Although I’m not going to San Diego Comic Con (and probably won’t in the foreseeable future), it doesn’t mean I can’t have the experience of being in a large exhibition centre filled with geeks, some dressed in costume, buying merchandise and getting autographs.
The London Film and Comic Con was over the weekend at Earls Court Two, and my girlfriend and I decided to see what it was like on Sunday. We went as Standard Entry attendees, rather than paying extra to get in early for the opportunity to buy more things, so we’re obviously not geeky enough. We got there around 1pm, and there weren’t as many people as I expected. Things got busier later on, but I thought that the full crowd would stay the duration.
There were the now expected fans dressing up: Stormtroopers (people were doing photos being arrested), a rather short Darth Vader, an Alien Queen with space marines, several Ghostbusters, some Jedis, an Indiana Jones, a really good Cyberman, a Silent Bob who was the spitting image of Kevin Smith, and a lot of people dressed in tight clothing who really shouldn’t in costumes I didn’t recognise (my geek level seemed to drop throughout the afternoon).
The bulk of the hall was taken up with people selling things and the sheer variety was amazing: not just comic books, DVDs, autographed photographs, posters, but everything geek-related that you could imagine from pervy manga statues to mugs/plates/keyrings/coasters adorned with Star Trek images, to t-shirts and cards, replica swords and statues. I didn’t buy anything, mainly because I’m just into the films and comics themselves, but also because I wouldn’t know where to start if I did. There was simply too much; how can these people afford all this?
There were ‘exhibits’ of sorts: SFX had a Tardis for you to (pay) get your photograph taken coming out of; you could (pay) to get your photo taken in the Back To The Future DeLorean; there was an Ark of the Covenant, some Terry English armour (some including women inside them, indicating Mr English perhaps has a certain fetish) and, rather mundanely, a Universal-sponsored plasma screen showing trailers. A very strange mix.
There was a small sectioned-off area for talks (the queue for Jason Mewes was spiralling out shortly after we arrived) and the majority of the remaining third was for the autograph area. This was something I had never seen in the flesh before, and I was interested to see for myself. You can see the list of people who were there on the website: there were queues for David Warner and Christopher Lloyd, but the main draw was Patrick Stewart. The virtual queues (people who had booked in advance) were huge, and got even larger when the queue was opened up to everyone. His autograph would cost you £25, ‘No personalisations’, no handshaking and no talking. He kept on signing away and the people kept coming. It was weird seeing the difference between him and the other people: Margot Kidder and Karen Allen were getting a few people, Sylvester McCoy was constantly being greeted, even John Landis was happy to chat to folks. But some would be sitting or standing, waiting for anyone to come and visit. I felt so sorry for them.
As someone who went to a couple of UKCACs (UK Comic Art Conventions) back in the early 1990s, this all felt so commercial I didn’t know what to do with myself. The sense of enthusiastic obsession with the geek concept of choice in those heady days was not completely absent but it was lacking. My rose-tinted view recalls the freebies on offer, the talks, the costume parade, the ability to talk to the creators (or not, in my case; I went to get Chris Claremont’s autograph, mumbled ‘Xfjldsignlaflrrbbghghlslll’ at him, went red while he signed, and walked away in embarrassment). Is the London Film and Comic Con progress? Or just a different entity altogether? I haven’t been to the Bristol Comic Conventions, so I can only hope that they stay truer to the spirit of my memories, but I suppose it was nice to see a place where geeks could enjoy their hobby.