Thursday, 22 June 2017

Collectormania (24): Birmingham 2017 - A Detailed Review

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

• Ming-Na Wen (Agent Melinda May from “Agents of SHIELD”)
• John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness from “Torchwood”/“Doctor Who” & Malcolm Merlyn from “Arrow”)
• Julie Benz (Darla from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”/“Angel” & Rita from “Dexter”)
• Dean Cain (Superman/Clark Kent from “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman”)
• Christian (Wrestler)
• Beth Phoenix (Wrestler)
• Ronnie O’Sullivan (Snooker Player)
• Jimmy White (Snooker Player)
• Marc Warren (Elton from “Doctor Who”, Danny Blue from “Hustle” & Rick from “Mad Dogs”)
• Tony Curran (Vincent Van Gogh from “Doctor Who”, Datak Tarr from “Defiance” & Markus from “Underworld: Evolution”)
• Daniel Portman (Pod from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ron Donachie (Ser Rodrik Cassel from “Game Of Thrones” & Steward from “Doctor Who”)
• Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan from “Harry Potter”)
• Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” & Elizabeth Renfro from “Dark Angel”)
• Jeffrey Combs (Various Characters from “Star Trek” & Dr. Kevin Burkoff from “The 4400”)
• Daniel Naprous (Darth Vader from “Star Wars: Rogue One” & Oznak zo Pahl from “Game Of Thrones”)

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. Yes, I haven’t written one in a while due to my degree, but I am starting up again in a matter of weeks so keep an eye out. The degree ends in mid-June!
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With that being said, let’s dive in...

It feels as though an eternity has passed since I attended this event on Saturday the 3rd of June. As I write this introduction, it is the 12th, which is waaaaay past my usual turnaround for a convention review. Alas, my excuse is a good one. I just took my FINAL EVER MASTER’S DEGREE EXAMS! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a six-year journey is at an end. For those of you unaware, I’ve been completing a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree via the Open University for the past 6 years. The Open University is a degree-based system whereby you’re able to do your degree from home. So, for the past 6 years, I’ve gone to work all day, done degree work all evening, and attended conventions every two or three weekends. The schedule has been brutal, but rewarding. Nevertheless, I’m happy to finally get some free time back. It gives me time to continue with the “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” episode reviews that I had to shelf a couple of years ago as the schedule became too much for even me to manage. They will be back in the next couple of weeks and I shall be writing them to their conclusion. That’s the second half of Buffy season 6, all of Buffy season 7, the second half of Angel season 3, all of Angel season 4, and all of Angel season 5. It’s a mammoth task, but it needs to be done. Then, I shall re-write the Buffy seasons 1 and 2 reviews (as they are currently bullet-pointed), proof-read and edit all of the reviews, and will eventually release all of the Buffy reviews as a book and all of the Angel reviews as a book. That’ll probably be out in late 2018/early 2019. Now that I have an extra 20-25 hours a week free, I have so many ideas on how to use the time that my head is buzzing. It’s an exciting time in my life right now and I intend to enjoy every second of it.

However, you’re all here for my review of “Collectormania: Birmingham 2017”, so let’s crack on. As mentioned, ‘CM:BM’ took place over the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of June 2017 at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, England. Unlike many conventions, this one was only an hour from my house in Gloucestershire, which was bliss from an organisational and leaving time standpoint. Due to my Master’s degree exams 4 days after the convention, I could only afford to attend on one day. I could give up one day’s revision for convention goodness, but not two. This left quite the busy schedule – 16 autographs, 7 studio photos (which became 9 on the day), and potentially lots of running around. It’s not something I’d recommend for beginners or for people who only attend smaller conventions as you really do need to be organised to get this done. If you’re a convention pro. or have been to many large events like ‘LFCC’ before, you should be fine. Unless the crew screw you over to start the day, but more on that in a bit...

My usual assistant/friend for the day was John. As a general rule, I’m usually at conventions with John, Hayley, or Hannah, all of whom are good friends. I will occasionally take my younger sister Tash or my girlfriend, Robyn, to a weekend-specific fandom convention, as Robyn enjoys the fancy hotels and the more relaxed pace that they offer. Historically, If I’m only going to a convention for one day, it’s Sunday. Sunday is historically quieter than Saturday, which would give me more opportunities to get everything done. However, this wasn’t an option on this occasion as four of the guests I wanted to meet (Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White, Ron Donachie and Marc Warren) were just there on Saturday, but there were no guests that were Sunday-only on my list. This left the prospect of a very busy Saturday at the NEC, trying to rush around getting 16 autographs and (eventually) 9 studio photos. Not a pleasant prospect by anyone’s standards. No matter, I had press passes for myself and John. That meant we could leave Gloucestershire at 7:30am, get to the NEC just after 8:30am, park the car, get to Hall 5, and walk straight through as doors were opening at 9:00am. Ahhh, gotta love a press pass! When we entered Hall 5, our rucksacks were checked. I would have been shocked if they weren’t, given the recent terror incidents in Manchester and London right around the time of ‘Collectormania’. In fact, I was a little surprised that security wasn’t tighter than it was as I saw people entering Hall 5, circumnavigating the bag-checkers, and going to join the queue without having been checked at all. Quite alarming. Myself and John checked with the crew and were told to join a small queue of press. Gold pass holders and people with disability passes were let in just before 9:00am. That meant we were next!...But then regular attendees were let in. We weren’t. So we waited. And waited. Getting more and more anxious...and we waited some more...and some more. By 9:20am(!!!), I was furious. I mean, fuming. This had never happened before with press passes. Anywhere. I left the queue and went to an empty desk that was off to the side to complain. Turns out, we were put in the ‘pay on the day’ queue alongside a handful of other press pass holders. Rookie mistake. The ‘final score’ of this event at the end of the review will instantly lose 1.5 points for this error as the repercussions could be catastrophic. If this happened at ‘LFCC’, we’d have been fucked. By the time you’d enter the main autograph hall at 9:20am, the virtual queuing numbers for the headline guests would have been in the 300-500 range minimum. Thankfully, I still managed to get all my autographs done on Saturday, but it was way more stressful than it ought to have been if we were put in the correct queue at the start. As this was the first ‘Collectormania’ at the NEC, I can understand that this was a teething issue, but you still need a 100% success record with stuff like this. It’s unforgiveable, really.

Myself and John split up once inside the main hall so that he could collect the ‘virtual queuing’ tickets I needed for autographs, while I went to queue for my Ming-Na Wen diamond pass collection. I approached the side of the sales desk and asked a crew member which queue was for diamond passes, she pointed to a queue and said, “this one”. You guessed it, wrong queue again. She put me in the gold pass collection queue, which was significantly shorter. Like, 5 people vs. 200 people shorter. I got to the front of the queue and a different crew member explained the error of the queues. Just when I was about to throw a hissy fit (and I felt one coming), the crew member to her right said, “It’s okay, I’ll sort this gentleman out next as he was directed into the wrong queue.” Thank you, merciful crew member. Sweet Queen who should be granted a red shirt for the next event. You likely saved me 30-45 minutes of extra queuing, which would have really thrown a spanner into my plans for the day. Suffice to say, by 9:30am, I was pissed off. After taking 10 minutes to familiarise myself with the layout of the hall (where the photo areas were, where the guests I wanted to meet were, who was virtual queuing, who wasn’t...I always recommend taking 10 minutes to do this! So helpful!)...and taking 10 minutes to calm down...we decided to get a few autographs completed before my first studio photo of the day at 10:05am with John Barrowman in his Captain Jack Harkness coat. Bucket-list item. My friend John (not Barrowman) had managed to rustle me up some ‘not quite so bad as expected’ virtual queuing numbers for Julie Benz, John Barrowman, and the other more popular guests. All the V.Q. numbers were in the 100-200 range, so all should be achievable. It’s a shame that the first 30 minutes of my day was marred with piss-poor organisation because the other eight-and-a-half hours was really well organised.

Devon Murray: As a self-confessed diehard Harry Potter fan, I was excited to meet Devon. Granted, my diehardness is largely for the book series and not the movie franchise, but the movie franchise is still pretty great in its own right. The first thing I noticed about Devon is that he’s tiny. Like, 5’5” perhaps. The second thing I noticed is that he’s in great shape right now. He’s like a tiny, buff little Irishman...and, more importantly, he couldn’t have been more friendly. Seriously, he was the loveliest man. Very talkative, very excitable, he gave tremendous eye-contact. When I asked for the autograph to be personalised to me, ‘Shane’, Devon got excited that I had an Irish name, which led to a conversation about Ireland, my grandfather (who was Irish), and where he was from. Devon started talking about his friends who lived close to where my grandfather was born and we exchanged stories. It was very random, but very cool. After a few minutes, the conversation shifted to ‘Harry Potter’, which was inevitable. We talked about the process of auditioning for ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ (screw you, America! It’s ‘Philosopher’, not ‘Sorceror’). Amusingly, Devon thought that ‘Harry Potter’ was the director of the movie and that the movie was called “The Philosopher’s Stone”, so when he first met Chris Columbus, he said, “Hi Harry, I’m Devon!” Oh. My. God. That’s hilarious. I really wish that moment had been filmed. I once accidentally kicked the artificial leg off of someone and they toppled over slowly like a falling tree, so I can hardly throw embarrassment stones...or philosopher’s stones for that matter. We then talked about the stud farm that Devon owns and manages in Ireland and what drew him to horses in the first place (he has no idea!). Finally, we discussed depression. Devon publically came out about his battles with depression last year and as many of you know, I had really bad problems with depression from 2007-2012. It’s cool to see celebrities and people of influence openly talking about mental health issues now because for so long it was a taboo subject. I remember only 5 years ago when I was starting to pull out of my depression that it was hard to find people to talk about it with. Celebrities were silent, friends looked at you funny. It’s wonderful to see that all of that is changing now slowly. One of the great things about Showmasters is that table pictures (‘selfies’...bleaugh!) are free. The guests aren’t allowed to charge the attendees for table pictures. They can refuse to do them entirely, but if they are offering them, they must be free. Very, very cool! When you think about the fact that I met 16 people at ‘Collectormania’ and at non-Showmasters events at least half of them would have been charging £5-£10 for a picture with them at their autograph table, that’s roughly £60 saved! The picture turned out great too...even if the flash was accidentally on and it left me momentarily blinded. Guest Type = Conversationalist

(Regular readers, you can skip this section)

“Shangel, what’s a ‘Conversationalist’?”

I’m glad you asked. Many years ago, after attending numerous 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 below or on social media!

After speaking to Devon, I could feel the rage and anxiety that had been plaguing me for the previous 45 minutes slipping away instantly. Talking to Devon completely changed my mood. If Devon had been less talkative or had been dismissive, my bad mood may have remained all day, so thanks to Devon for being so awesome. Speaking of table picture charges, Charisma Carpenter started the day by charging people for selfies! This is a big no-no for Showmasters and as soon as the crew were made aware, they shut that shit down. However, for about 30 minutes, she was charging. I feel sorry for the attendees that paid money for a selfie. As soon as Charisma found out that she couldn’t charge for the table pictures what did she do? Put up a sign saying “no posed photographs”. If she couldn’t charge for them, she wasn’t offering them at all. It’s a shame because it really shows you which guests are attending to make money and which guests are attending to meet the fans and give back. Granted, all guests are there to make money, but I like to think that some of them are also there equally as much to meet their fans and interact with them one-on-one. “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff, “Angel”, are my all-time favourite shows (closely followed by “Game Of Thrones”), so it’s a shame to think that in the past couple of months two of the leading stars have been a bit too money-grabbing at these events (the other being Emma Caulfield at “Wales Comic Con 2017 Part I”). In contrast, Charisma’s best friend, Julie Benz, was sat next to her and was offering free selfies all day without complaint (the only sign that was up was ‘no flash’ as the light caused her eye problems). I also heard Charisma snap at someone for taking a picture of her signing their 8” x 10” and saying that they’re not allowed, which was also unfair as the sign above her desk said “no posed photographs”, which is completely different to “no photographs” at all. Regular Showmasters attendees know the difference between the two and act accordingly. If you don’t want people taking pictures of you whatsoever, put the right sign up. All of this crap just understates even more how amazing Ming-Na Wen is. Ming-Na Wen is 53, but looks 30, and many of you will know her as Agent Melinda May from “Agents of SHIELD” or the voice of ‘Mulan’. Two weeks before ‘Collectormania’, Ming had knee surgery. I think it was ACL surgery, but I’m not 100% sure. I’ve had ACL surgery myself and it’s brutal. You’re on crutches for 6-8 weeks and the complete recovery time is 6-8 months. Ming managed to get permission from her doctor to fly, so she came. In a wheelchair. And used crutches to get from her wheelchair to her seat in the studio photo sessions. Later in the day, I asked Ming how her knee was holding up and that I wasn’t expecting her to be here and she said, “I couldn’t disappoint my fans, I had to come once I knew I could fly.” Total legend. How amazing is Ming-Na Wen?! She’s every bit as tough and loyal as Agent May...but more on Ming-Na Wen later.

With quarter of an hour or so to kill before my first professional photo of the day, I decided to go over and meet Ron Donachie.

Ron Donachie: I knew Ron a little bit before the event. We’re friends on social media and have interacted on a number of occasions, but this was my first time meeting Mr. Donachie face-to-face. I don’t know if it’s because of the convention setting or whether it’s a characteristic of Ron’s in the ‘real world’, but there is something so instantly disarming about Ron. He makes you feel relaxed and comfortable the second you approach his table. He greeted me affectionately and asked me how I was feeling about revision and the imminent exams. I explained how revision was going and explained what my Master’s degree was in and’s been to juggle a Master’s degree alongside full-time work and part-time convention and blog work for the past couple of years. Unlike many of the actors, Ron has read the first five instalments of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series that “Game Of Thrones” is based upon. Like me, Ron prefers the book series, but we both agree that the show is still incredible. Albeit, Ron prefers Ser Rodrik’s death in the show because it’s more emotional and poignant. Ser Rodrik gets to say his goodbyes to Bran, Rickon and Maester Luwin, and he gets to tell them that he’s going to be reunited with their father, Eddard Stark. It’s a great death scene. In the books, Ramsay Snow and his army approach Winterfell to help Ser Rodrik and the other remaining Northerners win the castle back from Theon and the Ironborn, but when Ser Rodrik offers his hand to Ramsay to shake, Ramsay chops his forearm off and kills him. How charming. So glad that little shit’s been eaten by his own hounds in the show. Anyway, we discussed how it was working on such a large franchise and how secretive the scripts were during the initial couple of seasons of the show. I asked Ron if he was a proficient horserider before being cast in “Game Of Thrones” and he said that while he wasn’t proficient, he could ride a horse. For those of you unaware, Ron is also the father of Daniel Portman, who portrays Podrick Payne in “Game Of Thrones”. The two characters never interact on the show, but they are indeed a real-life father and son. Dan was actually sat next to his father at ‘Collectormania’, but more on Dan later. One of the cool things about “Game Of Thrones” is that the show offers the cast a lot of training opportunities. There’s an area in Belfast where the cast are able to learn sword-fighting, archery, and a plethora of other skills. Both Ron and Dan made a point of learning as much as possible while the opportunities were still being presented to them (they still are in Dan’s case as he’s still alive on the show). Finally, myself and Ron talked about working on Doctor Who’s “Tooth & Claw”, which was David Tennant’s third episode of the show alongside Billie Piper’s ‘Rose Tyler’. I love that episode. And the David-Billie pairing. If I had to sum up Ron in one word, it would be ‘gent’. The man is all class. Very easy to talk to, very humble, a wealth of knowledge, and a wonderful experience. Even got a table picture! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

We’re two for two on good conversations thus far!

It was now 10:00am, so it was time to head over to photo area A in the corner of the hall for my first studio photo of the day, John Barrowman in his Cpt. Jack Harness coat. Oooh, how exciting! I miss the days of relatively cheap autograph and studio photo prices though, as the picture with John in his Cpt. Jack coat cost £55! Ooof. John was the busiest guest of the day. He signed 700+ autographs based on his virtual queuing and diamond pass numbers and his studio photo queues were the biggest of the day. However, many, many people left their studio photo with John for the second session in the afternoon, thus leaving his first session remarkably quiet for such a big name. This worked wonderfully for me as it allowed me to join the back on the queue, have the photo taken, collect the instantly-printed photo, and be back to collecting autographs within 15 minutes. John was, as imagined, a big ball of energy and love. He’s always wonderful with his fans. He doesn’t have a huge amount of time to dedicate to everybody as he’s so popular, but he gives everyone a smile, a big hug, and makes you feel appreciated. You can’t ask for more from a big guest...and he can still rock the Cpt. Jack coat!

My next photo was scheduled for 11:00am, which gave me about half an hour to get an autograph or two completed before heading back to photo area A. It was time for the Double-Dan Duo of Death. The Darth Vader Pod. The Payne in your ass when you Sith down...okay, I’m out of puns. PUNBELIEVABLE!

Daniel Naprous: Daniel Naprous is a prolific stuntman and co-ordinator for “Game Of Thrones” and many, many other franchises, as well as portraying Oznak zo Pahl in “Game Of Thrones” and Darth Vader in “Star Wars: Rogue One” alongside my man Spencer Wilding. As an aside, I’ve met ‘Big Spen.’ A handful of times before and got to hang out with him a little bit at my homecity’s inaugural convention, “Gloucester Comic Con”, last October. He’s absolutely delightful. I’ve also met Dave Prowse a handful of times before too, so meeting Daniel Naprous completed my Darth Vader trifecta. I asked Daniel what it was like stepping inside the Vader suit for the first time and he said it was magical, but also intense because not only did he have to portray this incredible, iconic character, but he also tried to move and act like Dave Prowse, only more agile as there was an intense fight scene to shoot. I love Vader’s scenes in “Rogue One”, so it was great to listen to the technical aspects of the fight scene and how everything came together. In essence, Spencer Wilding was cast as Darth Vader first, but was unavailable for some of the Second Unit pick-ups, so Daniel Naprous was hired as well. They both did a great job. We also talked about “Game Of Thrones” and Daniel joked that he gets killed by Jaime Lannister a lot on the show. He’s been killed by Jaime Lannister “four or five times”, including the fight between Jaime/Bronn and the Dornish fighters on the beach in Dorne. Interestingly, he said that tightly choreographed fight scenes can be the hardest or most challenging to accomplish on “Game Of Thrones” and he downplayed getting set on fire or being thrown from horses as less challenging because that’s part of his day-to-day stuntman life. Interesting career when being set on fire is easy and normal! Fuck. That. I thanked Daniel for his time, we took a picture together, and I was on my merry way. Guest Type = Responder.

Daniel Portman: Dan is, without a doubt, one of my favourite convention guests. I’ve only met him a handful of times, but he’s always a great laugh, really easy to talk to, and it feels more like chatting with a mate than meeting a celebrity. Excluding a brief studio photo last year at ‘London Film & Comic Con’, the last time I was able to talk to Dan properly was in Cardiff in 2015. When I approached Dan’s table at ‘Collectormania’, he said, “Hi Shane, how’re you?” and offered me a warm handshake. He said that it’s been a while and then proceeded to tell me where we’d last talked, when it was, and what we talked about. Either he’s secretly an elephant or I made some form of impression, hopefully positive. Amusingly, we barely talked about “Game Of Thrones”. We talked about my imminent exams, career plans, conventions, and his touring of the world due to conventions. I also told Dan that with “Game Of Thrones” ending soon, he should put his name forward to portray The Doctor on “Doctor Who” with Peter Capaldi leaving. Granted, the new Doctor has now been chosen, but Dan should definitely throw his name into the hat in the future. He’d be tremendous. While talking about conventions, careers, and exams, I mentioned to Dan that I’d be getting my Master’s degree result over the weekend of ‘London Film & Comic Con’ next month. Dan is going to be at ‘LFCC’ all weekend, just like I am, so I told him that I’d go over and let him know how it went. If I go over looking miserable, he can console me. If I go over looking euphoric, he can celebrate with me. He told me that either way he’d buy me a drink, so at least I have that to look forward to at ‘LFCC’! Cheeky picture at the autograph table too! Guest Type = Conversationalist. Fucking love that guy.

After leaving Dan’s autograph table, myself and John headed back to photo area A for my studio photo with Ming-Na Wen. As mentioned, just having Ming at the event was incredible given her knee surgery two weeks prior. Ming rolled up to the photo area in a wheelchair, hobbled on crutches to her seat for the photos, and was an absolute delight! She interacted with everyone when they approached her for the photo to be taken, she was in high spirits, and she seemed genuinely happy to be there, even with her physical limitations. I cannot overstate how much respect I have for Ming just for showing up at all! You could excuse her being a little grumpy or annoyed given the circumstances, but she was a legitimate delight. Nothing but love for Ming!

After leaving Ming’s photo session, I noticed that Tony Curran, A.K.A. Vincent Van Gogh from “Doctor Who”, had a “no posed photos” sign up. I’m not sure if Showmasters decided to do that because he was taking so long talking to everyone and they wanted to speed the process up a bit so he’d make his guarantee or if Tony decided to put the sign up himself because the fire alarm in his hotel went off at 3am and he was running off of very little sleep...more on all that later. Either way, I decided to buy a studio photo with Tony because I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a picture with him. I also decided to get a regular photo with John Barrowman in case my one with him in his Cpt. Jack coat turned out shit...because of me, not because of him. I don’t look at studio photos until I get home, so as to not get too disheartened with my face. This left me 40 minutes to get autographs, then Tony’s studio photo, followed by an hour and a half to get autographs before my congested 4-photos-in-40-minutes part of the afternoon. Better get a move on! It was time to tick off the wrestling section.

Beth Phoenix: For one reason or another, I’ve missed a lot of female wrestlers at conventions over the years. I’ve met Amy  ‘Lita’ Dumas a couple of times, I’ve met Mickie James, I’ve met Angelina Love, I’ve met Melina, but I’ve also missed a ton of female wrestlers due to ‘no posed photos’ signs, a lack of funds, or a lack of time. However, even given my incredibly busy day, I couldn’t miss Beth Phoenix. Like Lita, I consider Beth to be one of the greatest female wrestlers in history. Right up there with the likes of Trish Stratus, Chyna, and the Fabulous Moolah. The only downside was that Beth was the premier ‘diva’ of the WWE during a time period when WWE gave very little fucks about the female division. If Beth was around now, during a time when females are regularly main-eventing shows, partaking in ladder matches, and being given extensive screen time, she’d be a monster! As it so happens, Beth is married to Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland in real-life. I met Adam at ‘LFCC’ last year and he was arguably the greatest guest of the three-day event. He was phenomenal. Thankfully, his wife was also amazing, as was his real-life best friend, Christian. More than any other franchise, fandom, or group, wrestlers are the most hit-and-miss at conventions. For every RVD, Paul London, Edge, Chris Jericho, or DDP, there’s a Rikishi, Alberto Del Rio, or Frankie Kazarian. I’m always fearful when meeting a wrestler that they will be a money-grabbing, dismissive, douchebag, which will ruin my childhood memories of them. Thankfully, Beth was amazing. Totally amazing. One of the best meets of the day. Like many of my conversations, we started by talking about my Master’s degree exams looming over my shoulder like some great, intimidating, majestic beast. In a cool twist of fate, Beth is currently completing some education of her own in order to become a counsellor for children, so we had a lot of psychology-related topics to discuss. I also mentioned how beautiful her recent Hall of Fame speech was and Beth said that it was surprisingly easy to write because all she did was profess her love for the people who’ve helped her along her journey, which is easy to do. We also discussed the recent ‘divas revolution’ in the WWE (so glad they’ve largely gotten rid of the term ‘diva’ to describe the women’s division. It always felt disrespectful). Beth said that she does have that itch to return to the ring, but she’s currently way too busy to even consider it. Between education and two young children at home, her life is already full. Let alone trying to add in all that travel, training and wrestling. Meeting Beth was joyous. Not only was she legitimately a wonderful human being and incredibly easy to engage with, but she was also offering table pictures. That was helpful as I couldn’t fit a studio photo with Beth into my schedule and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get a picture with her entirely. Especially as she’s a rare convention attendee. She likely only did this one because Christian was coming. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Christian: Speaking of that creepy little bastard (that was one of his wrestling nicknames!), he was next on my hit-list. As I touched upon in my review of ‘LFCC 2016’ when I met Edge, I am a self-confessed Edge and Christian fanatic. Same goes for the Hardyz. I started watching wrestling when I was three years old and one of my first memories in life was watching Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog from Summerslam 1992 when it first aired. I grew up a big fan and Bret Hart was my guy. However, I didn’t consider myself a fanatic until the late 90s. By the time I was ten years old, I was hooked. I watched everything I could get my hands on, I had an impressively bountiful action figure and VHS tape collection, and I’d even started using family members to try out moves on. Eventually, in my early teens, I started wrestling and continued to wrestle on the U.K. indies a little bit until my very early 20s. Therefore, my obsession hit right around the time Edge and Christian were debuting with the company, joining the Brood, and really coming into their own. I’ve always been a huge fan of both guys, but for some reason I slightly leant towards Christian. Perhaps it was because Edge was seen as the bigger star of the two and I’ve always had a thing for the underdog. Either way, I was very excited to meet Christian....which always makes me a little on edge (punbelievable!) as there’s so much further to fall if they don’t match your expectations. Mercifully, Christian did. What a nice man! We started by talking about – you guessed it – the Master’s degree exams. On this occasion, I didn’t bring it up. Christian had overheard me mention it to Beth on the table next to him, so he enquired as to what I was doing and how it had all been going. He said that his wife has been completing a degree of some kind from home as well, so he fully appreciates and has seen firsthand how challenging and time-consuming they can be. We then transitioned into talking about Edge and Christian’s relatively new podcast, “E&C’s Pod of Awesomeness”. I mentioned that it’s basically two goofy dudes messing around and having fun, which is why I like it. He chuckled and said, “that’s exactly what it is! We have very little plan, we just start recording and let it flow naturally....we’re basically two 40-year-olds that have never grown up.” Yes, gotta say I agree with that, which is certainly not a bad thing for a podcast. We talked about Christian’s quiet retirement a couple of years back and how it was vastly different to all the fanfare and farewell speeches that Edge received when he was forced to retire 6 years ago after a career-ending neck injury. Christian’s retirement was also very sudden and was due to multiple concussions. He could no longer pass the WWE’s impact test for concussions and he therefore wasn’t cleared to wrestle, so he decided to retire. No fanfare, no goodbye match, no speeches, he just disappeared. I asked Christian if he wished he’d received the same level of fanfare that Edge did for his retirement and Christian said no. He didn’t know at the time that his last match would be his last match so they couldn’t announce it ahead of time. The way he answered this question (it was a long answer) was very inspiring as there was no note of sadness or regret. He saw it for what it was and decided that he couldn’t be too sad that his career was cut a little bit short because he accomplished more in his career than 99.9% of professional wrestlers in history. He was a World Champion, he main-evented shows, he was a headliner for 15 years....when he started wrestling, if he was offered that career, he’d have snatched it up in an instant, so there’s no point being sad about the abrupt conclusion. Very cool! Finally, we talked about his budding acting career. He was a recurring actor towards the end of “Haven”...riding Edge’s coattails again, I see! He then told me about an imminent Canadian independent movie he was starting to film a few days after Collectormania, so that’s definitely something I’ll keep a lookout for in the future. He wasn’t offering table pictures though, which is kinda understandable given his queue size. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

It was time for my studio photo with Tony Curran, which came with a funny story. Tony is a goofball. A loveable, excitable, smiley, happy goofball. When I got to the front of the queue, he suggested a back-to-back pose, which I shot down. I just don’t like that pose. At all. So I suggested the more conventional pose, but Tony misread this as face-to-face...he got right up in my face. I wasn’t expecting this whatsoever, so I blurted out, without thinking, “not that close, Tony, you could tongue me from there!” Jesus. It just came out! Tony started laughing his ass off. The picture was taken, we were both still chuckling, and I left the photo area. An odd faux pas, yes. But an amusing story.

All of the sporting guests (barring the wrestlers) were only appearing on Saturday and they were only appearing from 11am-3pm. By the time I left Tony’s photo session and re-found John, it was midday. So we decided to go and meet the snooker guests, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White, next. Ronnie’s queue was starting to get rather long, but I’d grabbed a virtual queuing ticket earlier in the morning so was able to join the back of the 15-person queue straight away as they were already calling above my number. Excellent!

Ronnie O’Sullivan: I’m a huge snooker fan. Wrestling, mixed martial arts, and snooker are my sports. They have been for a long, long time. I grew up watching wrestling and snooker with my grandfather and I became a mixed martial arts fan in 2002 after Ken Shamrock fought Tito Ortiz at UFC 40. Since I was old enough to remember, Ronnie has been my favourite snooker player. Paul Hunter was right there with him until his heartbreaking death in 2006 at 27 years old from cancer. Meeting Ronnie had been on my convention bucket-list for a long time. I’d seen Ronnie pop up at a few of Showmasters’ events over the years, but none of them happened to coincide with ones I was attending until now. Even though his queue was slammed, Ronnie couldn’t have been nicer. He gave great eye-contact, he was answering everything I asked, and he seemed happy to be there. Those of you that have followed snooker whatsoever over the past 20 years will know that Ronnie is...well...a little crazy. He’s either happy and engaging or surly and skipping press conferences, and forfeiting matches halfway through because he’s not mentally there. Ronnie is on the backend of his career without a doubt. So he’s started branching into other things – punditry for snooker, co-writing crime novels, and starring in a documentary about pool in the USA. I personally think the easing pressure of snooker mixed with the happiness these other projects are bringing Ronnie has made him the happiest he’s ever been. He’s so smiley. He just glows. We talked about his first crime novel, ‘Framed’, and the process of creating the idea (loosely based on his life) and writing it. There is a sequel coming out at the end of this year too, so the first was obviously successful. I’ve read it and it’s a great read! We obviously talked about his pool documentary series from the USA and his...erm...amusing time playing V.R. pool for the first time.

We then transitioned to snooker and discussed his legendary career, the goals he has remaining, and what keeps him motivated after being a professional for 25 years. Finally, I asked Ronnie if he’d be singing “Wonderwall” for us today, which got a big laugh. For those unaware, World Snooker fined Ronnie last year – unjustifiably in my opinion – for complaining about the referee and a photographer in a post-match interview. After this, Ronnie still had to attend post-match interviews as it’s in all the professional players’ contract, but he refused to speak because he said that he always gets fined when he does. After a few post-match interviews of one-word answers (Google them, they’re hilarious), Ronnie was obviously feeling in a particularly mischievous mood because while being interviewed, he spontaneously decided to sing “Wonderwall” instead of answer questions...

What a fucking legend. Even though my time with Ronnie was relatively brief due to the queue size, I was very, very happy with the experience. He was courteous, friendly, engaging, and definitely met my expectations. The sports guests almost never offer table pictures – I think it’s usually in their contracts – but I had a studio photo with Ronnie booked for later in the day, plus a studio photo with Ronnie and Jimmy White together, so that was fine. Guest Type = Big Guest/Responder. Usually, people with the label of ‘Big Guest’ just receive that label because their queue is so big that it would be unfair to try to label them anything else. In this instance (and a few others), Ronnie was more talkative than your average ‘Big Guest’, so I’ve decided to bump him up to a ‘Responder’ as well. Kudos to Ronnie.

Jimmy White: While Ronnie’s queue was rammed, Jimmy’s was dead, which seemed strange to me as he’s definitely as big of a star as Ronnie or very close. Particularly in England. Those two and Alex Higgins would universally be considered the most popular three snooker players in history. It soon became apparent to me as to why. Jimmy had zero interest in talking to people. Zero. When you approached his table, he would say “hi”, grab an 8” x 10”, sign it (unpersonalised), hand it back to you, and expect you to leave. It was a 10-second encounter at best. When it was my turn, I asked for the personalisation and Jimmy obliged. I tried to engage him in conversation and he gave me a handful of words in response before I felt like I was being brushed off, so I left. I stuck around for a little while afterwards to see if Jimmy just didn’t like the look of me or if he was treating everyone the same way and he was definitely treating everyone the same. Before this event, a friend of mine had met Jimmy, Ronnie, and Steve Davis at a signing show a few years back. She told me that Ronnie was great, Steve was tremendous, and Jimmy was a massive disappointment and was rude. I try not to judge people based on experiences other than my own, so I still went in with high hopes. These expectations were not remotely met. I was very disappointed. I’m not saying that Jimmy is a bad person, I just think in a convention setting he either doesn’t know that conversations are expected or he was literally just there to make some money. Either way, he’s getting the first ‘groucho’ label I’ve given out in quite some time. Guest Type = Groucho. Big thumbs down.

It was 12:20pm, giving me just under an hour-and-a-half to get as many autographs completed as I could before my back-to-back-to-back-to-back photo sessions. I had eight autographs left to get, so I was hoping to get at least five completed before my studio photo with Christian at 1:50pm. Time to motor!

Marc Warren: I believe this was Marc’s first ever convention and he definitely had a little bit of that ‘deer-in-headlights’ look about him. Plus, I’d read in an interview before attending that Marc is very introverted and not the most charismatic or talkative human being in the world. However, I was still determined to coax him out of his shell, like trying to get a turtle to poke its head out – side note: ‘turtle head’ and ‘Marc Warren’ just led me to a strange, disturbing set of mental images that I could have done without picturing. I asked Marc about wanting to become an actor and what drew him to the profession in the first place. He didn’t know. It just called to him! There was no big epiphany moment, it just fell into place one day...sounds a bit like destiny to me. We also talked about “Doctor Who” and what it was like taking the lead in an episode during the David Tennant era. He thoroughly enjoyed his time on “Doctor Who”, particularly as he got to meet Peter Kay. Amusingly, his IMDB is wrong. He did not play an extra during the Sylvester McCoy era of the late 80s. It’s incorrect. He said, “I’ve been meaning to get that changed, but I’ve just been too lazy.” Funny. At this point, he was talking, he had just reached that responder level, but it was a tad like trying to draw blood from a stone. I read in an interview that Marc is a big mixed martial arts fan, particularly Conor McGregor. We talked about the imminent straight-up boxing match between Conor and Floyd Mayweather that’s supposed to be happening in the next few months. We talked predictions, Conor’s striking ability, and Conor’s ridiculous confidence. We both talked about how much we could accomplish in life if we had that unwavering self-belief and confidence of Conor McGregor. I definitely felt a shift after we started talking about MMA and Conor. Marc’s face lit up, he was more talkative, and more engaging. Research really helped this encounter. I think Marc is a little uncomfortable taking compliments or talking about his life and career, so having something else to discuss brought him out of his shell. I grabbed a picture with him at the autograph table and as I was leaving, he yelled to me, “COME ON, CONOR!” and had a little chuckle to himself. Decent encounter in the end! Guest Type = Responder.

John Barrowman: John was slammed. He was the busiest guest of the day. By far. Ming-Na Wen and Carlos Valdes were likely strong second places, but John was flying. He didn’t start signing until about 10:30am as far as I’m aware because he was in photo sessions first thing in the morning. By 1pm, even with him being a diamond guest, he was already up to virtual queuing number 500 and his queue was still slammed! Sadly, this meant that my time with John was cut pretty damn short, but he was still very charming, engaging, talkative, and gave great eye contact. It was one of those best-case scenarios for a guest that popular. As long as they talk to you a little bit, smile, look at you, and seem appreciative, you can ask for little more. Between the autograph encounter and the two studio photo encounters, I could tell that John was awesome, charismatic, bonkers, and loves his fans. He even wrote ‘love you’ on my 8” x 10”, bless him. Usually, if I know a guest is going to be that busy, I’ll skip the autograph and just get a studio photo, or I’ll go and get the autograph right before closing if the queue has died down so there’s time to talk. A few fandoms are notable exceptions to this rule and “Doctor Who” is one of them, so even though the conversation was brief, I’m still glad I went for it. Understandably, John was not offering table pictures. Guest Type = Big Guest.

Jeffrey Combs: I was very excited to meet Jeffrey coming into the event. He’s had such a long, interesting career, particularly when it comes to sci-fi and shows with a large, cult fandom. From various roles on “Star Trek” to “Babylon 5”. From “The Twilight Zone” to “Gotham”. For me, personally, I’ve always had a particular love for “The 4400”. It was a terrific show that ran for four seasons between 2004 and 2007, with Jeffrey playing a key recurring role. We talked about his long, storied career and what it was like to play various characters on multiple “Star Trek” series, we talked about the most challenging part to play on “Star Trek” and we talked about prosthetics and the process of trying to keep still and stay awake for hours while the prosthetics are being applied to your face and neck. Eventually, the discussion turned to “The 4400”. Like me, Jeffrey has a real fondness for the show and also felt as though its run on television was cut short. Jeffrey got the part through “Star Trek” writer, Ira Steven Behr, who was also writing for “The 4400” and asked Jeffrey to be a part of the show. No audition needed. Awesome! We talked about his time on the show and what it was like to work alongside Summer Glau (she’s wonderful). Even managed to get a free picture with him at the autograph table! Not the greatest conversation of the day, but still very, very good. Jeffrey was the definition of a ‘responder’. He answered everything I asked, he gave great eye-contact and was very cordial, but he didn’t carry the conversation forwards. This is what you expect from a convention encounter. A perfectly pleasant experience and Jeffrey was worth the money! ‘Conversationalists’ are just an added bonus. Guest Type = Responder.

Nana Visitor: Whenever I passed Nana’s queue, it was very, very busy. All day. I must admit, while I knew that Nana would be popular, I was surprised by just how popular she seemed to be. When it was my turn to meet Nana, it was apparent as to why. She’s really talkative. She’ll stay talking to a fan until they’re ready to leave. 5-minute conversation? Fine. No problem. My first thought upon meeting Nana was just how lovely she was. She stood up to talk to people face-to-face for most of the day, she was constantly smiling, and she’s impressively easy to talk to. I have so much respect for Nana because she was going out of her way to give the attendees an experience beyond what they were expecting. I met many talkative guests at “Collectormania”, which was awesome, but alongside Dean Cain and Tony Curran, Nana might have been the most talkative of all. I must admit, unless the guest in question is very busy and popular, I do feel a little disheartened if I feel dismissed after 30 seconds. Guests like Nana, like Dean Cain, like Tony Curran, like Dan Portman, like Ron Donachie, make attending conventions an enjoyable experience. If all of my experiences were similar to the one I had with Jimmy White, I’d have given up this time-consuming hobby years ago. I started my conversation with Nana by telling her that our mutual friend, ‘Bunny’, said “hello” and was sorry that she couldn’t be there with Nana as she was already committed to another convention in Germany over the same weekend. After a brief chat about “Star Trek”, the conversation turned to what I really love Nana in, “Dark Angel”. “Dark Angel” is a cheesy show in 2017, but when it was initially airing in 2000-2002, it was awesome. Nana portrayed one of the leading villains of the show, Dr. Renfro. We talked about her time on the show and I expressed my disappointment that Dr. Renfro was killed off very early into season two. Nana explained that this wasn’t the original idea. The original idea was for Dr. Renfro to be around for the entirety of season two and potentially beyond that. She also explained that Dr. Renfro was thousands of years old and lived off of the blood of the X-5’s to keep herself looking young. None of this was explained in the show because of the sudden death. In essence, she was offered a recurring role for season two, but would have to relocate from New York to British Columbia. Nana was unwilling to relocate based on a recurring role and said that if they bumped her up to a main cast role, she’d do it – especially as Dr. Renfro was going to be in so much of the season anyway. They politely declined, so she agreed to come back for the season two premiere and was killed off at the end of it. As “Dark Angel” was cancelled at the end of season two, it probably worked out for the best. Imagine relocating and then having to move again a year later! I love that Nana gave away so much about the character that never made it to the screen. Very cool. Finally, we talked about her numerous roles on “Family Guy” and what the process of recording voice-overs is like. The crew member with Nana happened to mention my blog and Nana said, “I knew you must do something like that because you have this incredibly professional way of transitioning between topics and you don’t seem to have any shyness about you at all.” Why, thank you. I’ll take those things as compliments! I’ve also got to say that Nana does not look like someone about to turn 60. She looks 45. At most. Even with her presently short grey hair. A wonderful woman and a thoroughly enjoyable experience through and through. Even got a table picture! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Ming-Na Wen: There was just about time to get one more autograph completed before my whirlwind hour of photo sessions was set to begin. I decided to go and meet Ming. To explain what I big fan I am of Ming, I was diamond pass #1. I was the first person to buy a diamond pass after she was announced as attending ‘Collectormania’. The cool thing about diamond passes is that you get to just join the back of the queue. No virtual queuing ticket needed. Now, going into the event, I knew that my time with Ming would be relatively brief, even with a diamond pass. It’s just the nature of the beast when meeting someone who is going to be extremely popular. Honestly, by this point, I was just happy to have Ming there at all and have the opportunity to meet her. 99% of guests would have pulled out after having knee surgery a couple of weeks beforehand. As I mentioned earlier in my review, I have so much respect for Ming for coming at all. In a wheelchair. She was probably in semi-discomfort throughout the weekend because of the moving to and from photo sessions and talks, coupled with the hours in a row of sitting still at an autograph table with a recently surgically repaired knee. You wouldn’t know it, though. She was a total professional and couldn’t have been more friendly. Inevitably, we started by discussing how she was feeling and how her knee was holding up. Back in my wrestling days, I once popped my ACL and MCL at the same time, which was brutal. The whole healing process was about 6 months, so I could completely empathise with Ming. The worst part is not being able to do very much. No physical activity, very little fun. We then transitioned into talking about “Agents of SHIELD” and how the role of Agent May has given Ming a whole new career. Furthermore, the role is really varied, which she wasn’t expecting when initially getting the part and reading the first few scripts, as May does little other than kick ass in the beginning. She doesn’t even talk very much! Over the years, Ming has had the privilege to portray May in Bahrain, a life-model decoy of May, an alternative reality May, and a whole host of other emotions and unique circumstances. I expressed to Ming my love of the show and how it seems to go from strength to strength each season (it does!). Ming had a selection of little Cadbury’s chocolates on her autograph table, with a sign stating “For my Mingalings!”, so she ensured I took one with me before I left. Bless her. It’s the little things that show the difference between someone who really and truly appreciates their fans and someone who is there to make some relatively easy money. Bringing chocolates with her and braving a flight with a messed up knee ensures that Ming-Na Wen is the former. A total sweetheart and really appreciative of her fans. I have nothing but good things to say about Ming and I have total respect for her both as an actress and as a human being. Guest Type = Big Guest/Responder. Once again, a ‘Big Guest’ getting to the ‘Responder’ level is almost unheard of. It’s another example of Ming being awesome.

Time for the photos!

The crammed photo session section of the day started well. 13:50pm, Christian, photo area A. All went on time, all went well. Then it was time to cross the hall to photo area B for my studio photo with Ronnie O’Sullivan. There was a snag. Photo area B was running about 15 minutes late. Oh dear. After Ronnie, I had my duo photo with Ronnie and Jimmy, then I needed to dash over to photo area A for my regular photo with John Barrowman. Photo area B running 15 minutes behind meant that the duo photo would clash horribly with John. Therefore, queuing for Ronnie’s photo left me feeling really anxious as I had to keep checking the time constantly. The Ronnie photo went smoothly. Ronnie remembered me from the autograph table, greeted me warmly, and the photo was taken. I made the spontaneous decision to go and get my John studio photo completed before dashing back for my duo photo with Ronnie and Jimmy as there were still many people left in Ronnie’s solo photo queue as I was right near the front. I got to photo area A, explained the situation to the Showmasters crew, who were wonderful and ushered me right to the front of John Barrowman’s queue. John wrapped me in a massive hug, the photo was taken, and I dashed back to photo area B, where they had just started calling people for the Ronnie and Jimmy duo photo! Success! “Yo Adrian, I did it!” Then something happened that peeved me a little bit...or would have if it happened to me. Between each photo with Ronnie and Jimmy being taken, Ronnie and Jimmy would start chatting to each other. To the point where they stopped saying “hello” to the approaching attendee. I would have been pissed if I was blanked in this way and they were more interested in having a chat between the two of them. Thankfully, when I got to the front, Ronnie greeted me warmly again and I even got a pleasant “hello” from Jimmy! So, for me personally, I have nothing to complain about, but if I was one of those people earlier in the queue, I would have felt a little insulted and aggrieved as it was definitely quite rude to watch.

No matter, my intense photo section of the day was finished. All that was left were the studio photos with Dean Cain and Julie Benz, typically both taking place at the same time, 4:15pm, in photo area A and B respectively. With it now being 2:50pm, I had just under an hour and a half to collect my remaining three autographs with Julie, Dean, and Tony Curran. Shouldn’t be a problem! I headed to Julie’s autograph table – not there! I headed to Dean’s autograph table – not there! I headed to Tony’s autograph table – not there! How annoying. Myself and John headed to the cafe area to grab a drink while we waited for the remaining three actors to return.

Julie Benz: First to return was Julie. Coming into this event, out of everybody, Julie was the one I was most excited for. I’m a diehard “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” fan, I’m even more of an “Angel” fan, where Darla spent the majority of her time in the Buffyverse, and I’m a diehard “Dexter” fan. That’s my #2, #1, and #6 favourite shows of all-time respectively (“Game Of Thrones”, “Chuck”, and “Doctor Who” being #3-5). Julie is important to Buffy, more important to Angel, and main cast on “Dexter”. Plus, she’d cancelled on me three times before. Suffice to say, I was ready to finally meet her. I must admit though, I was expecting her to cancel. I kept checking the Showmasters forums every day for a fortnight before the event, just to make sure she hadn’t cancelled again. Finally, after 19 years of waiting, Julie was there. In front of me...and looking stunning! Even at 45 years old, Julie is one of the most naturally beautiful celebrities on the planet. Effortlessly beautiful. It’s very rare that I get star-struck in 2017. I thought that Julie might be one of those exceptions, but thankfully I was my usual self throughout the conversation. As it was later in the day, I got a bit more time with Julie than I would have in the morning, which was a welcomed addition after the trials and tribulations of trying to meet her before. I ended up getting two autographs, which is pretty rare for me, as I ultimately don’t really care very much about the squiggle on the 8” x 10”. I go for the conversation and the experience more than anything. It’s why I’ll often skip an autograph if it’s too expensive or the guest will be really busy. There’s no point in spending £50 for 30 seconds with someone in my opinion. Granted, there are a handful of fandoms with which I’ll make an exception, but those are few and far between. We started by talking about Darla. Julie was not aware that Darla would be brought back after her death in season one of Buffy, but she did know that she’d likely be brought back in flashbacks from time to time as her character and Angel have a lot of history together. When Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt approached Julie about a longer-term return to the franchise for its spinoff, “Angel”, she jumped all over it. Darla became a strong recurring character in the 2nd and 3rd seasons of “Angel”, as well as appearing in seasons 4 and 5 for hallucinations and flashbacks. We talked about Darla’s redemption and her soul-destroying (literally...I’m so punny!) suicide to save her newborn son, Connor, in the 3rd season. Julie talked about Darla’s redemption, how she thought it was a fitting end for the character, and what it was like filming in an alleyway in the rain for hours. We then shifted gears to “Dexter”. Julie wasn’t aware that Rita would be killed off until early in the 4th season. She was sad to leave the show and was devastated to learn the manner of Rita’s death, but she thought that it would make for compelling television. It did. In my opinion, it was one of the most shocking moments in television history. While Darla’s death was poetic and beautiful (while sad), Rita’s was shocking, gut-wrenching and brought out a visceral reaction. I mentioned to Julie that the next we’d see each other would be drinking wine, sat around a circular table at the gold member’s ‘meet and greet’ reception at “Vampire Ball” in December. Julie said she couldn’t wait....and she wished she had a glass of wine there at “Collectormania”. I jokingly said, “hint, hint...” to her crew member and Julie joked that it’s for the best that she’s not drinking wine at the autograph table or she’d end up spelling everyone’s name wrong. She said “Shane” would become “Shaaaneoooeooo”. Yep, I remember the exact letters she said two weeks after the event as I’m writing this section. Memory power! Julie was even offering table pictures, which I thought wouldn’t be the case. Particularly as Charisma, her best friend, was not offering them. Another example of Julie being awesome and fan-friendly. Before I departed, I told Julie a story about when my friend Christa met her a couple of years ago. Christa suffers from a chronic illness and due to these circumstances ended up getting to the venue late and missed her studio photo with Julie. When she met Julie at the autograph table later in the day, she mentioned in passing that she missed the studio photo because of her illness. Julie took her by the hand, led her over to the studio photo area, and had it taken with her then and there. How cool is that? Julie refused to let Christa miss the photo. It just sums up who Julie Benz is. A phenomenal person who met all my expectations. She wasn’t quite talkative enough to get to that ‘Conversationalist’ level, but I’m thinking by the end of “Vampire Ball” she will be as you get much more one-on-one time with the guests at that type of event. Guest Type = Responder.

Tony Curran: It was 3:45pm by the time I got to the front of Tony’s queue. Like Nana, Tony was not only popular, but very, very talkative, which resulted in a long, slow-moving queue. I’m absolutely fine with this 99% of the time as it means that when I do get to the front, I’ll get a decent conversation out of it. Tony was probably my longest conversation of the day and also likely the best. I’ve been a fan of Tony’s for a long time. From “Underworld” and “Daredevil”, to “Defiance” and “Roots”. However, out of all of those things, I love Tony most for his one-episode run on “Doctor Who” as Vincent Van Gogh. The episode is magical. It’s haunting, it’s intense, it’s beautiful, it’s emotional, and it’s captivating. I’m a massive Whovian and “Vincent and the Doctor” might be my favourite episode. Above all else, the reason as to why is Tony. Matt Smith is great, Karen Gillan is great, the script is terrific, but Tony steals the show. He portrays the perfect balance between romantic poet and depression-filled madman. I expressed these sentiments to Tony and then asked how the audition process was. Was Tony offered the role because of his physical resemblance to Vincent or did he have to audition as per the regular process? Turns out he was offered the role outright, which makes a lot of sense. Not only is Tony a physical fit, but his acting résumé speaks for itself. We discussed what it was like working on “Doctor Who”, what it was like working on the first season with a new Doctor, Companion, and Showrunner, and Tony emphasised that he was treated very well. The catering was evidently great too. Tony apologised for being a little less talkative than usual and a little more tired than usual (he was the most talkative guest of the day, go figure!) as the hotel he was staying in had a random fire alarm going off at 3am, so he had to go outside etc., resulting in very little sleep the night before we met. I told him that it was totally fine and that he didn’t actually come across as untalkative or disengaging at all. While talking about his role on “Doctor Who”, the conversation turned to depression and I explained the battles I had with it over the course of my life, particularly around the time this first aired. “Vincent and the Doctor” first aired when I was at the height of my depression. It was still a very taboo subject. Certainly more so than it is today in 2017. So, I appreciated Tony’s portrayal of Vincent. I appreciated the depiction of a man battling depression and suicide...and I appreciated that even after seeing his work in the future, Vincent still committed suicide as it would have been a cop-out to do anything else. Tony asked me questions about my battles with depression, I answered, and I reiterated that I’m in a great place now and depression-free, to which Tony seemed legitimately happy about. Another example of him being a wonderful human being. I asked Tony if he’d be willing to put his name down to replace Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, or to replace the replacement if it’s too late now to replace Peter. Tony would definitely be willing to portray The Doctor. He’d do an amazing job for the record.

Finally, we discussed “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and what it was like working with Sean Connery. Tony said Sean was wonderful to work with and is Scottish acting royalty. Sean doesn’t like it when people do impressions of his voice, so, of course, Tony would do it all the time to wind him up. Sean would also ask Tony what the gossip was from the previous night’s adventures out and about after filming, so Tony and Sean would often be laughing together and discussing their respective shenanigans. To say that meeting Tony was a great experience would be an understatement. Tony is pure class, wicked fun to be around, he has a story for every occasion, and he interacts with his fans like they are his equals. A tremendous experience through and through. The only downside was no table pictures because he was taking so long talking to everyone. No matter, I already had the studio photo! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

It was 4:15pm. Time for my studio photos with Julie Benz and Dean Cain. As Photo area B was now running on time again, I decided to get Julie’s photo first as A) I was batch #1 for Julie, and B) Dean’s photo shoot was finishing a little later than Julie’s, which gave me more margin for error. Julie’s shoot went smoothly and she was very friendly. Dean’s shoot also went smoothly and he was ridiculously interactive with everyone. While queuing for Julie’s photo, we noticed that the walls surrounding photo area C had fallen down. Evidently, someone had lent against the wall and it collapsed. Oops.

Dean Cain: The old adage of saving the best for last could certainly apply here. It’s hard to pick my favourite guest of the day because so many blew away my expectations. Dan Portman is always amazing. Ron Donachie was tremendous. Ming-Na Wen is superhuman and a sweetheart. Julie Benz was phenomenal. Nana Visitor, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Christian, Beth Phoenix, Tony Curran...the list goes on and on for the great experiences. However, Dean may have topped them all...or certainly gotten close. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I must admit something to you all. It would be unfair of me to write a detailed, impartial review and then skip my own naughty moment. Ladies and gentlemen, I have never done this before and never will again...I lied about having a virtual queuing ticket for Dean. In my defence, the only reason I didn’t have one was because of the Showmasters staff messing up the queuing for press so badly earlier in the day. At this point, it was 5pm, but Dean was still calling virtual queuing numbers 1-150 because he was taking so damn long with everyone. Great for the attendees that get to meet him, bad for Showmasters and the attendees that don’t get to meet him. There must have been 5 or 6 crew with Dean by this point. Trying to speed the process up a bit. Two on the queue, two at the autograph table, one next to Dean as his was anarchy. All to try and shave a few seconds off and get more people seen and more autographs sold. After all, Dean likely had a relatively high guarantee and I’d be surprised if he hit it with his signing speed. Alas, when myself and John approached his queue, we were told to come back later because Dean was just about to go for a short break. When we came back later and they asked for my virtual queuing ticket, I said that I’d given it to them before when we were talking about coming back later. The two crew members on the queue, after a long day and working hard, agreed and assumed they’d taken it early in the day. Bad Shangel! However, again, as I’ve said, I only needed to do this because of a Showmasters error. Plus, by this point, many people had left and his queue was calming waaaay down, so I’d have gotten an autograph before closing at 6pm either way, so I didn’t screw anyone out of a meeting with Dean. No harm, no foul. When I got to the front, the crew were all trying to speed Dean up, but Dean was still not really having any of it and was talking for quite a while. Perhaps not as long as earlier in the day, but I still had a decent, relatively lengthy conversation with Dean in the end.

OH. MY. GOD. Dean Cain is the most smiley, friendly, enthusiastic man in the world. He is so good around his fans! I can’t recall anyone off the top of my head that has been a better person to meet at a convention...and I’m speaking as someone who has met over a thousand celebrities at cons. Robyn, girlfriend extraordinaire, is a huge “Lois & Clark” fan, as am I. Unfortunately, Robyn was in Austria at the time of this event, so was unable to meet Dean. We made a compromise – I get the studio photo, she gets the autograph. So, I got the autograph personalised to ‘Robyn’, which led to a conversation about who Robyn was. I explained that Robyn is my girlfriend, she’s Austrian, and we met online. We’ve now been together for four-and-a-half years and she lives with me in England. I explained that watching “Lois & Clark”, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, and “Friends”, alongside school, taught Robyn fluent English. Seriously, she has a wider vocabulary and a better grasp of the English language than I do and she has a Master’s degree in English. So, I kind of explained to Dean that without “Lois & Clark”, perhaps Robyn wouldn’t have been so keen to learn more and more English. If she hadn’t learned more and more English, I likely would have never met her. Dean gave me two high-fives, was really enthusiastic about the whole story, and even with the crew trying to speed him up, he took the time to write, “I like to think I had something to do with your romance!” on the 8” x 10”. What a wonderful man. We also talked about Austria, as Dean recently spent a few months there filming “The Jump”, so Dean was filling me in on the places he’d been to, the things he’d seen, and what his experience was like participating in “The Jump”. After a brief chat about conventions, studio photos, and my Master’s exams, I thanked Dean for his time, wished him the best, he reciprocated those feelings, and I was on my merry way! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

By this point, I was knackered. 16 autographs, 16 conversations, 9 studio photos, bumping into many people I knew or people who read the blog...all those adrenaline peaks and falls really take it out of you after 9 hours. That coupled with exam stress and an overloaded brain from revision meant that I was ready to head home and sleep for about a year.

Overall, my time at “Collectormania: Birmingham” was tremendous. Unfortunately, the show loses 1.5 points on the ‘final score’ for the disorganisation of the press queue and the diamond pass queue. If I was judging this event solely on everything that took place after 10am, it would be Showmasters’ joint best ever signing event that I’ve attended alongside LFCC 2013. Sadly, the first hour let them down. I’m sure for regular attendees, the first hour was great. It was only really a handful of press that were put in the wrong queue that got screwed over. I have to mark them down for this as if it was LFCC, my whole day would have been ruined after being let in 20 minutes late. I’d actually bought an early bird ticket for the event, so if I’d known in advance that the press organisation would be so chaotic and disorganised, I’d have just arrived an hour earlier and joined the regular entry queue. However, from 10am, the event was pretty superb. The guests, barring Jimmy White, were varying levels of amazing and all definitely worth the money. The organisation after 10am was very, very good. The layout was fantastic and the venue was definitely fit for purpose. Would I return? Definitely. If the press situation is resolved for next time, this signing event could go on to be Showmasters strongest. It’s big enough to get amazing guests, but small enough to avoid those LFCC-level queues and crowds. A thoroughly impressive event after 10am.

After a couple of weeks to breathe, the Buffy and Angel episode reviews shall be returning until their conclusion, so keep an eye on the blog! I have a little bit of a convention drought now by my standards and won’t be at another one until the biggest one of my calendar year, LFCC, during the last weekend of July. I’ll be there all 3 days. Don’t be afraid to say “hi”. I’ll also be getting my Master’s degree result at some point over ‘LFCC’ weekend, so if I look down, come and give me a pat on the head or something. As always, stay safe, stay strong, and keep kicking ass.



  1. 3 of my favorites; Dean Kane" Nana Visitor and John Barrowman and I bet I didn't spell one of their names right!

    1. You got 2/3 right! 😉. Only one wrong was Dean Cain.

  2. So jealous haha but great review! Also love that you mentioned me to Julie xD did she remember?

  3. I spy my Mr Portman ��


  4. Nana �� Can't wait to see her next Thursday.

    Also this was probably my fave sentence in your blog: "If this happened at ‘LFCC’, we’d have been fucked.' I did lol to myself.


  5. Ming was wheeled over late-ish in the day Saturday to say hi to Dean - they commiserated over ACL surgeries (his contributed to the end of his NFL career) and she admitted that a part of why she'd decided not to cancel was that she was bored stiff stuck at home not able to do anything.

    1. Hahahaha! Also a perfectly valid reason to come 😂

    2. Most people might have just had someone take them out for a day. Ming-Na decided that flying across the atlantic and meeting fans for 9 hours a day all weekend was a better plan...

    3. And this is why I respect her so much 😊

    4. She was my #1 guest I wanted to meet and when I heard about her knee injury and that she needed surgery (and cancelled a US con the week before CM) I was waiting for the cancellation. I am still in awe that she was there and so nice!

  6. Another great write up Shane. Always love reading your experiences, glad the mess up got sorted. I won't hold my breath waiting for the day there's no queuing issues at an SM event lol.


  7. Well this would explain why you didn't seem your normal happy self when I saw you in the morning. Sorry about the queuing for the diamond pass. I was left on my own to start with, then got given some newbies to help, but they got a bit confused as to which queue was for what. That's why you saw me going up and down all queues.


    1. All worked out in the end, mate. Didn't miss anything thankfully 😁

  8. Brilliant as always, Shane! As a huge Snooker fan myself, I enjoyed the parts about Ronnie and Jimmy the most this time. Julie Benz and Dean Cain had been in Munich the weekend before and yes, they are absolutely adorable! :-D

    Fari <3

  9. Absolutely fantastic review Shane keep them up I always look forward to reading them!

  10. I was Devon's GA all weekend, he was absolutely delightful. Genuinely so interested in people and was happy to chat for ages! What a treat. I'm glad that you found him as awesome as I did!


  11. Sorry to hear of the issue you had starting the event but great review to read. Agreed on how amazing so many of the guests were. Definitely one of my favourite lineups in years.

    1. Definitely agreed about the line-up. Most people I've ever met at a Showmasters event in one day 😅. Totally worth it though. Like I said, after 10am, it's my co-favourite Showmasters event I've been to...and I've been to a lot 😁

  12. Love your reviews and dean Cain! What a man ������

  13. Another cracking review! Really enjoy reading these! Well done! Onto LFCC now!


  14. Nice one Shaaaneoooeooo.

  15. Once again a great review. Shame they messed you around at the start of the day. Charisma was a bit snappy, she told me off for taking a pic of her signing too. Although I think Devon is shorter than me and I'm only 5.3 lol lovely guy though.


  16. It doesn't surprise me about Charisma AT ALL sadly, but great review.

    1. Charisma has always been the same!