Last Sunday, I attended my very first London Film and Comic Con (LFCC). It was my second ever comic con because last year I attended MCM London Comic Con.
I attended this year’s con dressed as PT Barnum – as played by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. A very nicely done genderbend, if I do say so myself.
I was excited to go in costume this year given that I’d forgone that opportunity last year because I was slightly nervous about it and thought I might feel judged. After being at a con and seeing so many other people wearing some really great costumes, and having a great time of it to boot, I wasn’t going to let myself pass up that bit of fun this year.
My sister, also going in costume for the first time, went as Kids Next Doors’ Numbuh 5.
My friends, who I invited to tag along this year, chose to dress more casually.
We converged outside the entrance of the London Olympia, the location of LFCC, slightly later than planned – thank you, British railway system – but we made it nevertheless. And after a quick greeting we collectively headed inside to enjoy what was left of the day.
To meet, or not to meet, that is the question
Until last year, I firmly held the belief that I should not meet any of my favourite actors. I was sure I would no doubt be awkward and nervous and generally embarrass myself. But things evidently changed.
Last year, as the fate of “Lucifer” hung precariously in the balance, I decided to abandon that belief and go and meet Tom Ellis. The circumstances felt extenuating enough that it was almost an easy decision to make. And, as nervous as I had been going in, after I’d met him, I was glad that I did. He was enthusiastic, made great conversation (in the limited time we had whilst he signed my poster), and he even complimented my hair. And yes, I never forget to mention the latter. Meeting Tom was a really great and worthwhile experience, and it made resuming my previous stance on meeting actors, and creators, impossible.
Come this year, I didn’t think twice about the prospect of meeting any of the celebrity guests at comic con. It was, in fact, the main reason I decided to go. As the guest announcements rolled in several caught my attention, but after some consideration and a quick look at my bank balance I settled on meeting just three: Rick Gonzalez, Gina Torres, and finally, Lana Parrilla.
Once in the doors, I, and company, wandered purposefully to the celebrity guest area, quickly finding Lana and Gina’s autograph stations. They were quite conveniently separated by only one other guest – Christina Ricci if I recall correctly.
Lana’s line was extremely long, and Gina had yet to arrive, so my initial plans for the day had to change. My friends split off to browse the rest of the guest area and do some further exploring, whilst my sister and I considered what to do. I decided to take a ticket for the virtual queue to get an autograph from Lana, and off we went to do some exploration of our own.
It was only a few minutes later when we found where Rick Gonzalez was set up.
The rabbit’s name was King Charlie!
Some of you may recognise Rick Gonzalez as Arrow’s Rene Ramirez, aka Wild Dog, and some of you may have even spotted him in the video for Lady Gaga’s Judas. Whilst we have seen him in both, my sister and I primarily wanted to meet him because of the role he played in Reaper – a comedic show about a trio of friends hunting down and trapping souls that had escaped from hell, for Satan.
Benjamin Gonzalez, played by Rick Gonzalez, was part of the show’s main trio. He was also my favourite of the trio, as well as my sister’s.
Kind-hearted and sweet, Ben was the heart of the group, in my opinion, and that’s one of the things I liked about him. Additionally, his character fit surprisingly well with the remaining two-thirds of the trio – ie slightly annoying slacker and resident joker Sock and average-guy-type main character Sam – and I appreciated the quirks in his character that enabled him to fit into the Reaper world. As nice as he was, Ben could definitely hold his own when needed, whether that was just against his friends or whilst facing down demons.
Getting to meet Rick at comic con was amazing, and it made for a great start to the day. Right of the bat he complimented my costume – and yes, that has been added to the list of celebrity comments that I will recount at even the slightest opportunity. As he went about receiving the picture, we’d selected for him to sign, and getting my and my sister’s names to do so, he didn’t fail to notice the “Hello my name is Reaper” stickers, we’d worn for the occasion. He seemed to appreciate the gesture, and that made us happy to have worn them.
Whilst Rick signed our picture, we collectively – he, my sister, and I – reminisced about Reaper.
He was surprised to find out that our favourite character was Ben over Sock. I didn’t go into an explanation at the time, but the truth is that whilst Sock was funny (at times) I much preferred Ben’s good nature. In addition, Ben had this fabulously thick, long hair, which I had major hair-envy about. That, I did tell Rick. Rick said that his wife – who was sat next to him and confirmed this – prefers it short because it used to fall to her to maintain it. She obviously did a great job of it, considering the envy.
He asked what our favourite episode was, and whilst my sister is just slightly too young to correctly recall, I said “the one where Andi finds out”. I never have liked the tension of secrets in shows. I also referred to it as “the one with the hand”. You’d have to see it to get that. After some consideration though, I changed my choice to the one where Sock tries to think up the perfect girlfriend. You’d have to see it to get that, too.
We briefly tried to recall the name of Ben’s rabbit in reference to a quote. We somehow settled on Winston, though it came to me much later in the day that the rabbit’s name was, in fact, King Charlie. To be fair to us all, 10 years is a long time, and whilst my most recent re-watch wasn’t as long ago, it’s still been a while. Funnily enough I’ve always recalled another quote from the same episode with perfect clarity; “You seem to really love that rabbit”.
At any rate my sister and I enjoyed talking about the show with him, and we’re glad that he seemed to enjoy it too.
Just as we were about to leave – after my sister had added a quick “you’re great in Arrow, as well” – Rick asked if we wanted a picture, and we enthusiastically confirmed.
Through all our chat and the pictures – excluding the funny-faced ones we took – Rick had a smile on his face. It was infectious, and so was his laugh. His enthusiasm served to encourage and increase our excitement and made meeting him that much more enjoyable.
Given how fun our meet with him had been, my sister and I even stopped by near the end of the day to say goodbye and thank him for making our comic con.
After leaving Rick Gonzalez – the first time – my sister and I took a moment to do our own personal photoshoot, having found a white wall to serve as a neutral background.
Hundreds of pictures later – thankfully I’d cleared some space in my phone in anticipation of pictures of the event – we called my friends and made plans to reconvene.
Along the way, we made a quick stop by Gina and Lana’s autograph stations to see if there’d been any change. Whilst Gina had arrived at the con, she was occupied elsewhere, and Lana was now absent as well.
Back with my friends we took some time to sit and eat whatever snacks we packed – I myself had a breakfast bar. Once our energy levels were back up, we got up and wandered together for a bit, stopping every now and then to admire celebrities from a distance.
Another check on the queues sometime later and still no luck, so off we went to get lunch. My friends sought nourishment beyond the walls of the Olympia whilst my sister decided to check out what stalls and activities were on offer downstairs. I settled for buying a sandwich and some crisps from a café within the building and finding a place to sit and eat, whilst watching for changes in the autographing area.
Eventually my sister, and not long after that my friends, found me again and there still hadn’t been any change – though I’d collected a virtual queue ticket for Gina Torres’ autograph line just in case. Not invested in autographs themselves, my friends went to do some more exploring, but my sister and I stayed by the queues. We waited for what felt like quite some to see if either Gina or Lana arrived, but come time for Lana’s PM photoshoots there’d still been nothing, so off we went to stand in the queue for that instead.
Whilst my sister wasn’t getting a picture, she kindly kept me company as she had periodically throughout the day. It was much appreciated, because as I’d purchased my photo session ticket late enough to be placed in Batch 4, it was a long wait before I was even invited to queue. Given that my sister wasn’t allowed to wait in the queue into the photoshoot area, when I was called up she went to find a spot to wait for me – after helping me to make sure I looked decent, of course.
Once it reached my turn it was a very quick and efficient affair (see further detail further down), and I somewhat promptly re-joined my sister and we went to once again stand vigil at the autograph desks.
Luckily for us, it wasn’t long before Gina Torres made an appearance.
You can’t take the experience from me
Virtual queue ticket forgotten, I, along with my sister, simply joined the queue to get an autograph once Gina Torres arrived. For those of you who aren’t a part of, or aware of, the Firefly/Serenity cult-following, Gina Torres starred in the TV show and movie, respectively, as Zoë Washburne. In her role she played the first mate of a rebel crew, soaring through the stars with the aim to misbehave. In terms of character, Zoë was loyal, but not blindly so. She was strong and disciplined, resilient, and so much more. Add to that that she was married to my first favourite character and the show’s comic relief, Hoban Washburne, aka Wash, and what was there not to love.
Much more recently Gina Torres has starred as Jessica Pearson in Suits – some may recognise this as the show that our relatively new royal Meghan Markle was in before becoming royalty – as well as in Jessica’s new spin-off show, Pearson. Much like Zoë, Jessica is what I’d describe as a badass. Fierce, intelligent, and brilliant, Jessica holds her own in a position where she’s surrounded by male egos, and she does so admirably.
Fortunately for my sister and me, we were, for maybe the first time that day, quite lucky. We got ourselves a decent spot in the queue and didn’t have a very long wait at all before we were meeting Gina.
Upon doing such I was quite stricken by how stunning she is in person. I really would just like to mention that she was just a stunning in person as she is on screen. She had this air and grace about her that was quite intimidating to be honest. This did nothing to help my nervousness at meeting her.
After receiving my comic book to sign, Gina greeted us politely with a beatific smile. Finding some courage, I began to speak.
I can’t remember the exact words I used, but paraphrasing, I told her how much I appreciate the badass characters she has played – and yes, I used that exact word. She thanked me.
I don’t remember much else except telling her it was great meeting her, as we were about to leave, and she returned a similar sentiment before thanking us for waiting. “I know you’re hot,” she added when we were a step or two away. And, we were. It was incredibly hot and stuffy in the Olympia that day, even despite the fans helpfully dotted around the place.
I only wish I’d had enough coherent thought at that moment to think to say “no problem. It was completely worth it”.
Seeing not just a woman but a woman of colour in roles displaying such strength and brilliance, is no doubt why I admire Gina Torres so much – both, Zoë and Jessica were definitely inspirational role-models to a slightly younger me. It was truly an honour to have met her in person, if only very briefly.
It was as we walked further from Gina’s desk, admiring my newly signed comic book, that my sister – who had been silent throughout the brief exchange – turned to me and said, “I was going to say that her characters are badass”.
Once upon a time I met Lana Parrilla
It was a short wait after meeting Gina Torres that Lana Parrilla arrived to once again sign autographs. You’ll be surprised to hear that we didn’t actually end up standing in yet another queue.
At least not right away.
I stood in a cluster behind the queue, whilst my sister strayed every now and again. I, along with many others who hadn’t thought to purchase one, waited for the Diamond pass holders to get their autographs.
I did say Lana was quite popular, and evidently plenty of people had anticipated this and opted to buy tickets that would win them priority.
It was a long wait, and as I stood amongst the irritated and disappointed masses, I started to lose hope that I’d ever make it into the queue, let alone the front, before Lana had to leave. Fortunately, my sister helped to lift my spirits slightly every time she returned to my side. My friends made an appearance or two, as well. Even more fortunately, a decision made earlier in the day eventually paid-off when my virtual queue number was called, ultimately getting me (and my sister) to the front of the queue before time ran out.
Even though I’d seen her briefly in the photoshoot, the autograph signing seemed, to me, a more significant meeting. In the shoot, I walked up to her and requested my pose – I’d spent weeks trying to think of a good one – and she said a quick and polite “sure”. We posed, were photographed, and then I quickly made way for the next fan. I waited for my picture to print, glancing occasionally at the photographing area whilst I did, and once it arrived, I left the photographing enclosure.
I wasn’t too happy with the image initially. Lana was of course perfect, but I’ve always struggled to like my own face in pictures that aren’t filtered or carefully and painstakingly orchestrated and selected. I’ve mostly gotten over it now, thanks to some kind words from friends and family. I’m still not 100% happy with how I look in the picture, but it’s still pretty cool to have gotten to take a picture with Lana Parrilla at all.
Given the haste of pictures I greatly anticipated the poster signing.
I brought the poster especially. It’s one featuring just Lana’s character from Once Upon A Time (OUAT) – Regina Mills. Or, more accurately given the exact image, the Evil Queen.
For context, OUAT was a show about fairytales, with a modern and human twist. Regina Mills was, by far, my favourite character on the show, and I told Lana so. Not just an Evil Queen, Regina was a single mother, a woman doing her best to be better, and most importantly, a person, with all the strengths and flaws that come with that. The fantastical aside, Regina was just a woman who wanted her son to love her, and to gain forgiveness. Whoever she may have been in her past, and however terrible she might have been, her story, and the way Lana portrayed her, made it possible for me to sympathise with her and root for her in her path towards redemption. Regina started as a villain and took a long and difficult journey to becoming an anti-hero (of sorts), and later, a hero. It was a beautiful story to watch.
“I loved her arc. I almost cried at the end,” I told Lana. She thanked me. Queen of all the realms; a fitting end indeed.
It was great to get to meet the woman who portrayed Regina Mills so deftly, and that’s along the lines of what I closed with before my sister and I let her move on to the next.
I only wish I’d had the time to say more.
I wish I’d gotten to say “thank you, for playing the character that inspired me to pursue writing” – maybe out of a hope that I could one day create a character as well-done and well-loved as Regina Mills. I wish I’d gotten to say, “thank you and OUAT, for being a welcome distraction through the tough times”. And finally, I wish I’d gotten to tell her that I honestly don’t believe that there will ever be a character that I will be as moved by, or that will stick with me, as much as Regina Mills. She was truly a brilliant character, and I’m grateful to Lana Parrilla for having done her justice.
Regardless, I’m happy I said what I managed, and I hope that was enough.
Poster signed, my sister and I made our way downstairs, allowing me to experience comic con beyond queues and meets. For once I allowed my sister to lead the way, and she enthusiastically led me downstairs to the cons gaming area, where we played together for a few minutes before being joined by one of my friends. The other two had said their goodbyes whilst I was still queueing not too much earlier, though for the life of me I can’t seem to remember exactly when that was.
My remaining friend, my sister, and I stayed in the gaming area together briefly before I had to be on my way to attend the final portion of my comic con day – Lana Parrilla’s talk. I said my goodbyes to my friend – as she’d be gone by the time I returned – and made my way back upstairs, to the Superstage.
The room where it happens (aka, a Q&A with Lana Parrilla)
In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.
After eight years of being a fan of OUAT and of Regina Mills – and by extension of Lana Parrilla – I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to be in one of Lana’s talks when I had it. I chose to attend LFCC on the Sunday specifically for the purpose of going.
Crowded as it was, and as many seats that had been reserved by way of Diamond pass, I found myself a decent place to sit. The seat was centred, and close enough to the stage that the astigmatism in my left eye – the one that my contacts don’t quite fix – didn’t really hinder my vision of it.
Being at one of Lana’s talks – as opposed to just watching grainy, slightly tilted YouTube videos – was an amazing experience and I enjoyed the question and answer (Q&A) format, which served to help me learn a bit more about Lana Parrilla.
What type of dinosaur would she want to be? A pterodactyl, so she could fly.
What flavour of ice cream would she be? Chilli chocolate caramel crunch.
What real-life experience did she tap into to create some of Regina’s more anguished moments? Enquiring minds want to know, but that one she’ll keep a closely guarded secret.
I learned the she’s been bullied, which she just doesn’t talk about. I also learned that she loves her dog, Lola – though Lana’s Twitter has served as evidence enough of that, for me. Additionally, I learned that Lana credits her openness and ability to embrace her role as a gay icon, to her open-minded, “kooky” grandparents.
Furthermore, Lana gave some sage advice about removing toxicity from your life – though she didn’t use those exact words – setting firm boundaries with friends and even family in order to protect yourself and finding supportive friends.
Lana was thoughtful in her answers, her funny back-and-forth was much appreciated, and she had this ease with the audience that I found completely captivating. Her personality really served to encourage the enthusiasm of the crowd and the room was buzzing with the collective excitement, enjoyment, and appreciation.
Lana was not only thoughtful and charming, but she was also funny and kind. It seemed to me that she really loves and appreciates her fans and she confirmed this firstly when she said that she most grateful for them, in addition to the love and support of people in her life – her “bestest” friends and closest family members – as well as her intuition and instincts, and, of course, Lola. To me, the love that she has for her fans is what makes Lana so worthy of them.
Lana closed the session with a thank you to the crowd, and by saying “I love you all, so much.” The uproarious standing ovation she received as she departed was evidence enough that the sentiments were very likely returned.
At the end of the day
Lana’s talk finished just before the official end of LFCC, so once I’d made my way out of the walled off area that contained the Superstage, I called and located my sister, so we could be on our way home.
It was a journey filled with reminiscing about the day, interrupted only shortly to decide what we wanted from the KFC menu, before we finally reached home and could relax after the long day.
After it all, my feet hurt from all the queueing and walking – never wear formal shoes to an all-day standing event – I was tired, and because I’d refused to risk leaving the a queue to go to the toilet, I was also slightly dehydrated. Add to that my eyes being dry because I’d been wearing my contacts all day – which only served to add to my sense of drowsiness – and I was very happy to be home.
But discomforts aside, I had a great day, and I appreciate all my new merchandise, and all the new memories I made.
I got to meet Rick Gonzalez, Gina Torres, and Lana Parrilla. I also caught glimpses of and got to fangirl over so many other actors I’ve seen and admired. Honourable mentions include Jason Momoa (he was honestly about a meter away), John Barrowman, Robert Carlyle, Aimee Garcia, and Adam Baldwin, another Firefly/Serenity cast member. Oh, if I only had the money. I also got to appreciate tons of costumes and be appreciated in return for wearing a costume I’d worked to assemble for several weeks.
So, given the chance – and the correct budget, of course – I’d do it all again.
Comic con cosplay
Before I bring this post to a close, I just wanted to talk about cosplay for a moment. In addition to getting the opportunity to meet actors I admire; the costumes are, for me, another benefit of comic con. Last year, and again this year, I really enjoyed seeing what other people decide to attend as, and how masterfully their cosplay was assembled.
Highlights from this year include: an incredibly good Evil Queen (OUAT-style); a Walter White complete with blue pills; and, a very detailed Season 8 Daenerys Targaryen. Other were: Kevin Smith; Pennywise; Michael Myers; that Doctor wandering around with a TARDIS for a hat – bravo; and, not just one, but several Aziraphales accompanied by their Crowleys.
This year, as mentioned above, I joined that group of fans enthusiastic enough to cosplay.
Initially, I considered going as Daenerys Targaryen. circa Season 3, because I already had a costume. However, I didn’t much feel like it come the end of Game of Thrones. As I said in my post about the final season, I still love the show, but some of the draw to go as her was lost regardless.
In the end, I was much more enthusiastic about the prospect of going as Hugh Jackman’s charming and entertaining take on PT Barnum – as opposed to the real and terrible one. The Greatest Showman was a great movie, with a fantastic soundtrack, and I really wanted to honour my appetition of it.
Having enjoyed putting together my costume for Halloween a couple of years ago – the Daenerys Targaryen costume I was considering – I decided to assemble my comic con costume, as well. This was for the best since I couldn’t seem to find a PT Barnum costume in a woman’s size and fit anyway.
I purchased the hat and cane and found clothes in my closet to suit. The shoes, I also brought especially. It was an entirely too extravagant purchase for comic con alone, so I justified it by also making them work shoes.
That minor creativity aside, my real point of pride is the jacket. I purchased a red steampunk-style jacket that wasn’t quite right from amazon and then made the best of it with paint, yarn, some scissors, and a sewing kit.
The costume wasn’t completely accurate in its impression, but I was really happy with it and people seemed to get it. I even get a few compliments from other people besides Rick Gonzalez. Did I mention that he said he liked my costume? For me that was enough.
And, speaking of pride, I really enjoyed that cane. As a chronic sloucher, who often prefers to speed by and go unnoticed in any given crowd, I very much appreciated the swagger and confidence it gave me. I walked tall, head held high, and gracefully strutted with my new third leg – at least that’s what I pictured in my head.
I hope to remember that I have that kind of confidence in me. And if I can’t, plan B is to invest in a sturdier cane than the plastic one.
That was a really long one, so thank you to everyone who made it till the end. I hope that you enjoyed reading about my day at LFCC and if you went, I hope you enjoyed the experience. Additionally, if you did go, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in a comment.