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…

Wales Comic Con 2018

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 1st – Sunday 2nd December 2018

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Another weekend, and another trip to a convention!  After my previous excursion to Birmingham, this one was a fair bit closer to home: just down the road in Wrexham.  Wales Comic Con takes place at Glyndwr University, and has steadily been building up a great reputation over the years.

The main attraction at Wales Comic Con has been the guests.  Held twice a year, and in a somewhat smaller area than other events, the con has consistently punched above it’s weight in terms of the sheer quality of guests that it has attracted.

It was for this reason that my family and I were attending again this year.  Mrs Platinum Al wanted to meet the actor Chris Sarandon, who as the voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (as well as playing evil Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride) was a definite must-meet for her.

Unfortunately, Chris dropped out just a day or two before, after we’d bought tickets and a photo op.  Not good news, but not the end of the world: these things happen.

The photo op money would be returned, and we decided to go to the con anyway to have a day out.  This was the right move as there was still plenty to experience, even though the weather was temperamental.

The cosplayers at WCC were fantastic, as always.  There were a large variety of characters from comics, film, tv, games and more.  The costumes were of the highest standard and the cosplayers were all friendly.  After the disaster at MCM Birmingham the week before, I had manged to remember my camera this time and got quite a few good shots.

My daughter has discovered Harry Potter not long ago, so she dressed as Hermione Granger.  She posed for some great photos, some of which are included here.  Plus she was really happy to meet Stanislav Ianevski, who played Viktor Krum – that made her day.

In the past, there hasn’t been a massive amount of merchandise available at WCC.  This has improved over the years though, and I was able to acquire a few nice action figures for Christmas.  Very happy!

So we all had a fun family day out at Wales Comic Con, and hope to return for the next event in the new year.  Hopefully Chris Sarandon will be there.  Third time lucky?

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Battle of the century!

Sci-fi Weekender 2016 – The Director’s Cut

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

It’s nearly that time again – the time for Sci-Fi Weekender at Hafan Y Mor, North Wales.  So as per previous years, here are a few bonus photos from last years festivities.  For some reason or other, these shots never made the original two part blog write up last year.  My apologies for that, but here are the best of what’s left.

For those with memories wiped or destroyed by pan galactic gargle blasters, Sci-Fi Weekender is a gathering every March for all things science fiction and fantasy related.  There are special celebrity guests, discussion panels, interviews, workshops, gaming and more.  Not to mention plenty of entertainment and partying.

If this is your kind of thing, there’s no better place to be than Pwllheli, where the Hafan Y Mor caravan park hosts this superb event.

The main highlight of the festivities are the people who attend.  Travelling from all over known galaxy, there are some wonderful people to meet and a welcoming atmosphere for all.

Of course the cosplay on display is inspiring, eccentric and hugely creative.  Whether it’s a costume that’s taken hours (or days) to make or just a fun nod to a random, unsung background character, the inventiveness and level of in depth knowledge to be seen is spectacular.

So here are a few more photos of the brave, intrepid souls who let their creative prowess and geek pride shine.  Every one of them a star.

Enjoy the photos – though be warned: they’re of varying quality…

Girls just wanna have fun

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

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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!

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Cosplay winner!

Wales Comic Con 2015

Wales Comic Con – 26th April 2015

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

It was an amazing sunny day Wales Comic Con.  The sun was shining and the atmosphere was a winner.  I took my family along to Glyndwr University in Wrexham for an afternoon of Sci-Fi, fantasy and comic books and we had a fantastic time.

As per other conventions I’ve covered at the Virtual Hot Tub, the event was a mix of guests signing and doing Q&As, merchandise for sale, displays and gaming.  A varied menu of entertainments brought out fans galore, and the area was filled with enthusiasts from all over.

No doubt the great weather helped, but there was a tremendously friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere at this event.  My little girl, Eloise, dressed as Anna from Frozen and had a wonderful experience meeting lots of other Disney Princesses.  It was the first time she’s been to an event like this, and I think Eloise is a convert for life.

The Cosplayers were numerous, and their costuming skills very talented.  There were superheroes, Star Wars characters, time travelling doctors – everything you can think of.  I took plenty of photos, as you can see here.  All were happy to have their photographs taken, for which I am very grateful.  So many missed opportunities though!

A real highlight of the day, fo me, was meeting Dath Vader himself – Dave Prowse.  A very amiable chap, I’ve never met Mr Prowse before though I have met several of his Star Wars co-stars.  I got a signed photo  and shook the man’s hand.  A real gent.

My only criticism of the event was that there was little merchandise that appealed to me.  But that’s a very subjective viewpoint and wouldn’t put me off Wales Comic Con in future.

The event appeared to be run very well.  The last time I went, the queues were so long that my buddies and me gave up and went home without getting in.  No problems this year, the convention was busy but with no apparent issues.

Wales Comic Con was awesome fun.  We all had a great day out and will definitely go again.  It’s handy it’s so close to home.  The real success here was that the event kept all of us enthralled, whether it was a four year old Princess or an old Jedi like me.  Top marks.

Wales Comic Con website is here.

Meeting Dave Prowse

Meeting Dave Prowse

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…!

Sci-Fi Weekender part 2

Sci-Fi Weekender 28th – 30th March 2014

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day Two – and Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself were up bright and early to see what the day would bring.  LIE.  We had a lie in, went to get s cooked breakfast, got some supplies at the Spar, and chilled out in the chalet for a while.  We decided to wander down to see what was going just a little after the action began at midday.  Although impressed with what we’d witnessed so far, we still didn’t know what to expect.

Exploring the set up, we soon found the events and had a good look around the merchandise area.  I picked up a couple of cool items – a Star Wars figure I needed and a Countess Dracula t-shirt.  I could’ve spent a fortune if I’d had the money.  There was quite a buzz as fans scouted around for bargains and highly desirable paraphernalia.

There were numerous discussion panels, interviews and signings through out the afternoon.  Luckily I caught a very interesting talk with 2000AD creator Pat Mills, refreshingly anti-authoritarian even after all these years.  There was quite a 2000AD presence, with some of my favourite artists of all time – Glenn Fabry and Simon Bisley – in attendance.  Somebody really should make a film version of Slaine…

I also caught a very entertaining chat with The Hobbit actor Graham McTavish.  Although I’ve yet to see the film(s), his interview was still engaging; with many captivating stories from behind the scenes.

Of course, the main attraction for me (except for beer) was taking photos of all the various fans who’d taken the time and trouble to dress up as their favourite characters.  There were some amazing costumes, as shown here and in the previous post.  Again, fans were more than happy to pose for photos.  The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming with no bad vibes on display anywhere.

The highlight of the evening was the Cosplay final – those who entered the competition were judged on the best costume.  I forget who won, but the talent and care on display was highly commendable – as you can see from the photos.

There were several Cosplayers I either missed getting a photo of, or the pic turned out rubbish.  My apologies – again, I’m not a professional.  It is with great shame that I cannot present for you here Jar Jar Green Screen, General Zod, the Beast and sexy Six of Nine silver Star Trek girl.  Sorry.  But I think Silk Spectre (below) makes up for that.

Another late night ended with the “legendary” Pat Sharp spinning the wax for a packed dance floor.  All in all, a great day with a real sense of community.

Finally, I must thank Glyn again for providing not only tickets but our accommodation.  I hope these reports give you some idea of how the event was.  Cheers!

Visit the Sci-Fi Weekender site here.

Classic Albums

The first in an ongoing series, where I will be discussing some of the best records ever made.  These are the “classics” of my record collection, that no-one should be without.

1. The Cult – “Love”

Released in 1985, The Cult’s album Love still sounds fantastic to this day.  It’s a potent cocktail of resurrected blues-rock riffs, screaming psychedelia and murky atmosphere that transcended music of the time.  Listening to it now, it seems unbelievable that the record was created in the mid eighties.  And yet it has enough power – and melodic charm – to still sound great.

In late 1988 I had become obsessed with Electric, the full-on rock monster that the Cult had released a year earlier.  A friend lent me a copy of Love, promising that the songs contained therein were the best the band had recorded.  cult-love

At this point I had explored some rock, metal and punk.  Love was to be a bridge between these genres in many ways.  Happily it was (what would become) “alternative” rock – though it worshipped at the altar of Hendrix, The Doors and Led Zeppelin, it was birthed from the fire of punk rock.

Opening track “Nirvana” kicks things off in blazing style.  It has a fast pace and contains a euphoric instrumental section.  Both “Big Neon Glitter” and the title track “Love” offer up the Big Zep riffs and allow guitarist Billy Duffy to add a psychedelic shimmer.  Then “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” provides a quieter moment.  If the earlier tracks were ideal for blasting out the windows of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, this track is more singer Ian Astbury sitting on a pony surveying the prairie.  As the song ends, rumbling clouds herald the next track: “Rain”.  One of the best songs the Cult have ever recorded, “Rain” has a truly classic riff that is instantly recognisable and never forgotten.

Side Two (!) opens with “Phoenix”.  This track, unashamedly adorned with Hendrix inspired acid rock guitar, hints at the heavier sounds to come in later chapters of the bands story.  “Hollow Man” provides more driving bass (Jamie Stewart) and a simpler, melodic lead guitar.  Astbury has the chance to really shine on ballad “Revolution”, with a calmer moment that harks back to the bands Goth post-punk phase.

Next we have the mother of all Cult songs – “She Sells Sanctuary”.  A vaguely Eastern sounding intro leads into a stomping rhythm as the song grabs the listener and drags them along for the sheer hell of it.  This song became an instant favourite and still has an impact all these years later.  Final track, “Black Angel”, is a sombre Velvet Underground do Spaghetti Western affair that again adds some darkness to the proceedings.

The band received a lot of criticism for having a somewhat “hippie-ish” element to their sound, and look, on this album.  There are a few moments where the “peace and love” vibe wear a bit thin (see “Revolution”), however the overall sound of the record retains a dark edge to it – more decadent than naive.

The Cult would go on to fully embrace their heavy rock interests with Electric.  But for a kid who had never heard Zeppelin or Hendrix, Love was a monumental discovery.  Put it on and listen to it now, this record has a magic that is of it’s time and yet speaks of the past and future.

The Cult – Love

  1. Nirvana
  2. Big Neon Glitter
  3. Love
  4. Brother Wolf, Sister Moon
  5. Rain
  6. Phoenix
  7. Hollow Man
  8. Revolution
  9. She Sells Sanctuary
  10. Black Angel

Best tracks: Rain, She Sells Sanctuary, Nirvana, Brother Wolf, Sister Moon

Other cool points: great cover!

Buy this Classic Album here.