I’ve decided to skip my review for Oz Comic-Con Melbourne 2014 because, in all honestly, it was pretty disappointing. Not that it was bad per se, but it simply didn’t have much draw to me. It didn’t feel like it improved on the previous year, and it didn’t feel like it offered anything new. It was just same-same.

Anyway, London Film and Comic Con. As I was planning a trip to the UK, I figured I’d see if there were any conventions happening at the same time, so I could try to go to one.

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The convention was very different to an Australian pop culture convention. Firstly, the emphasis on film means that there was a sizeable amount of movie and TV stars for signatures and photographs — around 20-30 — and the comic presence was more subdued. From speaking with people in the line I learned that there is a second convention in London, the London Comic Con, and that convention is where comics take the spot light.

The hall seemed, to me, to be split 50/50 between an inflated artists’ alley, and a signing area for  movie and television guests. Unlike AUS conventions, where many of the retail booths are selling t-shirts, DVDs, new trade comics, and other geeky paraphernalia, most of these merchandise booths seemed to be selling second-hand items, excess stock, or craft/home-made goods. And there was very little original artwork in sight. That’s why it felt like more of an artist alley to me that a convention floor.

I’m not saying it wasn’t good stuff — I did manage to find an purchase a copy of Pokemon Stadium to replace my copy which seems to have mysteriously vanished after some teen programs I ran — but there wasn’t much to tempt me. Many of the store were selling the exact same merchandise. Which only reinforced the impression that were trying to shift excess stock.

What I did find very impressive though, was the queuing systems they employed for signatures.

At Australian conventions you:

  1. Queue to enter the convention
  2. Queue to buy a token entitling you to a signature/photograph
  3. Queue to claim you signature or photograph.

If you’re after several, you can spend all of your money by 10.30am, and still be stuck in queues until 4-5pm before you’re able to actually go and enjoy the convention.

London employed a virtual queuing system instead:

  1. Queue to enter the convention
  2. Collect a numbered slip of paper for the guest you want a signature from: ie. Summer Glau 125
  3. Keep an eye on a sign at the front of the guest’s queue. This sign informs you of
    1. The charge per signature
    2. The time the guest is next signing
    3. What number they guest is currently signing up to: ie. Now signing 1-60
  4. Go and enjoy the convention
  5. Once you see your number up of the board, you can join a short queue to receive your signature
  6. Tell the salesperson how many signatures you want, and pay for them
    1. Limit of 5 signatures per numbered slip
    2. If you want more than 5 signatures, you can get a second numbered slip after you have used your first
  7. Get your signatures

If sounds complicated, but it’s actually much easier. It means your don’t have to spend all day in lines, you can enjoy the other parts of the convention, and there is no obligation to use your numbered slip. If you have a slip reading Summer Glau 125 and you decide you no-longer want her signature, or simply run out of time, that’s fine; it hasn’t cost you anything.

There are also a limited supply of numbered slips for each day. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Come back earlier tomorrow.

This, mostly, ran really well. The only issue I found was when the volunteers managing the queues increased the ‘Currently Signing’ numbers too slowly, or too quickly. There was one instance where I saw it sit below 100 for three hours, to suddenly jump to 550 in the next half-hour. I was number 120-something and I had to queue for over an hour to get the signature as quick as possible. (I overheard the volunteer managing the line explaining that it no-one had been coming to queue, so he kept moving the number up to 550. Maybe that was because he had left it at a low number for several hours instead of steadily increasing it?)

Anyway, it was still an improvement to Australian conventions. I was able to get 5 signatures by 3.30pm — which had included Summer Glau, Jenna Coleman, and John Hurt. The longest was Summer (due to the stuff-up) but three pretty big names finished by 3.30pm was pretty good, I felt.

The vibe of the convention was great. It was a pretty roomy space — although there were a lot of people — and was managed very well. There was little confusion around lines.

Over all, I was impressed. It was a good couple of days, I got to meet some interesting people and have a word with some celebrities.

Paul McGann complimented my All Star Comics Melbourne t-shirt.

Jason Mewes gave me some relationship advice.

John Hurt complimented my beard, and did something we wasn’t strictly supposed to.

It was a good con, and I’d considered travelling to the UK again just to attend.

-TM