Where: Glyndŵr University, Wrexham, North Wales
When: Sat/Sun 23rd/24th April, 2016
Wales Comic Con continues to grow in popularity and attendance. 2016 was the first year that the Con was spread over a whole weekend.
Before I start, a confession... This was (for the first time in WCC's history), a two day event. The huge popularity of the convention has caused a natural evolution from its traditional Sunday-only slot. I was only able to attend one day (Sunday), so this is a mini-review/blog of personal experience rather than a full on walkthrough. For a more detailed report, visit the blog of Shane King, a fellow convention fan, and someone who's renowned for his event (and TV show) reviews.
The location of this convention is perfect for me, being a mere five mile drive. It's the fifth time I've attended, and every time has resulted in a great experience. I took my youngest daughter with the intention of meeting my older daughter once we got there. We arrived at our usual time, and were unusually close to the front of the queue. I'm putting this down to the event being over two days, maybe the Sunday would be quieter.
Time spent in the queue seemed to pass quickly, with people in high spirits, and the usual vendors making the most of the opportunity of a captive audience by offering tea and coffee (along with 'Batman Bacon rolls' and 'Superman Sausage baps'). Queuing also offered the spectacle of many Cosplayers passing by, on their way to their meets. Before we knew it, 10am arrived and we were in!
First stop was the Tropical Roadshow, where I got the opportunity to hold a cool little snake! They also had spiders, scorpions, giant snails and exotic lizards on display, amongst other amazing creatures.
Then we moved on to the North Wales Owl Rescue Roadshow, where Sophie held a cute little Indian Scops owl, who seemed to love the attention.
After meeting the animals, we met up with my other daughter (Lauren) and took a short walk down to the campus sports hall which was being used as the main signing area. The guests from 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' were housed in their own building, and the queue to meet them was already starting to form. Whoever thought of seating them away from the main area deserves a pat on the back - they were hugely popular and it would have meant mayhem in the main hall!
When we got to the sports hall, there was a quick wristband check by the security dudes and we were in. Sophie (this was her first ever Con) was gobsmacked by the sheer enormity of it all! Everywhere she looked there was colour, laughing, superheroes, merchandise, posters, pictures, costumes, knick-knacks, badges, cakes, zombies.... It's honestly like entering another dimension when you visit WCC!
I wanted to meet Billy Boyd at last year's Con, but his queue was huge and I had guest talks to attend, so it didn't happen. This time, I made a beeline for him and he was worth it! A proper down-to-earth guy, he didn't try and rush anyone, and seemed genuinely interested in conversing with his fans. I got his autograph and he posed for a pic with me (professionally taken by my youngest of course).
Next on my list of celebs to meet was Xander Berkeley. He's been in loads of stuff, but I particularly loved him in '24' and 'Terminator 2 : Judgement Day', and more recently he has a part in one of my favourite shows, 'The Walking Dead'. So off we trotted to his table. He was busy with another guest when we got there, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Bunny Summers, his personal assistant for the day. I follow Bunny on Twitter, and we've actually met before (she was the PA for Sam J Jones) at an earlier Con, but it was nice to have a quick chat while I waited. If anyone is truly devoted to the Con scene, it's her.
I didn't know what to expect with Xander. He's quite a big name in acting and for some reason I thought he might be a bit pompous or conceited. Man, I couldn't have been more wrong! The guy was so laid back and pleasant, I felt like I could have chatted for hours! He had a cheeky glint in his eye which made me think he's a bit mischievous, perhaps a bit of a joker on set, and I wondered if he'd been giving Bunny and the WCC crew any stick that day. I asked him if we're to see any more of him on The Walking Dead, and he told me his character has a recurring role in future episodes, which is cool. I also asked if he could tell me who got a baseball bat to the face at the season 6 finale, but he claimed not even the actors working on the show knew that. Hmmm ;)
After meeting Xander, we decided to have a good walk around, taking in the sights and sounds (and smells..) of the main hall. Sophie recognised a few guests and couldn't believe how grown up the Harry Potter guys were. I think she expected them to look exactly as they did in the movies. As usual, there was some unbelievable merchandise available on the stalls, pretty much anything you could think of, a true geek's dream! We wandered around for a while, then decided to grab some food, and I gave the kids the choice of what to eat. Two minutes later we're stood at the burger van. Once we were refuelled, the oldest daughter wanted to meet Veronica Taylor, so we made our way to her table.
Lauren (my oldest) was totally starstruck, and to be honest Veronica was lovely. She was all smiles and hugs, and Lauren couldn't have hoped for anything more. They had a chat, Veronica autographed an (ancient) Pokemon DVD for Lauren, and they had a couple of photo's taken together. After another hug and thanks we started to move off but Veronica called Lauren back, and started saying something to her privately. I have no idea what was said, but I caught the last few words and it sounded like '..awesome Pokemon trainer..', but in the voice of Ash! To say Lauren was excited was an understatement! She's 18 and she had tears in her eyes!
The day was pressing on, and while Sophie and I went off to the photography hall for my shoot with Xander, Lauren disappeared on her own for a while. She does that. When we got to the photo hall, Sophie enjoyed a sit down in the lounge area while I went in. Xander was his usual laid-back self, laughing and joking with the fans as we lined up for pictures. When it was my turn he remembered me from earlier, shook my hand and put his arm around me for the photo. What a great guy!
After my shoot, we wandered into the gaming tent - which was impressively filled with retro and modern games, more stalls, the official gaming tournament, and the sign-up area for the Cosplay masquerade. I said a quick hello to Nem James (Cosplay host from last year, and general all-round dude) who was taking registrations for the event later on. I also took the opportunity to grab a photo with a couple of professional Cosplayers, who just also happened to be lovely ladies!
I always make a point of attending the Cosplay masquerade, it's a highlight of the day for me - even though I often don't know some of the characters being portrayed. It's great fun, impressive to see the amount of work people have put into their costumes, and always has some great comedy moments. The really little kids are awesome and I've often had a lump in my throat when the crowd roars their appreciation for the toddlers. I was tempted to go and grab a place in the masquerade queue, but I still wanted to meet Amy Manson, and fearing she'd be gone by the time the show had finished, I dragged Sophie back to the main hall.
Amy Manson was a complete angel! What a really nice, talkative, pretty girl - really down to earth and friendly. I know her from 'Being Human' and I've seen a few eps of 'Atlantis', but I'm currently watching 'Once Upon A Time' and she has quite a large role in that. I admitted to her that I'd only recently started watching it on Netflix, and haven't met her character yet, so she wrote a quote from her character on a photo she signed for me, and said it'll make sense when the time comes :)
At this point, my oldest daughter reappeared, telling me she wanted to put her DVD in the car and have a bit of a time-out (nothing to do with the fact that she'd been out on the pop the night before, and was still slightly hung-over...), so I gave her the keys and she disappeared off to chill while Sophie and I made our way to the Cosplay event.
I should say at this point that I usually attend the guest talks that are scattered throughout the day. These are (to WCC's credit - take note other convention organisers!) completely free to enter, and are always enjoyable and engaging. However, there was so much to see and do at the convention, I simply didn't have time to attend a talk! Maybe I should have pulled a sickie from work and gone on the Saturday too. I really shouldn't have said that here, oh well.
The Cosplay masquerade was packed this year! I've been to every one since they started and I've seen the audience grow and grow, but this time the hall was heaving! Nem was there, but this time in a behind-the-scenes capacity (he usually presents) as there were guest presenters in the form of Mark Meer(Mass Effect) and YouTube/Twitter star, Eile Monty. As with previous years, there were also three guest judges from the world of Cosplay.
We'd seen a lot of Cosplayers throughout the day but one was especially impressive, and that was Sophie Elizabeth Johnson and her incarnation of Vi from League Of Legends. I'd blagged a photo with her earlier, and I remember telling my daughter that I'd be surprised if Vi didn't win an award at the masquerade. Turns out that was an accurate prediction as she later (deservedly) won the award for best craftsmanship!
The masquerade itself was fantastic! There were some amazing costumes on display, some very cheesy character acting, some great one-liners from the hosts, and even a Pokemon sing-along while we waited for the judges decisions to be made. Cosplays of note for me personally (other than Vi) were an awesome Deadpool, a ridiculously good Captain Jack Sparrow, a very sexy (and almost screen-accurate) Catwoman, a great vault-dweller from Fallout, a really good Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad version), a sexy Ewok(?!), a marauding Kylo Ren, a fantastic Mad Max and a brilliant Eddie (Iron Maiden). Special mention to a little lady who was half-horse, half winged girl. (I have no idea what her character was, but damn, the costume was amazing!)
I haven't even scraped the surface of what was on show at the masquerade, there really was so much to see, but those are the ones that stuck in my mind. The judges (eventually..) decided on Vi (I knew it!), Deadpool, and 'Lil Bow' as the winners and I think they got it right, although Jack Sparrow's mannerisms and vocal acting were absolutely spot-on, I bet they struggled with the decision!
There is so much I haven't mentioned in this review. We went on the gaming bus, we checked out the vast display and demo of board games, we even had a sniff at the machines from 'Robot Wars'. There were movie vehicles on display (Optimus Prime, Barricade, Bumblebee, Lightning McQueen), Jesse McClure's muscle car was outside for people to admire and photograph. There were famous wrestlers, movie stars, cartoon artists and authors. There were custom cupcakes and Pop figurines galore. This really is the place to be if you have any interest at all in the world of visual arts.
Alas, after the Cosplay event, it was time to head home. We nipped back to the photo hall to collect my Xander picture, then made our way to the car park. On the way, Sophie told me she'd had an amazing day, and definitely wanted to come to the next one. I have to say, I definitely want to go to the next one too. It really was a fantastic day out, and I hope they just keep on coming! :)