Having just returned from yet another brilliantly executed Edinburgh Comic Con, I thought it best to record my thoughts as soon as possible so here I am getting them written down.
For the last few years, I had been Front of House and the growth in numbers of attendees never really let me get in to see the con in full swing except during breaks or when the day was winding down. Also, with great knowledge comes a great weakness. It has taken me years to accrue my comic knowledge so standing all day for two days and helping with the setup on the day previous takes a toll. The only problem with helping to set up is that you get to start spending money a whole 24 hours earlier than the customers! So by the end of the set-up, I was already out by £20!
Thankfully, the general of this Fred Karno’s Army is aware that some of us are on the wrong side of 40 and soon to be on the wrong side of 50! So James took pity on me and put me with the Panels and Workshops team where we actually get a chance to sit down once in a while!
Before I got started on the panels, one of the big stars arrived and they do not come much bigger than Clive Russell! He met James Lundy, the heart and brains behind the convention while several of us named the roles where we had first become aware of him. On hearing the number of his one-off roles being named, Clive had to ask if the volunteers had been paid to name these roles!
I have a confession to make here and that is that I am not a panels fan. In the previous four ECC’s, I attended a total of one panel and that was because I was going to make sure I was not going to miss out on seeing Comic Book Men during their UK visit. In fact since 2013, I have attended 5 other panels and workshops at other conventions and they have been concentrated on British comic history. Two were on Commando, one was on The Looking Glass, a fourth was on the use of comic art in the narrative (a great workshop by Nigel Dobbyn that is worth catching anywhere) and the fifth was on the use of Scots language in newspapers and comics since the 16th Century by Dr Michael Dempster.
As you can see, I am no panel junkie and I had low expectations and when I saw the first talk was about Lego, my expectations sunk even lower. And then the panel began. Rod Gilles and Warren Elsmore spoke about how they got into Lego. Rod explained that he writes books in conjunction with Lego, so he has to deal with techniques that are classed as legal and illegal techniques. When these were first mentioned, Rod explained that these were not to to do with the stresses and strains put on the bricks but were to do with the Lego ethos that pleasantly surprised us as it was not one we would expect in a multi-billion multinational.
The Lego ethos is not to design something so complicated that you need a PHd in Civil Engineering to build it or a small room filled with every single piece produced since 1947 to create your own adventures. The ethos is to give each and every child a build experience that the child will enjoy and will encourage the child to see each build success as their own so that they continue to grow as a person and a player of lego.
Warren then chimed in with his experiences and advised that his builds were not for Lego books to encourage children but were more for the non-Lego fan who likes to see cool stuff being built out of lego be it St Pancras Station or the National Museum of Scotland. While Warren did not operate with the same parameters that Rod deals with, Warren said that as an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego) he is still in contact with Lego and consults with them on various projects.
As the panel went on, I became more and more engaged with the panel and suddenly found old memories of building Battlestar Galactica out of the hand me down lego that I inherited way back in the 1970s/1980s. And this panel took my expectations from rock bottom to sky high as I recognised two men that were as passionate about their vocation and could talk about it in a way to engage fan and non-fan alike. And if this was what one panel was like, what were the rest going to be like?
The next panel featured a UK actor that has managed to crack Hollywood and that was Dominic Keating. Now most people will know Dominic Keating from his role as Malcolm Reed in Star Trek: Enterprise the sixth incarnation of Star Trek (seventh if you include the movies as a separate incarnation) but those of us who have been following Dominic for a little longer will know that he appeared in the seminal British comedy series Desmonds as the young apprentice Tony. This was a seminal show as it was the first British comedy show to have a majority black cast. Until then, the only shows to have a large black cast were American shows and Desmonds broke that barrier in UK broadcasting by not only having such a diverse cast, but by being such a good show to watch.
Dominic’s tales ranged far and wide from his connections with the Pleasance Theatre Trust to his experiences in Los Angeles in auditioning for Voyager and the strange bird like impersonations by John Billingsley. He also recounted a great tale about Norman Beaton who played the title role in Desmonds. When Norman first migrated to the UK, one of his earliest jobs was as a maths teacher in Liverpool and Dominic told a great tale of how Norman dealt with unruly pupils.
All this and I have not even mentioned meeting the gentleman and legend that is Ian Kennedy.
Part 2 is to follow in the next few days.