Saturday 12th July 2014 was a momentous date for me. It was, after many years of being something of a nerd, my first ever trip to any kind of Comic Con. How I had waited so long is beyond me really, especially since my personality type can roughly be described as "develops huge obsessions and likes dressing up."
Speaking of dressing up, my outfit was, in my own words "TARDIS with a 50's vintage edge." It looked like this...
Yes, I regretted 5" heels. Enormously. And yes, I spilt water on my dress. No, I did not wet myself with excitement. Honest.
It's a frankly bizarre and yet altogether wonderful experience to arrive at an event and immediately be greeted by a sea of incredible costumes. I saw Ariel from The Little Mermaid chatting away to Belle from Beauty And The Beast. I saw the title characters from 2 Broke Girls hanging out with Austin Powers. And I saw what felt like a hundred David Tennants and Matt Smiths, each one having faithfully recreated their favourite Doctor's look. For a Whovian like me, it was pretty much heaven. Oh and I saw Ben from the boy band A1. But that wasn't cosplay, he was just there...
Of course, the plan had been to take loads of photos of the costumes I saw, but in the end, I was so busy going from one photo shoot to another and generally gawping at my surroundings, I never got around to it. I can only apologise profusely and say that when I go again, I will be much, much better at documenting the event in picture form. I can, however, share a photo of my friend Lizzie's rather awesome homemade Skyrim costume:
Live by the sword, die by the sword, cosplay with a sword.
My biggest reason for wanting to go to London Film & Comic Con was to have a photo taken with people from Doctor Who. And so, shortly after getting into Earl's Court, I found myself standing in a line, looking at Jenna Coleman having her picture taken with a succession of admirers. People in the queue were excitedly whispering to one another: "She's just as pretty as I thought she'd be..." and "Oh, she's so dinky!" Okay, so that last one was me... I can't help it; I'm short and I get excited when other people are, too. My one gripe about the photo shoot with Jenna was how rushed it felt. She was one of the biggest stars at the convention and obviously a lot of people had booked to have their pictures taken with her, so there wasn't much time for chit-chat. It was "hello" *smile* "bye." Still, even if we didn't exactly shoot the breeze, I can still say I've met her and as I said en route to the convention, surely hugging Jenna Coleman is like hugging Matt Smith by proxy?! So... I've totally (almost) hugged Matt Smith. Or something. Anyway, she was very sweet and yes, she really is as pretty in real life as she is on screen:
Girl is just super photogenic. I am... Less so.
I could have gotten a ticket for Jenna's autograph queue and paid to have something signed and therefore had a bit of a conversation with her, but to be honest, there was so much to see and do that I just didn't end up getting any autographs (I did try to get to meet Bernard Cribbins, but alas, I arrived at his queue a little too late - gutted!). My other photo shoot of the day was with the eighth Doctor - Paul McGann. He was a total gentleman and it was lovely to see the way he made a point of shaking everyone's hand as they reached the front of the photo queue and he had a little chat with each person he posed with. I had taken my little sonic screwdriver with me and in a flash of inspiration, I cheekily asked him to hold it in our photo. Which he did. Upside down. I didn't realise until afterwards and I thought it was hilarious! It makes my picture with him even more unique than it already was...
Paul has just accidentally sonic'd his nipples off.
Also, how slender is Paul McGann?! WHAT IS YOUR SECRET, PAUL?!
The photo shoots are, although rather pricey and time-consuming (don't get me started on people with higher ticket numbers being allowed into the queue before people with lower ones...), a really lovely memento and I'm thrilled with mine. A photograph, to me at least, is more precious than a squiggle on a piece of paper or a picture. Yes, I'll try to ensure I get a couple of autographs next time I go, but the photos are more important to me. I mean, come on. That's a picture of me and the Doctor!
So, my Whovian geekery aside, what did I make of my first ever Comic Con experience?! Well, I had a great time, but there were a lot of things I'd either do differently or I wish the organisers had done differently. With that in mind, I started thinking it would be a good idea to write a little list of things a first-time attendee might want to bear in mind. Here goes:
1. Maps, maps, maps.
Earl's Court is massive. And when it's packed with stalls, photo areas, areas for guests to give talks, autograph tables and of course thousands of people wanting to get their geek on, it's not always easy to remember where everything is. I didn't think there were that many maps dotted around the place and the ones that were up on the walls weren't always easy to get to, because so many people were looking at them. With that in mind, a top tip is to take a photo of the first site map and photo shoot/talk schedule you see up on the wall. That way, when you want to know where to go for your next photo shoot, or what time a talk is happening, you can look at your picture and avoid having to find a map all over again.
I'm the daughter of a retired RAF officer and I was pretty sure that I was attending my first Comic Con with pretty much military preparation. However, I still managed to lose time I could have spent trying to get Bernard Cribbins' autograph by getting distracted by obsessively checking the photo shoot schedules and trying to plan a meeting place, should my friend and I lose one another. Next time, I will do what I would advise any first-timer to do: Look at the guest list and decide who you want to get an autograph from. If you've got photo shoots booked, as soon as you've see the schedule for the shoots, you can plan when to go and get autographs in between having photos done. I wish I had done that, rather than insist on going from photo shoot to photo shoot, because there's nothing sadder than the sight of a 31 year old woman, sadly mouthing "But...Wilf!" after being told that Bernard Cribbins' queue was being cut.
3. Choose your outfit wisely.
I loved my TARDIS dress and I loved that I made it a bit more "me" by investing in a 1950's rockabilly underskirt to wear under it. However, I made the mistake of thinking I could wear high heels because "I wear them all the time." The thing is, I'm not always walking as much as I was on Saturday and I'm not always carrying as much as I was on the day (extra tip: take bottled water and snacks to save cash; you want to be spending money on cool stuff from the stalls or autographs from celebrities, after all!). Five inch stilettos are fine for a night out dancing, especially once alcohol has numbed you to the pain, but I wore mine from 7:30am until 7:30pm on Saturday and my feet (and hips, strangely enough) are still killing me. It's chunky, lower heels for me, next time. Or flats.
Also, think about how hot it gets. Because believe me, thousands of people walking around in an enclosed space with little to no air conditioning... It's hotter than the devil's sauna in there. So if you struggle in the heat, don't wear anything that's going to make it hard to breathe or get air to your skin. I was okay, but I saw a few people who were veering on the wrong side of "sweltering."
4. Take photos!
I planned to take loads of cosplay photos (asking the cosplayers permission first, obviously - best not to "pap" them). In the event, however, I was so awestruck by some of the fantastic outfits - and so busy doing other things - that I just completely forgot. I wish I had loads of incredible pictures to show you, because believe me, the costumes on display were absolutely brilliant . If you check out this fab website, you can see a gallery of cosplay pictures (and if you go to their Doctor Who section, you might see someone you recognise...).
5. Just enjoy it!
Yes, you're bound to panic about getting stuck in a queue and not making it to your next photo shoot, or you may be nervous about meeting a celebrity whose work you've admired for years. But the best tip to take with you to Comic Con? Just enjoy yourself! Look around the stalls and see if you can find something awesome to bring home (I treated myself to a TARDIS necklace). Have photo shoots, get autographs and go to talks (the talk Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat did was brilliant and gave me the charming mental image of Matt Smith, dangling from a harness which emphasised his man-bits, whilst his trousers slowly started to fall off...). Chat to other fans. Dress up if you want to. But above all, just enjoy the day. Remember that no matter how hot or tired you are, you're at an awesome event that will hopefully provide you with memories to treasure. And of course, on the flip-side, if you are hot and tired, get some air and sit down for a while - you can always go back in when you feel like you've had a bit of a breather and you'll enjoy yourself more if you're being sensible and looking after yourself. Just have a plan of action, don't panic and have fun.
Hopefully I'll see you there, next time!