One of the fastest growing independently run conventions, Edinburgh Comic Con has now swollen in size again as its awesome continues to expand. It found its true home last year at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, with the main hall filled with a variety of comics outlets, independent publishers flogging their wares and assorted nerdy paraphernalia. Also returning were various photo op points, featuring a TARDIS, a wampa, a landspeeder, R2-D2 and Chopper, a model of Babylon 5, and ET in a bike basket with a giant moon background.
This time there was also a second room filled with various gaming setups, including free-to-play retro arcades programmed with a plethora of games of a bygone console age, a shooting range with customised Nerf guns, and demonstrations of card game Magic: The Gathering and tabletop games Halo: Ground Command, Halo: Fleet Battles, Star Wars: Armada and Star Wars: X-Wing. There was also a wrestling ring featuring several exhibition bouts, because it seems nowadays you can’t have a con without one.
The panels (which were also live-streamed over Facebook) were another varied assortment of comics conversations and culture figure interviews, beginning with a talk on self-publishing comics from James McCulloch (writer of horror title City of Lost Souls), George Lennox (writer of horror action title Vietnam Zombie Holocaust) and Eli Winter (editor of indie publisher Planet Jimbot). Discussion included the advantages such as being your own boss and being able to publish work that larger publishers wouldn’t touch (particularly in the case of McCulloch, whose work tends to lean towards the more depraved end of the spectrum), how independent publishing offers an alternative to mainstream material produced by DC and Marvel, and its creation of a community – both physically and virtual – where everyone’s knowledge and skills can be shared.
The first interview was Claudia Christian, best known as acerbic commander Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5. She had numerous tales from her time on the much-loved series including the stink of Lennier’s bone head, her favourite scene (“Boom-shabba-labba”) and clueless directors (one asking Christian why she wasn’t “being more sexy”). Also discussed was the show’s innovative use of CGI and green screen, which challenged the actors’ imaginations when having to literally act against nothing, and how its aesthetic has been influential on a number of subsequent sci-fi series such as Battlestar Galactica and The Expanse, along with the show’s tendency to favour diplomatic solutions to conflict rather than outright fighting, and how disturbingly prescient the oppressive Nightwatch now seem given the current state of Western politics.
Regular panel Comic Creators Anonymous this time featured artists Ken Lashley and Garry Brown, both of whom were fortunate in their opportunities to work on big titles early in their careers. The talk focused on how they got into comics as fans, their start in the industry and what drives them to create, and how even when you’re an industry professional you still geek out over meeting people you love and respect, and how much it means to you when they tell you how much they love your work. There was also discussion on the fact that while working on big titles is fun, it’s like paying with someone else’s toys so you’re ultimately limited in what you can do, so it can be more satisfying working on something you own so you can do anything you want with the characters.
The next interview was Ian Beattie, known from his Game of Thrones role as professional sadistic bastard Meryn Trant. A polar opposite of his on-screen counterpart, his pure passion for acting was apparent in every word. He was like a big kid excitedly telling stories from the show such as the intensity of filming Tyrion’s trial, being parboiled in his four-stone suit of brass armour as the heat of the Croatian sun turned sweat into steam, the flamethrowers used to create dragons’ flame breath setting stunt men on fire, and his agonisingly protracted demise at the hands of Arya being the show's most expensive death yet due to all the blood it required.
Finishing off day one was the inaugural Yancy St Awards, celebrating the latest of comics successes and voted for by the con attendees. Listed below are the winners of each category:
Best International Writer: Jason Aaron
Best International Artist: Ken Lashley
Best International Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Best International Newcomer: Sara Kenney
Best Superhero Comic: The Flash: Rebirth
Best Action Comic: Tokyo Ghost
Best Humour Comic: The Penned Guins
Best Horror Comic: Hillbillies
Best Original Graphic Novel/Trade: Superman: American Alien
Best International Cover: Suicide Squad #1 (Jim Lee variant)
Best UK Writer (Small Press): John Lees
Best UK Artist (Small Press): James Devlin
Best UK Single Issue: Alex Automatic #1
Best Graphic Novel (Small Press): Metal Made Flesh
Best UK Cover: (Small Press): Vietnam Zombie Holocaust #3
Best Comic Book Movie/TV Show: Preacher
Best Specialist Publication: Starburst (DAMN RIGHT IT IS!!)
Best Specialist Website: Comics Anonymous
Best Specialist TV Show: Comic Book Men
Best Specialist Podcast: I Sell Comics
Like last year, day two opened with a fan film panel, once again hosted by Star Trek Intrepid creators Nick Cook and Steve Hammond, and reviewer, blogger and podcaster Craig McKenzie. The first half was a screening of the excellent Search/Destroy, a fan film adapted from 2000 AD strip Strontium Dog (which we’ve previously reviewed here). Discussion afterwards included the production of fan films, such as how much lore should you incorporate into the film and how much audience prior knowledge can be assumed, as well as how much of a balance should be struck between fan service and story. Things also briefly touched on the controversy surrounding the production of Star Trek: Axanar and the lawsuit brought against them by CBS that led to the drafting of guidelines for all Star Trek fan films, with diverse opinions on how reasonable they are.
Another interview featured Andrew Lee Potts, seen in the likes of Primeval, Alice, Strange, Lucky Man and Band of Brothers. Focusing mainly on the first of these, there were several tales of spending his time running from tennis balls on sticks representing CGI dinosaurs, portraying the different levels of scared the actors figured out for themselves, stealing props from the set, his development from geek to super-scientist hero, and his action figure being given a smirk because it was deemed too good-looking. There was also discussion of his fantastic web series Wireless, the fun he had with the villainous roles of his early career, the simple explanation of his regularly being touted for Doctor Who despite never having been approached for the role being “because I’m weird,” and his role in the upcoming horror movie Host, about a couple who rented out their home online coming to realise the guests never left and are hiding within the walls.
The final panel was a predictably anarchic affair, featuring Bryan Johnson, Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen, the stars of reality series Comic Book Men. It mostly consisted of back-and-forth ridicule and the full force of Johnson’s entertaining misanthropy, mostly regarding everything about Scotland that had been irritating him since arriving. There was also talk of the difficulty of deciphering Scottish accents and the discovery of Irn Bru, as well as numerous running jokes and bizarre stories, including one about a pickled two-headed pig foetus. All in all, not entirely unlike like an episode of the series itself.
This year’s big screening was the UK premiere of Kevin Smith biopic Shooting Clerks. The low-budget feature is a fitting homage to the human hockey jersey and his cult debut feature, and was followed by a Q&A with its cast and crew that granted some insight into the film’s inspiration and creation. You can read a proper review of it here.
As is tradition, the weekend finished off with a cosplay contest, and displayed all the creativity these showcases have become known for. There were a few inevitable choices like Deadpool, a Suicide Squad Harley Quinn, the Joker and Poison Ivy; and a diverse assortment of other characters including iZombie’s Liv Moore; Final Fantasy VII’s Vincent Valentine; San from Princess Mononoke; Crash Bandicoot; Moon Knight; Squirrel Girl; a Wonderland trio of Alice, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat; a duo of Wolverine and X-23; Batman and Robin from the ‘60s TV show; the Silver Surfer in his Planet Hulk costume; a Jawa carrying a dismantled C3PO in a box; a little boy as The Walking Dead’s Negan (which is actually quite disturbing for a number of reasons); and a guy as a bizarrely compelling mashup of Harley Quinn and Mad Max.
Third place went to No Face from Spirited Away in a simple costume that it was nevertheless decided captured the essence of the character; second was Overwatch’s Lucio in the Space Frog skin complete with glowing limbs and hand-crafted weapon replica; and the overall winner was Digimon’s Nefertimon in a meticulous construction of makeup, costume and constructed appendages.
Now afforded the space to grow, Edinburgh Comic Con is fast on the way to becoming one of the premier features of the convention calendar. As cons such as these swiftly approach saturation point, what sets Edinburgh apart is its dedicated focus on comics (something that others of its ilk seem to have forgotten) and variance in featured events. There is also a wonderfully inclusive family atmosphere to the place, with many mums and dads geeking out just as much as their offspring, whole families cosplaying in groups, and several stall holders bringing along their kids to help out. It’s only going to get better from here.