Over the Easter holiday weekend we had the Edinburgh Comic Con, organised by Hero Conventions. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to attend since they relocated to the modern Edinburgh International Conference Centre, a handy city-centre location closed to transport hubs, plenty of local amenities and most importantly, lots and lots of room for the convention. The con actually took over two huge spaces inside the centre, with fans also colonising the corridors etc as handy places to have a sit down, cool off a bit (gets hot even in a large space with so many people present, must have been boiling for some of the cosplayers in heavier costumes), chat and refresh themselves before plunging back into the main halls again, or the decent-sized side-hall that was being used for panels and discussions.
(Above, Neil Slorance, mid-sale to a comics buyer, below AP Barratt with his Scottish politics tinged EviL Dr Eye. Pics from my Flickr, click for the larger versions)
There was a really lovely vibe to the event right from the start – despite being extremely busy when I arrived on Saturday, the queues for day tickets were moving pretty easily, and for those (like me) who had a wristband pass already, we could stroll straight in, conference centre staff on hand keeping it all moving, directing folks and keeping a discreet eye out while remaining fairly low key. Saturday was cool but beautifully bright, and I saw groups of fans approaching the centre, some pausing in the spring sunshine to finish donning parts of costumes before entering, and it was especially nice to see such a great age range, both among fans and cosplayers, kids, teens, adults, and lots of kids with their parents (there was a very child/family friendly feel to it all, which helped give the whole event a rather nice, warm and welcoming feeling).
I didn’t get to see more than a few moments of some of the panels, sticking my head into the decent-sized side room put aside for the discussions, but I spent several hours (the afternoon vanished before I realised it) circulating around the two main halls, if one was getting a little too busy in one part (such as when they had wrestling on – yes, proper wrestling ring set up in one hall!) I’d move around another part, browse away and chat to folks, getting to say hello to some creators there with stalls that I had heard of but not met before, and also – always one of the pleasures of such conventions – getting to meet to others I’ve known for years but mostly only get to see in person at conventions.
The crowds were large, but thankfully with so much space in those two big main halls it never felt too crowded, there was none of the bumping into people on one side of an aisle between the stall as you went down the other, which can be a problem at some other gigs. Here there was plenty of room for the tables, with the comickers mostly down one half of a large hall, merchandise stalls down the other side, with more around the edges, including fan groups (Ghostbusters, Star Trek and more groups, most in costume).
There were impressive, full-sized replicas and props, such as a classic Landspeeder from the original Star Wars movie (and yes, they were kind enough to let folk sit in it to pose for photos!, a life-sized Wampa from The Empire Strikes Back, Artoo Deetoo next to Han Solo in Carbonite, a TARDIS with a Dalek guarding it (later on I saw that Dalek gliding around the convention, to the delight of many fans. Thankfully no-one was exterminated). In the second hall, along with the wrestling ring there were more merch stalls and displays of some cracking LEGO creations (I loved the LEGO Helli-carrier from SHIELD), a row of vintage arcade coin-op machines (I was going to revisit my teens by playing them, but today’s youngsters were too busy having fun on them!) and it was also great to see several table-top strategy and RPG games being played out.
Chatting with the creators on their stalls, most seemed pretty happy with how busy the first day had been, most reporting doing good business, some that lived within Edinburgh, or at least in easy reach of the city, were considering grabbing more stock from home to bring in for the Sunday crowd, which was pretty encouraging. As well as just enjoying a good excuse to walk around in costume, cosplayers were also offered a chance to visit a proper mini photo studio so they could be photographed at their best in their costumes.
There was a nice mix of very professional costumes, a lot obviously put together painstakingly at home – unsurprisingly there were several Harley Quinns (all different styles), adult and wee girls donning Supergirl costumes, Colonial Marines, Trekkers, Sith, Jedi, a large variety of anime favourites, I had my Star-Lord jacket on and one of the first cosplayers I passed was in full Star-Lord costume complete with mask, and we gave each other a thumbs-up. Several signs around the venue reminded anyone who was too stupid to realise it that cosplay costumes do no mean you can just reach out and touch someone without permission, but thankfully I didn’t see any of that (still good to see the con making it clear though), and both adult, child and family groups of cosplayers all seemed to be having so much fun.
I was especially delighted that among various movie style Batman costumes I met this couple who were doing more old-school Batman and Robin, and they were kind enough to let me grab a snap, as was a lady I met who had a fabulous TARDIS dress, and again she was kind enough to pose for a quick pic for me. I bumped into a colleague who was there with her husband and her wee daughter, who was dressed as Rey from The Force Awakens, and surely must be a contender for Cutest Jedi Padawan! It’s also good that young girls have heroes like Rey in contemporary science fiction and comics, and that they’re having such fun getting to dress up as them at cons.
I heard from friends who were along on the Sunday, and it seems like again everyone was having a terrific time – a very busy, well-attended event, and yet despite the large crowds moving around between the halls there was plenty of space, and things were running in a good-natured way with a happy vibe, lots of smiling fans. I’m sure the behind the scenes organisation was much more frantic, but the front-end experience for the con-goers was smooth, happy and fun, a very good job by all concerned. Roll on next year’s con!