Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Wales Comic Con 2017 Part II - A Detailed Review

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

• Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford from “The Walking Dead”)
• Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene from “The Walking Dead”)
• Ross Marquand (Aaron from “The Walking Dead”)
• Steven Ogg (Simon from “The Walking Dead”)
• Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty from “Sherlock”)
• TJ Thyne (Jack Hodgins from “Bones”)
• Tamara Taylor (Camille Saroyan from “Bones”)
• Eric Millegan (Zack Addy from “Bones”)
• Denis O’Hare (Russell Edgington from “True Blood” & Various from “American Horror Story”)
• Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard from “Dollhouse” & Gadreel from “Supernatural”)
• Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner from “The X-Files” & Samuel Campbell from “Supernatural”)
• Sting (Wrestler)
• Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth from “Gotham”)
• Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl from “Smallville”)
• Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)
• Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)
• Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley from “Harry Potter”)
• Ness (The Other Half Of #TeamRankin & Professional Jodie Whittaker Cosplayer)
• Stanislav Yanevski (Viktor Krum from “Harry Potter”)
• Chase Coleman (Oliver from “The Originals”)
• Mark Addy (King Robert Baratheon from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Richard Brake (Night King from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Tom Hopper (Dickon Tarly from “Game Of Thrones”)
• James Faulkner (Randyll Tarly from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Robert Pugh (Craster 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 Master’s degree, but I am starting up again really soon now that the Master’s degree is over.
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With that being said, let’s dive in...

Writing reviews about things you’re passionate about isn’t the toughest way to earn a secondary income, but it does come with certain challenges. How do you find the time to write a 25-30 page review (excluding pictures!) when you’re working 50+ hours a week? That’s one challenge. How do you capture the essence, the magic, and the experience of “Wales Comic Con” accurately so that people who were there can relive the weekend and people that weren’t wish they were? That’s a bigger challenge. For me, in all sincerity, “Wales Comic Con” has become my spiritual home over the past four years. From the first time I stepped onto the campus on a dreary day in April 2014, I knew this place was special. The atmosphere was electric, there was an excitement in the air that I’d never experienced at a convention before – and Wrexham is fucking windy! Turns out my first impressions were correct on all front.

Since that windy day in 2014, “Wales Comic Con” and the Glyndwr University campus have become home. The crew became family. The attendees became extended family. The guests became friends. The venue staff and security became mates. All of this happened long before I had any involvement with helping book guests or creating collages, or helping to run the fan group, or any of that other good stuff. Screw Disneyland, “Wales Comic Con” is my legitimate happiest place on Earth. After attending seven WCCs as either press or a regular early bird ticket holder, change was in the air in the early summer. Quite out of nowhere, Jaime asked if I’d be willing to be a part of the admin team for the “Wales Comic Con” Facebook group. Very soon after, I was given the keys to the #CityOfTheGuests and was invited to join Jaime and Gareth in discussions about which guests to bring over, whether they would be a worthy investment, and liaising with the guests in order to get them to the event. I honestly have no idea how I ended up in this position. Sure, I’ve helped organise events before and I’ve made friends with a lot of guests through the blog and my decade-long love-affair with the convention industry, but I was taken aback and very humbled when initially asked. So, firstly, a massive “thank you!” to Jaime for having faith in me and letting me be a big part of #TeamGuests. It’s a small, exclusive club – and one I’m proud to be a member of. I can only assume that I was brought in to be the voice of reason. To be the calm, measured, O.C.D.-filled counterbalance to Gareth’s “ONLY $100K?! LET’S BRING THEM OVER! IT’LL BE FINE!” approach for certain guests. My first port of call was to bring Juliet Landau into the “Wales Comic Con” family. Yes, inevitably, she did have to cancel, but she’s already been re-booked for April, which will be epic as many Buffy fans can finally tick “get a Spike and Dru duo photo” off of their nerd bucket-list. I know I’ll be doing it.

Helping organise the guest side of the event has given me an even greater appreciation for just how much work goes into it. The other events I’ve helped organise are not on the same scale as “Wales Comic Con” and I know how many hours I’ve put into it since June, so I can’t even begin to fathom how much dedication it takes from Jaime. The man eats and breathes the franchise. I don’t think he’s truly had a week off in many, many years and he should be commended for doing such a fantastic job, especially in the face of mental health issues and personal challenges over the past year. The entire “Wales Comic Con” team, from the Team Leaders to the newbie crew are all an asset to the event and bust their asses, but if the head of the team was unstable and uncommitted, the body of the crew would be directionless. I have mad respect for Jaime for being such a top-notch organiser. Special shout-out to “Jayne Stark” too, organising the photo queues outside all weekend – you’re a fucking rockstar.

While I can take a little credit for working hard up to the event, I can take virtually none for the weekend itself once doors opened. My “crew assignment” for the weekend was one that was very familiar to me: do exactly what I’ve done at every event before. Come in and objectively, independently review “Wales Comic Con”. Now, objectively and independently reviewing something that you’ve helped put together in some ways is not an easy task, but what would be the point in writing a review if it wasn’t objective? I like to think I have enough integrity to see both the positives and flaws of an event, and I like to think that everybody appreciates and understands that. Plus, I’ve been a part of the family for years. If I was going to be subjective, I would have started far before this event. Honestly, I’m probably doing more to help the event by reviewing it than I would have been elsewhere over the weekend because the review (all being well!) will be read around half a million times over the next month or two, which will get more eyeballs on the franchise. I also think it was useful to have me “out in the open” for the weekend as many people are familiar with me and could come to me to talk about issues they were having or to be a sounding board, or to ask questions – which is an avenue that many people took up over the course of “Wales Comic Con” weekend. I’m not cool enough or professional enough to admit that I’ve never felt more like a rockstar in my life! Everybody wanted to say “hi” or have a chat, or have a hug, or take a selfie, and it was frickin’ wonderful!

As an aside, I was trying to fit the sentence “Jaime is harder to find than Wally!” into the above and while I was doing so, I was staring at a packet of eight toilet papers, thinking. The black and white patterns on the toilet papers legitimately started to look like Jaime’s face and beard, so now I’m secretly thinking that Jaime is Jesus and this whole “I’m an elusive Comic Con organiser” is a smokescreen for his imminent role in the Book of Revelations. Do with that information what you will, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

…Where was I?...

Oh, yes. My new role in the “Wales Comic Con” team. I know what you must be thinking too, “Now that you’re part of the team and getting all these perks, you must be living a life of luxury over the weekend! You don’t know the struggles of the common man or woman anymore, Shangel!”…Ladies and gentlemen, not all is what it seems. I did not stay in the crew halls over the weekend because I’d already booked a non-refundable hotel room before starting to help out with the guests. So, I was back at the Wynnstay Arms. It’s a shit-hole, but I love it. At least it didn’t have a used, full condom in the wardrobe like a hotel I stayed at in London for “LFCC” a couple of years ago did. The room I booked at the Wynnstay was a twin. Two single beds. It was going to be me and my friend John. Alas, John couldn’t make it, so my friends Hayley and Hannah jumped at the chance…can you see the issue yet? Three people, two single beds. I’m a bit….frugal….with money, so I wasn’t springing for a second room! Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my first weekend as part of the organising team, I slept on the floor, ‘cause I’m a gent. I secretly hate that about myself. I also took V.Q. tickets and queued up for autographs, just like you.

Another change for this event was the introduction of a new tie-clip…please, don’t all gasp with excitement and intrigue at once. The new clip-o-matic was a custom-manufactured piece from Ukraine, once again because I’m cheap and it was a quarter of the price of getting it manufactured in the UK. The new tie-clip said “WALES COMIC CON” on it and I couldn’t have been prouder to carry those words on me for the weekend. Like a peacock that had just received a dye-job on its plumage. 

One final thing to note before diving into the pros and cons, and then diving into the play-by-play section (I said I’d be long!) is that I will barely name-drop crew or attendees. If I started naming everybody I was excited to see or talk to, I’d inevitably forget someone and would feel like a total knob-jockey once I discovered this. However, I shall instantly break my own rule very briefly to say that it was awesome to meet people face-to-face for the first time or to see people that I rarely get to see outside of twice a year at WCC. Jaime, it goes without saying. Gareth is my boy and is my go-to if I have any issues over the weekend, so I want to thank him for his service. Charley, you’re probably my WCC crew bestie and I loves you. Elaine, it’s always amazing to see you. Glad I didn’t make you cry this time! From an attendee standpoint, I have to give a special mention to Becca, whom I got to know quite a bit over the past few months. I ultimately spent quite a bit of time with her over the course of the weekend and she is a total sweetheart. Always great to see Bunny too! I suppose Kayte, photographer extraordinaire, is alright as well. To the rest of the crew, Team Leaders, venue security, volunteers, parking assistants, café workers, and everyone else involved who worked so hard over the weekend, in my experiences with every single one of you, you conducted yourselves professionally and were an asset to the event. You should be proud of yourselves.

Now let’s take a look at the pros and the cons, shall we?

Well, first and foremost, I still believe that “Wales Comic Con” has the best crew in the world. Even the newbies seemed like pros by the end of the weekend! Taking as an example the young gentleman with the glasses that was organising the photo queues inside for Hall A on Sunday – totally nailed it! On his first WCC! That seemed to be the case across the board. Sure, they might not know the answer to every question you have, especially with fluctuating photoshoot times, but they still did a damn good job. Also, I still maintain that WCC has the best photography team I’ve seen at a con. All my photos came out great, I love the white backdrop, and they are total class. By this point, “Wales Comic Con” wouldn’t feel right without Kayte. Glad we adopted her from Rogue! Even when the studio photo timings went awry on Saturday due to train delays, the photographers and crew kept it together, got through everyone (to my knowledge), and all photos were printed before closing at 6:00pm. Those printers were a damn good investment at the start of the year too! Jaime basically spent a house deposit on a new printing system and it has definitely paid dividends. Sometimes the photos beat me out of the hall! The digitals for studio photos are available here for £5. The team started uploading them within 24-hours of the event closing! Tell me another con that does that! I think it’s fair to say that until 2017, photo printing was the Achilles Heel of “Wales Comic Con”. Both events this year have gone so smoothly from that perspective that I think it’s fair to say that the issue has been resolved and the new system is a resounding success.

Whomever came up with the idea of making the Walking Dead autograph room a V.Q., as opposed to making all 4 guys individually V.Q. is a genius too. The room isn’t huge and so many people wanted to meet all 4, it just made sense to have the room be the entry ticket, not one of the four gents individually. I think that worked great overall. A special shout-out to Terry Baker, whom most of you will know as “that crazy hat guy from the photo area”. Whether he was a turkey, a sprout, or a cracker, he kept me (and many other people) in stitches and feeling festive throughout the weekend. He also kept my studio photos to one side in a nice little pile for me to collect as and when I could. What a legend. My only regret is that I didn’t follow through on my threat to pull the cracker at the end of Sunday while it was on his head. Heartbreaking.

I’ve already made my feelings on selfie charges abundantly clear on this blog time after time, after time, so I won’t flog a dead horse any longer. What I will say is that some selfies were a little cheaper than expected! Some people didn’t charge at all! Chris Rankin was free selfies for all (or £5 for a ‘retro selfie’ taken on a Polaroid). I believe my selfie with Stanislav Yanevski was free. Eddie McClintock was free if you were purchasing an autograph. John Challis was a charity donation. See, this is where I find selfie charges totally fine: 1) If it’s for charity, or 2) If you’re not getting an autograph and just want a picture. The guests do need to make money after all. If I HAVE to live in a 2017 world where there are selfie charges, it shouldn’t be more than half the studio photo for them, in my humble opinion. This seemed to be the case for most. Denis O’Hare, Mitch Pileggi and Tahmoh Penikett were £30 studios and £15 selfies. Sean Pertwee was even better as he was a £30 studio and a £10 selfie! Oooh! Furthermore, the Walking Dead gents combo prices were cheaper than I initially envisioned. All their selfies were £15 if you were buying an autograph too. I was expecting £20-25, so I was pleasantly surprised. The vast majority of the selfie charges felt very reasonable by 2017’s lofty standards.

It’s also worth mentioning that this event was always going to be a little bit of a bodge in some areas, which Jaime told people from the start. Initially, there was going to be no WCC 2017 Part II! Due to demand, Jaime organised one, but the only weekend free at the campus was the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of December. However, another group were using the main hall on Saturday afternoon, which is one of the things that we needed to work around. Jaime was very clear from the date the show was announced: it was a choice between this weekend or not weekend at all. People wanted a show.

 (Gareth doesn't handle cancellations well...)

Probably the biggest highlight of the entire weekend: the guests! With Jason Flemyng’s last-minute cancellation, we ultimately had 48 guests over the weekend, which is the highest number WCC has hosted by some margin. Considering this, I don’t feel as though the main autograph hall felt overcrowded whatsoever for the vast majority of the day. In fact, it felt more congested in April as there were far more merchandise stalls in there! Cancellations always suck. For attendees, for crew, for the guests themselves, for myself and Gareth, and most of all for Jaime, who sometimes gets stuck with non-refundable flight costs if they cancel close to the event date. This event was snake-bit with a plethora of cancellations right before showtime, including Juliet Landau, Lou Diamond Phillips, Drea de Matteo, Ryan Hurst, Animal, Andrew Lee Potts, Will Yun Lee, Sebastian Roche, Chris Sarandon and Seth Gilliam. Unfortunately, work commitments come first and they have to. Some have already been rescheduled for April (such as Juliet Landau and Theo Devaney), some are still trying to be rescheduled for April or a later date, so all hope is not lost. Even with all those cancellations, “Wales Comic Con” had its strongest ever line-up, in my opinion :-

I’ve also seen a few comments regarding whether or not the venue needs to be changed or whether it is fit for purpose now that “Wales Comic Con” has grown so much bigger. Firstly, I’m an animal lover and I like to keep them in their natural habitats where possible. If we moved venue, where would Chris Rankin hibernate over the cold winter period? Did you even think about that?! If the venue were changed, I truly believe some of the magic would be lost. That campus is hallowed ground. Sure, it’s not ideal in some cases, like queuing outside for studio photos, but there are many more strengths than drawbacks. Plus, let’s not forget, Jaime gave you an event in an arena! “Fanatic Expo” in Harrogate in September! And the event was cancelled due to poor ticket sales, even though the line-up was tremendous. “Wales Comic Con” works in Wrexham, it just does. It might not work outside of it…and the uni campus is the biggest venue in Wrexham. Plus, parking is free. Could the venue be altered slightly to accommodate certain things? Probably. Would a couple of rented marquees be useful for studio photo queuing outside? Definitely, but it might not be practical that close to a road.

While the photo schedule changes didn’t really affect me personally on Saturday, that has definitely been the biggest complaint I’ve seen coming out of the event. Thankfully, 95% of the feedback for the weekend has been overwhelmingly positive, but most of the 5% of the negative was based around this issue. In essence, what happened was that some of the guests’ trains were delayed. In some cases quite substantially. Typically, these guests happened to be the ones whose photo sessions were at the start of the day! It’s not always possible for a guest to travel to the venue the night before if they have work, so sometimes they need to travel to the venue on the morning of the event instead. Usually this isn’t a problem. On this occasion it was. Perhaps in the future a wise back-up plan could be to place the photo times of those travelling day-of towards the end of the day, so if they are delayed the fallout is less severe. You live and learn, people. Of course, once people are late, it has a knock-on effect for the rest of the day as you can’t simply switch the photo times around as people will show up late, not knowing that the original time was moved forwards. All you can try to do it cram them closer together and hope that you catch up little-by-little as the day wears on, which is what eventually happened. I totally get the anger though. People expect it to be a certain time (or close) and plan accordingly, so when that plan goes out the window, it has a knock-on effect on the rest of the day. Suddenly you can’t go to panels you were intending to see or you’re going to miss your train home. I get it, I really do. However, Jaime has little control over trains, I’m afraid. I’d just recommend putting those shoots at the end of the day in future in case delays do happen. The Sherlock panel being delayed and eventually shortened was also a result of this. Unfortunately, due to the “other event” using the main stage in the afternoon, we didn’t have the option to simply move the panel times back a bit to accommodate the later arrivals.

Outside of that, the only other complaints I’ve really seen are entry times on Saturday and the weather(!!). In regards to entry times, the delays were largely due to increased security measures, such as bag searches. It’s a pain in the ass that we live in a society where we have to be fearful of someone smuggling a weapon into a Comic Con or trying to detonate a bomb, but that is unfortunately the position we find ourselves in. Especially after shit like this. I’m sure that Jaime and the security team will be discussing the issue to see how it can be sped-up in the future. Again, I can totally see the anger. You pay for 10:00am entry, you expect to be in at (or around) 10:00am and you plan accordingly. I totally get it. But I’d rather have bag checks than no bag checks, that’s for sure. Finally, in regards to the weather, there’s little I can say there. I personally posted in the social media groups at least 5 times reminding people to wrap up warm, it’s December in Wales, and you will be queuing outside to get into the venue and queuing outside for studio photos. I also saw Jaime post similarly in the groups and on the official “Wales Comic Con” Facebook and Twitter too. Yes, some events queue inside for entry. Most events queue inside for photos. But this one doesn’t, which was communicated time after time.

In stark contrast to the delays and woes (in some areas) on Saturday, Sunday was probably my favourite WCC day ever. Everything went smoothly and on time, my interactions with guests were superb. Everyone was positive and lovely, and chatty, and in high spirits. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the convention scene for 2017. I had my closest friend for 10 years there with me for the first time, Hayley was there with me, I was surrounded by friends, extended family, and badass guests…what more could I want from a Comic Con? It was something truly special.

FINALLY! Before the play-by-play! I need to talk about Leon’s First Steps. Leon is a young boy (I believe he is four) with Cerebral Palsy. When he was born, he suffered a brain haemorrhage, had 2 holes in his heart and chronic lung disease. He was diagnosed with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and Global Development Delay at 15 months. Leon needs SDR (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) surgery in order to walk, so his Mother and others have been coming to “Wales Comic Con” in order to raise funds for the £80,000 surgery that the NHS won’t pay for. They have raised nearly £60k so far! They are £20k away from being able to take Leon to this surgery and to see him walk. £20k. They are that close. If every WCC attendee from this past weekend donated £2, we’d be fully funded within a day. If every member of the “Wales Comic Con” Facebook group donated £3, we’d be fully funded within a day. If you have a spare £2 or £3, or £5, or £10, why not give it to a good cause? Why not help one of our own Comic Con family that could experience walking pain-free for the first time? I know it’s Christmas soon and we’ve just had an expensive con, but it doesn’t have to be much! Please check out the JustGiving page here, see that beautiful, smiling boy’s face, and get that warm feeling in your heart from knowing that you did the right thing. If you wanna thank me or Jaime, or the crew, or the guests for an amazing weekend in Wrexham, you can do so by donating to this. That’s the Christmas present I want this year. Share the link with your friends and donate just a little bit towards a brighter future for Leon. Thank you.

Seems a little jarring to go from something so important into the play-by-play, but it is what it is…        

Rather than the traditional early Saturday morning departure from Gloucester, myself, Hannah, and Hayley decided (read: I decided) to head up to Wrexham on Friday afternoon instead. That way we could settle into the hotel and the weekend, sleep well, wake up rested, and head to the venue at 9:00am on Saturday. Like most of my plans, it went to shit. The two-and-a-quarter-hour drive became four-and-a-half thanks to traffic, we arrived in Wrexham tired and annoyed, and our “quiet night in” turned into Hayley and Hannah pressuring me into having my first alcoholic drinks of 2017 (to my knowledge anyway). A certain number of J.D. & cokes, and whisky shots later, we were all feeling a little sore in the morning, but mercifully not hungover. Sleeping on the floor didn’t help my neck though. My neck feels like trash at the best of times (an adolescence spent wrestling and fighting), but I’m getting too old for this ‘sleeping on the floor’ malarkey. No matter, gentle readers, no matter. We headed to the campus, parked up, collected my crew pass, collected their press passes, and headed to the autograph hall in order to familiarise ourselves with where everyone was sitting. By 10:30am, I was getting a little concerned that there were very few people entering the main hall. Of course, as discovered later, this was because the bag-checks were slowing down the entry lines rather a lot. This turned out to be a weeny bit of a blessing for me, selfishly, as it allowed me to meet Denis O’Hare, Mitch Pileggi, and Tahmoh Penikett before their queues were more than a smattering of people.

Denis O’Hare: My first guest of the weekend turned out to be one of my very, very favourites. Not only that, but there was the added bonus of having Bunny as his crew assistant for the weekend (thank you!). On the run-up to the event, I was excited to meet a lot of the line-up. The Walking Dead guys, Andrew Scott, Mitch Pileggi, Nicky, Kristine Sutherland, TJ, Tamara and Eric…but the two that popped into my head more than any other as it pertains to excitement levels was Denis O’Hare and Tahmoh Penikett. I adore Russell Edgington from “True Blood”. Granted, “True Blood” isn’t the greatest show in the world after the first three seasons, but Russell Edgington is easily the most compelling villain that the show ever created. From Denis’ incredible portrayal to the tremendous dialogue, to the musical score that plays whenever he’s on screen, it just works. We discussed the infamous ‘news anchor’ scene from “True Blood” and Denis talked about how much fun it was to film. He had no idea at the time how iconic that scene would become. When I think about “True Blood”, that’s the first scene from the entire series that pops into my head. That and ‘aids burgers’.

Interestingly, while Denis always looks like he’s having a blast and coming up with shit on the spot, 99% of the dialogue is not improvised! The only actor that got to improvise a lot of his own material was Nelsan Ellis, who portrayed Lafayette Reynolds. Another thing that struck me about Denis (this going for most guests over the weekend actually) was that he was interested in me! Where did I travel from? What did I do for a living? How did I get involved with guest booking? He wanted to know more about the blog. Plus, he was stood up the whole time and came around to the ‘peasant’ side of the table for our picture! Lots of eye-contact too! These are all things that make an experience upgrade from ‘good’ to ‘great’. He was there to meet fans and have a good time, not just collect a pay-check. There is a mass of difference between the two. Denis was also not aware that he would be returning to the show after his cement-filled demise in season three. Due to the nature of his exit, he always hoped he’d come back at some point and I’m glad it happened. Finally, we discussed theatre acting vs. television and film acting, and which Denis prefers (instant response and intimacy vs. money and delayed reaction). Denis was £15 for selfies, but he didn’t charge me. What a legend! My favourite guest I met on Saturday. Would love to have Denis back anytime. 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!

Mitch Pileggi: Sat right next to Denis was Mitch. My reasons to meet Mitch were less about “The X-Files” and more about “Supernatural”. Embarrassingly, I’ve seen very, very little of “The X-Files” (don’t start judging me!). Therefore, outside of talking about “Wales Comic Con” as a whole and making general small-talk, our conversation resided around “Supernatural” and what it was like to be a part of the show. Mitch loved his appearance in season four. He thought it was excellent and he had no idea that he’d be returning at a later date for a recurring run. While Mitch loved working on the show, he didn’t really understand Samuel’s character arc or motivations, so at times he would get frustrated by a lack of character direction. However, he enforced that he enjoyed his time on the show and loved working alongside Jensen and Jared…and Corin Nemec! Who also happened to be at “Wales Comic Con”! Finally, we discussed the return of “The X-Files” and what it felt like to be back on the show after such a long gap. Mitch joked that he definitely feels as though it’s been a long time because the physicality is getting harder and harder. Mitch also mentioned that he met his wife, Arlene, through David Duchovny, who was also best man at their wedding. So the real-life friendships and intimacy of the cast cannot be denied. I thanked Mitch for his time and requested a table picture (£15). Mitch gave great eye-contact throughout and was engaging during the conversation. Guest Type = Responder.

Tahmoh Penikett: Like every Canadian I’ve ever met, Tahmoh was friendly, polite, and a great human being to meet. I’m sure pretty much everyone knows that I’m a massive Joss Whedon obsessive and I’m particularly fanboyey about “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Firefly”, and “Dollhouse”. After making a little small-talk about guest-booking for “Wales Comic Con”, travel, the weather, and Canada, we got down to the really important part of the conversation: Dollhouse! If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favour and get into it. It’s 2 seasons, 13 episodes each. You can watch the entire thing in a weekend! The lead of the show is Eliza Dushku, who still happens to be the last person I danced with, having avoided dancing entirely since that glorious moment last December. Not that I like to bring it up or anything, but I danced with Eliza Dushku last year. Me, Eliza, dancing. I danced with Eliza. And sang to her. Via a water bottle. It was Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and it was her idea….did I mention that I danced with Eliza? Anywho, Tahmoh (which I believe is pronounced “tah-moe”) is one of the leads. Tahmoh is a Muay Thai practitioner, so he had a big hand in helping to choreograph the fight scenes for the show, which is epic as the fights are incredible. Go and watch the end of 1x06 “Man On The Street” and tell me that they’re not epic! So, we discussed “Dollhouse” and how much Tahmoh wanted a 3rd season because the show was hitting its creative peak when it was cancelled (typical for a Joss show…). Although, to be fair, given the ratings, they were lucky to get a second season. The premise of the show is “programmable people that you can rent”, which sounds just a little bit too rapey before you’ve actually sat down and watched an episode or two. Tahmoh didn’t know about Paul’s death until a couple of episodes before it was shot. If the show had been renewed for another season, Paul wouldn’t have been killed off, so it reminds me of other Joss deaths, such as Anya in “Buffy” or Wesley in “Angel”. We also discussed “Supernatural” and what a blast Tahmoh had on the show. He said that he did quite a few conventions back in the “Battlestar Galactica” days, but then took an extended break and has only recently returned to the fold. It’s great to have him back on the scene and it was amazing to have him in Wrexham! One £15 table picture later and I was on my merry way! Guest Type = Responder.

It was now 11:00am. My first photo session of the day was 12:25pm (with Andrew Scott). I noticed Andrew, Louise Brealey, and Ken Stott had not arrived yet, but didn’t really think much of it at the time. With Andrew not there, I decided to go and collect two more autographs before the photo sessions started and took up most of my afternoon: Robert Pugh and Stanislav Yanevski.

Robert Pugh: This was Robert’s first ever convention, but you wouldn’t know it based on how relaxed and at ease he seemed with the whole process. He said that he’d love to do more as he was having a great time and everyone is so friendly. I told Robert that appearing in shows like “Game Of Thrones” and “Doctor Who” will always draw fans to him at conventions as their fanbases are so passionate, so he can probably go to as many cons as he wants to without too much bother. I saw Dan John sitting not too far away from Robert (with his clients, Tom Hopper and James Faulkner), so perhaps Dan has already snapped him up and will be getting him bookings really soon. Once again, like most guests, Robert was interested in how far I’d travelled and what got me into conventions in the first place. The meat of our conversation revolved around my favourite show presently on the air, “Game Of Thrones”. I asked Robert if he tried to find redeeming features in Craster in order to make the character a little easier to play and Robert said that he tried, but swiftly discovered that there aren’t any! Robert joked that after his initial scenes on the show aired, his daughters wouldn’t talk to him for months. We also talked about the casting process for Thrones, what it was like filming in Belfast (read: cold and rainy), and what it was like to film his death scene with Burn Gorman. Finally, we discussed his two-episode run on “Doctor Who” with Matt Smith during Matt’s first season as The Doctor. Robert was talkative, happy, and gave great eye-contact throughout (notice a theme for this con? I’ve lost count of the amount of rude guests I’ve met over the years that barely acknowledge your presence or look at you), which was made all the more impressive by the fact that I heard through the grapevine that Robert wasn’t feeling too well over the weekend! Plus, table pictures with him were free! That’ll likely change after he’s gotten more experience on the con scene, so I’m glad I got the picture in now. Guest Type = Responder.

Stanislav Yanevski: Stan is a personal friend of Jaime’s, so he pops up at “Wales Comic Con” relatively frequently. However, even though I’ve attended two or three WCCs with Stan, I’d never gotten around to actually meeting him properly. I’d said “hi” before, but that was it. It was time to finally go over, get an autograph, have a chat and embrace the friend. Firstly, even as a straight male, I must quote Chandler from “Friends” and remark “that’s one tasty dish”. That’s a handsome man, right there. You know sometimes you’re stood next to someone and you think, “I must look like I live under a bridge and scare crossing children compared to this guy.” Yep, that’s Stan. He’s only gotten more handsome with age. Which I find rather rude. As I’ve only seen Stan in “Harry Potter”, our conversation predominantly revolved around that. We talked about the auditioning process for Potter. We talked about the difficulties of filming the Triwizard challenges in “Goblet Of Fire”, as even though there was lots of green-screen and CGI, the tasks were still very physically demanding. Especially the lake. Stan also mentioned that his role in “Deathly Hallows Part I” was supposed to be much bigger, but that it got cut. In essence, there was going to be a love-triangle between Krum, Hermione and Ron while they were all at Bill and Fleur’s wedding…which kinda happens in the books. However, before the final cut, the Director decided that an amusing love-triangle didn’t fit into the tone of the film…but nobody told Stan. So, Stan gathered up a bunch of his friends and family, and took them to the cinema to see him in the film…and he appears briefly in one scene, in the background. Ouch. Poor Stan. I can now understand why he drank a fifth of vodka and was getting people to dare him to drive (give yourself a pat on the head if you get that reference). Finally, we discussed his role as Boris The Hammer (he got to name the character) in “The Cloaking”, which is a project he’s working on at present, so I don’t know how much I can say. Free table pic too! Ooh! The rarity! Guest Type = Responder.

I was 5 autographs down for the day, leaving just Andrew Scott if I could find the time. Andrew’s autograph was on my “maybe” list. It would be great to have a chat, but I’m also not actively collecting all the “Sherlock” autographs, so it was fine either way. With that in mind, I headed over to the Catrin Finch building for some studio photos. I quickly discovered that it was pretty much anarchy. Jason Flemyng: cancelled. Andrew Scott: not here yet. Louise Brealey: not here yet. Ken Stott: not here yet….frickin’ trains. Like I said, you cannot simply switch photo sessions around, so there wasn’t an option to just bring someone who was there’s shoot forwards because some people wouldn’t know and would show up to the later session. It’s lose-lose. Therefore, until Andrew, Louise and Ken arrived, all the shoots were being pushed back a little, then a little more, then a little more, which ultimately meant I spent pretty much the entirety of 12:00-17:00 in the studio photo area, waiting for shoots to begin, socialising with attendees, trying to feed information between crew members, and trying to be just sociable enough to keep (understandably) grumpy attendees as chilled as possible.

By 12:40, I had back-to-back studio photos with Sting and Andrew Scott. Due to the delays, they were both running concurrently, with Sting in Hall A and Andrew in Hall B (the halls are next door to each other so it didn’t matter too much). I had a little chat with Andrew Scott, who was very polite and engaging, if not a little bit shy. Sting looked incredible, donning his full wrestling persona, including the jacket and face-paint that I remember so well from my childhood. A photo with Sting is cool. A photo with Sting in the full get-up is even better. Love it!

Not long afterwards, I was queuing up inside Hall A, waiting for “The Walking Dead” group shoot to begin. I was first in line! Nicky Brendon’s photo session was just coming to a close, so Nicky asked if I was getting one with him. I said that I was not and that I was waiting for “The Walking Dead”. I’ve gotten to know Nicky semi-well over the past 4 years and we’ve had some very deep talks about our respective battles with depression and substance misuse, so we like to razz each other a little bit. Nicky joked about being replaced by other actors and then said I should get a photo with him anyway. I said I didn’t have a ticket and Nicky quipped, “Let me let you in on a little secret….I run this fucking con and if I want a photo with you, we’re having one!”…Don’t have to tell me twice. The picture with Nicky was taken and it’s my favourite photo of me and Nicky to date. I’m pleased to report there was also no simulated wanking in this one either! It was so nice to see Nicky happy and smiling, and healthy-looking again. I’m not going to re-hash the past 6 months, but suffice to say Nicky has had some problems. Over this weekend, in my experience and to my knowledge, he was a total delight. I saw one person in the group mention that Nicky “looked like he was on something”. He wasn’t. Trust me. Nicky congratulated me on my WCC “promotion” and we had a little chat about how he was feeling and how he was doing.

Soon afterwards, Nicky left the room and was replaced by Michael Cudlitz, Scott Wilson and Ross Marquand…but where was Steven Ogg? Michael Cudlitz turned to the queue of people and joked, “Steven’s not here yet because he doesn’t value your time. When he comes into the room, I want everyone to say, ‘THANKS, STEVEN!’” So, of course, when Steven entered the room, we did. Steven’s face was priceless. His reaction of, “What the fuck was that?!” was even better.

In my opinion, while all the guests were amazing and did a great job, “The Walking Dead” stole the weekend. All four of them were cracking jokes, giving out hugs, pulling silly faces in photo sessions, were up for anything, and ensured that everyone who met them had a great time. Even at their autograph tables, if you bought a ‘selfie’, it was an actual selfie. They would hold the camera and take it. Usually they’d take 2 or 3 selfies with you pulling different faces, so you really got your money’s worth out of the deal. Michael was the leader and set the tone. Scott was the kindly grandfather that requested hugs from everyone who went to his autograph table all weekend. Steven was one of the funniest, weirdest, goofiest human beings I’ve ever met and kept everyone in stitches. Ross was the caring, talkative, sweet, gooey centre of this Walking Dead amalgamation. Can’t say enough good things about them! With Seth Gilliam already re-confirmed for April’s “Wales Comic Con”, I’d expect more of the same in April. Especially as I know who else is coming….

30 minutes after “The Walking Dead” group, it was time for Denis O’Hare. While waiting for Denis, I bumped into Chris Rankin: friend and mascot for “Wales Comic Con”. We caught up and exchanged pleasantries (and he told me I looked knackered, which is a real confidence-builder before a photo!), and discussed our respective lives over the past 6 months. Chris and his delightful partner, Ness (who is a great Jodie Whittaker Cosplayer, by the way), were lingering around Hall B because they too wanted a studio photo with Denis O’Hare! How great is that?! I love it when guests are fanboys/fangirls for other guests! I need to take a moment here to talk about Chris and Ness, who are two of the most wonderful, down-to-Earth, caring people on the con scene. They both greet me fondly and with hugs, they talk to me as though I’m a friend, and I cannot thank them enough for that. Believe it or not, I’m not exactly over-burdened with friends (having lost my two closest to death), so it’s nice when people show love and act as though they appreciate having me around. Definitely both “Conversationalists” in my book.

When I got to the front, Denis remembered me, by name. After the photo was taken, Kayte said, “ehhh, five out of ten”, after telling everyone else how great they looked. I told Kayte that I wouldn’t put that particular quip into the review because I’m not petty or bitter…at least she plays good music while the photos are being taken, I suppose. Five out of ten, at least.

From Denis, it was a quick turnaround once again to Hall A for my studio photo with Tahmoh. 6 photos down, 1 to go. We returned to the autograph hall in order to chat to people, look around the merch and have some general merriment, before heading back to the studio photo building just before 5:00pm. One thing I did notice was that John Challis had dropped his autograph price from £20 to £10. It’s rare that you see a price go down, so that was pretty cool. One photo left! The “Bones” group! When I got to the front, I discovered that TJ remembered me from April, as he greeted me with a “Hey! What’s up, brother?! How are ya?!” and gave me a hug. After the photo was taken, TJ made a point of telling me I had to go and say “hi” to him before the weekend was finished. I said I’d be over later in the afternoon…which I then forgot to do, so did it the next day instead. All three of the “Bones” guests were lovely. If “The Walking Dead” guests made the event, I’d put “Bones” at 1A. For me personally, they were the highlight of the entire weekend. Best conversations, most loving and caring, most captivating, most dedicated…but more on that later.

My “Bones” group shot made it out of the room before I did, so I quickly grabbed it from the collection area and it was time to head back to the Wynnstay! Successful day! 5 autos, 7 studios, lots of conversations, lots of fun, lots of selfies with attendees, hundreds of hugs with attendees….and we’d be doing it all again the next day! Only this time without the photo delays! At the Wynnstay, myself, Hannah and Hayley were all fucked. I don’t mean in the biblical sense, I mean that we were all very tired. Hannah was asleep by 11:00pm, I was zonked out on my comfy floor by 1:00am, and Hayley had finished watching YouTube and was lightly snoring by 2:30am.

Saturday, conclude!

Sunday, commence!

My agenda for the day was similar to the previous, only there was less studios and more autographs. 4 studios and 7 autos was the target! With the first photo (Laura Vandervoort) not taking place until 11:50am, I decided to try and knock off the four Walking Dead autos before that time. It would take a lot of the pressure off of the rest of the day. Once inside the Walking Dead building, it became a simple case of moving down the room and getting the autographs one after the other. Mercifully, all four actors arrived promptly as well, which made my goal of getting them all before 11:30am more feasible. Of course, the biggest downside to meeting more popular guests is that you get less time talking to them as a general rule, which was sort of the case here – although, I didn’t have a *short* conversation with any of them.

Michael Cudlitz: Michael Cudlitz was first. Although Abraham was one of my very favourite characters on “The Walking Dead”, I actually started following Michael’s career long before that, when he portrayed “Big Bob” the zombie (oh, the irony…) on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. We chatted about Buffy a little bit and had a laugh about him playing a zombie on the show. We also talked about “The Walking Dead” and Abraham’s devastating death. Unlike, say, The Red Wedding on “Game Of Thrones”, where you’re captivated, horrified, and know you’re in the presence of greatness, the deaths of Abraham and Glenn just felt dirty. I felt unclean and like a needed a long shower after finishing that episode. It was a totally unique viewing experience for me. I welcomed Michael to the “Wales Comic Con” family and was on my merry way. I didn’t need to pay £15 for a “selfie” as I had a studio photo with Michael booked for later in the day. Money saved! Michael had the biggest queues of the weekend, by far. Considering that, I’m really pleased with the conversation I got. Lots of engagement and eye-contact, as much conversation as the situated allowed, and a great meet! Also, the dude is solid. Not an inch of fat on that man. Guest Type = Big Guest.

Steven Ogg: What a nutter! He was like the Mad Hatter on speed, while drunk, getting laid. Joke after joke, after joke. I’m not even sure if he’s capable of being serious. We chatted about “The Walking Dead” and how Simon brings some much needed humour into the dark post-apocalyptic wasteland. Steven said he’s waiting for Simon to get some more backstory so that he can really delve into his motivations, but he loves being a part of the show and the franchise. Steven also joked about being hungover yesterday, so having a little more fun today. What a legend. You can really tell that he’s just having a blast at cons and having a blast getting attention, and being loved, and being a part of a huge franchise. He seems totally comfortable with the experience. We also had a little chat about his scene in “Better Call Saul” before taking some selfies together. As I mentioned before, one great thing about the Walking Dead guys is that they actually take selfies…and more than 1 (for the price of 1). You get a selection of facial expressions to choose from and you leave as though you’ve received a bargain, even though, in actuality, you’ve just spent £40 on an autograph and some selfies. Bravo, Walking Dead dudes. Bravo. Guest Type = Responder.

Scott Wilson: Even though he was semi-busy all weekend, I felt a little bad for Scott. Michael, Ross and Steven were slammed, taking selfies, and being loud. In comparison, Scott seemed a little reserved and quiet. In actuality, as I said, he was pretty busy. It just didn’t seem like it compared to the other three. We talked about “The Walking Dead” and the difficulties of filming post-leg chop for Hershel. We also talked about the cast and how much of a tight-knit family they truly are, which can be seen whenever they’re at cons together. They are always shaking hands and hugging, and messing around whenever they see each other. Hell, once upon a time, Michael Rooker came to “London Film & Comic Con Winter” as an attendee just to go and say “hi” to Jon Bernthal! The best thing about Scott was that after our conversation, he said, “hey, where’s my hug?” and he came around the table, stuck out his hand, shook it, and pulled me into a hug. He did that with every single person over the weekend. Total class act. Scott is the heart and soul of the Walking Dead franchise for me. Like Michael, I had a studio photo with Scott later in the day, so I could save some money and not bother with a selfie. Guest Type = Responder.

Ross Marquand: If I were to assign Ross a word for the weekend, it would be “sweetheart”. He’s just so damn loveable. He takes an interest in you as a person, he has a story for every occasion, he remembers names and faces, and he’s damn good at impressions! Ross was talking about the hilarious television in the UK and said that he “stumbled across” Babestation a couple of nights before. He then did an impression of the female on screen, waving her phone around, bouncing up and down, and requesting that some horny dude call her. All while doing an Essex accent. I was in stitches. He also mentioned loving “8 Out Of 10 Cats” and did an impression of Jimmy Carr’s voice. This led me into a story about Jimmy Carr that got me into trouble at work once….

I arrived at work one day feeling particularly mischievous. I had been to see Jimmy Carr live in Cheltenham the night before and still had some of his jokes and quips on my mind. At one point, a friend of mine was having some banter with me and said, “I’m not bantering with you anymore, you have a comeback for everything”, which prompted me to say – without thinking – as I’d heard Jimmy Carr say it to a heckler the previous night, “If you want my comeback, you’ll have to scrape it off the back of your daughter’s teeth.” I maintain that is funny. Ross got a big kick out of it too. Ross asked about my forearm tattoo, so I told him it’s a tribute for my deceased best friend and we had a chat about that. We talked about “The Walking Dead” and I told Ross that his acting over discovering that Eric was dead was the best thing to happen all season on the show. It was tremendous and in many ways was the first time we’ve been able to see Ross’ true acting range on the show. Ross said that it was relatively easy to act because he knew he really wouldn’t be seeing Jordan Woods-Robinson as much anymore, so it was easy to feel sad and like he was saying goodbye because art was imitating life in many ways. I thanked Ross for his time and we took some selfies together. I said that we’d have to get Ross back over to “Wales Comic Con” soon as it might be the only way we’d get Becca to come back. Ross said that Becca “is the best” and said that he’d love to come back. Hmm…. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

It was now 11:30am. Time to head over to Catrin Finch for my studio photo with the beautiful Laura Vandervoort. What a delightful, charming woman she was too. Greeted everybody warmly, made eye-contact, smiled….these might all seem like basics, but I assure you, not everyone does it! One click of the camera later and it was back into the main hall to meet James Faulkner!

James Faulkner: If ever there was a guest that was totally different to my expectations, it was James. James portrays Randyll Tarly in “Game Of Thrones”. Randyll is arrogant, rigid, commanding, and is that typical “man’s man”. James is sassy, hilarious, flamboyant, eccentric, and every single sentence that comes out of his mouth is quotable. Let me give you an idea of what I mean….

“If people come over to my table and don’t talk, I push my finger into the abdomen and say, ‘converse with me!’”

*sees that Hannah is wearing a press pass*…“May I?...”…*pushes finger towards the part of the press pass that says ‘Press’*...“No, that probably counts as sexual harassment, doesn’t it?”

*to me later in the day* “Hello, darling! Who. Is. Your. Friend.?!

*In my “Game Of Thrones” group photo* - “You can barely see me in this one! Hardly worth the money now!”

*In Hayley’s “Game Of Thrones” group photo just after* - “I’m going to stick my head through here like a Peeping Tom…at least that way you can see me!”

I never stopped laughing when I was in James’ presence. Trying to keep a straight face long enough to talk about “Game Of Thrones” was challenging. Therefore, I remember basically nothing of what we discussed because I was too busy trying to regain my composure. I know we talked about Thrones – quite extensively – I just have no idea what we said. I just remember that I laughed and laughed. James even wanted a selfie with Hannah and Hayley while holding their press passes in his hands! What a total legend. I sincerely hope this is not James’ last convention appearance because he could make a killing with that personality. Totally different than my expectations and infinitely better. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Back to Catrin Finch for back-to-back studios with Michael Cudlitz and Scott Wilson! There’s very little to report here. Both started on time, both went smoothly, both of the gents were great….Kayte was alright too, I suppose….it all went swimmingly. In all seriousness, Kayte is the best con photographer I’ve ever seen. I don’t recall ever having a bad photo or experience with her in all the years she’s been around. The little Elf didn’t disappoint me this weekend either as everything was up to its usual expert quality. The rest of her team, Ollie and Paul, are equally talented and better than any other con photographers around. Their professionalism and quality coupled with the impeccable printing system now; I can’t see another team holding a candle to them….as long as the guests’ trains are on time.

One photo left for the weekend: The “Game Of Thrones” group photo at 3:30pm. It was now 2:00pm. Time for “Bones”!

Eric Millegan: Eric is a sweetheart too. He had a little laptop out at the table so that he could take people’s email addresses (if they wanted to) in anticipation of his first album coming out in January. Old-school, grassroots mailing list. Love it. His delightful crew assistant, Rachel, mentioned my blog, so I told Eric about the type of traffic it gets and the content. Eric asked if I’d review the album if he sent me a copy and I obviously said that I absolutely will do that, so look for the review at some point in January or February, depending on when it gets to me! For those unaware, Eric is bipolar and he is very open and honest about the condition, which is something we need more of in the world. Even in 2017, mental health issues are still largely taboo and people don’t really talk about them or address them in the ways that they deserve, so we need people like Eric – someone in the public eye – out there fighting the good fight. I told Eric about a young female that I work with who suffers from bipolar. She’s a massive TV fan and is a huge fan of “Bones”. One of the things I’ve pointed to in order to try to inspire and motivate her is Eric. Eric has bipolar and is a successful actor, a tremendous singer, and was a main cast member of a very popular, long-running television series. If Eric can do all that and more with bipolar, why can’t she? I thanked Eric for this and we had a discussion about “Bones”. Eric said that Zack was never planned to be the Gormogon’s assistant until the writer’s strike happened that year. After that, when the show returned, Eric was told that Zack was going to be revealed as the assistant and that he would be leaving the show – perhaps returning in a semi-recurring role as some sort of Hannibal Lecter type from prison. During this entire exchange, Eric looked at me, smiled, and engaged. Eric is a con newbie, which makes this experience all the more cool and impressive. Guest Type = Conversationalist. The “Bones” guests weren’t offering table pictures at all, which was okay for me as I had the group shot the previous day.

Tamara Taylor: Tamara (alongside TJ) was probably my longest conversation of the weekend. We talked about “Wales Comic Con”, my blog, Canada, Tamara and TJ going to Germany for a con this weekend, the convention experience, big cons (cattle-market) vs. medium cons, “Bones”, my career change, her appearance in “Serenity”, our mutual love of Joss Whedon’s work…like me, Tamara was a massive Buffy fan. She auditioned for the role of Zoe in “Firefly” and just missed out to Gina Torres. When the small role came up for “Serenity” – to open the film, basically – Tamara said she’d do anything to get the role: be male, wear a moustache, shave her head. She just wanted to be a part of Joss’ work so badly! We talked about “Bones” and her longevity on the show. We talked about me starting to watch “Bones” because of my girlfriend and how it was basically one of the stipulations for her moving over. Tamara is the very definition of a ‘conversationalist’. She cared about me, my stories and my life, I cared about hers, and we had a conversation. Not a Q&A or an autograph table encounter, a conversation. As equals. Tamara also gives the best eye-contact I think I’ve ever seen (with TJ), as she barely looked away during the entire conversation! What an amazing experience. Tamara has instantly jumped into that TJ category whereby I’ll go and see her at any con we’re at together irrespective. Pure class, pure elegance, pure heart. She even came around the table to hug me and thank me just as I was leaving. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

TJ Thyne: TJ is probably the greatest con guest I’ve ever met. No hyperbole. I’ve met TJ three times and all three times he’s been incredible. Warm, friendly, talkative, great eye-contact, caring, legitimately warm and loving…he stayed past closing on both days this weekend (and both days in April too) so that everyone who wanted an autograph or a chat had the opportunity to do so. Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. A guest’s contract ends when the con ends. Very few guests would stay an extra hour to sign, chat, take pictures, smile, and give the fans a little extra something. That’s what all three “Bones” guests did this weekend. TJ and Tamara weren’t out of the main hall before 5:30pm on Sunday (the event finished at 4:00pm!). When I first got to the table, TJ playfully ragged me a little bit as I didn’t go and see him the previous evening like I said I would. He gave me three hugs and then we caught up. He wanted to know about my involvement with “Wales Comic Con” now and about my new career. He wanted to know about the blog and was blown away when I told him that traffic is almost half a million a month now. He gave me some recommendations about interviewing guests for the blog and how to do it in a convention setting. I told TJ that if I took his advice and started doing it, he had to be my first interview if he’s back for April’s “Wales Comic Con”. TJ happily agreed to this. What a breath of fresh air this man is for the human race. The drive to Wrexham and back, sleeping on a floor, the money spent, the hours put in, it was all worth it for TJ and Tamara alone! Everyone and everything else was just gravy! I cannot overstate how incredible TJ is. Always go and see him. ALWAYS. Happy to call him a friend. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

I grabbed a selfie with Sean Pertwee (who looked knackered by this point on Sunday, bless him), who was his usual incredible self. I went over to check on Kristine Sutherland (as per her agent, Jacqui’s, orders) and had a lovely chat with her. Kristine is also pure class. Everything you’d want and expect the actress who portrayed Buffy’s Mum to be. So warm, such a big heart, so caring. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Jacqui has the best guests! Perhaps it’s time to bring some of those “Grimm” clients of hers over…

I said goodbye to Nicky and Theresa (his delightful agent and a wonderful human being) and wished them well. Nicky gave me a few big hugs and I told him that I worry about him and that he deserves the best for himself, he just needs to see that. Chase Coleman then wanted a quick word with me in the green room, so I drifted upstairs. Chase just wanted to thank me for my help and to say that he’d love to return to “Wales Comic Con” someday. I must admit, I barely had any interaction with Chase all weekend, so it was nice to say “hi” and to get to know him a little bit oh-so-briefly.

Before I knew it, I was heading over to the Catrin Finch building for the last time for my “Game Of Thrones” group photo. Mark Addy greeted me like an old friend, which was wonderful as I’ve missed that awesome man! Mark wasn’t at WCC in April, which was the first WCC Mark didn’t attend since I’ve been going. It felt alien to not have Mr. Mark Addy there! The photo was taken, it was printed instantly, and I was heading back to the autograph hall! I said goodbye to Mitch briefly. I said goodbye to Denis and had a little chat with him. I said goodbye to Tahmoh briefly. Finally, I said goodbye to the “Bones” trio and their badass agent. I got so caught up in chatting to TJ, that I actually missed saying goodbye to many other people, including Chris and Ness, Kayte, Jaime, Corin Nemec, Mark Addy, Eddie McClintock, Richard Brake, Travis Aaron Wade, Tolga Safer…loads and loads of people, so I’m sorry! TJ gave me a free autograph and another couple of hugs and said he’d see me soon – he even gave Hannah and Hayley free autographs and selfies! Above and beyond! TJ and Tamara stayed chatting to staff and taking selfies, and having fun for a long time. Other con guests could learn many lessons from those two. TJ was also handing out "goody bags" of plastic insects and "Bones" pictures as well as stamping people with a "King Of The Lab" stamp. Another nice touch. TJ tried stamping Lesley's hand and it didn't quite turn out correct..."F The Lab"...perfect...

We then headed to the Aftershow Party, where I almost committed suicide because of the abysmal music choices – Jedward’s Top 50 Christmas Songs…kill me now. I’m told the Aftershow picked up after we had to leave and head back to Gloucester. Typical.

To conclude, “Wales Comic Con” was incredible. Sure, it had some issues on Saturday – issues that were not present in April – but most cons have issues. Queuing outside for photo sessions leaves a lot to be desired and the photo schedule changes on Saturday were a pain for everyone, but I cannot see that being an issue in the future as I’m sure Jaime will have learned from it and will rejig the future schedules accordingly. That’s one thing that I’ve always said about Jaime – he listens to constructive criticism and feedback. The venue causes a few logistical issues, but I’d rather put up with them and keep the event at the Glyndwr Uni campus than move the franchise elsewhere. The magic is on that campus, I don’t know if it would be elsewhere. WCC was the perfect way to say goodbye to the con year for me personally. I had a blast. Even though April’s event had a higher “final score” due to it running so seamlessly, I probably had more fun at this one. None of the issues that were present caused me any problems personally and the people of “Wales Comic Con” are my extended family.

Oh! I almost forgot! One of my favourite parts of the weekend! A gentleman called “Allan” posted this in the “Wales Comic Con” Facebook group. I’ve been laughing at it for days…

Thank you to Howard and Dave for allowing me to use some of their incredible photos from the weekend!

A huge “thank you!” to Jaime for letting me be a part of the event and a part of the team. Hope I did you proud, brother. Interestingly, my next con will probably be “Wales Comic Con” in April, as I have something of a dry-spell for the next four months! Until then…

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay happy!

-        Your Friendly Neighbourhood Shangel


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