So, Comic-Con; if there’s one thing that blows the idea of an anime/comic/video game lover as a lonely underdog out of the water, it’s this. Nerd Mecca, pop culture paradise; the only place where cosplaying is not only acceptable, but encouraged. It’s kind of hard to claim that a Star Wars lover is lonely when he has a wife dressed as Princess Leia and two children dressed as Yoda and a Ewok.
I arrived at Film and Comic Con Newcastle ten minutes before it opened on Saturday the 21st; a time I naively considered to be ‘early’. I was soon disabused of this notion when I followed the line almost around the back of the Metro Radio Arena. As I huddled in my coat, I waited behind a female Kakashi and Captain America, feeling like I’d managed to wander into Fanfiction.net. Not that I’m trying to demean cosplayers; I was able to identify nearly every character they were dressed as without needing to think. So I’m not really in a position to sneer. To be honest, it was refreshing to stand around and listen to people chat about anime series and comics. In my day to day efforts to pass as a responsible adult, it’s not often I get the chance. It lends a nice sense of community to events like this.
At 9am, the doors opened and we were allowed to file in and, after collecting my press pass, I started to look around. The entrance area was set out with tables and all the usual food stands were active and waiting. At this point, I should probably give a few pieces of advice to anyone considering going to a convention in the future. It may seem pretentious but, as a writer, I rarely get the chance to give advice that doesn’t relate to grammar, so here we go;
Stay hydrated, keep an eye on your stuff and locate the toilets before you do anything else. Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on.
The floor of the main arena served as the hub of the entire event and, as such, was filled with stall after stall of merchandise.
Here you find the beating, capitalist, heart of the event. While you might have come for the talks and to meet the celebrities and pseudo celebrities present, it’s the sale of the merch that makes these conventions flourish. Make sure you bring plenty of money, because this pop culture treasure trove doesn’t sell cheaply. From posters, to comics, to games to actual weapons, there was something for every fandom. There were even three separate stands selling swords; it took me ten minutes to convince myself that spending £200 on a Master Sword replica was not a sound financial investment. They can charge what they want because their potential customers are members of their target audience who paid for the privilege of simply gaining access to them.
That isn’t to say that all there was to do was shopping; there were cosplay talks and competitions, as well as talks and signings given by the various celebrities in attendance. These people included David Prowse (one half of Darth Vader) to Colin Baker (the sixth Doctor).
Colin Baker’s talk was especially interesting; not only is he strongly in favour of the Doctor having a female incarnation, but he noted that the Doctor was one of only two roles in his entire career that he didn’t need to audition for. He also read Peter Capaldi’s speech from ‘The Zygon Inversion’, but I sadly fumbled my phone and wasn’t able to record it.
However, as someone had seen fit to strap a blue band with ‘press pass’ round my wrist, I figured I should probably do more than just buy Ms. Marvel comics and sit in crowds. So I did some research on my phone, scribbled down some questions and went off to arrange some interviews. My process for doing so largely involved walking up to the convention staff and shyly mumbling inquiries about if certain celebrities were doing interviews.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to interview Colin Baker, as he wasn’t doing any, but I was able to ask Peter Purves a few questions. Mr Purves is best known for being one of the longest running presenters of the children’s programme, Blue Peter. However, he also played Steven Taylor; a companion of the first Doctor (William Hartnell). He was also a good friend of Jon Pertwee; the third Doctor.
So I asked him what these two iconic actors would think about how the show has developed after 52 years. He said that Hartnell would have been extremely proud of the Success of Doctor Who and that, had his memory and health not been declining, he probably would have played the role for longer. However, he did note that, had he done so, then the character of the Doctor would have become tied to him and that the show would have ended when he quit. Meanwhile, he mused that Jon Pertwee didn’t define himself by having played the Doctor as much as some of the other actors to play the role.
When I asked him if there were any shows or series that he would have liked to have appeared in, he said that he would have liked to have had a role on ‘Minder’. He also said that, if he were younger, he would have quite liked to appear on ‘Spooks’.
After thanking him and scurrying off, I did some more, shy mumbling until Kate Dickie agreed to answer a few questions. And this time, I remembered to get a picture taken;
She has many films and TV series to her name (such as Prometheus), but most people, these days, probably know her best for her time on Game of Thrones as Lady Lysa Arryn. She was kind enough to delay going for a break to answer a few questions.
She explained that she had got into acting when a drama class was started at her school when she was 10. To join the class, you had to write a letter explaining why you wanted to be an actor, which she duly did. It didn’t take long for her to decide that this was what she wanted to do for a living. Her teachers told her that this was a bad idea, which shows how much they knew. Her parents, meanwhile, supported her as she’d enjoyed putting on shows for the family long before she’d decided to act.
Her advice for striving actors is to develop a thick skin and to not take rejection personally. She notes that anything from the colour of your hair, to the person who went in before you can be the reason you don’t get the part. Often a rejection says less about your acting abilities than it does about what they had in mind for the part. She also recommended bringing a book to keep you busy while you wait to be called, so you don’t burn up all your energy on nerves while you wait.
Finally, when asked if there were any parts she would like to do in the future, she said that she would like a part in a black comedy (citing the film Sightseers as a personal favourite). She also mentioned that she’d like to do some voice acting for an animated film like UP.
Film and Comic Con Newcastle was one of those events where everyone is really enjoying themselves because it’s not the sort of thing you can wander into without really wanting to be there. Some people come for the merchandise, some for the celebrities and some come to show off their cosplay.
That being said, if it returns next year, I hope that they expand the number of things to do. If you had your fill of talks by celebrities and cosplay enthusiasts, all there was to do was to buy things and that gets expensive fast.