London Film and Comic Con 2017 REVIEW
Cosplays, comics and cupcakes galore.
Photography by Andrew Johnson
London Film and Comic Con (LFCC) 2017 took place this past weekend at Kensington Olympia in London. Promoted as “bring[ing] you some of your favourite stars from TV, Film and Comics as well as a whole host of fun activities including photo shoots, panels, autograph sessions and hundreds of stalls full of TV and Film memorabilia to browse” by Showmasters, the company who runs the annual LFCC events, I was excited to see what this year’s convention would have in store for me.
As always, LFCC boasted an impressive amount of media guests, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Natalie Dormer, Kevin Smith, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Madsen, Benedict Wong, Alan Tudyk, Wil Wheaton, rare signer Conleth Hill, and many, many more. Showmasters employs a “virtual queue” system which I prefer to that of many other cons: if you want to meet a celeb, you take a numbered raffle ticket and then you can join a small (5-10 people) queue to meet the guest any time after your number is called. So, if you had, say, number 200, you could go and get your stack of DVDs signed any time after number 200 was called by the crew member attending to the line. It’s a good system that means you don’t have to spend your whole day queuing–you can go explore the con and periodically check in to see if your number’s been called yet. Showmasters has a very strict “no photo” policy when it comes to most of the guests at their tables–hence why the header photo for this section isn’t a selfie of me with Natalie Dormer–but we did see Cumberbatch (being escorted by two gigantic security guards) with a small army of fans running alongside him to take selfies and candids, so maybe some people were luckier than us. You could, of course, buy a photograph session with the guests, and pay for a professional shot with them at a scheduled time throughout the day.
As always, cosplay was a large part of LFCC, and it really does add something special to the con when you’re browsing through longboxes and you look up to see a giant inflatable Baymax waddling through the row. LFCC catered to cosplayers with cosplay masquerades and special cosplay guests, who had their own small booths to show off their cosplay props, weapons and more to those who were curious about how to create their own costumes. I know there’s often grumblings about how conventions have been “taken over” by cosplay these days, but honestly, I don’t see the harm in it. People have been costuming since comic cons have been around, it just has a bigger culture these days. Cosplayers add an extra layer of fun to cons, and it’s especially charming when you see little kids getting excited to meet their favourite heroes. It doesn’t do any harm, and I got to meet both Doctor Strange and Boromir in one weekend, so I’m a happy camper.
LFCC boasted both a “Comics Zone” where you could meet your favourite comics creators (and attend panels, have them sign things etc.) as well as plenty of stalls selling comics and comics merch. Though LFCC is generally more of a media focused con, I’d say it’s worth a visit for the die-hard comics fan who doesn’t care about things like anime, film or TV. There’s plenty of longboxes for you to dig through, Bowen statues to drool over and, as I already mentioned, the first floor Comics Zone was dedicated entirely to comic creators and comic books. The Comics Zone at LFCC boasted some big names including Marv Wolfman, Mark Buckingham, Jessica Martin, Kieron Gillen, Emma Vieceli and many more. Here, you could commission artists to draw your favourite characters, purchase comics from creators and publishers like Titan and Markosia, or check out the work of the independent artists who were showcasing their art alongside more established creators. Everyone was friendly and happy to talk to me about their work, and I appreciated that LFCC had a separate area for comics-specific guests, even if it was relatively small compared to the other areas of the convention.
Dealers’ stalls are a large part of every con, and LFCC was no exception. You could buy a wide range of products from expensive resin statues to Japanese snack foods, and of course, there were boxes and boxes of comics on offer for you to dig into.
I’ve talked about this before, in my MCM review, but a lot of stalls were selling stolen or counterfeit merchandise. Now, some of this, in my opinion, is less harmful than others. There is, of course, a very strong argument that no-one should be selling anything that isn’t genuine, I understand that. But there were plenty of stalls selling fake, cheap Lego that were advertising the fact that what they were selling was not genuine. They had signs up saying things like “Not Lego, but compatible with Lego figures and sets.” To me, this is fine–they’re at least advertising the fact that they’re not the ones to visit if you’re looking for genuine Lego minifigs. But one stall in particular annoyed me with its blatant theft: there was a stall run by two people who were literally Googling copyrighted images and printing them onto mugs, badges and more at the convention itself. Without shame, in full view of everyone, just searching up photos of Supernatural and Walking Dead actors, and slapping them onto wallets. I don’t want to call anyone out here because I didn’t confront them at the con (for all I know, they have a license to do all this, although that seems laughable) but if anyone from Showmasters wants to contact me, I can provide further info. (I should also point out that the image above is not the stall in question!)
Was it worth the con flu?
I’ve been attending LFCC events since 2010, and Showmasters seems to be steadily improving the way it handles the cons. Despite some minor hiccups (including cancelling the press conference at the last minute and not rescheduling it), the con went smoothly and I didn’t have any major issues. All the staff and crew members I talked to were friendly and helpful, as were all of the comic creators who, to be fair, are always lovely. Also, the stalls selling homemade cupcakes and fudge were the best thing ever. Thank you, sweet treat vendors, you saved me from many a sugar crash during the weekend with your cakes crafted with tiny Game of Thrones style dragon eggs as decoration.
If I could change some things about LFCC, I’d make the Comics Zone larger and draw more focus to comics at the event (though I understand that budgets don’t always allow for this) and move the big cosplay stalls away from the outer edge of the halls. Having a life sized Chewbacca cosplayer is a beautiful thing, but when he’s standing at the edge of the hall with fifty people trying to get a photo of him, it creates some blockages! Moving the “photo opportunity” cosplayers into a larger space would’ve helped with the flow of people throughout the day.
If you’re a fan of anything geeky, I’d recommend London Film and Comic Con as a definite visit when it rolls around next year. They always offer a plethora of media guests, a good variety of dealers’ stalls, and Olympia is a pretty nice venue, considering it’s basically just two big halls in the middle of London. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, even if I did catch con flu and will now spend the next fortnight in bed, watching Netflix and sneezing into a stack of Thor comics.
Showmasters host events throughout the UK and beyond, and you can find out more about their conventions on their official website.