Last weekend I attended Comic Con Liverpool 2019. As mentioned during my review of CCL 2019, this was just one of many conventions and events I’ve been to over the years.
From Memorabilia and Manchester Film and Comic Con to Collectormania, Bat Con UK, Play Expo, Grimmfest 2018 and more, I’ve been attending conventions, festivals and geek-based events for more than 20 years.
Boy, do I feel old.
Comic Con Liverpool 2019 was pretty good, but if I had to pick out my favourites I’d have to say Play Expo (circa 2013) or the good old days of Memorabilia (during the ’00s).
Those early Memorabilia shows at the Birmingham NEC were just magical. I used to get VERY excited attending those cons.
Outside of conventions, I really enjoyed Grimmfest last year. It was exhaustive, but a heap of fun and my first film festival.
My least favourite?
The MCM cons of late (specifically the Manchester cons) have been rather lacklustre, and I didn’t think much of Destination Star Trek (circa 2015). However, the worst con I attended was a Collectormania con back in 2007, which was held in Milton Keynes that was badly organised and included a LOT of queuing (but that’s a story for another day).
The general rule of thumb?
The best cons are those that offer something of value for the entry fee (regardless of whether you’re purchasing any ‘add-ons’). This can be a solid programme of talks/Q&A sessions, free experiences (photo ops/displays/free-to-play games) and a good collection of friendly guests.
Being a well-organised con also helps. Some of the best cons I’ve been to are those where the organisers know how to manage queues.
Of course the greatest cons are the ones that leave you feeling happy when you leave the convention hall at the end of the day. If you don’t leave happy then it simply wasn’t a good con.
The ever changing face of the con
The convention scene has changed a fair bit over the years, most notably it has grown in popularity. As a result, the cost of going to a convention and getting autographs/photos has increased considerably.
Are cons still offering value for money?
Some are. Some aren’t.
The costs of autographs has gone up, as has photo sessions. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is – if you really want an autograph or photo you had best start saving.
This I can live with. What I can’t turn a blind eye to are conventions that charge to watch talks or those that simply over sell their photo/autograph sessions so that queues become endless and events become stressful.
I get that conventions are a business, but come on, they need to be fun places too. Conventions and events shouldn’t just be about spending copious amounts of money and being stressed out.
When I first started going to conventions – back during the mid-to-late ’90s – conventions were about having access to a selection of celebrities, a heap of trader stalls and most importantly soaking up as much geekdom as possible. As conventions have evolved, some of this elements remain and hopefully they will always be at the core, but some have faded away.
The amount of trader stalls appearing at cons seem to be decreasing and the ones that are there seem to be selling the same products. As much as I love Funko Pop! figures, I do tire of seeing them on almost every stall.
I long for the days where I come across something truly exciting. Like the time I was able to pick up a VHS tape of the ’80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, long before it arrived on DVD.
See, I told you I’ve been going to cons a long time.
The future of cons
So, what would I like to see more of from a con?
- More talks
- More free-to-play games
- Grouped guests (a collection of guests from the same show/movie)
- Quirky trader stalls that offer something unique
- Anniversary movie/TV show screenings
That last one I REALLY want to see happen at UK cons.
This year is the 40th anniversary of Alien, the 30th anniversary of Batman and the 20th anniversary of The Matrix. Conventions should be making use of these anniversaries to incorporate screenings during a con.
I’d happily pay a fiver to watch an anniversary movie screening at a con. Not only would it be a great way to put my feet up for a couple of hours (escaping the hustle and bustle of the convention hall), but it would also add to the day.
If the con could rope in a guest to provide an intro to the movie it would also make it that little bit more special.
Days of conventions past
As you’ve been reading through this post you will have seen a small splattering of images from some of the conventions I’ve attended over the years. This really is only a fraction of the events – there really are far too many to recall.
I also must point out that I’ve not always taken photos at every convention I’ve been to. So, sadly I don’t have any photos of the time I met Kevin Conroy and there is no photographic evidence of meeting Brian Blessed.
I assure you, both actors were very nice to speak to. I always remember the nice ones.
This year I’m determined to do as many geek-based events and activities as possible – ideally one a month. So far I’ve managed:
- Jan: The 40th anniversary screening of Superman: The Movie with guest Jeff East
- Feb: The 30th anniversary of Batman ’89 (aka Bat Con UK) with guest Richard Strange
- March: Comic Con Liverpool 2019
Moving forward, I’ve purchased tickets to Play Expo and I have my eye on a couple of cons up here in Manchester which have the potential to be pretty good. Let’s see what I manage to tick off this year.
So, tell me about your experiences at conventions, events and film festivals. What do you like? What would you like to see more of?
Sound off in the comments section.