Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise I most associate them with personally) :-
• Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye from the Marvel Cinematic Universe)
• Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye from the Marvel Cinematic Universe)
• Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre from “Casino Royale”, Kaecilius from “Doctor Strange” & Galen Erso from “Star Wars: Rogue One”)
• Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Baratheon from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Natalia Tena (Osha from “Game Of Thrones” & Tonks from Harry Potter)
• Daniel Portman (Pod from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Joe Naufahu (Khal Moro from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Kae Alexander (Leaf from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Richard Brake (The Night King from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Anton Lesser (Qyburn from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Kristian Nairn (Hodor from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Sam Coleman (Young Hodor from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ellie Kendrick (Meera Reed from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Faye Marsay (Waif from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Donald Sumpter (Maester Luwin from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam from “Firefly”)
• Elden Henson (Foggy from “Daredevil”)
• Michelle Gomez (Missy from “Doctor Who”)
• Paul McGann (The 8th Doctor from “Doctor Who”)
• Laurie Holden (Andrea from “The Walking Dead”)
• Jamie Harris (Gordon from “Agents Of SHIELD”)
• Edge (Wrestler)
• Bob ‘Hardcore’ Holly (Wrestler)
• Famke Janssen (Jean Grey from “X-Men”)
• Aaron Stanford (Pyro from “X-Men”)
• Dominic Monaghan (Merry from “Lord Of The Rings” & Charlie from “Lost”)
• Peter Mayhew (Chewbecca from “Star Wars”)
• Dave Prowse (Darth Vader from “Star Wars”)
Two quick notes before we get started...
1) If this is your first time on "Shangel's Reviews", I'm currently reviewing every single episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" in depth. A list of all the reviews I've written so far can be located here. While these have been on hiatus for a while, they will be back in full force from early August.
1) If this is your first time on "Shangel's Reviews", I'm currently reviewing every single episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" in depth. A list of all the reviews I've written so far can be located here. While these have been on hiatus for a while, they will be back in full force from early August.
2) If you enjoy my reviews, please subscribe to the blog! Over on the right-hand side there's a little box that says "Follow Shangel's Reviews by Email!". If you put your Email address in there and click "Submit", then confirm your subscription, you will get each review sent straight to your inbox! No junk mail, no bullshit, just my reviews.
With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?
Whenever I sit down to start writing one of these mammoth reviews, the struggle kicks in almost immediately, as the hardest part of these reviews for me is the very beginning. How do you set the tone for the 20+ pages to come (excluding pictures!)? How do you capture the magic, wonder, excitement, and adrenaline-fuelled fangasms of a convention with mere words? Sometimes that task can be daunting, especially if the convention didn’t live up to your expectations. I’ve been doing these reviews for a long time now and over the course of this journey I’ve had to be very blunt and very negative towards most convention companies at one time or another, which can leave me in an awkward situation as many convention owners and crew members are friends of mine by this point. On those occasions, things can get a little awkward for me, even if I feel my points are absolutely true and are a necessary part of the objective reviewing process. Other times, when the moon and the stars align, a convention will go so seamlessly that you have very little to complain about or highlight as a negative within the review. Usually such reviews are reserved for fandom-specific weekend conventions such as those that Starfury organise or the unparalleled “Wales Comic Con” franchise, who I still maintain do the greatest comic conventions in the United Kingdom by some margin. However, after having some issues with both the 2014 and2015 editions of the “London Film & Comic Con – Summer”, I’m pleased to report that the 2016 event was significantly better than it’s been since 2013.
Don’t get me wrong, an event on the scale of this magnitude will never be the best convention ever for me, simply because I love getting to know the guests, spending time with them, and talking to them at the autograph table for more than 60 seconds. ‘LFCC’ is such a large franchise by this point that the queues will always be long, your time with the guests will always be limited. Yet, that’s not to say that you can’t have an amazing time. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, so I always go in with realistic expectations and anything above and beyond that is a bonus. Thankfully, there were some damn good bonuses at this event.
I must note that this review largely comes from my own personal perspective of the convention. While I think this event was very, very well organised and crewed, others may disagree, which is totally cool with me. We all have our own unique versions of the experience and I’d love to read about your own personal views in the comments section at the end of this review or on social media, so don’t be afraid to get in touch! Speaking of, before getting into the meat of this review, I would like to thank all the attendees at LFCC that came over and said “hi” to me or offered words of love and support about the blog and my reviews. With all three days combined, more than 50 people talked to me about the reviews, which was a very humbling, appreciated experience. In fact, I had a young female approach me to say that she flew over from China(!!!) for LFCC because she read my reviews of the previous events and just had to come. How incredible is that?!
Now, I know that some people had issues with the convention, front and centre amongst them were the gold pass holders. One of the perks of buying a gold pass is that you get let into the convention 10 minutes before regular attendees. This gives you a chance to get your bearings, figure out where things are, and get any virtual queuing tickets you need for ‘diamond guests’. In essence, a diamond guest is basically an A-List celebrity that’s going to be very popular over the weekend. Gold ticket holders don’t need virtual queuing tickets for any of the guests in attendance except the diamond guests, whereas regular ticket holders need virtual queuing tickets for everyone who’s operating under the virtual queuing system. Therefore, the gold ticket holders rely on those 10 minutes to get low virtual queuing numbers for the diamond guests. Obviously, human beings can only sign so many autographs in a day, so once you start getting into the 200-300 range, you run the risk of not getting the autograph you want. Gold ticket holders pay a lot of money for their golden wristband of dreams and as such are rewarded with queue jumping abilities and the honour of being let in early, eliminating a certain amount of apprehension and stress. On Saturday, gold ticket holders were let in at the same time as regular ticket holders. Even as a regular ticket holder, I know that’s very unfair. When you take into account that regular ticket holders were closer to the guests than gold ticket holders, the result was such that gold ticket holders had V.Q.’s in the hundreds, while my Jack Gleeson V.Q. was #26. Good for me, bad and unfair for them. I think the same thing happened on Sunday too, but I could be wrong. I know it happened on Saturday, but I’m speculating about Sunday simply because some friends of mine that were regular ticket holders had virtual queuing numbers for diamond guests that were within the first 20 numbers, which seems odd if gold ticket holders were let in first.
Alas, from my personal perspective, this event was terrific. Unlike the last two years where there was barely room to move your arms, this year had ample space. Certainly more space than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, on Saturday afternoon you wouldn’t want to stand still and swing your arms in a circle, but you could cross the hall and wander around the stalls without getting someone’s armpit hair tickling your nostrils. The only time I felt remotely claustrophobic was around the “Game Of Thrones” guests on Saturday morning, which I think was down to the guests being more popular than Showmasters anticipated. Even guests that appeared in just a couple of episodes had very long queues on Saturday morning. As you had two rows of “Game Of Thrones” guests, with those rows facing each other, you had queues inside queues, inside queues. It was queueception, I tells ya! In addition to the extra space, the air-conditioning was working inside the venue and you could feel it pretty much all weekend regardless of where you were. The last two years were so cramped that you couldn’t feel it whatsoever even when it was working and turned on! Space, air conditioning, no stinky armpit hair in my face...what kind of bizarro world LFCC have I stumbled in to?! Furthermore, the layout this year was much better too. It still could use a jiggle, especially with the “Game Of Thrones” guests, but it was vastly improved compared to the last couple of years. All the guests and photoshoot areas were on the same floor, which was the first floor in this case. It made running from one photoshoot to another much easier, as last year you sometimes had to get up or down two or three flights of stairs to get to your next photoshoot, which was a nightmare. This year it was effortless to get from shoot to shoot for me, which was made easier by the incredible crew members and organisation across the board. All my photoshoots ran more or less on time, with the most late of which starting 7 minutes late. When you consider the fact that I had 20 studio photos over the 3 days, that’s an incredible statistic. The crew were phenomenal all weekend too. Not one rude, clueless, or obnoxious member in the bunch this year! Ironically, when the crew are really good, they tend to get neglected a little bit when it comes to praise. It’s like a referee in a sporting event. If they’re great at their job, they get noticed less because everything went to seamlessly for people, so I’d like to take the opportunity to thank ALL the crew. Everybody smiled at the autograph tables, everybody was courteous, and the crew running the photo areas in particular were invaluable. The experience of people like Phil, Luke, Stuart, Brendan, and that dude running photo area B on Sunday (sorry, I don’t know your name!) is impossible to understate, especially when it comes to queues for people like Jeremy Renner or Mads Mikkelsen. You know there’s going to be a lot of people, all lingering around the photo area, slowly shuffling into the white lines that are marked out for queuing, so you need a strong voice, a firm hand, and an upbeat attitude to keep everyone entertained and in check. All 20 of my photoshoots were well organised. Incredible work all around, ladies and gentlemen. Be proud of yourselves!
After consulting the forums and social media throughout the weekend and in the days since it’s finished, I see a lot more positivity and a lot less moaning than the last couple of years, so my sentiments about the air-conditioning, the space, the crew, and the organisation are largely echoed across the board. Not that the event was perfect by any means. I’m sure many people had issues here and there, but as this is written from my own personal perspective, I have to say that this was the best organised and my favourite LFCC since 2013.
Myself and my friends Hannah and John (the usual ragamuffin crew you’ve read about in previous reviews) left Gloucestershire in the very early hours of Friday morning on the 29th of July. It was one of those ‘alarm at 3:30am, leaving at 4:30am’ deals, which are always a wee bit of a nightmare when it comes to your energy levels over the coming three days. However, it does save an extra night’s hotel fees, which is useful when it comes to an expensive weekend like LFCC. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to develop the ability to shit gold, regardless of how often I’ve experimented, so I cut costs wherever I can at these events. Three people, two beds? Check. Waking up at 3:30am to save myself £40? Check. Why did we leave so early, you ask? Because I needed one virtual queuing ticket. Yep, just one. As the kids would say, ‘FML’.
We arrived at the Olympia at 6:45am and were in the queue a matter of minutes after that. Unlike last year, the queue was formed at the west entrance for regular ticket holders and soon after we arrived everyone started getting piled into the loading area inside the venue itself. While this weekend pretty much had the perfect convention queuing weather (not cold, not hot, little wind, no rain), it’s good to know that in the future we won’t be queuing outside for too long if Mother Nature plots against us. Plus, queuing us inside gave Showmasters the opportunity to play 8 trailers to us on a loop for 2 hours a day, every day. I’m fairly certain I’m now word-perfect on the “Star Trek: Beyond” and “Suicide Squad” trailers at the very least. Speaking of “Suicide Squad”, I can only assume they helped sponsor this year’s LFCC as there was “Suicide Squad” stuff everywhere. The trailer, 5 large banners (at least) on the ground floor, all the film-worn costumes were on display on the first floor...I only hope the film lives up to the hype, especially after memorising the trailer.
My objectives for Friday were relatively simple for an LFCC – 6 autographs, 4 studio photos, try to blag one of my Sunday photos on Friday instead to save myself a clash stress, and have a relaxing look around. The words ‘LFCC’ and ‘relaxing’ have not been in the same sentence for years unless ‘is not’ is shoved between them. With my first photoshoot, Aaron Stanford, scheduled for 10am in photo area B, it was time to grab my Laurie Holden virtual queuing ticket before getting my bearings and figuring out where everybody I needed to meet was located. We were let in bang on 9am, I was up on the first floor by 9:01am, and I had Laurie’s V.Q. in my hand by 9:02am, #18. Today was going to be a relaxed day from now, I could feel it. For those of you unaware, a virtual queuing ticket is exactly like it sounds. It holds your place in queue for you, while you’re off doing other things. There’s a board at the front of a guest’s queue telling everyone what V.Q. numbers they’re signing up to (e.g. 1-40), and you can join the queue any time after your number has been called. For instance, even though I had number 18, which they were calling by 10am or so, I could go and get my autograph at 4pm and it wouldn’t make any difference. It’s a great system as it allows you to do other things while safe in the knowledge that you’ll likely get your autograph and it allows Showmasters to keep the amount of people in the queue to a minimum to avoid attendees getting in each other’s way. Win-win, people.
With my magical virtual queuing ticket in hand...or random tiny piece of paper, it was time to chill out and look around a little bit before heading to my first photoshoot. I noticed that both Gail Kim and Ted DiBiase were not offering table photos, which was a shame as I couldn’t fit their studio photos into my schedule over the weekend and the sign was literally the difference between meeting them and not meeting them. No matter, this saved me £30 and left me with even less to do on Friday. Soon after, I bumped into Georges Jeanty, comic artist extraordinaire. Georges has been one of the primary artists for Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel’s continuation comic series, as well as dipping his toe into the “Firefly” pool and a whole host of other non-Joss Whedon projects too. I’ve met Georges a couple of times before and he remembered me instantly when I walked past him. He stopped, we talked for a few minutes about how he’s been, about LFCC, I warned him that the following day would be twice as busy, we shook hands, and I continued on to my Aaron Stanford photoshoot. I loved randomly bumping into Georges. I encourage everyone to go and meet him, he’s a genuinely humble, relaxed, and awesome human being.
Aaron’s photoshoot went off without a hitch, the photo turned out great, and Aaron came across as a very friendly and interactive guest when he complimented me for looking ‘sharp’, shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and thanked me for coming. All basic manners and relatively common, but not something that every guest does. Sometimes in a photoshoot environment these little things can be the difference between a positive experience and a bitter taste being left in your mouth. Over the course of the weekend, almost every guest was very friendly during the photoshoots, while people like Edge, Dan Portman, and Natalia Tena actively turn their body towards you as you approach, shake your hand, make eye-contact, smile, and make small talk between photos. Very classy of them. In turn, some guests (well, one...) barely acknowledged your presence, didn’t thank you, and generally came across like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world...but more on that later.
Studio photo disclaimer: The pictures of the studio photos are all pictures of the photos taken off of my crappy phone, hence why the contrast and colouring looks a little off and why my teeth look insanely white in some photos. Once the digital versions are released, I’ll swap the pictures of the photos with the high-quality digital versions...if I remember.
After Aaron’s photo was completed and the printed copy was firmly in my hands (instant printing is still amazing years later, I remember the days of waiting hours for your final photoshoot to be ready while everyone is getting grumpy and wanting to go home), it was time to start on the autographs. The agenda for the day – Laurie Holden, Kae Alexander, Jamie Harris, Bob ‘Hardcore’ Holly,
Joe Naufahu (he cancelled and just came on
Saturday and Sunday in the end), Ted DiBiase (no posed photo = not going
to bother), and Gail Kim (no posed photo = not going to bother). That
left just four autographs to collect before my next photoshoot at 2:05pm! I had nearly four hours to kill!
Free time at LFCC?! It’s all so new and unsettling.
Kae Alexander: It was my first autograph and conversation of the weekend, while also being Kae’s first day at her first convention. A lot of firsts in this one. Considering it was her first convention and she hadn’t had a lot of time to warm up yet so early in the day, Kae was very, very pleasant and talkative. She just has this relaxing aura around her that makes you chill out and settle into your groove, which is exactly what you want with your first guest as it sets the tone for the rest of the conversations that day. Kae was a big fan of “Game Of Thrones” before she was cast, so she was ecstatic to get to be a part of the show...even if it meant undergoing ten hours of make-up and prosthetics every day to transform into Leaf. For those keeping score, that’s ten hours in the chair, ten hours of filming, then two hours to get everything off again. That’s a 22-hour working day. Because of the intricacy of the facial make-up and prosthetics, Kae didn’t even really get to sleep while it was all being applied. I told her that I’d have gone mental after the first couple of days, and joked that I hope they didn’t give her too many days filming together in a row. She talked about the fun process of filming in a set that looked like a gigantic dark cave covered in roots and we had a good laugh about the experience of attending conventions. We were both disappointed by her death on the show, but agreed that if you’re going to go out, it’s a pretty fucking cool way to go. The only downside to this wonderful experience was that Kae wasn’t offering table photos and her 5-minute photoshoot (50 people) later in the day was sold out. With my Saturday and Sunday being too full already, I was a little disheartened that I wouldn’t get a photo with her, barring her involvement in the group ‘Hold The Door’ photo the following day. Alas, towards the end of Friday, as people started to thin out, the sign came down, so I went back over later in the day and asked the crew member if it was okay to get a picture with Kae as I’d paid for the autograph earlier in the day, but didn’t ask for a picture as the sign was up. The lovely crew member said it was okay, Kae said it was okay and was more than happy to do it, so I ended up getting the picture after all. Thankfully, the picture turned out well too, as it would have sucked to go to all that effort to wind up with a picture where I look like a troll that’s just escaped from under a bridge. A great conversation, a lovely guest, and a table picture, all for £10. Bargain. Guest Type = Responder.
“What the feck is a ‘responder’?”
I’m glad you asked, random voice in my head representing the new people reading one of my reviews. Many years ago, after attending many conventions, I devised a system whereby to categorise my experiences with guests and their level of interaction in order to compare the quality of my experiences across conventions and time. I have O.C.D., shut up. The following three types were found :-
· The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you comment on something, they’ll respond or smile gratefully. However, they won’t carry the conversation forward, you have to. These are the most common type of guest, and this is what you expect when meeting someone at a convention. This is a great category to be a part of.
· 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. You cannot have a huge guest and expect to get above a minute with them, which is perfectly fair.
· 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 (extended = above 2-3 minutes), 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.
Feel free to let me know your experiences with guests in the comments! You can even borrow my categories to label them, as we all love labelling humans, right?
Jamie Harris: Right after leaving Kae, I moseyed on over to Jamie. I don’t know what it is about these Marvel Cinematic Universe actors, but they’re all so fucking lovely! I’ve never had a bad experience with any of them. Peter Shinkoda was arguably my favourite guest at LFCC last year and has since gone on to become a friend, J. August Richards is my boy, Jeremy Renner was phenomenal and exceeded all expectations for everyone all weekend (more on that later), Hayley Atwell was a sweetheart, and the other 20+ actors I’ve met from the franchise have been equally as terrific. Notice how I wrote ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ and not ‘Marvel’, as one particular “X-Men” actress rubbed a lot of people the wrong way over this weekend’s LFCC event, which I’ll get into a little later on. I primarily know Jamie from his role as Gordon during the second season of “Agents Of SHIELD”, during which Jaime was fantastic. Seriously, if you started SHIELD and gave up after the first few episodes, stick with it. From two-thirds of the way through season one onwards, the show has been a very high quality and has really grown into something great. As part of his role as Gordon, Jamie also had to wear make-up and prosthetics, just like Kae. The only difference is that Jamie’s took 2-3 hours, which is still longer than I’d want to sit still, quite frankly. Jamie said that the process was so exasperating that he started smoking again just to give himself something to do, which echoes the sentiments of Jim Carrey, who had to have special training from the army in how to withstand torture because it was so traumatising to put the Grinch make-up and hair on every day. That’s some dedication to your craft, ladies and gentlemen. However, Jamie said he felt as though he couldn’t complain too much as Ruth Negga (Raina) had to sit there for five hours, which led us to talking about how amazing Raina’s prosthetics were. The contact lenses and quills looked amazing. We talked about the show, we talked about conventions, and we talked about Gordon, before I thanked him immensely for his time and for coming. Even got a picture at the autograph table too! Jamie was definitely my favourite conversation of the day and he came across as such as genuinely nice and appreciative guy that I couldn’t help but leave feeling happy with the experience. That’s two LFCC’s in a row where my favourite guest on the Friday was from an MCU television show. Love those guys! Guest Type = Conversationalist.
Historically, I’ve been very harsh on Showmasters at times where I thought it was necessary, but we’ve got to give the devils their due here. Not only was this event very well organised and conducted, but I love the fact that Showmasters don’t allow guests to charge for selfies at the autograph table....side note, I hate the word ‘selfie’. Over the past year or so, selfie charges have burst onto the U.K. convention scene, with guests charging up to £30(!!) for the privilege of getting a picture with them on your mobile phone, which seems extortionate to me personally. £5 is one thing, but £30 is ridiculous. Showmasters won’t allow selfie charges at all and have recently said publically that they don’t intend to change this moving forwards, which is admirable and helps me save some money. To be honest, I think if you’re getting the autograph, the picture should be free. You’ve already dropped money down, it takes a matter of seconds to take the picture, and if the guest doesn’t like taking pictures, just put the ‘no posed photos’ sign up. No worries! I only agree with the selfie charge when people want a picture without buying an autograph or paying for anything, as it’s pretty cheeky, even when the guest’s autograph line is empty, as other people have had to pay for the privilege....all of this is just my opinion, of course.
Bob ‘Hardcore’ Holly: Now, I actually met Bob at Showmasters’ Cardiff Comic Con event in March of 2015. I got his autograph, bought his autobiography off him (great read!), which he also signed, and I got a picture with him at the autograph table. It was a nice experience. Alas, the picture turned out a little...well, frankly, it blew and sucked at the same time, which is how people become dizzy. The lighting was bad, the picture came out blurry, and I looked like a moron even if those first two things weren’t already working against me. Therefore, I wanted a better picture with Bob, plus I wanted to talk to him about his autobiography. Both of these things were achievable. If I hadn’t met Jamie, Bob would have been my favourite guest of the day for sure. Like the last time I met him, Bob was very courteous, very talkative, and came across like a genuinely appreciative and nice man, which is stark contrast to the wrestling persona he portrayed on television for so many years. I reminded Bob that I met him the year before and bought his autobiography off of him, and I happened to mention that it was a totally unique read. Most wrestling books follow a very specific pattern – had a dream, grew up a fan, started training, setbacks, got better, setbacks, worked their way up the card, obstacles, world champion, lots of money, retired happy and fulfilled. Bob’s was entirely different. Bob was always a very good wrestler, but never made it past the middle of the card. He was never world champion, I don’t believe he ever won a strong single’s title except the gimmicky Hardcore Championship, but he was a WWE employee for over 15 years, giving him a lot of stories to tell and a lot of wrestling history to cover. During the course of the book he was very honest, very open, and very opinionated, which made for an excellent read. Bob had a reputation online as being a bully, as he roughed up one of the competitors in Tough Enough III in 2001, a reality television programme where the winners received a WWE (then WWF) contract. Bob didn’t like the way they were all goofing around when given this golden opportunity, so he just beat the shit out of the first person he stepped into the ring with, who happened to be my friend of sorts, Matt Cappotelli. I’ve spoken to Matt many times privately on social media, as we both have very similar stories when it comes to our wrestling careers, so I held a little bit of a grudge against Bob for a long time over this. However, seeing the story objectively from Bob’s side, I can understand it now. Bob’s pretty much retired from wrestling these days, so he gets to spend his time hiking, touring, and guest training. He’s supposed to be guest training at Al Snow’s wrestling academy in London this week, but Al’s academy presently has major water damage so it might not happen. Bob’s a very interesting man with some very strong opinions on certain areas of the wrestling business, which makes for a fascinating conversation. I’d definitely recommend you meet him if you get the chance. Got a table photo too! Guest Type = Conversationalist.
One thing that surprised me over LFCC weekend was the amount of guests doing table pictures. I tend to plan my studio photos around the people that I’m certain won’t be doing table photos (or if I love them too much to resist), yet I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost everyone was doing them at one point or another! Even people I thought for certain wouldn’t be, such as Elden Henson, Edge, Paul McGann, and Donald Sumpter. Out of the 16 autographs I got over the weekend, only two weren’t doing table pictures – Natalia Tena (who’d only just arrived and had a huge queue) and Laurie Holden. I didn’t get one with Jack Gleeson either, but I’m told by other people that he was doing them at certain points of the weekend. I managed to get a table picture with the other 13 guests! Awesome!
Laurie Holden: Hmmm....not really sure what to think of Laurie. I got the distinct impression that she decided she didn’t like me much before I said anything other than “hi”. I said “hi”, she looked up, stared at me for a full three seconds, then said “...hi...”. After the briefest conversation about “The Walking Dead” and the shock at Andrea’s death, especially as the character is still alive in the comics, I thanked her for her time and said goodbye. She looked up at me, she was smiling granted, but behind the smile there was a look that said, “please leave already”, so I did. The whole thing must have been a minute in total, but it left a bizarrely sour taste in my mouth. Ironically, everything else I’ve read about her all weekend was largely positive. She got another batch added to her Sunday photoshoot even though it was sold out because she didn’t want people missing out (or, being cynical, she wanted more money), a lot of people had great experiences with her on the forums, it just seems as though she had a random dislike of me instantly. Alllllllrighty then. To be fair, she was nice to me in the photoshoot, so perhaps she was just having a grumpy 5 minutes at the time I got to the front of the queue. I think I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on this one, but it was my only autograph signing conversation all weekend that left me feeling flat. Guest Type = Responder (Barely).
Dave Prowse: To get that bitter taste out of my mouth, I decided to go meet Dave Prowse as I had some money left over from not meeting Ted DiBiase and Gail Kim. I’d actually met Dave once before, but I never got around to getting a photo with him even though we’ve been to 12 conventions together by my reckoning. Dave was offering table photos at LFCC, so I decided to go and grab an autograph and get a picture with him. Dave was his usual friendly self. There’s a reason why Dave does so many of these and yet still always has a decent sized queue. It’s because he’s a very nice man and a legend. Sure, he’s not the type to have 5 or 10 minute conversations these days, but he’ll happily talk to you and get stuck into a discussion. I finally got the picture I’d been intending to for years and it came out great too! Definitely made up for the bizarre interaction with Laurie a few minutes earlier. Thank you, Mr. Prowse, for restoring my good mood. Dave even offered Hannah, who was acting as my table photo photographer for the weekend, a picture with him as well, which was a very rare and classy thing to do. Over the years, Hannah has blagged some free table pictures with guests I’m meeting (Nick Frost, Finn Jones, and Gethin Anthony instantly spring to mind), but I believe this was the first time someone offered it. Very cool. The last time (which was also the first) I met Dave, he was on crutches, his ankle was broken, and he wasn’t in the best of moods, which is understandable as sometimes people have off days, but this interaction more than made up for that. My only spontaneous purchase of the weekend turned out to be a very good one from a conversation and picture standpoint. Just goes to show you don’t need to be a conversationalist or particularly talkative to leave people feeling happy. Others should take note...do I sound bitter? I sound bitter, don’t I? Guest Type = Responder.
With all five of my autographs completed and still two and a half hours until my next photoshoot, it was time to do something unexpected at LFCC. Something miraculous. Something shocking....eat. That’s right! All 3 of us went next door to Pizza Express, sat down, had a meal, and relaxed. WHAT. THE. FUCK. This doesn’t happen at LFCC. Not for me anyway. I was so confused. I almost asked our waitress for an autograph just to make the situation feel a little more familiar. What a bizarre day this was turning into....two scheduled autographs I decided against, one I spontaneously got, one awkward experience, and time to eat...most peculiar.
As most convention attendees are aware, the photoshoots are largely an experience of one and the same. They all follow a very specific pattern. Queue, enter, “hi”, smile, picture is taken, “thank you”, collect it, leave. So there’s very little to write about when it comes to photos, so I’ll largely just point out anything abnormal that happened and leave everything else unsaid. My 2:05pm photoshoot with Peter Mayhew in photo area A went very smoothly, as did my 3:05pm photoshoot with Mads Mikkelsen, who was clearly having a great time all weekend. I’ve heard so much positive feedback about Mads since the event finished. He was surprisingly doing table photos on Friday as there were less people around, he was really going for it with poses in the photo sessions, and he was having conversations with people as opposed to a few words at the autograph table. Very impressed with Mads. Both photoshoots turned out great too.
Next up was the trickier part. Showmasters have a strict rule about not changing your photo day. If you buy a photo for Sunday, you have it on Sunday. However, after the schedule was announced, I realised that my Sunday was going to have a particularly painful section in the middle of the day, which would be eased significantly if I could get Laurie’s photo on Friday instead. I saw it as a win-win situation for both myself and Showmasters. Friday is their least busy day, so it would be one less photo to get through on Sunday, plus there was a few minutes left at the end of Laurie’s allotted photo session time on Friday. I joined the very back of the queue, made sure there was still a few minutes left in Laurie’s photo schedule (I wouldn’t have tried if they were running late), and went for it. When the ticket was scanned, it obviously beeped that it was a Sunday ticket. The lovely crew member looked to Phil (who was in charge of photo A on Friday), Phil joked with me about always being the troublemaker, said it was fine, and they manually changed the ticket to a Friday one on their hand-held scanner. Everybody wins. Thanks, Phil! That made Sunday a lot easier. It meant that I could actually sit down briefly and drink something on Sunday instead of running around from photo area to photo area.
Soon after Laurie’s shoot it was time for Sean Maher’s, which was to be my last activity of the day at 4:30pm. I met Sean at “Wales Comic Con” in early 2015 and he’s a lovely, lovely man. I think if anything he’s a little shy, but he just comes across as so warm and caring. Alas, my photoshoot from that WCC event turned out badly. The photographer was great, Sean looked amazing, but I looked like something had just been inserted into my anus and one half of my face liked it, while the other half was in pain. It left me pouty for a long time as Sean had already cancelled on me twice before so I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity again. Thankfully, Sean came to LFCC and didn’t cancel, so I just had to get a better photo. Out of the 33 photos I had taken over LFCC weekend (20 studio, 13 phone), my studio with Sean might be my very favourite. It’s certainly in the top 5, and it was made all the more special by the fact that my first turned out badly and because Sean remembered me from almost 18 months earlier! Yay! So, kiddies, if any of your photos turned out badly over LFCC weekend, stay positive. I’ve had over 500 taken at conventions by this point and even to this day I occasionally get one that looks awful. It’s as though my face occasionally forgets how to behave like a face, even with all the experience I’ve got under my belt.
After taking some time to check out the merchandise stalls and buying a beautiful Natalia Tena (Tonks) art print to get signed the next day, it was time to park the car somewhere and then walk to the Premier Inn, where we had to sneak one of us in. The room was in my name and I gave John’s name as the other guests. It was a twin room, so I figured I’d give John’s name instead of Hannah’s. The staff obviously saw the three of us together later in the evening in the restaurant, so I can only presume they thought one of us had bought a hooker for the night (sorry, Hannah). Hannah also pointed out the next day that I should have given her name as the other guest to explain the female clothing in the room when it was cleaned. So, ladies and gentlemen, the Premier Inn in Kensington thinks I am a cross-dressing man who picks up hookers, which isn’t helped by the fact I naturally wear eyeliner. Still, plus side, there was no used condom in the wardrobe like in the house share from last year, so there was no salty violation creeping up my nostrils during the night. I’m a silver lining kind of guy.
A 5:00am alarm came and brought with it an ecstatic Shangel, a broody John, and a sleep deprived Hannah. With me acting as military commander, we were out of the room and heading towards the venue by 5:40am, as I had specific demands to be in the queue by 6:00am. I needed to get 10 autographs on Saturday, some of which were going to be tricky...or so I thought. Jack Gleeson, Natalia Tena, Edge, and Elden Henson would surely be virtually queuing, so I needed low numbers to be in with a chance. Especially with Jack, as the gold pass holders would be let in first and take all the low V.Q. numbers. As I mentioned before, this didn’t happen, but I didn’t know that at the time. We were about 40th in queue and by 6:45am we were being queued up inside the building. Hannah read a book on her kindle, while me and John watched “Doctor Who” on my phone. “Tooth And Claw”, for those of you that are interested. Three “Game Of Thrones” cast in that episode, which helped to get me in the mood for 7 “Game Of Thrones” autographs later in the day. Queuing, once again, went pretty smoothly. We had to move at one point as the hall was filling up, so another couple of rows were added to the front. The same 8 trailers were playing all morning again. I was getting a distinct sense of déjà vu already. Unlike the relatively calm previous day, my schedule was busier on Saturday. 10 autographs (Jack Gleeson, Natalia Tena, Elden Henson, Edge, Richard Brake, Anton Lesser, Faye Marsay, Sam Coleman, Paul McGann, and Joe Naufahu) and 6 studio photos (Jack Gleeson with the Iron Throne, ‘Hold The Door’ group, Jeremy Renner, Edge, Faye Marsay, and Anton Lesser. With my photoshoots starting at 11:50am with very few breaks in between lasting longer than 20 minutes, it meant that I had to get through as many autographs as possible between doors opening at 9:00am and my first photo at 11:50am. It was theoretically going to be a tough morning, but I was determined. I had John going up one staircase for me, me and Hannah going up another, where we’d branch off and grabbed the virtual queuing tickets as quickly as possible for the guests that I needed them for.
It turns out that my fears were unnecessary, as we were let in at the same time as gold ticket holders and we were near the front of the regular ticket holders queue. Ironically, out of all the virtual queuing tickets we grabbed, I had the lowest numbers for every single one – Jack Gleeson #26, Elden Henson #14, Natalia Tena #6, Edge #17. None of the other 6 guests were virtual queuing at this time, but Faye Marsay and Anton Lesser would be soon afterwards as their queues got very busy, very quickly as they were only there for one day along with Sam Coleman. With virtual queuing in place for the big guests, I could concentrate on the others. I joined Faye Marsay’s queue right before it grew unexpectedly big. I managed to bounce from Faye to Anton, to Sam without too much stress, but I do get a little irked when doors open at 9:00am, but most guests don’t show up until 9:30am or a little later. Don’t Showmasters know I have a very detailed, specific plan I need to stick to?!
Faye Marsay: The first thing to note about Faye is that she looks totally different in real life than she does in either “Game Of Thrones” or “Doctor Who” (the two things I’ve seen her in). In real life she has heavy eye make-up, a Northern accent, and is generally just much more attractive. Faye had to try and get through the autographs relatively quickly as her queue was ridiculous, but she still took the time to talk to people as much as possible, which was appreciated. Unsurprisingly, we talked about “Game of Thrones”, her time on the show, where she filmed, working with Maisie, her death on the show, and even talked about Gloucester Cathedral a little bit, as she was rumoured to have been filming there a couple of weeks ago. She wasn’t, but she did go to a wedding there last year. Faye was quick to smile, very witty, gave lots of eye contact, and even winked at me as I was leaving. Given the queue behind me, it was the very best I could have asked for. Total sweetheart of a woman. Even more surprisingly, she was doing table pictures! Considering her queue length, that caught me off guard. Even though I had a studio photo later in the day, I got a table picture too as it never hurts to have a back-up. Both turned out brilliantly. Great woman! Guest Type = Responder.
Anton Lesser: Everyone seemed to have the same idea we did. Start at Faye and work our way down the line of guests. Thankfully, as we were near the front of Faye’s queue, we were also relatively near the front of Anton and Sam’s queues too. I will freely admit that I knew little about Anton coming into the event. I knew I loved him as Qyburn in “Game Of Thrones”, I knew that somehow Qyburn had survived for four seasons and still isn’t dead (which is something that Anton boasted to me about while cackling madly), and I knew that Anton was a talented actor, but I knew little else about the man. In the few minutes I had with him, I could tell that he was just like a kind, warm grandfather. If I needed someone to read stories to my children one day, it would be him. I know that Anton has done at least one convention before, but I believe the experience is still relatively new to him, but that didn’t seem to faze him during our conversation as he was talkative and engaging. Anton expressed gratitude in Qyburn surviving for so long on the show as the longer Qyburn survives, the more fun things like conventions that Anton will get to do. If there was one word to sum up Anton in fact, I’d say ‘gratitude’. Anton talked about the fun he had while filming with Lena Headey over the past couple of years, he talked about Qyburn’s legitimate sorrow in being part of Grand Maester Pycelle’s death (there was no ill will there, Pycelle was just in the wrong place at the wrong time), and he talked about his dream end-game of Qyburn ruling the Seven Kingdoms, only by that point there’d be nobody left to rule, so the show would just end with Qyburn sitting on the Iron Throne, grinning, as he looks out into an empty hall. It’s a long shot, granted, but I love that he’s daydreamed about this. Much like Faye, I was surprised that Anton was offering table pictures as his queue was also pretty big by this point. Plus, he was only there for one day! Very cool that he was doing them. Great guy, very interesting to talk to, and he portrays an interesting character in “Game Of Thrones” too. Stupendous! Guest Type = Responder.
Sam Coleman: This was Sam’s first ever convention, yet you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Sam threw himself into the convention scene head-first. He was wearing a ‘Hand of the King’ pin, he was talking away to people, and you just knew he was having the time of his life. All weekend he was telling people how blessed he felt to have been a part of “Game Of Thrones” whenever someone asked him if he was tired of people saying ‘hold the door’ yet. Incidentally, he’s also in the new “Leatherface” film and has recently been touring as part of the ‘Magic of the Musicals’ performances, so it’s great to see that a talented young man’s career is taking off in such a big way. I love to see guests that get stuck in. If you’re going to attend a convention, don’t be the deer in the headlights, don’t keep your distance and look down at the 8” x 10” the whole time, be one of us! Trust me, we’re really easy people to please. Sam was a big fan of “Game Of Thrones” before getting the part, so when he got the call just to audition for the show, he was ecstatic. That level of enthusiasm also earns you big Shangel bonus points as it shows that you’re passionate about what you’re doing. While Sam wasn’t around that much, the scenes he was a part of were very important for Hodor, Bran, and the White Walkers, so the part that Sam played was a great one to be offered if you’re going to be in a few episodes of the show. When I first got to the table, Sam beamed that he loved my outfit, particularly my bandana and tie. Bless him! In addition to our “Game Of Thrones” discussion, Sam also mentioned some of the more challenging names he’d had to write during his morning and was pleased that my name was just the standard spelling of ‘Shane’. Sam came across as a very cool dude and like he wasn’t nervous at all about attending his first convention. If he chose to attend more, I’m sure people would take to him very quickly as he’s the type of personality and guest people want to meet. Got a picture at the table too! Guest Type = Responder.
By this point, Richard Brake and Joe Naufahu’s queues had started to fill up so much that the crew were telling people to come back later, which was definitely needed as the “Game Of Thrones” area was becoming one large crush. I think for next year that all “Game of Thrones” cast members should be virtual queuing. Even if they’re not that popular, there’s no harm done by making them a V.Q. guest, whereas the alternative way around causes congestion. With Richard and Joe tied up, Natalia not arriving until 11:00am (her band had a gig in northern England the night before), and me trying to avoid Paul McGann until later in the day (better chance of getting a table picture), my options were limited to Elden Henson, Edge, or Jack Gleeson. As Jack and Edge were right next to each other down the back of the hall where most of the ‘biggest’ guests sit, we headed there next.
Jack Gleeson: I love Jack. Two things were instantly apparent to me before I even got to the front of his queue, just by listening to his conversations with other people...1) Compliments make him awkward. He appreciated the compliments a great deal, but they make him awkward because he doesn’t think he’s that good of an actor. He’s clearly deluded by a lack of self-confidence because he was fantastic on “Game Of Thrones”. Truly superb. 2) He has the personality of an excitable puppy at conventions. Also, he dresses like a private-schooled preppy guy, which oddly makes me love him more. Considering the size of Jack’s queue all day, I couldn’t help but be impressed by him. He was offering table pictures, he shook everybody’s hand, looked people in the eye, and even managed as much conversation as he could in the timeframe available to each person. Also, Jack’s smile might be creepier than his scowl. If you look at people’s studio photos with Jack from the event, Jack smiles like a two year old that has just been told how to smile in photos – chin up, teeth out, head slightly back. Once again, this only makes me love him more. He’s got this aura of innocence about him that is so un-Joffrey like that you can’t see any of Joffrey in Jack’s real life personality. Probably for the best as Joffrey was a little psychopath and all...I, of course, complimented Jack on his performance in the show, especially as he made Joffrey so hateable, even before he ordered Ned’s head removed and became a bonafide villain. He just has a very slappable face. As many people know, Jack has largely retired from acting for the time being, but he still does do some theatre work, as he’s set up his own theatre company with 3 friends of his, the “Collapsing Horse Theatre Company”. I read in an interview that Jack turned down Hollywood because he’s rather stay more close to home and do something he truly loves, rather than head to Los Angeles and have to fit into their mould. I told him how admirable that was too, as many people would be and have been swayed by the bright lights and wealth that can be attained in “Hollywood”, especially for someone who’s already established and popular like Jack is. We continued to talk about “Game Of Thrones” and conventions for a while before I thanked Jack for his time, he shook my hand, thanked me in return, and we left. When you factor in queue size, this was an awesome experience. I was thoroughly impressed with Jack. It seems as though many of the bigger guests this year were even better than previous years, as Jack, Mads, Edge, Michael Emerson, Jeremy Renner, Dolph Lundren, Tobin Bell, and others who were wildly popular all seem to have received glowing reviews since the event has finished. Guest Type = Big Guest.
Edge: I will openly admit that I’m a wrestling junkie and have been since I was three years old (1992), watching Bret Hart and the British Bulldog go at it in the Wembley Arena as part of “Summerslam 1992”. Since that day, my love of the sport has never waned. However, while Bret Hart was my childhood hero (and I still need to meet him!), the Attitude Era was when my love was at its strongest. Guys like Triple H, The Rock, Steve Austin, Mankind, The Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge & Christian helped cement my place as a diehard fan that simply had to watch everything that the WWF produced. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my wrestling heroes, and I’ve always found that wrestlers, for the most part, are either all hit or all miss. Either they talk to you for ages, are really appreciative, tell great stories, and leave you feeling euphoric, or they bark “hi” at you, sign, bark “bye” at you, and come across as being there for money and money alone. Thankfully, there’s been more of the former than the latter, and wrestlers such as RVD, Chris Jericho, DDP, Paul London, Bob Holly, the Dudley Boyz, Magnus, James Storm, and the legendary Ricky Steamboat have all been phenomenal human beings. However, all of the aforementioned may have just been overtaken by Edge, who is arguably the most humble, kind, appreciative, talkative wrestler I’ve ever met. His queue was slammed when we joined it and it was the longest queue of the weekend for the amount of time it took to get to the front, partially because Edge was popular and partially because he was talking to everybody for as long as possible. He was a total class act. He was my favourite guest of the weekend. When we got to the front of the queue, I mentioned to Edge that I’d just finished re-reading his autobiography, which he wrote himself in 2002/2003 without a ghost writer. I asked him if he had any plans to write a follow-up as obviously there is still a lot of story left to tell, the second half of his wrestling career and his acting career being chief among them. Edge confided that he actually did start writing a second autobiography not long after he retired. He got about halfway through it, but then lost interest and that spark to continue went out. He’s the type of guy where if he loses passion in something, he’ll move on to something else, so the second book has fallen to the curb for the time being, but he obviously still has half of it written if he decided to do another one in the future. We joked that if Chris Jericho can have three autobiographies and Mick Foley can have, like, thirteen, then Edge is deserving of at least a trilogy himself. We also talked about the Winter Death Tours he mentioned in his first book, where he and a bunch of other wrestlers would drive to northern Canada in a van, in minus 70 degrees weather, to wrestle in front of a couple hundred people at various Indian reservations. Edge said that if he was asked to do one now, he’d say “are you crazy?!”, but back then it was the most amazing experience, even when the ring van broke down one day and they were stuck outside in the 70-below-zero weather for an hour trying to get the ring van out of the lake it had fallen in to (it went through the ice).
One thing I love about Edge is that he comes across as so positive and thankful. He loved his wrestling career, he loves his acting career, he loves his family, he loves his fans, and he loves life. He’s always positive, always genuinely appreciative, and he never seems to stop flashing those pearly white teeth. I also congratulated Edge on recently being cast in the fifth season on “Vikings”, to which he was grateful. He said that he started growing his hair again a few months ago, not out of necessity, but because he couldn’t be bothered to cut it. He has a newborn child at home (with former WWE female wrestler, Beth Phoenix) and has better things to do than worry about his hair. I told him that it’d probably come in handy for “Vikings” at the very least, to which Edge laughed loudly. Afterwards, the conversation turned to comic books and superheroes, as Edge has been a huge fan of the genre since he was a very young man and still collects certain comics to this day. Edge has obviously appeared in “The Flash” as Atom-Smasher, but I asked him, in a dream scenario, which superhero would he love to play? Edge said that obviously characters like Iron Man are appealing, but keeping things in the realms of possibility from his appearance standpoint, his first choice would be Cable and his second choice would be Sabretooth. I’d love to see Edge play Sabretooth. Apparently, an X-Men television series is imminent, so why not have the gigantic Canadian play a version of Sabretooth if everything falls into place? Those of us that have followed his wrestling character know he’d be a perfect fit. Edge couldn’t think of anyone from D.C. as he’s more of a Marvel guy. I said I was too, so we started talking about various Marvel superheroes for a while. All in all, the conversation was significantly longer than I was expecting for an LFCC event and it was easily my longest conversation of the weekend, clocking in at well over 5 minutes. Not my fault, people! Edge wanted to keep talking, even when the crew member was trying to slide the next 8” x 10” to him. On top of all that awesomeness, he even took a table picture with me too! £25 still feels like a bargain in this instance. I’ve met people before that cost double the money and were half the experience. I went into this as a huge fan and left as even more of one. Edge, and his single moist tattoo (sorry, inside joke), totally reeked of awesomeness. Guest Type = Conversationalist.
Elden Henson: After we left the back of the hall, we headed over to Elden Henson. I showed the crew member my V.Q. number (#14), and he went to check with the crew member sat next to Elden if it was okay, as Elden was just going to lunch and his queue was therefore entirely empty for this reason. Upon discovery of this information, I wanted to wait for him to return instead, fearing that he wouldn’t be very talkative as he’d be hungry and just wanting to get it over with to go and eat and relax for a little while. Elden told the crew member it was fine, so we went over. Thankfully, all my fears were unfounded, and I probably ended up talking to Elden for longer than I would have otherwise because there was nobody behind me in the queue. It was totally classy of Elden to not only see us before going to lunch (we’d have been totally fine if he’d gone and we saw him later in the day), but to be so classy and talkative, even knowing that rest and food were on the other side of our conversation. Obviously, our conversation largely revolved around “Daredevil” and the awesomeness that is Foggy. It’s refreshing to see that Foggy isn’t the Robin to Daredevil’s Batman, but is instead a hero in his own right, in the courtroom. Elden was thankful that Foggy not only had a backbone (not all ‘sidekicks’ do), but was also a three-dimensional character that wasn’t under Daredevil’s shadow. We both agreed that the writing, the directing, the fight sequences, and the acting on the Marvel Netflix shows has been second to none. Having the showrunner of both seasons be two former “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” writers doesn’t hurt either. Elden also told us that he was going to appear in the Netflix crossover series, “The Defenders” too, which wasn’t officially announced until two days after we met him. Naughty, Elden! But totally cool for us! Elden also talked about the dramatic filming schedule he had for a while between filming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” and “Daredevil” season two. In essence, he wrapped on “The Hunger Games” on June 19th in Berlin, was in Los Angeles for the birth of his child on June 20th (the day before my birthday!), and was in New York 10 days later to start “Daredevil” season two. Talk about a whirlwind fortnight. I told him that at least the lack of sleep from a newborn child would help with Foggy’s storyline during the second season, to which he laughed loudly. We talked for a further minute about “Daredevil”, he offered a table picture, which was awesome as I didn’t think he’d be doing them, and then we both left at the same time. Us to go and find other guests, him to go and eat. Awesome experience. Guest Type = Conversationalist.
6 down, 4 to go.
Joe Naufahu: It was 11:00am by this point, but Natalia was still not at her autograph table, so we decided to head to the back of Joe Naufahu’s line. Joe, unlike everyone else I met over the weekend, was standing with us on the peasant side of the autograph table. He was stood up with us, talking to us with our faces on the same level. Totally classy move on his part as it meant there was no barrier between us and him, no autograph table. Not only was Joe totally classy in that regard, but damn it if he wasn’t the friendliest man! Joe is a native New Zealander, so he has that wonderful accent. We talked about his time on “Game Of Thrones”, as he was a big fan of the show before being cast. He said that he wasn’t “this big of a fan” (he pointed around the convention), but he did love the show. He expressed awe in how passionate and caring the fan base for the show was, with many people at the convention dressed up as various characters, etc. I believe this was Joe’s first convention (I could be wrong) and he had that look of someone who was in Disneyland. It’s quite amusing that to non-convention attendees, conventions have a certain stigma. A stigma of nothing but middle-aged nerds in Star Trek t-shirts that are too small for them, making the annual trek out of their parents’ basement to meet some actors. That’s not the case at all! Okay, perhaps just a smidge, but it’s largely a group of like-minded individuals that are passionate about the same thing. That care enough about their passions to dress up, queue for hours, and interact with their heroes. I wish there was more love like that in the world. Hugh Laurie echoed all of these sentiments on “The Graham Norton Show” a year or so ago too. Joe also told us about the pranks he and Emilia used to play on each other on set. For instance, Joe fell asleep in the green room after one particular scene, so Emilia snuck in and dripped caramel fudge all over him. He didn’t wake up until she put the spoon in his mouth! Another time, Emilia also scribbled Dothraki words on his arms while he slept. It makes me so happy to know they all get on so well behind the cameras too. The conversation also turned to Mixed Martial Arts, as Joe recently shared a picture of him with the UFC President, Dana White. We talked about the imminent Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2 fight (we’re both rooting for Nate), and we expressed our opinions on their first fight. I shared that for the first time in my life, I bet on something. I bet on Nate to beat Conor in their first fight. I put £20 on and got £400 back after Nate submitted McGregor. Thanks, Nate! Joe was fucking awesome. Hilarious, interesting, talkative, and I’d happily meet him again. Picture with him at the autograph table too! Totally worth the £15. Guest Type = Conversationalist.
Richard Brake: Right after we finished with Joe, we jumped one place to our right and queued up for Richard Brake, who played the Night King during the fourth and fifth seasons of “Game Of Thrones” (a scheduling conflict meant that he was unable to reprise the role in the sixth season), including the incredible “Hardhome” episode. Richard talked about the fun process of getting all the prosthetics and make-up on (5 hours!) and what it was like to play a character that you could largely only use your body and eyes to convey thoughts and emotion with. He filmed his scenes in a studio and also in Belfast, but has yet to film in Iceland, where a large section of the Wall (and north of the Wall) scenes have been filmed. When it came to whether he’d be able to return (as the role was recast for season six due to the scheduling conflict), he said “never say never” and winked. I’m not sure if that means he’s coming back for season seven, but I would assume that he’s definitely in the running. He said that filming “Hardhome” in particular was a great pleasure and he knew the episode was going to be a massive hit after he filmed the scene where he walks down the pier on the shorefront and raises the dead with his arms. It was certainly an iconic moment. Richard came across as a warm and interesting man, I grabbed a picture with him and the autograph table, and then it was time to chill for the briefest of moments before Natalia Tena arrived. Guest Type = Responder.
Natalia Tena: Sweet Natalia. Coming into the event, I knew that my time with some guests would be limited due to the amount of people that wanted to meet them. I knew anything above a minute or two with Jack was unlikely. I knew anything above a minute or two with Elden was unlikely (I got longer!). I knew anything above a minute of two with Edge was unlikely (I got way longer!). However, as we entered Natalia’s queue just as she was arriving, with 10 or so people in front of us, I felt strangely optimistic. The more I read about her, the more similar I find us. Plus, all my friends that have met her have said the same thing – sweet, crazy, potentially tipsy. When we got to the front of the queue, I handed over the Tonks art print I’d purchased the previous day, as well as getting an Osha 8” x 10” signed, her character from “Game Of Thrones”. Natalia mentioned that she’d never seen the Tonks art print before, so I explained that the dude from the stall’s daughter had drawn it and then made 25 copies. I thanked Natalia for coming, and I told her that I’d been following her career for a long time, with “About A Boy” in my pre-teens, “Harry Potter” in my teens and early 20’s, and “Game Of Thrones” in my early and mid-20’s. It’s pretty cool that Natalia’s career has allowed her to remain a part of a generation of people’s lives throughout. Natalia was pleased by this and loved the fact that she’d gotten to, in a way, watch a generation of people grow up, as she started attending conventions many years ago and has seen some repeat attendees grow from children to adults. That’s wonderful. Natalia told us that she was “fucking knackered!” because she’d been performing a gig the night before in the Lake District, driven to London, “the M6 wouldn’t end!”, and she hadn’t gotten here until the very early hours of Saturday morning so she was running off of almost no sleep...then she noticed my tattoo on my right forearm and got very interested (she has tattoos herself). She asked for the story behind it, so I explained. Wrestling, logo with best friend, best friend died, got it as tribute. Natalia seemed genuinely concerned regarding the death and asked if I was dealing okay. I said I was as it was a long time ago. When she was sure I was okay talking about it, she got excited about the fact I used to be a wrestler! She asked questions about it, asked if I was still doing it (nope, no fun after my friend died), and said, “well, fuck, that’s still something cool for the C.V., ‘I was a wrestler!’...fucking awesome”. I told her that I loved her band, Molotov Jukebox, and that I’d likely be seeing her at their show in Cambridge in September, to which she squee’d loudly, yelled, and threw her hands up in the air in celebration. She told me if I go, I have to go find her. Awesome. I also told her I saw their new music video, “If I Knew”, when drunk a few weeks back and it tripped me out. She laughed and said that she’s not sure how she feels about the music video, but she loves that it’s such a mind-trip. I thanked her for coming, she stood up to hug me, and we left. Guest Type = Conversationalist. Loved meeting her! After she cancelled on LFCC last year, I was left feeling so dejected, so it was amazing to not only meet her this time, but to have her be such a cool person was awesome.
With 9 great experiences in a row under my belt, it was time to start my afternoon of photoshoots. As before, there’s so little to talk about with the photoshoots that I’ll just give you a few notes and nothing more. All 6 went off without a hitch, relatively on time. Faye’s was quick, easy, she remembered me from earlier in the morning, and gave me a hug after the photo was taken. The queuing for the ‘Hold The Door’ group photo and the Jack Gleeson/Iron Throne photo was a mess, simply because it was out in the open, so people kept stopping in or next to the queues to gawk and take pictures, leaving the whole area crowded and confusing. No matter, both photos started relatively on time (both a little late, but not late enough to cause issues) and both turned out pretty great too. For the ‘Hold The Door’ group photo, I asked everyone if they could look scared. After all, we know what’s on the other side of that door, right? Ellie really went for it, Kae tried bless her, and Kristian looks as though he’d pushed a fart out and followed through. I love it. The Jack/Iron Throne picture was a bit more awkward, simply because you have two people and one seat, so I didn’t really know what to do for it. It turned out okay, though. Not great, but good enough. After the picture was taken, Jack switched seats with me and sat on my lap though, so I can’t complain too much. I still love that Jack smiles like a little boy that’s just learned how to smile when a camera is aiming at them. It’s so child-like!
Jeremy Renner was a huge hit with me and pretty much everyone else. He really threw himself into the occasion. I think as Jeremy was pretty much 40 when he became a household name, there must have been times where he wondered if he’d ever make it to the A-Lister he is today. Therefore, I think he’s more appreciative than most for it now. If you wanted a hug picture, fine with him. An action shot, also fine. He’d hold props you brought for the shoot, he’d wrap his arms around you, he’d shake everyone’s hand when they approached, he’d smile and laugh...he was awesome, and he came across like he was having the time of his life. When it was my turn, he threw his arm over my shoulders, pulled me in close to him, the photo was taken, and he even had time to chat to me a little bit, shake my hand, and thank me before I left. Total class act. Meet him if you get the chance. He’s worth the money. Not all big guests are, but he is. My Edge and Anton Lesser photos ran smoothly and came out great too. Edge never stopped smiling the whole shoot, which must be challenging after the first 300 photos, surely? My cheeks would ache.
By this point, it was 5:30pm. We were exhausted, but gleeful. I’d accomplished everything I’d wanted to accomplish on that day. I thought some of it was likely to bounce over to Sunday, making Sunday harder, but everything went my way...it was just Paul McGann’s autograph left.
Paul McGann: When we approached Paul’s autograph table, fate was not on my side. He still had a “no posed photos” sign up, but there was just one person talking to him (a friend of his) and no queue behind, so I discretely asked Paul’s crew member if I got an autograph from Paul, would it be okay to get a picture too? As the sign was up, it was only right to ask the crew beforehand. The lovely crew member said it was totally fine and that the sign was only there because of Paul’s huge queue earlier in the day, it wasn’t because Paul didn’t want to do them or anything like that. To be fair, his queue earlier in the day was barbaric so it was totally fair. Woohoo! I could get my picture! I’ve had the opportunity to meet four of the Doctors from the classic era of “Doctor Who” now and all four have been wonderful, but Paul is my very favourite. He’s such a classy, talkative, genuine individual. Also, he doesn’t own a TV. I borrowed a quote from Joey from “Friends” and asked what all his living room furniture points towards if he doesn’t own a TV, which got a big laugh. I told him how much I loved finally getting to see his regeneration scene in “The Night Of The Doctor” as part of the 50th anniversary special. He said even though he’s done many, many audio dramas as the Doctor since the 1996 movie, he loved coming back to play the Doctor on television again. He had a blast recording his scenes, he was overwhelmed to be part of the 50th anniversary special, and he told me it was such an honour to regenerate into John Hurt, as John Hurt was his childhood hero and one of the primary reasons he became an actor in the first place. He told John Hurt all this too. I love that Paul McGann is a “Doctor Who” fanboy too. Most of the actors that have played the Doctor were huge fans already, which is wonderful. We also talked about the process of recording the “Doctor Who” audio dramas and how they compare to recording his voiceovers for “Eden”, a reality television show that has just started, where 23 people are dumped in a remote coastal area of Scotland with a few supplies and are told to survive there for one year as a community. Paul was very charming and gracious throughout our conversation, even though he must have been exhausted from his massive queue all day. The picture was taken, I thanked him immensely, and we headed back to the Premier Inn, exhausted but thoroughly satisfied. Guest Type = Conversationalist.
What a day. Suffice to say, we were all in bed half-dead by 9pm and faced a terrible dilemma – “Iron Man 2” was playing on one channel, while “Batman: The Dark Knight” was playing on another. While “The Dark Knight” is a better film, we decided on “Iron Man 2” because it’s funnier and we needed some happiness. Sadly, due to Donald Sumpter being a Sunday only guest, we had to get up at 5am again the following day. I had 9 photos ahead of me, but just one autograph. It was going to be a relatively easy day in comparison to the previous one, but I knew Donald would be popular as I believe it was his first convention, plus he was only there for two-thirds of one day, so I wanted to get there early to ensure I got a low virtual queuing number. I ultimately received #35. Easy.
As before, photos are pretty easy and relatively uninteresting from a reviewing perspective so I’ll just mention a few things. My first photo of the day was Jack Gleeson’s regular, non-Iron Throne shoot. He still smiled like a little boy and was his usual courteous self. Right after Jack in photo area C was Gemma Whelan, closely followed by Dan Portman. I’ve met both of these lovely people before, but I wanted a better photo with both of them. Gemma remembered me from last year and enthusiastically greeted me, while Dan not only remembered me from 18 months ago, but remembered our conversation as he started talking to me about wrestling right after the picture was taken, much to the chagrin of the photographer, I’m sure. Loved Dan for remembering me and our conversation from so long ago. Especially considering he does so many conventions and meets so many people. Both photos turned out really good too! Much better than my previous photos with them. After these 3 photos, it was time for an hour’s break before my next two with Michelle Gomez and Natalia Tena, both taking place in photo area B, so I took this opportunity to get my one autograph of the day, Donald Sumpter.
Donald Sumpter: Donald was, as expected, very busy. We were told his line was closed to allow it to go down for 5-10 minutes. I lingered close to the line, but not in the way, waiting for it to re-open. When it did, I was straight in there! As my schedule was so tight on Sunday already (or it would have been if I hadn’t been so efficient on Saturday and gotten my Laurie photo on Friday instead), I didn’t want to risk missing out on Donald’s autograph, especially as it was his first convention and I didn’t know if he’d ever do another one. Donald was more talkative than expected given his queue and he really came across as a loving grandfather. If I could choose a celebrity grandfather, Donald would likely top that list. Or Ian McElhinney. The people in front of us got Donald to sign a picture of him from “Spooks”, where I believe he’s tied up and bloody. When we got to the front, Donald remarked that it was an odd choice of picture to get signed and had a little chuckle to himself about it, which worked as a terrific ice-breaker. Donald also picked up a picture of him as an officer from the 1960’s and told us that all actors had to have that haircut when they placed officers during that era, before he remarked that the haircut made everyone, including him, look like an idiot. I laughed so hard. Not only is he talkative and charming, but he’s self-deprecating too. My kind of guy! The conversation then transitioned to, you guessed it, “Game Of Thrones”, where we talked about Maester Luwin being a beacon of light and goodness in a show that prides itself on villains and grey-area characters. Donald enforced what a wonderful time he had while filming the show, before we turned our attention to “Doctor Who”. Donald is one of few actors to appear on both the black-and-white and colour versions of the show, having almost 50 years between his first and most recent appearances. That’s one helluva résumé! I thanked him immensely for his generosity and time, and even managed to get an unexpected table picture with him, where he rested his head against mine, like the celebrity grandfather I wanted him to be. Oh, sweet summer child. For those of you keeping score, out of the 16 autograph table conversations I had over LFCC weekend, 15 were awesome and 1 was awkward. That’s a decent statistic. Guest Type = Responder.
The Michelle Gomez photoshoot was hilarious, as Michelle kept spontaneously choosing random poses and expressions for her photos. She was clearly having a great time, pulling her Missy face and wearing cat ears. I wish I’d gotten her autograph now too as she seemed like a right laugh! No matter, the photo turned out well. Natalia remembered me from the previous day, gave me a big hug again, the picture was taken, and she said she’d hopefully see me in September. Awesome woman! Due to my being so efficient over the previous two days, I found myself with nothing to do for an hour or so after Natalia’s photoshoot, so we decided to check out the merchandise stalls while waiting for my friend Rhi to arrive to the venue. Rhi was caught up in so much traffic that she didn’t arrive until well after 3pm, at which point we were both caught up in photoshoots all afternoon so I ended up literally missing her by 60 seconds. Typical. By this point, it was 3pm on Sunday, we were all weary, tired, and ready to be heading home, but I had 4 photoshoots left. This sentiment seemed to be echoed by many, as most people in the photoshoot queues were talking longingly of sitting down and getting a good night’s sleep. If you’ve never been to a big weekend convention like LFCC, don’t underestimate how tired it’ll leave you afterwards. 3 days of adrenaline peaks and falls, of queuing for hours and hours, of meeting heroes, of walking further than you’ve realised, and socialising with so many people will leave you feeling drained and achy for days afterwards.
The afternoon photoshoots went as smoothly as they possibly could, with Dominic Monaghan being the life of the party and requesting some better music be played before the photos began. He danced between photos and was clearly having a great time. Elden Henson’s photoshoot went smoothly too and was also Hannah’s one and only photoshoot of the weekend, my 23rd birthday present to her the previous month. Right after Elden was Donald Sumpter, who was much more hands-on than expected, hugging people, throwing his arm over people’s shoulders, and generally being the great sport that he is. After Donald, my final photoshoot of the day and weekend, was Famke Janssen, Jean Grey from the “X-Men” franchise. Out of everything I’ve been told and read since the event, Famke was a bit of a nightmare. While 10% of people had good autograph table experiences, the other 90% left feeling dejected and disappointed. She barely looked up, barely spoke, and many people thought she was cold. I didn’t get her autograph and I can’t speak for other people, so I’ll just give my opinion. Famke had a “no touching” policy for her photoshoot and she was sat down on a stool for it. Evidently, she had broken ribs, so the no touching and sitting down was totally fine with me. I’ve broken my ribs before and the pain of clothing touching them can sometimes be agony so the last thing you want is people hugging your ribs all weekend. That is perfectly understandable and excusable. What I can’t excuse, however, was the lack of interest or manners. I managed to get a “hi” in response to mine when it was time for my photo (some people didn’t), but she didn’t look at me, barely smiled in the photo (same with everyone else’s too), and didn’t respond to my “thank you” when I left. Instead, her bodyguard thanked me. Broken ribs don’t stop you from thanking your fans or gently turning your head to briefly look at them. Sorry, I’ve had the same injury, it simply doesn’t excuse the behaviour. Plus, Famke has done one convention before this one, where she was broken rib-free, and the impression from the attendees was similar to this event, so I don’t think the ribs can be used as an excuse. Some people paid hundreds of pounds for a diamond pass with her, only to barely get acknowledged. I’d be furious. As it is, I’m pretty furious that I spent £45(!) to get a photo with her where she looks somewhat like a waxwork. Hilariously, mine is one of the better photos I’ve seen with her from the weekend! At least there’s no gap and she’s somewhat smiling! The experience did and still does leave a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. In comparison, the other X-Men guest of the weekend I met, Aaron Stanford, was a fucking legend. The thing is, 99% of us convention attendees are easy to make happy! Acknowledge our presence, look remotely interested in meeting us and being there, say “hi” and “thank you”, and smile a little bit, and we’ll be fans for life! It’s so easy to give us a good time and a lifelong memory! Plus, let’s not forget, no fans = no career.
Now that my little rant is over, I’ve got to mention one or two other things, then it’s time to wrap up this 22-page review (and counting), excluding pictures. Gosh, I love the sound of my own voice, clearly. I saw my “Wales Comic Con” alumni Kim and Charley just before my Famke photoshoot, and Charley was practically a puddle on the floor as she was about to go and meet Edge. She’d had a photo with him the previous day and already turned into a pile of fangirling goo. Don’t believe me? Look...
Sorry, Charley. I couldn’t complete this review without putting that adorably hilarious video in here somewhere. It’d be an injustice. Charley has been a huge fan of Edge for practically 20 years, just like I have, so I can understand the fangasms, and honestly it’s pretty refreshing to see someone so uninhibited. After talking to Charley and Kim for a while, and laughing hysterically at Charley’s face when I mentioned that Edge was taking table pictures and talking to people for a long time, it was basically time to leave the event for the weekend. A weekend of great memories, wonderful experiences, blissful conversations, and decent photos. Could the experience be improved? Certainly. There’s still some tweaks that need to happen. However, overall, this was a vast improvement over the previous two years. If you remember how big LFCC is and plan accordingly, and remember that you time with the guests might be more limited than other events, then there’s no reason you can’t have a great time. This was my 6th straight LFCC and I’ll definitely be back next year for my 7th. While “Wales Comic Con” still holds the title of best conventions in the U.K. and will likely to continue to do so for many years, I was impressed with LFCC this year and the improvements they’ve made since the 2015 edition.
Some other really cool stuff happened over the weekend too, but nothing I can talk about publicly. If you see me around at other events, feel free to come over and say “hi” and ask me about them. I’m happy to chat with anyone! I’ll be at “Worcester Comic Con” in a few weeks, Showmasters’ “Bournemouth Comic Con” in early September, my home-city’s “Gloucester Comic Con” in early October, “Wales Comic Con” in Wrexham on the 5th and 6th of November, and Starfury’s “Vampire Ball 7” in early December. If you see me around, feel free to come say “hi”. I don’t bite that hard. As always, over LFCC weekend, I saw many friends, made some new ones, and had over 50 people come to talk to me about the blog. I try not to name too many people in the review itself as I fear I’ll miss someone out and offend them. So, thank you all for your time at LFCC if we spoke and thank you for helping to create new lifelong memories with me. I also saw some of the Showmasters forum members lingering around the event too, which was cool. Of course, I chatted to my friend, Mr. David Bedwell and got a selfie with him at his insistence. I queued up right next to PenThePirate on Saturday morning, but didn’t realise it was him until the next day. I saw Wrong Name around the venue numerous times over the weekend. I saw Faerie Tanith a bunch of times too, but didn’t know it was her until afterwards, and I even spotted a camel (sorry, forum joke). While I don’t post too often on the forums, I’m constantly on them reading about the latest guest announcement or shenanigans from the weekend, so it was cool to see so many of you in real life too. As at the start of this review, thanks to the crew for making the event all the more smooth and enjoyable, and thank you to everyone who took the time to read this as-always astronomical review.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10