London Film & Comic Con 2009!

22nd July 2009

Ever thought about doing that professionally…

– Henry Davies
(London Film and Comic Con 2009)

I attended London Film and Comic Con 2009 at Earl’s Court this past weekend (hence the messed up Fera schedule at present- should return to normal shortly) with my fiancee Donna.

It was our first convention and we didn’t have a table so we weren’t completely sure what to expect. There were some amazing events, artists and costumes over the weekend as well as plenty of famous faces. We were amazed at the turnout for the small press section which was only a recent addition to this particular convention.

Despite arriving early (after navigating the maze/gordian knot that is the London underground system) we were treated to a long queue filled with some… interesting people. I couldn’t help but find it funny that the organisers had sent the Cylon cosplayers to police the growing crowds outside the convention centre- a race of machines who’s main objective is the genocide of the human race on crowd control? Seriously?

Once we were allowed in on the first day Donna made a bee-line to Vic Mignogna, the voice actor of Ed Elric from Full Metal Alchemist, he’s quite short, and his voice is ever so high pitched- I have to admire how well he hides his remarkably strong texas accent in his work. It seemed as though his entire fanbase had turned out to see him- including people cosplaying various Full Metal Alchemist and Dragonball Z characters- even some Chobits characters at one point.

Whilst queueing up to see Vic we were entertained by a group of Ghostbusters being attacked by a Pwanda which then went on to some how get a perfect score on a nearby DDR machine. Close by we had a gaming tournament including everything from Spectrums to Xbox 360’s- the apparent organiser of this event was casually wearing a Nintendo Powerglove, something that I haven’t seen in the flesh since I was a toddler.

I have to say we were feeling bad for the disheartened Spike (voice actor of Shinji from Evangelion) who despite his young rivals massive queue seemed to only have one or two people requesting autographs over the course of the entire weekend.

A huge amount of our time on saturday was spent meeting and getting autographs from various sci-fi, film and tv stars. Amongst them- Danny John-Jules aka the Cat from Red Dwarf was a pleasure to meet, as was Tom Baker- though a little odd he did offer Donna a jelly baby… which led to some fan-girl/boy-ing. Paul McGann was equally nice and we were suprised that even the likes of Scott Bakula was very cool, though he does have a very strong hand shake. Jewel Staite of Stargate: Atlantis and Eve Myles of Torchwood were both very sweet and Eve was very excited about the Children of Earth episodes that recently aired- claiming that they were just as grueling for the cast in terms of “surely he won’t…” and concluded that drama like that really makes for some thing enjoyable to watch.

The list of people we met over the weekend was huge, though we sadly missed Keeley Hawes from Ashes to Ashes and a couple of others who we simply didn’t have time to see. I did spend a huge amount of time chatting with Henry Davies on both days of the convention. He was great to talk to and had many interesting things to say.

For those who don’t know Henry Davies is one of the artists for the fantastic comics and annuals known as the Beano and the Dandy- with such characters as Dennis the Menace, Bannanaman, The Bashstreet Kids, Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Minnie the Minx. For my American audience who may not know of these titles, the Beano and Dandy are two of the most well loved childrens comics in Britain. Most British children have read a copy of them or been given the annuals for christmas at some point in their lives.

In fact it was one of these annuals that was my first book, I was under a year old and I still have it, though it smells of burgers. They have a wide variety of characters, stories and jokes- though the character designs and styles have always been fairly consistent over the years.

Henry took over doing the artwork for the Beano and Dandy in the early/mid-80’s so most of their annuals and comics that I have bought in my lifetime have had his name some where inside. It was amazing meeting the man who is at least partly responsible for my interest in comics and seeing him work as well as chatting about anything and everything with him. After requesting a drawing of my mams favourite character (Plug) and my childhood alter-ego (Bannanaman) he graciously produced a piece of art that I could call my own, though ever the perfectionist he refused to accept that he’d done Bannanaman justice and so invited me to have a 2nd picture drawn the following day once he had proper reference free of charge. Personally I love both versions, and it was a delight to get to see him work.

<insert henry bananaman sketch>

For some reason Henry Davies was how I always pictured a comic artist- bumbling, not quite organised, friendly, interested in the world, people and silly facts such as “is a banana a herb or a berry?” and having hands covered in ink/charcoal whilst wearing tiny victorian-type glasses.

Just to show the kind of person he is, and his dedication to not only his craft but his fans- each time a child sidled up and handed him an annual to autograph or requested a drawing of their favourite character he encouraged them to draw along with him. He gave them tips and showed them how he did things, he even offered one girl his own inking pen and inkwell so that she could finish her drawing, showing her how to get the lines she wanted.

I’ve heard a number of people in the states complain that there isn’t enough children reading comics any more, that most readers are older and comickers seem worried about this. In England we haven’t had that problem just yet, we still have the likes of the Beano and Dandy, Oor Wullie, the Broons just to name a few- and its artists like Henry Davies who aren’t afraid to encourage an interest in art and comics in the young that really help to keep that alive.

I also managed to get a sketch of a DC character from their WoW comics drawn by Lee Townsend who is the cover artist for a number of Marvel and DC comics. He seemed nice enough although didn’t get chance to talk to him much.

There was plenty to see and do, the small press section was well turned out with Ian Sharman from Faster Than Light (who I completely blanked on- sorry) to Fallen Angel Media– an excellant small press printing service that I hope to use in the future. As you’d expect Tokyopop were in attendance with a huge selection of manga and related merchandise (all sold by a girl in a manga-style maid costume), as well as tables selling japanese cuisine, props such as swords, replica costumes and helmets and plenty of prints/photographs.

From the small press three people really caught my eye that I’d never known of before but they made a great impression. First up was Niki Hunter who did an amazing reinterpretation of Kato Marucci of Fera for me, both her and her husband were really nice and Donna got a caricature drawn by Niki as well- she was also kind enough to let me return a shirt that I bought from her on saturday that turned out to be too small and exchanged it for the one I’m wearing as we speak.

Secondly Nanniibim who had some beautiful artwork on show, as well as the small sketchy comic I bought “Shika Shika Monster Mash”- I spoke to her about the small press things that she was producing as well as how she found getting tables etc. at the con and even talked about digital art techniques. She was interested in doing a version of the Fera cast for the guest art gallery I plan to add to the site shortly though I’m going to have to send references to her since she’s primarily a digital artist.

Last but not least- Will Kirkby who was sharing a table with Nanniibim his comics are a pleasure to read and theres some thing about him that reminds me of my childhood friend Paul Burr. He’s a genuinely nice and friendly guy if you click the link in his name- we bought the card art in his blog of the Full Metal Alchemist cast. His versions are fun and I was impressed that he even included Winry’s guardian- he mentioned that he loved drawing elderly manga characters as their style is always so different to the rest of the cast.

Its hard to cram so many brilliant events into one blog post- needless to say fun was had by all and whether it was meeting the stars, hanging out with people or the huge array of talent and merchandise that may have bankrupted me had I not controlled myself it was a great weekend.

Now just as a couple of extra things I witnessed during the weekend:

I’m hoping to have a table at next years London Comic Con for Fera, and may even have some sketches of a couple of this years events. I look forward to next years convention and hope to see you guys there.

– T III (angelKat Entertainment)

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