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.

Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

Hollywood Vampires + The Darkness + The Damned

Sunday 17th June 2017

Manchester Arena

It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester.  Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show.  It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.

First off the bat, our old chums The Damned!  This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records.  However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd.  And in such a huge venue.

Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance.  The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there.  I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.

Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years.  Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start.  Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…

Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke  who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game.  Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.

The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991!  Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro.  Fantastic.  There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.

Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly.  The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well.  From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.

I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot  their lines and The Damned get a gold star.

You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on.  However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed.  Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned.  Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.

Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger.  Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.

The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well.  Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are.  Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock.  For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.

I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless.  At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.

There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front.  This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).

And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase.  The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up.  Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy?  Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?

Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point.  Yes, they can play – and they can write, too.  It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.

The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade.  Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently.  It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.

Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly.  He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.

It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as  accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage.  It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is.  Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.

Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax.  Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang.  He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.

In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride.  Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun.  It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band.  Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it.  Which is what it’s all about, right?

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

And yes, it’s a long awaited return to the fantastic Comic Con that is MCM Birmingham!  Held every March and November at the NEC, this event is huge – and one of my favourites.  All Comic Cons are fun, but MCM Birmingham has a feel and flavour all of it’s own.

Part of that reputation is down to the pure spectacle of size.  The events halls in the NEC that house this function are truly huge – like aircraft hangers.  They seem big enough to hold the S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-carrier, never mind an Avengers quinjet.

But the main reason that MCM Birmingham is so much fun is the people – specifically, the amazing, talented cosplayers that travel from far and wide to show their genius costumes.

Whether it’s little kids in store-bought superhero outfits or full fledged cosplay supremos spending months perfecting their craft, the whole extravaganza is awesome.

When you add in the myriad replica film props, models and paraphernalia, it all adds up to a thrilling day out.

The scale of this event seems to ramp up every time I visit it.  There a vast number of stalls, as previous, selling all manner of items.  This years hot pieces appeared to be pocket watches (want) and Funko Pops.

I resisted the joy of Funkos for a long time.  Now I wish I hadn’t, as I’ve missed several that I would’ve loved.  I started collecting them earlier this year, have a few cool ones, and want so many more.  Funko Pops seemed to be everywhere at this years Comic Con.  Which makes me happy.

There were also loads of interesting guests to meet, though due to budgetary issues I didn’t get any autographs this time.  In particular, I wanted to add the signature of Pauline Peart, who appeared in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, to my Hammer Glamour book.

Never mind, hopefully we’ll cross paths again.

We arrived early at the event, having early bird tickets.  This allowed us early entry, and it was a little quieter to begin with.

It was also a bit quieter on the Cosplay front till later that morning.  I guess that makes sense; if you’re a cosplay afficianado, you’re more likely to be perfecting your stunning costume rather than getting in line early doors.

 

So it was a bit slow on the photo front at first, things soon got going though!  There were costumed characters of every possible description literally all over the place by midday.  I got some great pictures of as many as I could – you can see the results on this page.

As I always state, I’m by no means a professional photographer.  Luckily the camera seemed to be on form on this day (not sure I was) so I captured some pretty good images.

The results are to the credit of the cosplay enthusiasts however, not any photographic skills on my part.  My thanks to everyone of you that posed graciously for me, I hope these photos do some justice to your creative skills.  All of you were friendly and enthusiastic, my respect to you all.

And with that, we’ll conclude part 1 of this MCM Birmingham blog.  Part 2 soon – with more photos – plus anything else I can remember about the day!

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!

Superhero Action Figures

You may well be familiar with the Mego action figures of the 1970s – they made dozens of superhero dolls approximately 8 inches tall.  You can see my Batmobile and Captain Americar toys (all I have left from my Mego collection) in an earlier post.  They also made figures for Planet of the Apes and tons of other licenses.

Other than the 8″ line, there were also a series of 3.75″ superhero figures, known Comic Action Heroes.  These examples of this range of figures have been in my collection since the late 1970’s.

IMG_2766

Originally I bought a Spiderman figure, from the sadly long gone Toy & Hobby in Chester, but he broke.  This line of figures weren’t the most robust – a common problem was the legs breaking off.  the body below the waist was made of rubber, and likely to give way.

So Spiderman was posted back to the Customer Service department.  A few weeks later I received a parcel containing some replacement figures – these are the ones you see here.  No Spiderman unfortunately, but I got a few others as compensation.

The Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin was pretty cool to have.  Strangely, Batman’s head was made out of soft rubber which was attached to his cape.  As a result, you could pop off Batman’s head if you so desired.  Also a bit bizarre, the Boy Wonder is actually taller than his pal!

The Joker was a nice figure, quite good facial detail.  I remember also owning Superman in this batch, but he’s long since disappeared.  And I think my sister had the Wonder Woman toy.

The final figure from this range is The Incredible Hulk.  Raging green and mean, he wears traditional purple pants and also has a good face sculpt.  However, Hulk’s left arm (not seen in the photo) fell off, and had to be reattached with glue.  Like I said, not very robust.

A couple of years later, Mego made further superhero action figures, in the Pocket Super Heroes line.  They were very similar to the earlier figures, but with straight legs rather than bent.  My only figure from this line is Lex Luthor.  Again Lex has a good (for the time) face sculpt – I’ve always thought there was a resemblance to Gene Hackman.

These Super Heroes were pretty cool figures that I loved.  A shame that they weren’t very durable, and that Spidey isn’t in my toy box any more.  Still, cool seventies toys that bring back loads of memories.

You can read more about this range of toys at Toymania here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #6

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 22nd January 2016

The first Bring Your Own Vinyl Night of 2016 brought out fantastic tunes old and new. Regardless of genre, all were welcome to spin their records for the enjoyment of the gathered vinyl enthusiasts.

Held in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, the idea is simple.  Each participant gets a fifteen minute slot to play whatever they like, so long as it’s on vinyl.  No other format permitted.

Again my selection for this evening had a theme, though a sad one.  Inspired by the loss of many musical heroes recently, my songs were selected as a tribute to some of those musicians who had passed away.

My old mucker Adam was first up from our gang.  He’d got to the pub early and had some food, which I’m told was very good.  Here’s his set:

  • Aerosmith – Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
  • The Backbeat Band – Money
  • David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
  • Neil – Hole in My Shoe
  • Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – White Lines

Five great songs, awesome set.  Some of the other punters had a go, then it was my turn on the wheels of steel.

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

Taken from the first Stone Temple Pilots record, “Core”, this song is my favourite track on the album.  “Plush” is a big, epic song that always reminded me of Led Zeppelin.  A great track to start the set off, though as it’s over five minutes long it meant that my set would be three songs rather than the usual four.  No problem.  Played in memory of STP singer Scott Weiland who died in December 2015.

Motorhead – Killed by Death

At the last Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, I played “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead as drummer Phil Taylor had passed away.  Sadly Lemmy, Motorhead main man and all round rock legend, was to follow on 28th December 2015.  After “Ace of Spades”, the next best Motorhead tune is “Killed By Death”, so I gave this classic a spin.  Taken from the best of compilation “No Remorse”, which I bought when I was 16 as it had both of the aforementioned tracks on it.  Every home should have one!

David Bowie – Heroes

And finally a Bowie song, to remember this great artist.  I chose “Heroes” as it’s my favourite Bowie song, grand and optimistic with a tinge of melancholy.  Truly magnificent.  The track I played was the single edit, taken from the “Best of Bowie” album, which I picked up a couple of years ago in a charity shop.  There were several songs I could have picked from several albums I own, all brilliant tunes. Bowie best of

After three songs I was running out of time for my fifteen minute slot and decided to call it quits.  I had the Eagles “Take It Easy” in reserve, to commemorate the passing of Glen Frey, but I was running out of time.  Plus Bowie’s “Heroes” was a perfect track to end on.

So Ben the Swede took to the stage after me, armed with just three records.  He’s moving house, you see ( a real house, not a cardboard box) – and most of his stuff is in storage at the moment.  Despite limited resources, Ben dropped a set of bangers.

  • Megadeth – Tornado of Souls
  • Elton John – Grey Seal
  • Deep Purple – Never Before

A nice mix there, from Megadeth to Elton John!

There you have it – another night of great tunes and good company at the Queen’s Head.  I even had a few requests for songs from the audience, though couldn’t oblige as that’s not what vinyl night is all about!  Thanks to everyone concerned.

Hope to see you there next time!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

R.I.P. David Bowie

Bowie

David Bowie

08.01.1947 – 10.01.2016

Unbelievable that my second blog post of 2016 is another in tribute to a musical hero who is no longer with us.

The recent passing of David Bowie caught us all off guard; I for one thought it was some cruel internet prank at first.  Not so – a quick trawl of the internet confirmed the sad news.

Back around 1990, my uncle let me borrow a bunch of records from his collection – an absolute buzz for a music obsessive like me.  There were records by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, The Stranglers, Devo and more.  I saw a copy of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, and asked if I could borrow that too.  He kindly agreed and I made off with my temporary haul.

Right from the start, listening to the “Ziggy Stardust” album was something revolutionary.  I knew I was hearing something special.

The reason I’d wanted to become more acquainted with Bowie’s work was the high regard some of my other favourite bands held him in, mostly due to his friendship and support of Iggy Pop.  I was already a massive Stooges fan.

From “Ziggy Stardust” I continued exploring David Bowie’s considerable catalogue.  Some songs were instants classics, some challenged me.  All of it was worthwhile taking the time to investigate: classics from “Hunky Dory” and “Low” being favourites.  All of those songs inspired me, and gave insight into how many artists of different genres had been inspired by his work.

In fact, the greatest legacy that Bowie’s work has left, for me at least, was that constant pioneering exploration.  I was encouraged to expand my musical horizons and accompany Bowie on journeys into different sonic territories.  It’s thanks to that spirit that I have the wide ranging taste in music that I have today.

Thank you, David Bowie, for taking us on your adventures in sound.  I will continue to admire and study your legacy for years to come.

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.

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…!