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Saturday, 6 June 2015

The 5D experience of Granite City Comic Con - 2015.

They're the law & you'd better believe it....
It was somewhere around this time last year when I first heard the whispers. A group of fellow nerd-like individuals had decided that it might be a something of a wheeze if they could put together a bit of a comic celebration here in the Aberdeen area. After all, there wasn't really anything of the sort this far north and it was a decent possibility that there might be a few individuals in the locality who might be interested in attending such an event. The reasoning of the group was simple, if Aberdeen can sustain three comic book shops there must be enough people in their circle of friends and acquaintances to warrant some sort of comic book celebratory event.

The notion that there may indeed be some demand for such a thing became pretty clear soon after the announcement of Granite City Comic Con when the newly formed Facebook page acquired over a thousand likes in the first few days alone. Within days and weeks of the announcement that Transition Extreme in Aberdeen would host the inaugural GCCC event, the momentum of interest quickly and noticeably increased.

Of course, me being me, I was eager to get in on the action as I feverishly continued my crusade of holding onto the coat-tails of those more talented and successful than myself (i.e. mostly everybody else on the planet) and thereby bask in their reflected glory. As a consequence, over the last year I managed to successfully stalk and pester the organisers into giving me a little access to them and their plans. They foolishly accepted my friend requests on Facebook and then invited me and my blog (it strangely enough goes wherever I go) to the official press launch event a couple of months ago. Not only that, I further managed to convince them that I was someone vaguely and ever so slightly important by being offered a press pass for the big day itself. I know, I can feel the wave of hate from you all even as I write this.

Queuing in between the rain showers
Now, I regard myself as a reasonably half-intelligent type of individual, not greatly intelligent, but enough to get me by to enable me to feed and dress myself with only a modicum of help.  So I could see quite clearly early on in the proceedings that the event was going to be popular, indeed the GCCC Facebook event page reflected this. I've been saying for a couple of years now that the idea of being a 'nerd' or a geek' is far more acceptable nowadays then it ever was, indeed the lifestyle of comics, Cosplay and superhero worship is now almost something of a badge of honour to be wore with ill-disguised pride. The problem is that people saying that they are interested and then subsequently acting upon that said interest are two completely different matters. For example, when I'm invited on the office work night out I always say that I'm going - but rarely do. I know, I'm an unsociable so-and-so. I also know that you are probably right now in complete disbelief about the fact that I'm ever invited anywhere.....behave yourself.

However I will honestly say that I was caught completely unawares by the level of genuine interest on the day. As I walked down towards Transition Extreme last Saturday, with about 10 minutes to spare before the doors were due to be opened, I took a gasp of air when I saw the numbers of people waiting in line EVEN BEFORE the event was due to start. In fact I think I said out loud to myself the initial words that came into my head......."we're gonna need a bigger boat"

In all honesty, I should have realised something sooner when parking my car some way away from Transition on a relatively quiet city street. As I opened my door three individuals walked by with a simple “Morning” greeting - apart from the fact that they were all Marvel characters and wandering the city streets of Aberdeen in all their Cosplay glory, it was your standard Saturday morning in the Granite City.

Mr Black smiling....pressure, what pressure?
So there was little ol’ me – stood outside Transition Extreme in sight of the front of the queue while flashing my press pass in order to dissipate any possible feelings of hatred from those beautiful and hardy souls that had patiently queued for ages before the 9am start. As look would have it, one of the main organisers, Morgan Black, was happening by at the time. He had yet to acquire the look of fevered but determined “I need to be in 575 different places right now!"  that he and the other organisers wore as the day was to move one manly handshake and hug later I was inside the main reception area just minutes before the grand opening was to take place.

My initial plan had been to get in early and have a quick scoot around the cons various offerings and grab some goodies for myself, see the goodies that were on offer amongst the stalls spaced around the two floors. However it soon became clear that;

a) There were far too many goodies on show for me to buy before the patiently queueing hordes entered the building.

b) I had forgotten to bring any cash

I was in a quandary, part of me wanted to get out of there and help myself to some cash from the nearest Cash machine, the other more responsible part of me thought it might be wise to at least act like a proper press-pass holder and take some photo type pictures. For once the responsible part of me won out, a genuine rarity it has to be said, and so I decided to put aside my gluttonous nerdy greed aside for a little while and got out the very posh and sophisticated camera out that I had borrowed for the day and started clicking away……..well actually I didn’t start clicking away, because I hadn’t bothered beforehand to listen properly to the instructions I’d been given a few days before on how to use it. It was only after a few minutes of blindly fumbling around like an idiot that I figured out how to use it – well actually it was a fellow press guy type person who I’d pleaded with to help me that solved my problem. He took one look at it, flicked one switch and I was good to go. He also gave me a distinct pitying look that was probably quite deserved.

The Starks of Winterfell....I know my stuff.....
And boy am I glad that I stopped beforehand to witness those first few moments of wonderful waves of excited visitors as they entered the building. One of the original aims for GCCC was for the event to be as family friendly as possible – well that was certainly achieved…..and some! I was utterly gobsmacked by the level of preparation and time that had gone into the Cosplay outfits – some of them were inspired, even more were sheer genius. So much so that for a couple of hours I simply wandered around randomly snapping pictures from my own camera, or being asked by random Cosplayers to take pictures of them and their new best fellow Cosplaying friends.

This feeling of rampant Bon Amie (that’s French, you know) was one of the defining elements of the day – both inside Transition Extreme and outside in the queue. Yes, some have commented on the length of the queues and the 2 or 3 hours it took for them to be admitted – and believe me I feel for them. However, the level of humour and goodwill seemed (mostly) as endless as the queue. Yes there were some who eventually had enough of the wait and the frequent rain storms. However most people I encountered seemed to acknowledge that everybody – and by that I mean the organisers, the helpers, the hangers-on (me) AND the public – had been caught out by the eventual level of interest on the day. Nobody but nobody expected the numbers that turned up. Some have professed that they knew that a larger venue was going to be needed and that the organisers should have realised this and changed the site. Hmmm, I must admit I don’t recall seeing any comments like that before the event…..hindsight is a wonderfully handy thing for some people isn’t it?

The simple fact is that approximately 4000 people made it into the Con on the day - which is something of a monumental achievement on behalf of everybody.I cannot praise highly enough the work of all those involved in how they ran what became a hugely challenging day. The level of good humour and determination on display from all the people working on behalf of GCCC was astounding. I take my hat off to you all. And if you don't believe me, well a certain Mr Shane Rimmer said pretty much the same thing to me in the interview that I managed to get with him.

The legend that is Shane Rimmer
It was part-way through the afternoon when I managed to get an interview with two of the main guests – Shane Rimmer and Alan Grant (Thank you Morgan and Chris for sorting that out in the middle of the mayhem, you superstars!). I won’t say too much more about that particular portion of the day as the interviews will feature in subsequent Fifth Dimension articles (Once I’ve finished transcribing the blooming things). All I will say for now is that the 10 minutes I spent with Mr Rimmer and the seven minutes I spent with Mr Grant were more than enough to turn me back into a floundering fawning fan boy. The fact that both were complete gentlemen and put up with my “tell me why you’re so fab!” line of questions says everything about them.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in haze of picture taking, talking with friends such as the redoubtable Greg Swan from Shmu FM, and experiencing the visual splendour that was the Cosplay competition in the deliciously surreal surroundings of the skate park at Transition. Genius.

I know what you’re wondering…..”Did you manage to get your deserving hands on some goodies?” Well thank you for asking, but yes I did. Not only did I get some signed prints from the wonderful Gary Erskine, but I was able to get an original sketch from the redoubtable Monty Nero…..which shall now be framed and sold in a few years for gazillions of pounds (the sketch, that is – Not Monty). If that wasn’t enough I also parted with plenty of my hard earned cash for a very large selection of comics and memorabilia….Now that took a lot of explaining when I got home…..

The Cosplay competition -  I went as clueless press guy
I'm aware that there may be some cynics out there in Cynicland who may think that I’m only saying this because I know the guys involved – but that would be completely untrue and unfair. There are far too many people to praise for their efforts, so hopefully I won’t offend anybody who I miss out. However special mention has to go to Morgan Black, Chris Robertson, Colin Penny, Liam ‘Lemmy' Matthews and his fellow lawgivers for making not just the inaugural GCCC a huge success, but also in helping this middle-aged nerd feel like he belonged to something quite special that day.

Next year GCCC is going to be even bigger and bolder…… I can’t wait.

Mr Robertson & Mr Penny - organisers extraordinaires

Bugger, I've been rumbled.....

The legend that is Alan Grant

A Pokemon and a stormtrooper

Gary Erskine signing my prints


Monty Nero with my sketch

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