Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Cardiff Film & Comic Con 2015 – A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise(s) I most associate them with personally) :-

• Dave Prowse (Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise)
• Ray Park (Darth Maul in the Star Wars franchise and Toad in the first X-Men film)
• Daniel Portman (Podrick Payne in “Game Of Thrones”)
• Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink in “Doctor Who”)
• Bob ‘Hardcore’ Holly (Wrestler)

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Yesterday I attended my second ever “Cardiff Film & Comic Con”. The last one I attended was over 18 months ago, so I was eager to soak up the atmosphere inside the Motorpoint Arena once again. The closest thing I can compare this event to is the “London Film & Comic Con – Winter” event from last October. Like LFCCW, the word I would use to describe CFCC is ‘relaxing’. So, so relaxing. I’m not sure if it’s because I compare other signing events to “London Film & Comic Con”, which is Showmasters’ pinnacle event of their calendar year, or if it’s because the show was generally smaller and more intimate, but I absolutely loved having room to move, which isn’t always the case at conventions. Sadly, in the final few weeks leading up to CFCC, the show was hit with a profusion of cancellations, most of which were big guests. Leading the charge on these cancellations was James Marsters. Those of you that have read my previous convention reviews know that I’ve met James a few times before and even hung out with him in the green room of “Vampire Ball 5” for the weekend, but nonetheless his cancellation sucked. I still have so much that I want to say to James, so I was thoroughly disappointed by his cancellation, especially as I consider him my co-favourite celebrity ever. Luckily, James will be returning to Europe at least four times this year, so I’m sure I’ll see him once or twice in 2015 anyway. For the Buffyverse fanatics amongst you,  James is returning to Cardiff in November for the winter version of this event, to London in November for the winter version of LFCC, to Birmingham in May for Starfury’s “Miracle Day 2”, and to Brussels, Belgium, in December for KLZ’s “Buffy + Angel Fanmeet”. The other big cancellations didn’t affect me personally, but it seemed that almost all of the ‘headliners’ of the event had to pull out...Iain Glen, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, and Christopher Cousins. As far as big names go, this left only Ray Park. I know that the term ‘big’ is subjective, so this is just my opinion. The cancellations didn’t seem to affect ticket sales, as the Saturday pre-ordering sold out just before the event. Regardless of the cancellations, I left my house in Gloucestershire at 6:50am on Sunday the 22nd of March in high spirits.

I will freely admit that I hate to drive to conventions. Out of my convention-attending friends, I always have the busiest schedule. I always have the most autographs to collect and the most studio photos to take. Therefore, I don’t need another thing to worry about, so whenever possible I get a friend of mine to drive and I help cover the travel costs. CFCC was no exception, as my friend John drove the hour to Cardiff, with Hannah, Ryan, and Hayley in tow. Again, those of you that have read my previous convention reviews will recognise John and Hannah’s names. Hayley is, of course, famed for her slipping on a leaflet at “Wales Comic Con 2014 Part II” and taking out the leaflet rack while falling. Still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s a gif of something very, very similar to her fall in my review of WCC2014PII, and I encourage you to check it out. Hannah is famed for once tripping over Adam Baldwin’s bare foot. The five-person group of us arrived in Cardiff at 8:15am and joined the back of the pre-bought queue at around 8:30am. Based on the pictures I’d seen of the previous day, I was expecting the queue to be relatively big. It wasn’t. It was only half an hour until opening time and we were about 50th in the queue. Good start! The Motorpoint Arena is a terrific arena for conventions when you don’t have a humongous amount of people trying to get in. Due to the relatively small line-up of guests that remained, there was just one photo session area (ordinarily there are 2-4), one stage area for talks, an area for guests to sign autographs, and the rest of the arena was reserved for merchandise stalls, artists, and cosplay.

We were all inside the building by 9:05am, which gave me up to nine hours to get two studio photos completed and 4-6 autographs collected. The two studio photos I had booked for CFCC were Ray Park at 10:35am and Daniel Portman at 11:50am, which gave me three or four hours to collect my autographs, look around the merch. stalls, and soak up the convention atmosphere for the first time in 2015...it was a long three-month dry spell between KLZ’s “Buffy Fanmeet” and this event, which was brutal. I’m a self-confessed convention addict, so a three month wait was horrific.

Going into conventions, I always write myself a schedule, which has a breakdown of people I’m definitely going to meet, people I’m likely to meet, and people I’m unlikely to meet (but might). My schedule includes studio photo timings, pricing information, and the likelihood that they’ll be offering photographs with you at their autograph table (via your mobile phone). Coming into this event, I had Ray Park, Daniel Portman, Bob Holly, and Samuel Anderson as autographs that I was definitely going to get, with Dave Prowse and Fintan McKeown as people that I’d possibly get if time and money allowed. A good rule of thumb for conventions is to meet the busiest guests on your list first. Ray Park instantly sprang to mind as someone that would be very busy, so I moseyed on over to his autograph area to get him out of the way first. He wasn’t there. No matter, I’ll just head over to the person I perceived would be second busiest, Dave Prowse. I must have been to 10 conventions with Dave before, but have never gotten his autograph or a studio photo with him, mostly because I always assume I’ll get it at the next convention. With Dave turning 80 this year and with a relatively light schedule by convention standards, I decided to finally go and meet Dave. Dave was wearing a Bugs Bunny tie, which I complimented him on, being a fellow tie-wearer. Dave is a frequent convention attendee, so he knows exactly what to expect and how to behave. Sadly, Dave was on crutches for this event and I don’t think he was having the greatest day as it was, which meant he wasn’t that talkative at the time I met him. He was still friendly enough, he just didn’t say much.

As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous convention reviews, I’ve discovered that there are 3 types of convention guest :-

·       The Groucho/Big Guest: There are two aspects to this category. Firstly, you have the groucho. The groucho is there for monetary purposes or is generally just having a bad day, or is a bit of an ass. If you meet enough people, one of them is bound to be an ass! The grouchos aren’t interested in conversations above a few words. They’ll say ‘hi’ (sometimes they don’t bother with that), sign, say ‘bye’ (sometimes), and you’re on your merry way. Of course, in certain situations this is relevant and expected, which brings me to the second part of this category, the big guest. Some guests are going to be insanely popular. Such as Stan Lee at LFCC ’14, who had an entire building to himself basically. When you get a huge queue like that, the guest can’t take a lot of time with everyone. If they did, many people would go home disappointed at not getting to meet them at all. Therefore, the convention company and the guest want to get through as many people as possible. If one was being cynical, one could also mention that the more people a guest gets through, the more money the guest and the organisation makes. You cannot have a huge guest and expect to get above a minute or two with them, which is perfectly fair.
·       The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you give them a comment, they’ll respond or smile gratefully. However, they won’t carry the conversation forward, you have to.
·       The Conversationalist: This is easily my favourite type of guest. They’ll answer your questions with a smile, ask you questions in return, and are happy to chat for an extended period of time, regardless of where the conversation leads or how long you’ve been talking. Obviously, there has to be some cut-off point if there is a queue behind you, but you leave the experience feeling euphoric and like you gained a lot more than just the autograph you queued for.

Dave Prowse falls into the responder category for me, but just barely. He did reciprocate the conversation, but at the minimum possible level. Another thing to mention is that actors have good and bad days like everyone else. I know from previous conventions that some people thought a particular guest was rude and obnoxious, yet another collection of people from that very same day though the guest was awesome. Different strokes for different folks, people. I think Dave was partially unresponsive because he was annoyed at the guest sitting next to him, who was talking very, very loudly (which Dave commented on). Still, £15 for an autograph and a few words with a living legend, who played one of the greatest film characters in history? Worth it.

Directly opposite Dave was Daniel Portman. I wanted to meet Dan for two reasons. Firstly, he’s awesome in “Game Of Thrones”. Considering his character is supposed to be a very young boy in the book series, Dan didn’t really have a lot to play on from the books themselves, which means that a lot of his character mannerisms are manufactured by him. Secondly, Dan is a big wrestling fan and it’s always nice to talk to a fellow fanatic. For those of you unaware, unlike his character on “Game Of Thrones”, Dan is Scottish and has a thick Scottish accent. Interestingly, while we talked about both “Game Of Thrones” and wrestling, a larger duration of the conversation was dedicated to wrestling. We talked about the looming Wrestlemania XXXI event that’s coming up next weekend (the biggest wrestling event of the year). We ran down the card and offered our predictions, what we were excited about, what we weren’t excited about, and we discussed our thoughts on the overall state of the business right now. Myself and Dan have very similar views on our current opinions of the wrestling business. We’re both rather disenfranchised with the WWE right now due to their current storylines and the way the product is being presented. We both prefer Dean Ambrose to Roman Reigns and would both have preferred Dean Ambrose to be main eventing Wrestlemania in Reigns’ place. Dan, also like me, has started turning his attention more and more to indie events as opposed to the larger promotions. Lots of “Ring Of Honor”, lots of NJPW, and taking things back to the grass roots level. When we did get around to discussing “Game Of Thrones”, it was mostly about the coming season, which premieres on April the 12th. Obviously, Dan couldn’t talk much about what’s coming, but he did say that the shocks, surprises, and excitement level is above the previous four seasons in his estimation. We also discussed how the television series has pretty much caught up with the book series now, so most of what’s to come will be new to both book readers and non-book readers alike, which means that us book readers don’t have the luxury anymore of knowing who’s going to die...help me? Dan fell somewhere between the responder and the conversationalist for me, and I was very happy with the price tag of £15 for what I got in return. A decent five-minute conversation, an autograph, and a cheeky photo with him at the autograph table. Big thumbs up.

Just down the walkway from Dan was the wrestling guests, Harry Smith, Colt Cabana, and Bob ‘Hardcore’ Holly. I’ve met Harry a couple of times before at local wrestling shows in GL1, so I didn’t need his autograph or a picture, as I have two of both already. While I love Colt and really enjoy his podcast, budgetary restrictions didn’t permit me to get his autograph. This left Bob Holly. I started watching wrestling in 1992 as a three-year-old boy. However, the period of my life where wrestling started taking centre stage in my affections was the 1997-2001 period known as the ‘Attitude Era’. Bob was a big part of that era. Granted, he was never a main eventer or a huge money-drawer, but he was a consistent, hard-working talent that was always around, and I always appreciated his work because it was so hard to see through. Coming into CFCC, I knew that Bob was going to be selling copies of his autobiography, “The Hardcore Truth”. From the reviews I’d read before the event, I knew that the book was very much a reflection of the man: no nonsense, no pandering, no punches pulled. Just a straight-up, honest reflection of a career in the professional wrestling business from a man who worked in the biggest wrestling company in the world for fifteen years. I talked to Bob about the process of writing the book, and he explained that he spent 3-4 hours a day on Skype with his ghost writer, Ross Williams, five days a week, for over a year. That’s a lot of stories, material, and facts to go through! While some wrestlers have written their own autobiographies (Edge, Chris Jericho, and Mick Foley immediately spring to mind), the more common practise is to use a ghost writer. We talked about his time in the WWE and we discussed what he’s up to these days. After so many years on the road, Bob likes to spend as much time as possible at home. He loves driving, loves riding, and loves to work on cars. Bob also mentioned that CFCC was his first ever convention. I’m sure he did numerous signing events for WWE over the years, but this was his first convention. He was shocked (in a good way) at the amount of people walking around in cosplay, and he was impressed at how dedicated everyone seemed to be to their characters and costumes. Bob signed his autograph on an 8” x 10” print, and then proceeded to sign the copy of his autobiography that I was buying too. I even managed to get a photo with him at the autograph table too. For a man that has a reputation in the wrestling industry for being something of a bully, Bob was an infectiously friendly man. It’s clear that he merely has very, very strong views about the wrestling business and how the men and women who’re a part of it should conduct themselves. Another great conversation.

By 9:45am, I had three autographs down with two to go. When we headed back over to the centre of the building where Ray Park and Samuel Anderson were signing, neither of them were present, so we decided to check out the merchandise before my first photoshoot of the day at 10:35am. If you’ve been to a signing event before, you tend to find that 99% of the stalls are the same ones. You have the action figure stalls, the custom-made weaponry stalls, the American candy stall, the Japanese candy stall, the Anime stalls, the t-shirt stalls, and a collection of stalls that combine some of these together. Therefore, when you attend as many conventions as I do, you don’t need to spend that much time of the stalls unless you’re looking for something specific or have an abundance of money. I always check out every stall briefly in case there’s any hidden treasures that I haven’t seen before, but in this case I didn’t see anything worth buying with my measly remaining money. However, Hannah did buy an ocarina, so it wasn’t a wasted task. If she hasn’t learned every single song from “Zelda: Ocarina Of Time” by the time I see her next, I’ll be thoroughly disappointed.

Ray Park Showing Off Some Lightsaber Skills

 (video credit to Sacha Owen-Williams)

After perusing the stalls, it was time to head upstairs for my photo session with Ray Park. Unlike most other conventions, the photo sessions and talks are upstairs at the Motorpoint arena. The photo sessions take place on the first floor, while the talks take place on the second. After heading up the wrong side of the building and getting confuzzled, myself and Hannah eventually found the photo area. Granted, a little sweatier than we intended. Photo sessions are a very, very straightforward process. You queue, you get to the front, you say ‘hi’, have the photo taken, it gets printed immediately at Showmasters’ events, you collect the photo, you leave. If you’re at the front of the queue it’s a 30-second process. Ray Park is such a friendly guy. This was my first interaction with him and it really left me feeling positive about the imminent autograph and conversation. Ray was all smiles, extended his hand, complimented me on my suit and style, and shook my hand again as I was leaving. As most photoshoots follow the same format, any little details you receive that you don’t ordinarily instantly stick out in your mind. For example, the compliment before the photo was taken and the 2nd handshake really added something extra to the proceeding. For any of you reading this that experience the convention scene from the other side of the table, I wouldn’t strong encourage you to do something like this during your photo sessions as it really furthers the enjoyment for the attendees. Something that shocked me about the photo sessions at CFCC was the tiny queues! For example, Ray Park’s queue couldn’t have been more than 20 people. Granted, he had a 2nd shoot later in the day, which would also include standard entry ticket holders and not just ‘early bird’ ticket holders (you can enter at 9am instead of 11am), but the queue size was still surprising. The same could be said of Daniel Portman’s queue later in the day. Perhaps most of the attendees were more interested in autographs, as many of the guests were offering photos at the autograph table? Perhaps attendees were more interested in socialising, cosplay, and shopping?

After heading back downstairs with Hannah, four of us (excluding John, the driver) decided to buy vodka slush puppies. Oh. My. God. Firstly, I was surprised that the Motorpoint Arena was offering alcoholic beverages to a highly rambunctious collection of nerds. Our parties involve D & D, sci-fi shows, and heated debates about the mythology of our favourite shows, not alcohol. Okay, my parties usually involve a lot of alcohol, but the rest still remains true as well. I was surprised at just how much vodka was being added to the tiny slush puppy ice drinks. After all was said and done, there must have been 2-2.5 shots of vodka in the drink, which equated to about 25% of the total volume. Drinking vodka slush puppies is dangerous because you cannot taste the vodka whatsoever. I swear, I could have drank ten of them and not even noticed it was alcoholic. After quickly downing my drink, we headed over to Ray Park’s autograph table, as he was back from his photo session. I was very surprised to find Ray allowing photos at the autograph table because A) his queue was pretty consistent all day, and B) he’s a £25 guest. It’s rare for a £25+ guest to offer photos at the autograph table. Ray is such a friendly man. We talked about his time as Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace” and his time as Toad in “X-Men”. With Disney purchasing the Star Wars franchise and the events of “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” altering the timeline, there is the potential for Ray to reprise his role as either character. A Darth Maul cameo in a prequel film down the line? Even though Toad’s fate is not specified in the new X-Men timeline, he could be alive and make an appearance down the line. Ray said that he loved both roles, but he was slightly more connected to Toad because he had dialogue in the film. I chose a Toad 8” x 10” to be signed rather than Darth Maul, which seemed to put me in the minority, as there were far more Darth Maul options and far more of them had been used. Myself, Ray, and Hannah all had a picture taken together and we left the autograph table. Yet another great experience.

                                                                                                           (Ray Park, myself, and Hannah)

At this point in the day it was 11:20am and I had half an hour to kill before my 2nd photo shoot. Samuel Anderson was away from his autograph table at his own photo session, so we decided to do something that’s incredibly rare at conventions...sit down. I can hear the collective gasp from you all at those two words being mentioned in a convention review without the word “couldn’t” before it. Sweet summer child, that floor was magical. My ass had rarely felt such comfort at a convention. However, there was one downside to this...it was hard to find the energy to get back up again. Conventions are exhausting. You get up early, you get little sleep, you spend a lot of your day in queues, and your adrenaline goes through a series of peaks and falls. All of this results in you being knackered. After much mental encouragement, I headed upstairs to my Daniel Portman photo session, for which I had ticket number 1 – get in! As I entered the photo room, Dan was dancing around in a circle, swinging an imaginary rope above his head while twirling. Sounds about right. Dan recognised me from the autograph table earlier in the day and we briefly chatted before the photo was taken. Ran like clockwork, and the photo turned out pretty good too! It was great to see a guest in such high spirits at a photo session. It brings such energy to them!

After heading back downstairs, Samuel Anderson was once again absent from proceedings, so we decided to leave the Motorpoint Arena and grab some lunch. There are many, many places to eat within a few minutes walk of the Motorpoint, so we decided to head to Yo! Sushi. Now, I don’t like sushi itself, but Yo! Sushi do a collection of other dishes as well, such as rice, noodles, and curries. The food travels around the restaurant on a conveyer belt and you just pluck off what you want. You can also order things off the menu that you can’t see floating around the conveyer belt. Within 10 minutes of arriving at Yo! Sushi, Daniel Portman arrived to get his own lunch. He said ‘hi’ and that it was nice to see me again before proceeding to sit down on the table next to us. What a top lad! Feeling significantly wider, we had a little shopping spree around Cardiff for an hour before heading back to the Motorpoint so I could finally meet Samuel Anderson.

Samuel was definitely worth the wait, and he turned out to be my favourite conversation of the day. Between myself, Hannah, Samuel, and Samuel’s crew member assistant, we spent the next 6 or 7 minutes discussing the convention scene, alcohol, and “The History Boys”. To start with, we talked about how CFCC was going for us all. We talked about the relaxed atmosphere, especially compared to LFCC last summer. We filled Samuel in on LFCC and the amount of people that attended. We talked about Stan Lee having a building to himself and how energetic he was for a man of 91 years. We talked about Cosplaying, and Samuel reiterated what Bob Holly had said earlier in the day. Samuel was also blown away by how much effort and attention to detail goes into these costumes. I explained to him that many cosplayers spend a year between conventions planning and creating their costumes, which can literally take hundreds of hours at times. I told Samuel about the vodka slush puppies, which he was highly enthusiastic about. We told him about the vodka-to-slush ratio and that he should definitely go and grab one, which he definitely looked intent upon doing. Earlier in the day, Samuel was playing music at his autograph table, but when we got there his music player was on charge. Samuel is clearly very passionate about music and always seems to be dancing around in his seat to something or other. We talked about “Doctor Who” briefly before I told him that I watched “The History Boys” in preparation for meeting him. He told me that “The History Boys” is his favourite project, followed by “Doctor Who”, because he had such a fun time on set. Samuel was definitely a conversationalist type of guest, and he really made you feel like you were getting more than just a squiggle on an 8” x 10”. I also got a picture with him at the autograph table, as did Hannah, the jammy woman!

All in all, my day at CFCC was great. It was relaxed, well organised, each guest I met was varying levels of awesome, and we were finished by 2:30pm! Would I return to CFCC in the future? Yes. In fact, with James already announced for the next event in November, I almost definitely will be going. Next up: “Stone Con Trent” (great name!) on April the 19th, and “Wales Comic Con 2015 Part I” on April the 26th! Gonna be one helluva month!



  1. As always, an entertaining read!! Thank you so much Shane :-)

  2. Your reviews are always so enjoyable to read! I will also be attending Wales Comic Con on the 26th and it will be my first convention! I may even see you there! It's nice to see a fellow Gloucestershire person travelling to conventions as well ;D also thanks so much for the Twitter follow it was much appreciated :)

  3. I have met Samuel Anderson at the New York Comic Con 2015, thanks to him for his help getting me into the sold out event. His sister calls me his number one fan and he knows that I'm a big fan of his. I wrote a jazz song dedicated to him and sent it to him via Twitter. Anyway, I'll tell you my story quickly if I can. I was very nervous meeting Samuel. Like a leaf in a tornado. I didn't eat anything. When I got there, I met his assistant who helped me get inside the event. She was telling me how Sam was looking forward to meeting me and he knew that I talked to his mom and sister on Facebook. When I got to where his table was, he wasn't there. He was on his lunch break. I had to sit down because I was weak, exhausted, and nervous. I got to sit in his chair for about five minutes. I asked his assistant Taylor if I could leave my things at his table and she said sure. She put them behind his table. I brought my camcorder and mini voice recorder. Sadly, I didn't use them at all that day and still kicking myself for that. While I had the time, I met Bushwhacker Luke (WWE Hall of Famer)and we took two pics. he let me wear his Hall of Fame ring. I went back to Sam's table and he was still not there. So I sat on this metal cart and just waited with some fans there. I was chatting with his sister on Facebook and told her I haven't eaten anything all day. She told Samuel this. When he came back, it was around 4:10 or 4:20. The fans applauded and Taylor showed Samuel where I was sitting. He leaned over a little a said my name "Mitzi" and I said" Samuel" and got up and he gave me the biggest and tightest hug ever. He bought me lunch and I told him he didn't have to do that and he said "My sister said you didn't eat anything". It was very nice of him to do that especially at the prices Comic Con was charging for food there. I dropped my cell phone like an idiot and Sam picked it up and put it back together and gave it back to me. He went to his table and signed autographs and took photos with fans. He would check on me occasionally. During that time, he shouted over to me and all I really heard was him saying my name because it was noisy and he turned up his Bose radio and was playing Clifford Brown with Strings. He and I both love jazz music. He later brought me over a green bag with some stuff in it and asked me to watch it for him. I thought it was stuff that belonged to him but actually it was stuff for me. An autographed 8x10 and an autographed mini 12th Doctor figure. I smiled and was so happy..even sitting on that cold hard metal cart for three hours..lol. Just as he was about to finish up he came over to me and told me we could go out for a drink. he was meeting some friends afterwards. I said okay. I didn't tell him until later that I don't drink alcohol. Like CM Punk, I'm straight edge..lol. Anyway, he was done signing for the night and we met up with a friend of his and we went to the BBC Shop Stand where he had some more things on hold for me in a white bad with his name on it and gave it to me. He wanted to know some things about me so I told him and I asked him some things but didn't want to get too personal. We talked about jazz music and trumpet playing. We walked arm and arm on some of the streets of NYC. He was dying for a beer. I finally told him that I didn't drink and he said it was okay, I could get something else. We couldn't really find a bar so we went to a pizza place where he always wanted to try NYC pizza. He offered to buy me dinner but I was still nervous around him and I just asked for a water. Afterwards, we walked to Penn Station and took some pics which I later found out they all came out blurry. I wasn't happy about that. He gave me several more hugs and allowed me to kiss him on the cheek. that was heaven..lol. He left with his friends and I went to get my train home. It was the best day of my entire life.