.

First Mate Adam was up and out on patrol early; he went to view the new film from Tom Paton: “Black Site”.  Tom’s work had been witnessed before at SFW, and expectation was high for this new production.  Adam was happy to confirm that the movie was, indeed, excellent and well worth viewing (along with the cast and crew Q&A).

Myself, I took a local planetary transport omnibus to the nearby settlement of Porthmadog in order to feed my vinyl craving.  Crew members Greeny and Kurt remained in the static exploration cabin; monitoring visual communications.

Upon my return, the crew and I ventured out for further reconnaissance of the SFW9 event.  This involved in depth examination of merchandise for sale and photographing some of the unusual and impressive costumes on display.

Saturday evening was all set up for a big entertainment explosion in the Main Void, with the Imaginarium in full swing.  The action began with the Area 51 dancers disrupting visual scanners with fire eating and other astounding acts.  There was also Merlin the Escapologist, who managed to escape from a giant fish bowl on his head.  Or something like that, I was quite far away and it was packed out.

Whilst chilling with my crew and imbibing some refreshment, I managed to completely miss the highlight of the whole weekend: the Cosplay final.  I as absolutely horrified to realise I’d missed this, as it’s always a genuine highlight of SFW.  Luckily I was still able to capture some images of many of the guests; to my shame this was not enough however.

Instead I enjoyed the brilliant BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who performed live a veritable feast of electronic sci-fi sounds.  Chief among these of course were themes from Dr Who, a real treat that brought back some fond memories.  I’d missed the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on previous excursions, so I was delighted to hear their evocative experimental ear-worms properly.  Fantastic stuff.

I then made my exit from the Main Void, as the next feature wasn’t to my taste.  I appear to be the only person at SFW – out of hundreds – who doesn’t dig The Dark Room.  I’d seen the start of the previous night’s show and wasn’t into it.  It was just Peter Stringfellow with a bad temper.

Maybe it’s because I’m not into computer games, or maybe – for once – I’m just not geeky enough.  Either way, I’m in the minority as far as The Dark Room goes, and that’s fine with me.

So off I went to see Blues Harvest, a multi talented rock band with a penchant for all things nerdy.  They put on a great show, including Star Wars themes (performed by a rock band, remember) that were simply superb – all set to a cool visual edit from the movies.

Funnily enough my memory banks appear to be somewhat fried at this point, but I do recall Blues Harvest playing a storming Bowie tribute (“Life on Mars?” and “Magic Dance”, I think!).  Their final number was the Huey Lewis and the News chestnut “The Power of Love” – rounding off a fabulous set that combined rockin’ goodness with nostalgic treats.

The night was played out by the living legend that is DJ Level Up Leroy, who did a fine job of spinning a pulsating mix of tunes.  The sci-fi theme was continued nicely with come choice cuts and awesome visuals!

And that, ladies and gentle beings, was that.  Sadly for another year, the spectacular Sci Fi Weekender was at a close.

Before I leave you, some thanks: to all the Cosplayers, you were fantastic!  Fun and friendly, everyone of you was a joy to behold.  Yet again your talent and creativity were mind boggling to see.  Well done all!  I’m sorry I didn’t get more photos, but my sincere appreciation to all of those I took pics of.

Finally, to all the Sci Fi Weekenders, from across all known worlds and galaxies: THANK YOU!  You make this event the success it is.  Sci Fi Weekender is all about camaraderie and celebrating the things we love as one big tribe (to borrow Professor Elemental’s words).  It was a pleasure to meet you again or for the first time; long may it continue.

Epic group shot

Look, I’ll tell you what.  This blog is a monster.  To save delaying posting it any longer, I’ve got no choice other than to do a Part 3.  So the final batch of photos (don’t worry, I’ve run out of ramblings) will be soon.  Stay tuned!

The Sci Fi Weekender website is here.

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – The Director’s Cut

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

Over the course of 2017, I’ve visited quite a few Comic Conventions.  MCM at the NEC, Birmingham was, as always, fantastic.  I’ve already published two big, chunky blogs about my visit in November – however I had a few pics left over.

I’d like to present the final part of MCM Birmingham, with a few extra photos, for your enjoyment.

No waffle from me, just superstars doing what they do best. Just one last time to finish the year off…

There you go, all over for another year.

All the best for 2018 from Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!