Wednesday, 16 July 2014

London Film and Comic Convention 2014 review

London Film and Comic Convention 2014 LFCC
Russell Payne at the London Film and Comic Con 2014 LFCC

I was a guest at the London Film and Comic Convention this past weekend, manning a table for the Jack Kirby Museum and trying to drum up a bit of work. I was travelling from Blackpool with Marvel and DC cover artist John Watson and musician/writer Darrell Till in my surprisingly roadworthy car. We were all staying at the Ibis Shepherds Bush, which was better than expected, with great parking and some particularly impressive wallpaper in reception. The convention was about half an hours walk up the road to Earl's Court.

LFCC Batmobile

Earls Court is hot. Not in the “hey what a hip and happening place!” kind of hot, temperature hot. Maybe it was built before air-conditioning, but the humidity in there made the Eden Project rainforest dome look like the freezer aisle of Morrisons. It was so hot someone cosplaying as Iceman actually melted. Earls Court is also big, a cavernous sprawling aircraft hanger of a space, over 2000 tables, acres of floor and even then the event was split into two halls, the actors, authors and merchandise in the main Earl Court and the comic artists and writers, video games and two Batmobiles in Earls Court's second hall. We were in Earls Court 2, with the Batmobiles. This is a big convention, big venue, big guests and big queues. A preview evening on the Friday followed by two long solid days of talks, photo sessions, signings, sketching, cosplay and very expensive hotdogs or as Earls Court food venders like to call them - “Sausage in a sub roll with onions”

David Hine, Russell Payne and John Watson at LFCC

The Friday night preview was a new concept to me, the event opens from 6pm to 9pm on the Friday evening, with the really keen fans paying to squeeze an extra few hours out of the convention. I had one pre-con commission this year, a girl emailed and asked me to draw “a fat Superman and Batman” for her, so I set up my table between John Watson and David Hine and eagerly awaited her. She never came.

Stan Lee talk at the London Film and Comic Convention 2014

I chatted to one man who had flown in from Poland especially to see Stan, and was overjoyed to have briefly met the man and got his photo. I have some misgivings about the way Stan has hogged the limelight, often at the expense of artists who had more input then him into the characters he is so famous for, but you can't deny the affection so many people have for him, or the unique accomplishment of crossing over from being "famous in comics" to just being "famous".

Stan Lee's talk was a rare opportunity to see him in Europe, allegedly the last European con he'll ever do, so I went along but he didn't really say anything I'd not heard before, I'm sure he does loads of these appearances, and has a fine collection of anecdotes and stories he can roll-out no matter what the questions actually are. If I've heard “I saw a fly climbing down the wall and thought What a cool idea for a Superhero” once I've heard it a million times, not one mention of Jack Kirby either, but the crowd loved Stan and despite his advancing years and increasing frailty, he came across very well, joking with the audience, pausing for applause and laughs that the 2000 strong crowd supplied.

LFCC had an exclusive Stan Lee Funko Pop Vinyl figure too, they've done loads of different Stan Lee ones now, one for each big convention, but there's not a single Jack Kirby Pop Vinyl figure, heck I'd buy one......

Stan wasn't the only big name at LFCC though, it was packed with celebrity guests, I'm used to hanging out with comic writers and artists, but the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) was part of LFCC so there were plenty of other Authors there too- Charlie Higson, Malorie Blackman, Robert Rankin and loads more with an emphasis on fiction for younger readers, hence the Y in YALC. Had a great chat with Robert Rankin, I loved the Brentford Trilogy as a kid so it was interesting chatting to someone who had a real influence on my writing, especially the style of Morris Telford, Robert told me he's working on another Brentford Book, wish I could remember what he said it was called.....

Russell Payne and Robert Rankin

Russell Payne and Robert Rankin at LFCC

One other major highlight was that the organisers of LonCon3 had a couple of big shelving displays with free old science fiction books on them. A "help yourself" sign was a dream come true for someone who loves rifling through secondhand book stores for old Clifford D Simak books, I came home with a stash that would have taken me months of old book shops to find. Looking forward to reading them. 

David Hine came back from the LonCon stall with his own stash of old sci-fi books too and we had a great chat about the joys of vintage science fiction. Well done to LonCon for having such a generous and innovative way to promote their convention, I can't go this year, but I'll hopefully be on the guest list for LonCon4.

And of course the F in LFCC meant lots of movie and TV guests too, Stan Lee's bodyguard went off with the key to the Comic Zone Green Room, so some of us Comic Guests went over to the other Green Room and found ourselves sitting with the cast of Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. Odd, but cool odd. Milo Ventimiglia introduced himself to me, I knew him from Gilmore Girls, but he was in Heroes too, and I'm sure a lot of other stuff. My wife and daughters love Gilmore Girls, it's being re-run in the UK every evening now on Channel 5 so I was used to seeing 2001 Milo, while 2014 Milo has a big black beard and looks about 13 years older, but he was a super nice guy, he recorded a quick "Hi there" for one of my daughters, who now watches it on a loop on her iPad.

I also chatted to the actor Curtis Armstrong, who was in 80s Bruce Willis vehicle Moonlighting and more recently "House". Meeting Curtis was a bit of a personal highpoint, if you'd have told a 16 year old me I'd be a guest alongside Bert Viola from Moonlighting, I'd have been awestruck. Curtis was, and is, one of the finest actors ever to appear on film and his performance as "Booger" in the Revenge of the Nerds movies will one day be recognised by the establishment as the monumental triumph that it was. Wish I'd talked to him about Harry Nilsson though, he's a big fan apparently. Maybe next time.

author Russell Payne and the actor Curtis Armstrong

Lots of others too, but it would just be a list of names, those were the ones I really chatted with. I had a quick chat with Bambos Georgiou who had some really nice recreations of old comic covers, including many Jack Kirby ones, a nice alternative to owning original art for those who can't afford the original originals.

All the Comic Zone talks were cancelled, so I didn't do my Kirby panel, but it was so extremely busy and there were so many things going on that every talk you attended meant deciding not to go to something else, so I don't think anyone really missed out. I did get to chat to people like Steve Rude, Mike Mayhew and Bryan Talbot about Kirby though, so I was happy.

I spent the vast majority of time just behind the table though, trying to tell people about the Jack Kirby museum, and in a moment of egotism, I started doing free sketches for people, which I realise now was unfair on all the other artists who were trying to sell sketches. How could they be expected to get people to pay when I was giving way work of this quality....?

So all in all I really enjoyed LFCC, it had easily the most impressive lineup of any convention I've ever been to, and so much going on it was nearly impossible to see it all. There were clearly some logistical problems, but given the scale of the thing, that's inevitable, and spending a bit of time behind the scenes you could see how hard people were working to make it happen. Cosplay played a large part, and it was frustrating to see so many people dressed as Jack Kirby characters, who had no idea who Jack Kirby was, but that's why I was there and hopefully I did something to address the balance.

A big thank you to the father/daughter team of Mike and Cassandra Conroy who organised the Comic Zone part of the event, neither of whom I saw stop or sit down all weekend, and to everyone who came over to say hi and talk to me. I'll be at the NICE convention in September, maybe I'll see you there....

You can read John Watson's version of events here on his blog, it's funnier than mine.....


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  2. Nice to read the online Blog Russell. I used to enjoy the one you wrote on the Intranet at work (those were the days!). I was the stalker who sent you the dog eared German copy of Iron man/Avengers from 197*!!
    All the best

    1. Good to hear from you Gerard, if you know any more of my old readers, let them know?

      And thanks again for the German comic!