Tag Archives: comic

MCM Comic Con – Birmingham – March 2016

Picture of a Raider and Moxxi from Borderlands
This is not us.

We went to the MCM Comic Con, in Birmingham on Saturday just gone (19th March).  Here are some various random observations.

Getting to the NEC Birmingham is quite easy for us – we drive over, it’s between 45 and 55 minutes depending on traffic and this time it was pretty good.  There was a queue leaving the M42, which took up about 10 minutes of the journey, but it was always flowing.  On the way back however, we noticed a pretty bad car fire on the A42, which looks like it had closed that road for some time.  Not sure by how long we missed that, but glad we did, and hope everyone involved was okay.

We parked in East 5, having pre-paid for our parking the night before.  I can’t stress enough how useful this is if you intend to go to an event at the NEC.  The queue for car parking tickets was about 100 meters long, and I suspect was roughly a 10-20 minute wait in temperatures hovering around 4C.  Car parking was £12, which is high, but it’s a captive audience.  We couldn’t book reserved / priority parking which puts you outside the event halls, I guess there wasn’t any close enough for the Comic Con event, but we’ll check again next time.

We had priority tickets for the event, it’s £5 more, but you can go in from 9am rather than 11am.  We never intended to get there for 9am (and if you do, you’ll queue even with a priority ticket), but we got there around 10:15am-ish, and walked straight in, past the 11am queuers.  I recommend this approach!

The event was in an L shaped hall and quite big; bigger than November last year which felt very cramped.  It was a little more open this time, although still quite cramped in the main section.  There were the usual selection of vendors and guests, but since that’s not why I went, I won’t comment.  We didn’t go to any of the events either, although there was an inflatable theatre in which they were taking place.  Greté was there to shop, and I was there to take photographs.

There were some really good things.Picture of Stormtroopers behind a Comic Con sign

  • There were a lot of Rey’s.  It’s great to see another interesting and dynamic character for female cosplayers to play.  Of course, gender is irrelevant (I saw at least one female Kylo Ren), but for women who want to play women, it’s great that there’s more choice, and with costumes that aren’t revealing or sexualised.  There were, as always, the usual collection of Lara Crofts, Harley Quinns, female manga characters I never recognise and Black Widows (among lots of other female characters, don’t get me wrong).  I just thought it was nice that popular media has presented another strong female role model, with any-age appropriate dress, and hope we get many more in future.  Which reminds me, there were quite a few Dana Scully’s as well come to think of it – always handy to break out a smart suit and wear an ID badge.
  • There were a lot of families all in costume, many of them with very young kids who seemed to be having a great time.  I don’t remember previous Comic Cons being quite so kid friendly.  I guess for the kids it’s normal – get dressed up as your favourite character, it’s just as we get older it becomes more nerdy and weird.  We should learn from that – nothing wrong with it at all.  I think it’s great that people felt comfortable enough to bring their kids along.
  • Lots of excellent costumes in general and clearly a lot of effort had gone into them.  There’s always the regular semi-pros, the 501st Legion, that company who pays cosplayers to dress up (can’t remember what they’re called), the guys in the Batman suits that look like they just walked off the set, etc.  I do wonder if they can be off-putting at times.  But then there were the regular broad range of almost-semi-pros, amateurs, last-minuters, threw-on-a-fezzers, wore-my-tardis-dressers, and came-dressed-as-Jessica-Rabbit-in-my-7-inch-heels-and-bearders.  It was really a great collection of people.

The not so great.

  • There was an unnecessary amount of body odour.  I know, everyone’s wearing Lycra, or vinyl, or rubber, or fur, or leather, or whatever.  But if you know you’re going to be in close proximity to a lot of people just use some antiperspirant or deodorant that day, even if you don’t normally.  I know, some folk have medical conditions, and I respect that, and I absolutely have no desire to stop those folk attending or having fun, but there are just some guys who can not be bothered to make the basic effort of wearing deodorant, and there’s no excuse for it.
  • I go to the convention to take photographs of costumes.  There are people wearing those costumes, and the costumes range in quality.  I want to capture people who’ve put in some effort and are enjoying themselves, and I work hard mentally not to judge the people I’m looking at outside of those parameters.  Clearly, I’m also human, so I naturally find some people more attractive than others, or more interesting, or whatever.  I work hard to ensure I’m not just there taking pictures of attractive women in revealing outfits – that’s not why I or they are there.  However, there are clearly some people only taking pictures of people they fancy.  I stopped a pair of ladies and asked if I could take a picture, and one of the pair stepped sideways out of the shot.  They were both in costume (the lady who stepped sideways was in a less revealing outfit than her friend).  I had to drop the camera and ask her to step back in to the frame, at the same time as her friend was encouraging her back in as well.  I don’t know if she was just shy and didn’t want to be in the shot, but I got the feeling they’d been stopped by other people who just wanted a picture of the lady in the more revealing outfit and it made me a little bit sad and somewhat angry.
  • I felt a bit sad for the two of three rows of signing tables.  Pairs of people behind a desk – ageing actor + agent, all the way along, waiting for someone to turn up so they could earn another bit of cash.  I know, it must be lucrative, and I’m being hugely hugely disrespectful.  Fans love to meet their heroes, their heroes love to meet their fans, and if you’ve got a fan base then you should turn up and everyone’s a winner, but the two times I walked through that area it just felt devoid of soul.  Sorry.

Other things

  • May the tiny kitten of joy vomit forth happiness upon you
    GenkiGear t-shirt

    Lots of vendors, the usual range of stuff, not really why I go, but it kept my wife occupied for the four hours we were there.  Shout out to GenkiGear which is where my wife spent the bulk of her cash.  She does love their stuff.  There seemed to be about a thousand versions of Monopoly on sale, one for every fandom and universe, including Firefly.  There was quite a nice little Steampunk area, although it didn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention, one guy with some amazing art there though (who’s name I didn’t take down – aha, just remembered, I think it was this guy).

  • Getting into the venue from the car park was amusing.  If you’ve been to the NEC you know they run a shuttle bus service from the car parks.  We were on a side of the NEC we’ve not been to before, and we walked from the car park down towards the road (past all the people queueing for car parking tickets, see above).  As we got to the road, we could see the bus stop to our left, but everyone was streaming over the road crossing and not far in front of us we could see some buildings.  So, sheep-like, we just followed.  Sadly, those folk were more optimistic and younger than we were – the buildings we could see weren’t the exhibition halls, and so it was the feared long walk from the car park to the entrance.  We got the bus back.  Next time, we’ll be much less sheep-like.
  • There was a mock fight between a Rey, a Kylo Ren and a Finn.  I’m pretty sure if you’ve never seen the film it counted as a spoiler – they didn’t spoil the other thing though.
  • I saw the worst Han Solo ‘look-alike’ ever, even if his costume was authentic looking, he looked like an accountant.

Overall it was a good day out – not the cheapest way to spend four hours if you’re not interested in the events or the star signings, but not the most expensive day out either, and great to see so many excellent costumes and folk enjoying themselves.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I didn’t see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in the cinema, because at the time there were some other movies that I felt would be better on the big screen.  Scott Pilgrim looked, from the trailers, like it would do okay on the smaller screen.  I was wrong.  This is why.

Scott Pilgrim is visually the most memorable and exciting movie I’ve seen since The Matrix.  Sure, Avatar was pretty to look at and the CGI was a step beyond anything we’ve ever seen.  Yes, 300 was a revelation in terms of colour and style.  I agree that Sin City brought us comic book visualisations like we’d never really seen.  But Scott Pilgrim vs. The World presented a mixture of real life, comic book and computer games in a single visual package that blew me away.

The clear craftsmanship that went into every single shot, the attention to detail, the mixture of sound effects, on-screen visuals and cinematography working together in a way I’ve just not seen before.  If Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was an ice-cream flavour, it would be Strawberry Mint Choc-chip with Raspberry Ripple and Cookies.  And it would work.

Stunning visuals alone don’t make a good movie, and therefore it’s with some relief that we discover Scott Pilgrim has a heart, a plot, an excellent sound track and some very funny and touching moments.

Based on a graphic novel, the reasonably simple story plays out thus.  Scott (Michael Cera) plays in a band, hangs out in the arcade, and finally meets the girl of his dreams.  But early in their relationship he discovers he must battle and defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her.  The brilliance comes from the mixture of the real and the unreal.  The fights are done very much in the style of computer games, the movie is strewn with on-screen flashes of comic book style text and computer game style popups.  They never get in the way – they simply enhance the sense of involvement.

The girl of Scott’s dreams is the enigmatic Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  The character is both engaging and interesting.  The supporting cast around them is also excellent, the rest of the band in which Scott plays, and a small circle of friends and past-partners.  Alison Pill (as Kim Pine) steals every scene she’s in though, she is superb and delivers some of the funniest moments in the whole movie.

As we and Scott work our way through the various evil exes we learn more about all the characters, and in parallel we watch the band (Sex Bob-omb) rise in status.  The interplay between the characters is really the soul of the story and I’ve intentionally not mentioned a lot of that.  While the battle against the evil exes is the part the trailers focus on, the real story is the continuing personal development of everyone involved.  That’s where the heart of this story lies.  Although not constantly laugh out loud the movie has some excellent comic moments.  But again, it is the quality of the shots, the care with which each frame has been prepared and the beautiful cinematography that give that soul and comedy something to stand on.

The finale is both brilliant and satisfying and the final outcome was just what I hoped for.

Not everyone will like this movie.  It speaks in a language that may put some people off (some gaming culture and comic book references), although it’s more accessible I think than Watchmen.  I get that, it’s fine.  But a world with only one flavour of jam would be a terrible place (even if it was Strawberry).  And likewise, a world in which we only see huge action movies do well in the box office, or even get funding, would be a sad place.  I should have gone and supported Scott Pilgrim at the cinema.  Not just because it would have been an incredible movie going experience, not just because it’s probably the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen for a very long time, but because it deserved to get better box office numbers to show that people do want this kind of stuff.

And we do.  The DVD / Blu-ray sales will be excellent I’m sure.  But it should have gotten better box office takings.  I already apologised to Edgar Wright for my part in that.  You can do your bit.  Buy this movie, watch it, love it, and next time, go and support movies like it in the cinema.

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex is a very short movie.  I can’t help but wonder where the rest of it went.  The film is carried by Josh Brolin, his onscreen presence propping up an otherwise ordinary story.

Jonah watched his family murdered and vowed revenge on the man who did it, only to find out he died in a fire.  He goes on a bounty hunting rampage, kept alive throughout many gun fights by his desire for revenge and the skills of the local native Americans.

Suddenly the old enemy is back with some overly complicated plan involving a bizarre weapon.  The plan involves somehow crushing the newly formed Union of States.  The president, somehow aware of Hex’s existence has him drafted in to hunt and kill his old enemy.

There’s a beautiful woman involved as well (depending on your tastes) played by Megan Fox and supported, literally, by her corset.  Her role is under-used and reasonably pointless and I wonder if the missing bits of the movie fleshed out (see what I did there?) her role in more detail?

Anyway, there is gun slinging and one liners and fights and bad guys and dark good guys.  It ticks the boxes, no more, and delivers a short but meaningless 88 minutes of nonsense.  Not bad, not good, just present.

Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits

I guess this is sort of a review. I blogged a short while ago that I was reading a Constantine graphic novel (Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, an anthology), and I promised to maybe let you know if I enjoyed it. So here I am. Dangerous Habits is the comic from which one of the main threads of the Constantine movie is taken, and there are a couple of other minor references in the movie to this anthology. I wanted to read this anthology as my introduction to the Hellblazer world exactly because it was the movie that got me interested in the character.

That was probably a mistake. Dangerous Habits is not, it would appear, a typical collection of Hellblazer stories. It’s enjoyable, and I wanted to finish the material, but I got the immediate feeling that this was really a transition period in Constantine’s life and not a regular story about his world.

The artwork is okay, I’m really not that enthused about comic / graphic novel artwork, I guess I’m more interested in the story and characterisation, hence my tendency towards regular fiction. I found myself focussing on the words, and really not looking that much at the art. Every few pages I would encourage myself to go back and look at the pictures. Maybe I’m so used to having to use my own imagination 100% to form images around the words I’m reading, I’m just not used to having them presented for me. I love movies, so I obviously have no problem watching someone else’s visualisation, but if I’m reading words on a page, I’m really not expecting someone else to present images showing me how things look.

Anyway, I found the writing ok, the overall storyline is interesting and the side-characters were interesting. However, I found both showdowns between Constantine and the Forces of Darkness to be lacklustre and without logic. Supreme evil isn’t necessarily entirely stupid. Of the two showdowns, the first, smaller one was the most absurd and beyond logic and destroyed any credibility the story had for me. The final one simply iced the cake, and although I can see where it was coming from and what it was trying to do, I just didn’t feel it was given enough context for it to be viable.

Now, this may be entirely because I’ve not read anything else in the Hellblazer universe, maybe the way the enemy behaved is entirely in-character and in-keeping with it’s normal behaviour, but if that is the case then Constantine has an easy life.

Overall, maybe I picked the wrong entry into Hellblazer, but this was a disappointing purchase which provided a few hours of diversion but no real feeling of satisfaction.

I have Hellblazer: Bloodlines, another anthology which I’m intending to read as well, and hopefully I’ll see some of the material which causes so much enthusiasm among the fans.

Comics

I know it’s not very popular or cool to like Keanu Reeves, or at least it wasn’t, maybe it is now. Anyway, I like him, I’ve enjoyed a lot of the movies he’s been in and that includes Constantine (did I ever review it … apparently not). I knew it was based on a comic book (sorry, graphic novel, although no one ever goes to GraphicNovelCon2008) but I never really did graphic novels or comics. I read the Beano, Whizzer and Chips, Shiver and Shake and that kind of stuff when I was very young, but I never really graduated onto 2000AD and the like and once I discovered novels I never got into ‘the comic scene’.

I guess it’s a bit odd because I did the other stuff comic readers tended to do, I was a tabletop roleplayer (sounds like a movie), I played computer games on my 16k and 64k spectrum (and atari 400), I even wrote software (I wrote a whole bunch of tools on the speccy for roleplaying, databases for stuff, loot generators, yeh I know how bad that sounds). I loved fantasy and sci-fi movies (and Lost Boys which even features comic loving geek heroes), novels, the whole deal, but I just never ‘got’ graphic novels. I passed up the chance to buy the two David Gemmell graphic novels when they were newly out, I just bought the books instead (although I own them both now), so it wasn’t even an issue with the material. Just the format.

Anyway, I like Constantine, I like the world setting and the general premise. It matches similar work by Mike Carey (Felix Castor) and Jim Butcher (Dresden), modern day anti-heroes almost using supernatural or mythical powers in a modern world to hold back some kind of generally evil evilness. Incidentally if you’ve not read Mike Carey’s “Felix Castor’ stuff you should. Odd kind of full circle here because Mike does a lot of comic book work himself.

I’ve slowly drifted away from high fantasy and heroic fantasy and into an appreciation of a very limited number of books around ‘modern crossover’ or ‘modern fantasy’ or whatever you want to call it, and Constantine fits that bill. So, I enjoyed the film, I bought a novel and it was ‘ok’, and so I thought I’d buy a couple of comic book anthologies and see what the buzz was about. They’re upstairs, one in the guest bedroom on a bookshelf and the other in the bathroom, I read it now and again when I’m in there for any length of time.

Maybe I’ll let you know if I enjoy it sometime.