Wales Comic-Con 2018 took place Saturday and Sunday 21st - 22nd April 2018 at Glyndwr University, Wrexham. The event featured a stellar guest list of actors from hit TV shows including, perhaps most notably for me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - as well as movies including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Somewhere in the region of 10,000 fans arrived in Wrexham over the weekend ready to hunt for autographs and photo opportunities with their favourite actors.
Wales Comic Con is a fantastic event organised and run by Mercury Promotions UK, a North Wales-based events company, celebrating their tenth anniversary this year. Those years have brought with them a wealth of experience and this team really know how to organise and run a top class event. Access to the event by car was easy and there was a reasonable amount of free onsite parking. The Comic Con crew members (all volunteers) were friendly, helpful and well organised.
Back in 2008, Danny John Jules, star of Red Dwarf, was one of just a handful of actors to appear at this event, he’s helped to make this event what it has become today - from attracting around 100 visitors in 2008 to an incredible 10,000 visitors in 2018 - Wales Comic Con is now one of the premier conventions in the UK and Danny John Jules has been a guest every year. In fact the event has become so popular that it is now running twice a year with the next event due to be held in December 2018.
I attended on Saturday and the weather was gloriously sunny. Walking around the convention - located throughout several lecture theatres and the main sports hall across the university campus - it was almost impossible not to bump into cosplayers at every turn. Thousands of fans had dressed up as their favourite characters and every one of them in my opinion, no matter the quality of their costume, was amazing. Many had made their own costumes by hand and the level of detail was stunning. There were Batmans, Jokers, countless Harley Quinns, stormtroopers, Shaun from Shaun of the Dead, a Mystique from X-Men and several Wolverines. There were so many others, some that I recognised, others that I didn’t, so diverse and sometimes eccentric were their costumes.
There were opportunities for autographs and professional photographs and there was a large number of vendors around the convention selling food, merchandise and memorabilia such as framed photos, toys, figurines and replica items. Other guests included Hayley Atwell (Marvel’s Agent Certer), Billy Zane (Back to the Future), Mark Sheppard (Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica) and David Anders (iZombie and Heroes) plus many more. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming and the convention was suitable for families.
The first guest that I tracked down at the convention was Richard Karn, star of the 90s TV show Home Improvement in which he played the character of Al Borland, alongside Tim Allen. It was a show that my very much enjoyed watching with my Dad when I was a teen and I still have very fond memories of the show, so it was a genuine pleasure to meet him and thank him for his work on the show.
Throughout the day I posted my photos to Twitter and in the afternoon I was delighted to see that Richard had retweeted the photo that I had taken of us together. I passed by and gave him an Al Borland salute and he called me over to explain the story behind the gesture, which was a rare treat.
It was fun to have a brief chat with Gareth David-Lloyd, star of Torchwood, the Dr Who spin off show that ran for 41 episodes between 2006 - 2011.
Gareth is a regular guest at Wales Comic Con having appeared nine times and his current project Black River Meadow can be found here: https://www.blogtorwho.com/new-kickstarter-gareth-david-lloyds-black-river-meadow/
Speaking of Dr Who, I also briefly met Sylvester McCoy.
Next I met George Wendt, star of Cheers. He told me about his time on the tremendously popular Boston-based sitcom in which he appeared in all 271 episodes between 1982-1993. His latest project is The Greatest American Hero, a re-boot of the 80s show.
An extremely popular Wales Comic Con guest, Warwick Davis, star of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and the Harry Potter films had a very long queue of fans waiting to speak to him. He took time to interact with fans and I commented on his penmanship when signing autographs for the fans, for which he thanked me.
I got the chance to speak to him about my memories of watching the Ewok spin off films Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor as a youngster. He also told me about his current TV Show: Tenable which is on ITV, weekdays at 3pm.
It was a real pleasure to meet John Rhys-Davies, star of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - a masterpiece of modern cinema - and to take the opportunity to speak to him about his upcoming projects Six Fresh Eggs, an antipodean six part series full of black humour and another show named Celtic which he suggests could be bigger than Game of Thrones! Of course I’m kicking myself for not asking him about his role as Sallah in the Indiana Jones films, how could I have forgotten?
I was impressed by his intelligence and charm, especially in his Lord of the Rings Q&A panel when he spoke in detail about life extension with both insightfulness and humour, as well as his sincerity when speaking about his love of Wales and how he hopes his next project will have a positive economic effect on the film and tourism prospects for Wales.
Wales Comic Con kept delivering quality guests and next I had a friendly chat with Frankie Muniz star of Malcolm in the Middle. Muniz is someone who it’s simply impossible not to like! He’s clearly extremely passionate about everything that he does and it’s no wonder at all that his TV show ran for 151 episodes between 2000-2006 and was extremely popular.
Next up was Danny John Jules who plays Cat in the long-running UK BBC hit TV show Red Dwarf and Dwayne in Death in Paradise. As previously mentioned Danny is part of the DNA of Wales Comic Con and it was brilliant to speak to such a friendly and engaging guy. We spoke of the brilliance of two British TV shows from the 70s and 80s; Rising Damp and Porridge and the stars of these shows Leonard Rossiter, Ronnie Barker, Don Warrington and Richard Beckinsale; all very fine actors. Red Dwarf really does deserves it's place next to these great British comedies.
Fans were queuing for several hours for the chance to meet their favourite actors. The queues were being well managed by convention crew and they were moving as quickly as possible. Speaking to fans - they told me that it was well worth the wait. Queuing is a natural part of conventions and it can also be fun as it’s a time to interact with other fans, swap stories and make new friends. I think everyone who attends a convention leaves with new fiends. Social media makes it increasingly simple to keep in touch and meet up again at future events. if you’re going to a convention don’t be afraid to speak to people, everyone is friendly and will have shared experiences.
So popular and enduring is Buffy the Vampire Slayer that the four guests had their own room.
I had a brief, sound-only, interview with Clare Kramer who played Glory for 13 episodes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Glory was the big bad in season 5 and she is also well known and well loved for her role as Courtney in Bring It On. Listen to the interview.
My final video interview was with Marc Blucas, who played the character of Riley Finn - Buffy’s boyfriend - for 31 episodes. In his own words, Finn was not well liked - fans simply preferred the bad guys Angel and Spike. However, over time the character has gained popularity - no doubt because, in real life, Marc is such a likeable and warm guy. Despite being relatively new to the convention circuit he’s an excellent panel guest, confident, quick-witted and not afraid to share an interesting story or two. Marc has been working as an actor for many years, carefully balancing it with his home life. He also had an enjoyable role starring as Rodney the fireman - boyfriend of Cameron Diaz’s character in the film Knight and Day where he also worked alongside Tom Cruise. We also spoke of the brilliance of director James Mangold who has directed some modern classics including Girl Interrupted, Walk the Line, Knight and Day and Logan. Speaking to Marc was an unexpected highlight.
Finally I had the chance to grab a quick photo with two more Buffy the Vampire Slayer actors, two of the headline stars of the day - in my opinion - Anthony Stewart Head and Juliet Landau. Both immensely popular, they were guilty of creating a very long line of fans eager to meet them for autographs and photos.
Anthony Stewart Head who played librarian Giles for 123 episodes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was self-effacing and polite - much like his character in the TV show. We briefly spoke of his role in the Nescafe Gold Blend adverts and of course of his role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He had earlier been involved in the Q&A panel and had treated fans to a few lines of singing from his role as Frank N. Furter in the Rocky Horror Show. As fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will know, he’s a fantastic vocalist and guitarist. In more recent years he’s been popular for his roles as the Prime Minister in the TV show Little Britain and as Nigel Bowen in the film A Street Cat Named Bob.
Juliet Landau who played Drusilla may have only been in Buffy the Vampire Slayer for 17 episodes (and 7 episodes of Angel) but her presence and impact on the show was much greater and far reaching. She has a legion of Undead fans and is currently working on creating the definitive vampire docu-series A Place Among the Undead: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-place-among-the-undead#/
Juliet is part of an acting family. She is the daughter of the late, great actor Martin Landau - who I adored in The Majestic as Harry Trimble alongside Jim Carrey, as Commander John Koenig in Space 1999, as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, in which Juliet also had a role as Loretta King, Juliet’s mother Barbara Bain also starred in Space 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell and Mission Impossible as Cinnamon Carter, in which her father Martin also starred as Rollin Hand.
Actors travel huge distances to attend conventions but even after long flights they’re friendly and charming with their fans, they speak eloquently about their experiences and have excellent recall of the shows in which they’ve appeared. The Q&A panels were enjoyable and informative and free for all to attend. They were held in the main lecture hall which was the perfect venue with made for purpose seating and stage. The Q&A panels offered fans the opportunity to ask their favourite actors questions. These sessions threw up some interesting interactions between fans and the guest stars and felt unique and special. It’s clearly special to the fans who often have their own stories of how a show, or the actions of a certain character, helped them through difficult times in their own lives. I overheard several fans telling heartfelt stories to the guest stars when they were signing autographs. A convention such as Wales Comic Con offers them the chance to do this and the guest stars react genuinely and warmly to their stories.
The organisers of Wales Comic Con, Mercury Promotions UK, really have got everything right, their attention to detail in the organisation and planning process means that everything runs smoothly for both the guests and the fans. So many fantastic TV shows and movies, both old and new, were represented by their stars including Supernatural, Gotham, Dr Who, Heroes, Red Dwarf and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it really was an amazing convention.