Those of you who follow my exploits (why?) or suffered on that fateful Saturday will know of the debacle that was the first Newcastle Film and Comic Con (NFCC). The first day was an utter shambles for many, you can read about it here, at one point staff took to blaming the mess on people “loitering” inside, clearly not knowing what sort of event it was. Even people with pre-bought tickets couldn’t get in as the arena staff were letting people in the non-ticket queue inside… I KNOW!
However, they did manage to fix the problem for the next day, but sadly many people had to be turned away on the first day, despite queuing for hours on end. The one saving grace was that Showmasters, the organisers, had a reason to come back to Newcastle upon Tyne, there was a clear hunger for these kinds of events in the city.
Being one of the unlucky ones last year, this time I pre-ordered early bird tickets as soon as they became available, hopeful that I would get in, but prepared to be turned away bitterly disappointed with a few choice phrases to say over Twitter.
Inescapable, queuing is a fact of life when it comes to cons, our early bird tickets got us in from 9am, and we arrived just after 8am. We were hugely dismayed to see that the ticket queue had already extended past the back of the arena and we were even more disappointed when it started to drizzle. What we didn’t expect at that time was a queue for the 11am ticket holders, still, I guess after what happened last year people weren’t taking their chances.
It is during the queueing portion of the day that you get to see people dressed up in cosplay come by and join the queue. We witnessed Judges, several incarnations of Doctor Who, a female Deadpool, a dude wearing a chicken mask and carrying a baseball bat from the awesome Hotline Miami, Disney characters, Star Wars characters, in fact, we saw all manner of costumes across the entire spectrum of pop culture and then some.
Nine AM came, and we were still waiting, there was a murmur of excitement as our queue slowly moved forwards. We joked about people without tickets being let in before us, as was the case last year, and thought it was a possibility when our queue came to several abrupt stops. However, we were soon within the Metro Radio Arena, a year later, at the second Newcastle Film and Comic Con.
Once inside we were greeted by Lord Vader and a couple of his Stormtroopers who, incidentally, actually were a little too short to be so. Wandering around the lobby area (I think it’s the lobby arena) we saw more great costumes including people with awesome steampunk wings. I love me a bit of steampunk.
We located one of the many entrances to the main floor and in we went… Much like the wardrobe we were treated to a winter wonderland filled with fauns, an ice queen, and a mighty lion, okay, we weren’t, but that would have been cool, instead we saw stall upon stall selling various goodies.
Doing an initial lap, we clocked which stalls we wanted to spend some time perusing their wares (we had between us a pretty penny) and located the areas where talks were going to be held and in what running order. It had all the makings of a great day.
Wandering by the autograph area we caught sight of a couple of cast members of TV show of the moment Game of Thrones (James Cosmo and Ben Crompton), Kristanna Loken of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines fame, and some other people who we wouldn’t have recognised if not for the photographs of their most famous parts above them.
Taking our seats the MC told us the rules (flash photography only for the first minute, no filming, have questions ready) as we waited for Ray Park to arrive and arrive he did to rapturous applause, pulling off some classic Wushu poses as he took his seat.
Ray came across as incredibly easy going, friendly, and accessible, as question after question (mostly about his role as Darth Maul) were thrown at him. Inevitably, they were questions he will have been asked countless times previously but he answered them as if they were the first time he was asked them.
All too soon the talk was over and we were ordered out of our seats.
I’m a fan of the Terminator series of film (I’m excluding Salvation as in my world that film did not happen, except in cold sweaty nightmares) and I was excited to see Kristanna Loken talk. Kristanna, as you know, played the T-X in Terminator 3 and was arguably the best thing about the film.
Having been ousted from the talk area we ended up in a long, long queue of people wanting to see Kristanna talk too, however, we quickly found ourselves back in the exact same seats as were were during the Ray Park talk. Fortuitous.
As far as I could tell, the talk area was rammed, there was even people standing on the stairs, but, sadly for them, they were ushered away.
Kristanna was awesome, she told stories about working with Arnie on T3, performing her own stunts on various films, and, more interestingly, she talked of her work on the many independent films that she’s been a part of. She also spoke particularly eloquently of working on projects with her father, to which she seems to have an incredible bond with. You could feel the love as she told us about their work together, it made me appreciate my own parents more.
Oh, she even had some very kind words to say about Uwe Boll who directed her in In The Name of the King. This is possibly a first in the world of entertainment!
However, the best thing was that heart stopping moment when I realised that she had started following me on Instagram! I KNOW!
Back To The Floor
Leaving the talk area we hit the stalls, it was during our wander that we realised we had made a mistake missing the Eve Myles (Torchwood) talk, as she appeared to have the audience spellbound, going by the laughs that we could hear. However, that’s just the way cons go, you win some and you lose some, we clearly lost some with regards to Myles.
Wandering the stalls it quickly became clear that I didn’t want to buy anything… I had taken with me a good wedge of cash and I came away with all of it. When I did find something of interest I realised that it could be had for cheaper, much cheaper in some cases, online. I almost bought a Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks hardback with slipcase for £35 after being told it was going for some $250+ on eBay, I have since found it for £25.
I found a lot of merchandise on sale wasn’t official merchandise but rather replicas, in fact, my friend noted that a lot of stuff there seemed to be of Sunday market quality. Of course this is no different to any other con or mart you or I have attended, several stalls at an event in Birmingham sold DVDs of movies that were currently playing at cinemas at the time!
Still, official merchandise was available and it was a joy to see important Japanese figures and models, as well as goodies from the likes of Hot Toys and Sideshow Collectibles. However, as much as I like them, a great number of stalls were selling those Pop! Vinyls by Funko. As a result, stalls were very samey.
One thing that was new to me (admittedly it’s been a while since I went to a con) was the availability of replica and live bladed weapons. One stall let me handle a replica of Michonne’s sword from The Walking Dead. “No big”, I hear you sniff, “The official replica has been available for ages”, well this particular replica was a live blade! As tempted as I was, as it was a beautiful looking sword, I have no real need for a live blade, but I imagine that if a zombie apocalypse was to happen I’m going to be kicking myself for not getting my wallet out…
I witnessed line after line of baby faced teens handing over their ID’s and then money for a weapon, be it a replica movie sword from The Lord of the Rings, metal Batarang, or one of the many generic Japanese katanas. Now, I’m a martial artist and I have a number of weapons, including blunted swords, but I can’t for the life of me fathom why anyone want such a piece, even I would baulk at a live sword.
There was some spectacular costumes on that day, stand out was a guy in a cardboard box (I never did work out what he was supposed to be), some dude dressed as Elmo, and best of all, an amazing Zombie Snow White.
Perhaps my favourite was a guy who had fashioned his hair like Wolverine, wore a jacket similar to the one in the movies, and who taped, badly, silver paper to the webbing of his fingers to emulate Logan’s adamantium claws. God loves a trier, and I was heartened to see both professional cosplayers and total amateurs. This is what comic con can be about, for one weekend you can be who you want to be, your favourite Superhero or Villian, your all time movie icon, even a cardboard box, you name it, you can be it.
As we were leaving we noticed that the non-ticket holders queue went right round the corner and to the back of the arena. At this point it was one out one in and, although I enjoyed myself, I can’t say that I was blown away by the event. Last year we queued for hours without success, if I had managed to get in I can only imagine how disappointed I would have been.
Highlights were the talks and professional cosplayers doing their rounds, low points were the quality of the merchandise on sale. Would I be back? It’s probably entirely guest dependent, I’m very tempted to say “No“, but I am very much in the minority. Both days were packed out with tickets having sold out before the event and with many more fans braving the long queues hoping to get in.
In fact, you know what? I’ll see you next year Newcastle Film and Comic Con…