The Storming of the Troops at ComicCon Leicester 2017
By midlandsmovies, Jun 5 2017 09:57AM
Editor Mike Sales decides to go “full cosplay” and leaves his post as Midlands Movies Editor to play Stormtrooper TK-421 in his third visit to one of Leicester’s most successful comic and film events of the year...
Could it be a hat-trick of successful events for Comic Con Leicester?
Well, at first glance it sure was. With a sold-out weekend of exciting entertainment ahead, CCL has grown year on year and organisers Gavin Lee-Pate and Richard Tewkesbury have set such high standards during the previous 2 years (see our 2015 and 2016 reports) that expectations were high.
But from the outset they showed why their event is one of the hottest tickets in town with a whole host of artists, stalls, film fans, cosplayers and shop stands included within the magnificent Athena venue. We said before, but will say again to those new, that this unique venue used to be the city’s Odeon cinema and its tiered balconies give this event a special cinematic flavour. It results in having much more character that is far removed from the huge impersonal arenas of larger Comic Cons.
So, what were the differences and highlights of this year? First up, I decided to experience going in my first ever full cosplay outfit to truly understand the nature of these events from a fan perspective. Kindly, film music composer, DJ and my very good friend Damon Baxter (aka the ‘Deadly Avenger’) suggested I get fully kitted in his professional Stormtrooper costume. www.deadlyavenger.co.uk
“It was made by the original guy from the 1977 moulds”, he had glee in telling me, “but you basically cannot move in it, stairs are almost a no-no and wear as little as possible underneath as you will sweat. A lot”.
The rumours of on-set fainting were soon too easy to understand as I stepped into a black ‘onesie’ before Damon helped strapped the plastic armour plating to my limbs. And yes, it does take 2 people to get dressed properly!
So, now it had been removed from the mannequin and was fully on my 6-foot frame we walked (waddled) round the corner to Leicester's Cultural Quarter to enter the show. Beforehand, Damon and I had broadcast two Facebook Live videos as we were also planning to handout some Star Wars related goodie bags throughout the day as a thank you to the attendees and our followers over the years.
Click here to see the first two Facebook live videos:
Once at the entrance , the organisers had arranged for a Jurassic Park jeep plus a great dinosaur model that actually moved when someone got inside it, which ‘welcomed’ the attendees to the event. Outside with the sun shining and the soaring John Williams score in the background, it was therefore made a pleasurable place to relax as well, when the event crowds became busy. And it gave a suitable area for socialising and photography too.
Now inside, me (in my outfit) felt right at home with a Star Wars droid display and full-size (!) Jabba the Hut model. This had a constant stream of fans lying next to him whilst giving their best Princess Leia reclining pose. Upstairs was a speeder bike and we both just had to have a go on that of course as well.
One of our first stops was with artist Ryan Button of RB Illustrations. His third time at the event too, his local film-inspired art (and images from our own MM event posters) have always gone down well with fans looking for a retro-infused poster, card or pin badge. http://rbillustration.com
Next to Ryan was Rob Hill Author who was promoting his book The Bad Movie Bible which celebrated the best of the worst films of all time. With 15 years in post-production working on films such as 28 Days Later, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Harry Potter series Rob is well placed to understand what makes a movie bad.
Soon after we were working ourselves along the busy aisles to check the further talent on show. The outfit helped as people (mostly) got out of my way when seeing me – the Empire still flexing its might – but the lack of vision through the small green tinted lenses of the helmet was limiting to say the least.
After a few hours of experiencing the full delights – panels were announced through the day, body painting showed great artistry (and a lot of flesh!) and the retro gaming had queues of children trying to beat Pokemon experts – I decide to take a break from the main arena.
Once outside, the true spirit of the convention was obvious to see. Strangers chatted, people laughed and many photographs were taken. From elaborate Manga costumes to home-made outfits using tape and cardboard, it really didn’t matter what approach people had taken as everyone was relishing the variety of delights on show.
“Are you naked?” I ask one lady who came up to me to ask for a photo. “Mostly”, was her reply, “I’ve got body paint on as part of the Midlands Body Paint Project”. My helmet hid my blushing as we posed for a photo and off she went into the crowd. More seriously however, the body paint project was a true highlight, particularly the brave men and women who wait patiently as talented artists work on their full torsos and beyond. These creatives draw intricate designs which, this year, was mostly amazing Guardians of the Galaxy characters. On day 2, when out of the confines of my costume, I too got more photos with Yondu and Drax, both in an impressive array of multicoloured make-up. www.facebook.com/MidlandsBodypaintProject/
As mentioned, the Stromtrooper experience was great but I headed back to Comic Con on Day 2 in my ‘civvies’ where I was able to speak more freely to many of the excellent artists. Here I witnessed the great local talent and the following were just a small selection of the gifted creatives who attended.
First up, comic artist Chris Sides is the writer of the self-published Dark Matter anthologies and was promoting his soon-to-be-released new graphic novel Impossible, yet we strangely bonded most over our chats about the problems with the Batman V Superman film. www.chrissideswriter.com
Next to Chris (and throwing in his own disapproval of BvS) was writer and creator Jay Martin of YMJ. With a deep love of everything comics, sci-fi and fantasy from an early age it has led him to create stories of his own and he was here with his ALV and Domeinion comics. www.yeahwritejay.co.uk
Up next was Spike Baxter-Gale of Metamorphosis Arts which encompassed his love of all types of art, from photography and illustration to film. With canvases ranging from the Joker to FrankenFurter the simplistic designs were a popular choice amongst the crowd. www.metarts.uk. Attic Studios were once again in attendance also with their trio of artists Dan Harris, Kris Carter & Jim Bampfield. With a variety of styles between them. I was drawn to Harris’ work and even bought a superb postcard of retro icons of the 80s. A prize if you can name all of the below! www.atticstudios.website
Hometown girl and animation student Bianca of BBZ art had a superb portfolio of designs focused on visual development, characters and concepts for animation and storytelling. http://beebeezed.storenvy.com. Eat My Paint artist Lloyd Davies brought a lot of fun to his comic designs as he created beautiful images made solely in Microsoft Paint. His books, stickers and request table helped attract fans with his laugh out loud work. https://tapas.io/series/eatmypaint
Lauren Livesey is talented artist who is “in love with stars, women and dogs” and her fantastic astrological and fairy tale inspired images of strong women and fantasy figures made sure the magic was in full flow throughout the convention. www.laurenlivesey.co.uk. Finally, we also managed to swing by and chat to Phoebe Hancox who specialises in storyboards, characters, posters and prints. Her intricate line drawings had a dark gothic quality incorporating mysterious and sacred symbolism. phoebehancoxillustration.carbonmade.com
Phew! As I said, this was just a small selection we managed to involve ourselves in and there were dozens more talented individuals with an eclectic range of work on show. There was also plenty of stalls selling merchandise and food and it’s safe to say everyone who gave their time worked their hardest to make the community event successful.
Shops and stalls sold everything from retro toys to the obligatory Funko Pops and books. “Look, there’s a great Alien Anthology art book there”, I exclaimed to Damon. “Don’t talk to me about Alien. It’s dead to me now”, he jokes, still reeling from his recent disappointment about the latest instalment Covenant. He won’t let that damn flute go! Ha ha.
As the event came to a close we again ran into Gavin (one of the organisers) and he looked the calmest I’d ever seen him. A man of few words, he didn’t need to say much in order to show how happy he was with this year’s event. And as someone who ended up sweaty and unable to pee in a Stormtrooper costume, I couldn’t have been happier myself. It was an absolute pleasure to see the faces on those who came up to me to grab a photo, and from 5 to 50, the diverse range of joyful fans in attendance was testament to the professionalism and experience of this now faultless event.
Midlands Movies Mike
Check out the Facebook Live videos from Day 2:
Day 2 Comic Con: https://www.facebook.com/midlandsmovies/videos/2042257519342032/
Day 2 (part 2): https://www.facebook.com/midlandsmovies/videos/2042258836008567/