It’s that time of year again, where eager Sci-fi, Fantasy, Anime & Pop Culture fans descend on Glyndwr University in Wrexham for 2 days of signings, Photo-Ops, Q&A sessions and much more. Year on year, since I started attending Wales Comic-Con back in 2012, it has gone from strength to strength, drawing in bigger crowds and more impressive guests with each successive event and this springs event is certainly no different. I am attending the event for both days with my wife and we have a number of photo-ops booked with some of the guests, I am particularly stoked this weekend to be meeting WWE legends Mick Foley & Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas and my wife was more than a little excited with the announcement of Bones actor T.J Thyne, who she has purchased a photo-op with.
As with each event, we have purchased Early Bird tickets which gives the holder a 1 hour head start over general entry to ensure a minimal amount of waiting to get into the event. We arrive on campus a little after 09:00, it is pleasantly sunny and the crowds are starting to assemble. Already there is a diverse array of cosplayers on site putting increasingly impressive levels of effort into their costumes, I’ve already seen a V, a Loki, Black Widow, a few Assassins Creed Cosplays, a Bray Wyatt and a male Harley Quinn. Yup, it’s Comic-Con baby!
After less than a 10 minute wait from doors opening, we have our wristbands and are in, heading straight to the main hall for a browse. The first thing that strikes me this year is the layout, it is vastly improved. Some of the vendors have been moved around allowing much more space around the perimeter for the crowd to move around and also allowing much better queueing for autographs with guests, it is still massively busy, it still bottlenecks but that is just to be expected, I can’t see any other way of improving more than they have, even going so far as to utilise the halls tannoy and numbered tickets to alleviate larger queues for certain more popular guests so hats off to the team, organisation in the hall seems a lot better. I have noticed both through overhearing conversations and reading posts on a Comic-Con group I am a member of that some people in attendance are not happy about certain guests adjusting their autograph fees and placing the blame at a “greedy” Wales Comic-Con, I find these posts most disheartening as I know full well that the team at WCC have no part to play in this and to hear them trashed by a minority (who don’t seem to understand how cons work incidentally) for something quite trivial that is out of their hands is disappointing. The Con team should hold their heads high right now because I’m personally finding it hard to fault the positive changes they have made to increase the publics enjoyment of the event.
Next we move on to the marquee which now exclusively houses vendor stalls and there is a great array, from retro video games, art prints, comic books, pop vinyls and action figures. My one bugbear with Wales Comic-Con in the past had been lack of stalls which is certainly something that they have addressed this year. After some browsing and purchases we make a quick detour to the gaming arena.
The gaming arena is layed out with retro consoles lining one wall, PC’s lining the other with a stage for the gaming competitions they hold during the day. We couldn’t resist plonking ourselves down for a bit to have a blast on Mario Kart which is a welcome nostalgic diversion. After being beaten by my wife in a best of 3 it is on to the first Q&A of the day, the wrestling panel.
Mick Foley & Amy Dumas take to the stage to much applause and whooping and get straight in to it. After the obligatory introductions both ask the crowd to take as many photos they like at the beginning but then request that phones and cameras are pocketed for the rest of the panel which I actually really appreciated as it can be quite tiresome watching a panel through someone’s phone screen out of your periphery when you are trying to concentrate on the stage. Both are natural storytellers and between questions from the audience will segue with interesting little asides that have the assembled crowd hanging off every word. Warm & engaging, this was a good start to the Q&A sessions.
Next up we have Matt Ryan & Emmett Scanlan and the Constantine panel. This was a sweet panel that shows even past 1 season of a cancelled show there is still a lot of love for Constantine and a lot of excitement regarding Justice League: Dark and the touted animated series. Matt & Emmett gamely answer all questions set their way with grace, humour and genuine likability.
The Buffy Q&A is next with Nicolas Brendon & Emma Caulfield. This was a very well attended Q&A in part due to the shows recent 20th anniversary celebrations, I have also found however in recent cons that this panel has been taking over as one of the most popular of the day and that is certainly the case today with a packed out hall. It is a very funny and engaging Q&A with a real sense of chemistry between Nic and Emma. Nic really has no filter though it has to be said, if it pops in his head, he’s probably going to say it leading to a mixture of genuine laughs and uncomfortable ‘did he just say that?!’ guilty laughter, it certainly makes for an interesting panel that’s for sure.
GOT up next and a nice cross section of past cast members. The GOT panel is always a crowd pleaser because obviously people are still massively invested in the show, particularly as it enters it final 2 seasons and that is reflected in the questions, always trying to wrangle another angle or theory out of cast members who gamely give their 2 cents worth. Ian McElhinney, I now suspect, played up to the anger at his character dying before he did in the books, it always tickles me and my wife every time he attends. Always engaging, always entertaining.
Time for the last Q&A of the day, the Bones panel with T.J Thyne. The small Nick Whitehead suite is rammed, there is literally no more seating space and people are standing at the back so they could get in, never underestimate the popularity of Bones. Quite often in these types of situations you wonder, even though this is engaging and informative, just how much has the panellist gone into auto-pilot when answering people’s questions? You doubt the sincerity when they say ‘Good question’, this is not one of those times. T.J was warm, good humoured and incredibly humble that so many people had turned up to see him, you got the impression that he sincerely cared about what people were asking him and that was refreshing, it made for a wonderful end to our first day.
The first day at WCC 2017 has been a joy from start to finish. In and wristbanded in record time, a much better layout in the main hall, from word of mouth I have been hearing that the photo-op’s have been running a lot smoother this year also which caused much consternation last year. Its good to see that many of the issues that some people have had with the WCC in the past have been addressed so well and that the team have pulled it out the bag again with their now trademark professionalism, grace under pressure and passion for what they do. Bring on day 2!