Wisely rebranded from its inaugural moniker of Something Bloody Awesome, Edinburgh Comic Con returned for a second year in the Potterrow Mandela Centre. Despite being a rather small venue, the lack of space was compensated for by the efficiency of the layout that fit in as many stalls as possible while still leaving enough room for people to walk by when others were standing at them.
The panel stage at the rear of the upstairs area was blocked off only by some basic partitions, but the sound from nearby people spending too much money on things they didn’t need but had to have was reduced to a mere background murmur. Likewise, aside from one notable and forgivable exception the noise from the stage didn’t interrupt the vibrant energy of the adjacent market area.
Many of the panels were chaired by John McShane, a comic book academic, publisher, writer, store owner and society founder, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of the medium’s history could throw up a comparison to any point being made and was a fountain of anecdotes from his decades in the industry, and also managed to turn the incessant pimping of his new book into a running joke.
First up was a panel of indie comics creators consisting of Jim Alexander (Amazing and Fantastic Tales), James McCulloch (City of Lost Souls) and John Farman (The School of the Damned), discussing such trials and pitfalls of being an independent publisher as financing, scheduling, the time required to create a comic and the subsequent work needed to make people actually care that you’ve done so, and how in certain situations it can be wise to keep jokes about kidnapping and murder to yourself.
Next, hosted by convention organiser James Lundy and his Hero Talk podcast cohort Doug Adamson was an irreverent chat with Spencer Wilding, a 6’ 7” kickboxing champion and stuntman largely known for playing various monsters and aliens, such as a White Walker in the very first episode of Game of Thrones, the prison guard in Guardians of the Galaxy who steals Quill’s Walkman, and the Ice Warrior Skaldak in the Doctor Who episode Cold War. The conversation was fun and energetic, and Wilding’s effortless charm, childlike enthusiasm for his work and boundless energy when talking about it made for an entertaining look at the lives of performers whose contributions are often disregarded. He was primed with numerous amusing stories from his relatively recent but nevertheless varied career such as making Matt Smith cry by emoting through a minotaur mask, and explaining precisely how he knows the difference between the feel of prosthetics glue and cow slobber.
Secret Convergence saw DC and Marvel writers Mike McKone and Peter Nguyen discussing the development of comic books from their origins to the present day, along with the current wave of adaptations that shows no sign of abating. Possibly the weekend’s only misfire, it was difficult to follow the train of conversation as the two panellists frequently failed to speak into the microphones properly, although some interesting points raised were the necessity for many writers and artists to lie about their experience in order to get anywhere in the industry, and several instances of creative decisions being made for the sake of copyright, such as the creation of She-Hulk.
A charity auction hosted by Sean Kelly of reality TV show Storage Hunters (it’s on Dave, or so I’m told) saw the sale of various pieces or original artwork in aid of Midlothian Food Bank. The items were initially described by James Lundy, giving rise to some amusing looks of strained confusion on Kelly’s face as he attempted to make out more than a quarter of what was being said. Many Americans have severe problems understanding Scottish accents, which might be why they’re so bad at imitating them. Even without being a fan of the TV show, it was nevertheless quite entertaining listening to Kelly’s hyper-syllabic auctioneer slurring as the prices of each piece slowly rose.
Game of Thrones Girls was as entertainingly sordid as you’d expect when the young ladies in question were stalwarts of the show’s brothel scenes, specifically a pair who were rather impressed with squire Podrick’s longsword. Josephine Gillan (incidentally the cousin of Doctor Who’s Karen) discussed her love of being naked, scoring the role of Marei by firing off some photos and subsequently getting drunk with the show’s writers at an Eminem concert, and went into lengthy detail about the distraction caused by her co-panellist Pixie Le Knot (who played Kayla, “One of four women in the world who can perform a proper Meereenese Knot”). A compact dynamo of adorable giggling whose entire body appears to consist of malleable rubber, after Pixie fielded some dirty jokes and accidental innuendo (“I’ll get a box of Kleenex”), she performed some tabletop contortions that did not appear to be within the realms of physical possibility. The English language lacks the necessary words to adequately describe one’s reaction upon seeing a five-foot girl sit on her own head.
Sunday kicked off with another Hero Talk panel, this time chatting to Ryan Browne, the creator, writer and artist of the joyfully mental God Hates Astronauts, discussing the comic’s development from its beginnings as a reaction against the inherent sense of fun largely absent in comics since the dawn of the Modern Age with the likes of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, to being picked up by Image and being given free rein to continue doing whatever the hell he wants.
John Lees and Iain Laurie, the creators of the disturbing and fantastic horror comic And Then Emily Was Gone took to the stage to talk about their sinister creation, as well as bonding over Twin Peaks, taking inspiration from Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, binges of Breaking Bad wreaking havoc on the comic’s scheduling, and how the rise of smaller publishers (in particular Image’s success with The Walking Dead) has helped independent works to flourish. Also, in an occurrence that would have been bizarre in any other setting, a debate of which of the myriad versions of Batman was the best was interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Mortal Kombat’s Smoke and Scorpion who proceeded to have a brief throwdown before departing just as abruptly.
Possibly the highest production value fan film you’re ever likely to see, Prelude to Axanar takes the form of a military documentary from the Star Trek universe, recounting the progression of a four-year war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, leading up to the battle at the titular planet involving Kirk’s hero Garth of Izar. The film’s projection on a far wall caused the suspension of all action in the comic mart for the next twenty minutes and a rousing applause upon its conclusion. Watch it here. Like, right now.
The weekend finished off with a cosplay contest hosted by comedian Des O’Gorman and featuring a wide variation of characters such as a few Jokers, Punishers, Deadpools and Deathstrokes, the Smoke and Scorpion from earlier along with Jade (“because she’s sexy as fuck”) whose costume had been thoroughly distracting everyone all weekend, Transmetropolitan’s Spider Jerusalem (distinctive glasses and everything), and Louis Tully as a Ghostbuster complete with flashing LED proton pack. There were a few very specific instances of characters such as Mary-Jane Watson dressed to match J Scott Campbell’s iconic cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #601 (even going so far as to recreate its demurely provocative pose); Harley Quinn as she will appear in the forthcoming Arkham Knight, and Steve Rogers from the brief window in the character’s history that was post-Super Soldier Serum but pre-Captain America. An Honourable Mention went to Loki, possibly in consolation for failing to get everyone to kneel before him when hamming it up from a balcony earlier in the day; the Judge’s Choice Award went to a Rule 63 Link from Legend of Zelda; the Group Award went to a Firefly duo of Mal and Kaylee (possibly by virtue of simply being Mal and Kaylee); while the ultimate winner was Idris, the human TARDIS from Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who episode The Doctor’s Wife, who as well as nailing the costume, makeup, hairstyle and voice, also had a fold in the back of her skirt that opened up into a six-foot cape of the TARDIS, meaning that, like Idris, she was both girl and box at the same time.
All in all, it’s fair to say that Edinburgh Comic Con was a rousing success, and there is no doubt it will return next year, hopefully a little bigger and possibly even better. Bring it on.
Credit for all photos goes to http://mustbetuesday.co.uk/.