A Look At the Best Cosplay of MCM Manchester Comic Con

Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown
Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend Manchester Comic Con for the fourth time. Since its inception in 2011, the con has continued to grow, expanding both in space and time, giving it hugely increased floorspace and a second day.

As one of the largest conventions in the north of England, the con attracts huge crowds and even with the extra space, the con floor remains packed out. I had debated bringing my five year old along this year for the first time, however after seeing the Saturday crowds I opted against it, choosing to introduce him to the convention world at a smaller local show instead.

The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown
The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown

This year’s Expo suffered many of the same minor issues as previous shows. However vast improvements have been made.

No on-the-door tickets were available on the Saturday which prevented people queueing for hours outside the venue in poor weather—an issue in previous years—in the hopes of getting inside.

This did, however, create one of the longest queues I have ever seen for general admission: one which stretched out of the venue, across the courtyard, over a street, and most of the way around the next block, at the time I arrived. Regardless of its length, the fact that the queue was composed only of those with pre-purchased tickets meant it moved quickly. Two friends who joined the end of the line at the time it stretched around the block reported it took only 45 minutes before they were inside.

Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown
Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown

One of my personal gripes with the show was the simple lack of activities. The main stage hosted only a few talks per day alongside the daily cosplay masquerade, and the only other scheduled events were Robots: Live battles.

This year The Victorian Steampunk Society were in attendance with their own events schedule, but even this addition was not enough to really fill two days. I spent some time testing out board games over at the Esdevium Games stand which filled several hours, but even then I found myself ready to leave by early afternoon on Sunday (having left early on Saturday too) because there were only so many times I could walk around the same merchandise stalls.

Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown
Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown

I love Manchester Expo, and having spoken to many regular con attendees, it is a favorite for a lot of the UK geek crowd. Despite its growing size, the con retains a friendly small-show atmosphere and has a great mix of stalls both selling merchandise and for artists over in the Comics Village. I’m already looking forward to bringing my son.

However, I do wish there was simply more to do than just walk around or meet up with friends. While guests are not everything, it is disheartening to see the same company’s London show attracting huge guest stars like Gillian Anderson, Felicia Day, John Noble, and members of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast, while Manchester gets Sylvester McCoy and two of the cast of Arrow.

When the highlight of the weekend’s main stage schedule is a world exclusive preview of an extra from the Robot Overlords Blu-ray—a film that (tragically, it’s actually pretty good) almost nobody went to see—it really suggests a need to try to reach a little higher. Reaching higher has been one of the things the show organizers have been great at. Every year, Manchester Comic Con has grown and improved. I hope it continues to do so. In the meantime enjoy a look at some of the amazing cosplay for this year’s show.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2014 Artist Roundup

SDCC 2014: GeekMom Artist Roundup. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
SDCC 2014: GeekMom Artist Roundup. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

Sure, the star-studded panels of San Diego Comic-Con get a lot of press, but my favorite part of SDCC is shopping the Artists’ Alley, Web Comics, and Small Press sections. The endless rows are filled with so much creativity, it is staggering and humbling. Artist after artist were present with their portfolios and prints for sale, most at very reasonable rates, all extremely different in style. You can find everything from superheroes to sexy elves, cute animals to steampunk cityscapes. I bought quite a few prints—fewer than I would have liked, more than I had room for! Because I couldn’t buy it all, I did the next best thing and compiled a list of my favorite artists I found at SDCC 2014 to share with you (in no particular order). Enjoy!

Chris Appalhans

Image credit: Chris Appelhans, used with permission.
Image credit: Chris Appelhans, used with permission.

Chris Appelhans makes such wonderful pieces that capture sweet, quiet moments. It’s never too busy or too loud; the focus is on just the right thing. I usually prefer obnoxiously colorful art, but I’m in love with the peaceful stillness of Chris’ paintings.

Kazu Kibuishi

Jellyfish Canyon. Image credit: Kazu Kibuishi
Jellyfish Canyon. Image credit: Kazu Kibuishi, used with permission.

Kazu Kibuishi is the writer and illustrator of the best-selling YA graphic novel Amulet. We had purchased the first book of the series at last year’s SDCC and returned this year to purchase the next four. The story gets dark and scary at times, but that doesn’t seem to deter our 4-year-old. We’ve read our way through three of them already since the weekend, as a read-aloud at bedtime. The art of Amulet is beautiful, dark, and epic, and Kibuishi’s other illustrations reflect that style as well.

Cari Corene

Umbrella Totoro and Secret of Kells Pangur Ban. Image credit: Cari Corene.
Umbrella Totoro and Angry Pangur Ban in a Puddle. Image credit: Cari Corene, used with permission.

Cari Corene does watercolors inspired by geek pop-culture icons such as Totoro, Pokemon, and My Little Pony. Her Etsy shop not only offers her art as prints, but also as zipper pouches, messenger bags, charms, and scarfs. Beautiful and practical!

Armand Baltazar

The Collidescape Chronicles. Image credit: Armand Baltazar, used with permission.
The Collidescape Chronicles. Image credit: Armand Baltazar, used with permission.

Armand Baltazar is a formally-trained artist who has worked at many of the major animation film studios like DreamWorks, Disney, and Pixar. As you can see from the example above, his art reflects a geeky twist on a more classical painting style. It’s detailed and exquisite.

Eunjung June Kim

Image credit: Eunjung June Kim
Image credit: Eunjung June Kim, used with permission.

Eunjung June Kim‘s art is so cute, I want it all over my walls! Out of all of her prints, I purchased the one above because I love the colors. Don’t get me wrong; the subject matter is great too, but the color palette is the reason I couldn’t put it down. Such a happy contrast!

Pascal Campion

Image credit: Pascal Campion
Image credit: Pascal Campion, used with permission.

Pascal Campion is probably the most prolific artist I’ve met. Some artists had many copies of a few pieces, Pascal had boxes and boxes full of prints and I could hardly find any repeats. In 2006, he began the habit of starting off every day drawing a “Sketch of the Day,” which now totals nearly 3,000 sketches! He is a father of three and many of his pieces are inspired by his family life. He seems to perfectly capture the greatest moments of parenthood.

Chris Ayers

Content Kitty. Image credit: Chris Ayers, used with permission.
Content Kitty. Image credit: Chris Ayers, used with permission.

Chris Ayers was a successful artist working in the film industry when he was diagnosed with leukemia. To help motivate himself through his battle against cancer, he started a sketchbook, drawing one animal per day for one year. The sketchbook resulted into a book, The Daily Zoo. The image of the Content Kitty featured here is one of my favorites. My husband and I purchased it at SDCC last year, framed it, and hung it in our daughter’s room. It still makes me smile every time I see it. I love the bright contrasting colors and, of course, the attitude! Such contentment, indeed.

Chris Uminga

TMNT. Image credit: Chris Uminga, used with permission.
TMNT. Image credit: Chris Uminga, used with permission.

Here’s another Chris, the third one on this list. I swear I didn’t pick these artists based on name alone! Chris Uminga is a recurring favorite of mine. I bought a piece from him last year and started following him on Instagram, so by the time I got to SDCC this year, I already knew what piece I wanted to buy from him… this Ninja Turtles print, of course!

Jackie Huang

Ice & Fire. Image credit: Jackie Huang, used with permission.
Ice & Fire. Image credit: Jackie Huang, used with permission.

Jackie Huang does beautiful illustrations, but even more amazing things with paper. Her originals will set you back a bit, but she has fantastic pop-up cards on for sale on Etsy. I’m flabbergasted by the details of her paper constructions. How can anyone do that? Incredible!

How about you, readers? If you have attended SDCC this year—or any other con for that matter—and found great new art and artists, please do tell!

Em-Con Recap

Em-Con © Lee Wallis
Em-Con © Lee Wallis

Last weekend I attended the first Em-Con at the Albert Hall in Nottingham, England. The convention was the first of its kind in the region. I enjoyed myself immensely.

However for many attendees, the day was beset by difficulties in even getting inside the con.

For a small convention in its first year, Em-Con certainly attracted a good amount of talent through its doors. Stars from Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Red Dwarf, and Star Wars were among those who came along to meet fans and sign autographs. A number of comic book artists including Andrew Wildman and Lee Sullivan were present, each working on commissions and signing prints, and a nice variety of stalls were on offer so everyone could afford to take something home no matter their budget.

One of my favorite things about any convention is watching the artists work and chatting with stall holders; everyone at Em-Con was welcoming and happy to chat to the point where I found myself running late for panels.

Doctor Who Panel © Sophie Brown
Doctor Who Panel © Sophie Brown

Throughout the day a number of talks were given in the main hall. Unlike at many conventions, these were included in the cost of entry allowing guests to fill their day without emptying their wallets. The Doctor Who/Torchwood talk featured cast from both shows including Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Caitlin Blackwood (Young Amy Pond), and Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), all of whom appeared in high spirits. We learned that the Torchwood cast are eager to reprise their roles for a fifth season and that both Caitlin and Eve would love to play a female Doctor.

The Game of Thrones panel was attended by Kristian Nairn (Hodor), Ian McElhinney (Barristan Selmy), and Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon) who dropped a few minor spoilers about the upcoming fourth season.The panel was disrupted slightly when a wandering Cylon distracted Gethin during one of his anecdotes much to everyone’s amusement.

The Red Dwarf panel was also subject to disruption by Cylon—one of the issues of having green room access at the rear of the main hall—and was thoroughly enjoyable even to someone like myself who has only seen a handful of episodes. The panel gathered together the entire core cast including Craig Charles (Dave Lister), Danny John-Jules (The Cat), Chris Barrie (Arnold Rimmer), and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten). Everyone had stories to tell about their time on the show, but a particular favorite was Robert’s recollection of standing in a Chicago elevator with a Klingon who told him how much he appreciated his work—through his interpreter.

Cops and Monsters © Fraser Coull
Cops and Monsters © Fraser Coull

The first panel of the day was given over to Cops and Monsters, a new Indiegogo-funded webseries set in Scotland. The show is along the lines of Torchwood and Being Human. Set five years in the future, it follows the Paranormal Investigation Team Scotland, a new branch of UK government tasked with keeping the peace among humans, zombies, vampires, and werewolves now that supernatural creatures have come out of their proverbial closets.

We were shown the eight minute minisode that has so far been funded, and heard from the large number of cast and crew who had come along to promote the show. We were even treated to an impromptu rap in the style of Batman’s Bane courtesy of series star Mark Harvey. The minisode has just been released to the public and you can watch it on the Cops and Monsters website.

Everything going on inside the venue was great. The building was filled with families; everywhere I looked were parents and grandparents with children of every age from babies to teenagers. It was possibly the most family-filled show I have ever attended and it was wonderful for that. I overheard a seven year old nitpicking with one of the comic book artists about his portrayal of Cybermen and saw a pair of young brothers in Torchwood Institute tees who were so excited to spot Eve Myles entering the panel that they could barely sit still.

Members of the 501st UK Garrison, Rebel Legion UK and Reel Icons entertain the queue © Sophie Brown
Members of the 501st UK Garrison, Rebel Legion UK and Reel Icons entertain the queue © Sophie Brown

However it was outside that the problems were mostly to be found. Queues stretched around the building for hours and hundreds of ticket holders were eventually forced to give up and leave before they even got inside.

Following the event’s hashtag on Twitter, I saw dozens of individuals talking about waits of four or five hours to get inside, meaning of course that they missed out on most of the event if they ever made it through the doors.

Those queuing with children were often unable to wait that long. Reading up afterwards, the core of the problem appeared to be that almost three times the venue’s capacity had been sold in pre-booked tickets, and more were being sold on the door before these people had even been allowed in.

Wandering around on the convention floor felt dangerous at times due to crowding and the police arrived by lunchtime querying understandable health and safety concerns. The organizers have issued a formal apology and have promised refunds but sadly the damage to their reputation has already been done. Not a great start for a brand new event on an already busy circuit.

Next year Em-Con is upgrading, moving from the small Albert Hall to the much larger Capital FM Arena. Hopefully this will go some way towards alleviating the issues seen this year but only if lessons are learned by all involved. For those of us inside the venue (and who don’t suffer from claustrophobia), this was a great convention and a lot has to be said for finally having an event of this sort in this so-far forgotten region.

But for those stuck outside in the cold with miserable children after having paid to get in, it will take an awful lot for them to risk it again next year. I can’t say I blame them.

Entry to Em-Con was provided by the organizers for this review.

Photo Gallery: Booker Dewitt and Wolverine at Comic Con New York

Booker montage. Photo credit-Jonathan Calderon.
Booker montage. Photo credit: Jonathan Calderon.

This year, as something of a rite-of-passage, the high school senior and his best friend attended Comic Con New York, sans parentals.

“Congratulations,” I told my son semi-seriously when his ticket arrived in the mail. “Now you’re a man.”

It did feel like a milestone, though, when I dropped the two of them off at the train station Friday morning, my son dressed as Booker Dewitt from Bioshock Infinite, his best friend a very-convincing Wolverine. They looked so grown up. I don’t think I’ve taken that many pictures of my son at one time since his first day of high school.

“You’re acting like this is my prom or something,” my son laughed at one point, mid-picture.

“Be quiet and lower your skyhook, it’s blocking your face,” I replied.

They had a great time, took a million pictures, and got home before I even thought about panicking. (“Erm. We ran out of money and got hungry.”) Another geek-parenting achievement unlocked.

 

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