New York 2014 Day 9 – New York Comic Con Day 4

By this time I had hoped I would have already done three runs around New York City, but alas I had only done two and my last one had been the day before in the rain. My aim was to get in a 15 mile run in the morning before checking out and heading to Comic Con for the last time. This didn’t quite go to plan though as I only ran for 14 miles. Having run the day before, still recovering with my knee, and not having rested made this run a lot harder than it should have been.

When I got back to the hotel we sorted out our belongings and when checking out we left the majority of the stuff with the hotel to pick up later. I took my Star Trek “Federation” book with me in hope of getting Sir Patrick Stewart to sign it, and also my 150-500mm lens in case we saw a panel. Both of these I carried around in a carrier bag which admittedly was less than ideal, especially when you consider the weight of the two.

We then queued in the queue hall for one last time, this time in a row further along than before. Once it was time for the show to open we headed straight to Hall 1A10 to queue for the Karate Kid 30th Anniversary panel. The convention staff for this one were a little obsessive with asking people to fill in the gaps in the line when there were no more gaps to fill – no idea what he expected people to do. I thought at the time that maybe he expected the line to be filled tighter than a subway car would be. This only lasted around an hour though as the panel was scheduled to start at 11:00.

Ralph Macchio (Danny LaRusso in The Karate Kid)

When the panel started it turned out two whole rows were reserved for press, but only three members of press arrived which was a waste of empty seats people could have used. Ralph Macchio and company were then delayed in traffic getting to the convention centre which meant the panel didn’t start until 11:25 though sadly it didn’t over run to accommodate this. It wasn’t a bad panel and what they covered were stories about the filming of the first movie and how things have been since then. There were also a few comments about the remake, but they never gave their opinion on it.

William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid)

Martin Kove (John Kreese in The Karate Kid)

Our hope was to then queue in the autographing hall, but once again Sir Patrick Stewart had cancelled his attendance for the day and was told he would turn up if he felt like it. We couldn’t really wait around in case he decided to attend anyway, so we sat and ate some lunch and then wandered around the show floor with no real aim. I made very little attempt to take more photographs as the bag with my lens in was getting heavy and seeing the same stalls for the fourth day in a row was getting boring. It could just be that by now we were tired from how much we’d been able to do in the days that had preceded this one. Perhaps if we’d had a later flight we may have attempted see more.

New York Comic Con

Eventually we decided to leave New York Comic Con for the last time, so we took a slow walk to the Dunkin Donuts on the corner of 48th and 9th to get a donut and some hot chocolate. Unfortunately they didn’t have the lemon donut the others had available, and actually had a very small selection so I went with the Boston Scream Donut.

Cosplay: Gandalf the Grey

We sat in there for close to an hour before wandering down to a bench near the USS Intrepid that overlooked the Hudson River. It was quite nice in the sun, but it was still a long wait until our 16:05 pickup. We decided to head back to the hotel early so we’d have some time to sort out our hand luggage before being picked up.

As stated in the Go AirLink Shuttle details, we were outside the hotel early – about 5 minutes earlier than it told us to be. However the transport was then 30 minutes late despite us being the first to be picked up. It seems apparent this must happen regularly considering they were an hour late picking us up from the airport at the start of this trip. It may actually have been easier to have taken a taxi cab instead, but that’s something we’d know for next time.

Traffic to the airport was slow going, and it took us around 1hr 30 to get there – this made it a little more understandable why our pick-up was scheduled to be 5 hours before the flight. We were the last to be dropped off at the terminal, but we were turned out to be lucky that we could get seats next to each other on the flight home. The self-service machine didn’t like my sister’s passport though so we had no choice but to use the check-in desk.

Steak Burger and Fries

Once through a relatively quick security check we ate at 5Steak for one last meal before our flight. I went for a medium-cooked steak burger which came with fries. It wasn’t a bad meal, probably on a par with the burger that The Jolly Monk had done, and certainly way better than the likes of Five Guys.

We boarded the plane at 20:15 to find that there were quite a number of empty seats, and not long after we were up in the air for the next leg of our journey home.

During the flight to Dublin I watched the last 20 minutes of Empire of the Sun followed by A Million Ways To Die in the West. I thought the latter was a brilliantly funny film and really enjoyed the Back to the Future reference with the DeLorean DMC-12 in it. The inflight meal wasn’t bad – it was like a cheese based ravioli with a chocolate brownie.

We arrived in Dublin 40 minutes earlier than scheduled and then made our way through passport control and then security. It seems a bit daft to go through security again considering we’d come straight from another aircraft with the same restrictions – but it’s their procedure. Apparently this procedure is in place because they’re responsible for the security of your final destination.

We boarded the aircraft for the next leg of our journey home at 09:15, not far off 24 hours since I’d woken up the previous day. I was sleep deprived, yet still I couldn’t sleep on the plane home. Eventually we landed ahead of schedule and it was relatively quick to get out of Birmingham Airport and onto the train home.

It had been different to my previous trips for so many reasons, but it was no less enjoyable. At last I’d seen “The Big Apple” and got to experience another Comic Con. There was so much to see and do, yet we had managed to cram it all (or at least as much as we could) into a little over a week. It truly is the city that never sleeps.

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New York 2014 Day 8 – New York Comic Con Day 3

I hadn’t run for a few days due to troubles with my knee following the 21 mile run and two very long days of walking. So, I started this day with a run to test how my knee was doing and ran down passed where we’d been on The High Line and then ran back (around 50 blocks), totalling around 8Km. All this was in the rain though, but as it was along the Hudson River it wasn’t that bad as at least it had a view. Unlike back home I encountered a lot of runners, and I’m sure it was a running club which I had passed due to the sheer number of them in one group.

Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. William Riker in Star Trek: TNG)

On the way back I noticed that at 08:15 people had already started queuing around the block and behind the convention centre to get in for Comic Con. By the time we got there it was still raining and they were queuing outside instead of in the queue hall, unless it was as well as. I wanted to get autographs from Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. William T. Riker in Star Trek: TNG) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: TNG and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies) so we headed to that hall first. However it turned out Patrick Stewart had cancelled and was now only doing photo ops. So instead we stood in line for Jonathan Frakes.

The autographing was scheduled to start at 11:00, so we’d gotten there at around 10:00 but then he didn’t turn up until 12:30. The other cast members had turned up and had emptied their queues a few times already by then. In this time Denise Crosby had also kicked up a fuss with the organisers wanting to be moved away from the pillar as she thought people wouldn’t be able to see her. Instead she took over half of Jonathan Frakes desk after she walked off threatening to leave. Eventually as he was about to turn up they moved the desks along one and added a new desk in for her between John de Lancie and Eddie McClintock; again in front of a pillar but this time she accepted it.

Cosplay: Anna (from Disney’s “Frozen”)

Cosplay: Mad Hatter and Alice Liddell

Cosplay: Beauty and the Beast

Cosplay: Link (from Zelda)

Once Jonathan Frakes had signed my book we then sat around and ate for a bit before moving on to the show floor where we once again looked around. My main focus was on trying to find cosplayers to photograph, though I did also buy a couple of Kenner Super Powers figures having knocked the sellers down on price.

Cosplay: Harley Quin, Joker, Scarecrow, Catwoman and Riddler

Cosplay: Deadpool, Scarlett Witch, Quicksilver, Captain America, Red Hulk, Falcon, Hawkeye, and Vision

Cosplay: Supergirl

Cosplay: Starfire (from DC Comics)

Cosplay: “New 52” Batgirl

Eventually we’d had enough of looking around so we headed to Artists Alley, another hall further along, to see what was there. My sister wasn’t that keen on it so we headed back to the show floor briefly before leaving, having ended up with another free novel and a free “Mini-block” figure of Spongebob Squarepants along the way.

Cosplay: Raven (from DC’s Teen Titans)

Cosplay: Psycho and Zero (from Borderlands 2)

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the 7 Eleven again to pick up some food for breakfast the following morning. Back at the hotel it was still quite early, but then we decided to head back to the convention centre to buy a figure that we’d turned down when we had been there earlier. This time we walked there pretty quick and without backpacks.

Leaving the convention centre for a second time we then went to The Jolly Monk, a conveniently close place, for an early meal. I went for chicken and waffles, and one of the waitresses actually recognised us and came over to say hello and to see how the convention was going. It was a great restaurant and I’m glad we got to eat there one last time before leaving New York.

Times Square

We then made our way to Times Square for one last look around though it was insanely busy. The Disney store had set up a one way system inside the shop which meant you couldn’t look at most of what they were selling. Toys R Us was better, though with some of the walkway and road being closed for roadworks it was causing chaos around there.

A Minion (from Despicable Me)

We then headed back to the hotel as our last evening in New York City grew to a close. It was at last time to finish the majority of the packing ready for our journey home.

New York 2014 Day 7 – New York Comic Con Day 2

Today the doors to Comic Con opened earlier and we wanted to try and get in on at least one panel. After a couple of days with the hotel’s Wi-Fi being down, I had hoped it would be working today so I could compare prices of some items with what we’d see them for in the UK, but alas for the second day running it didn’t work.

We got to the convention centre at around 08:30 and thought we’d be queuing until 12:45 as that was the time of the panel we were waiting for. Unlike San Diego Comic Con the halls are emptied after each panel which means for the main rooms it’s unlikely you’re going to sit and watch back-to-back panels, but it also increases your chances of getting in. On the flip side of that it means that if there are two back-to-back panels you want to see in one of the main halls then you’re almost guaranteed to only be able to see one of them. As I was with my sister I had to hold back a little on the panels I’d have liked to have seen so this didn’t really affect us.

In order to avoid you queueing all day they also give out wristbands at some point during the morning whilst waiting inline which provides access later when you return to the queue. If you’ve got a wristband for a panel then you’re guaranteed entry. We were in the line until about 10:30 when we got a wristband for the Elementary panel.

To kill some time we went to the autographs area, and unusually I decided I’d go ahead and get William Shatner’s signature (he is best known for his role as Captain James Tiberius Kirk in Star Trek), even though he was charging $80. It seemed an awful lot but I decided it was one of the few opportunities for it, and I didn’t want to pass that up. Finally we got his signature at around 10:55 – 5 minutes before he was scheduled to start signing!

John De Lancie (Q in Star Trek: TNG)

Michael Dorn (Lt. Cmdr. Worf in Star Trek: TNG)

Denise Crosby (Lt. Tasha Yar in Star Trek: TNG)

We then stood in line for John de Lancie, the actor who played Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation as his was the shortest of the lines for the other Star Trek actors there. This actor and the others from the Next Generation were all charging $40, so seemed far more reasonable. I also got Michael Dorn (Lieutenant Commander Worf) and Denise Crosby (Lieutenant Tasha Yar) to sign my Star Trek book. I also paid $20 for a photograph with Eddie McClintock who played Agent Pete Lattimer on the Syfy series Warehouse 13.

Eddie McClintock (Agent Pete Lattimer in Warehouse 13)

The cast of Elementary

By this time it was getting reasonably close to the time for the Elementary panel so we returned to the queuing hall and stayed there for the next hour until we were let in. When we got into the hall we were in the third row so had a great view of the panel. To start with they aired the first episode of season 3 which had not yet been broadcast in either the US or UK. This was then followed up with a really great Q&A panel with the cast which was one of the funniest I’ve been to. This panel actually encouraged my sister to decide to start watching the show (she set herself a reminder to buy the series on Blu-ray or DVD).

Gates McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: TNG)

Brent Spiner (Lt. Cmdr. Data in Star Trek: TNG)

Marina Sirtis (Cllr. Deanna Troi in Star Trek: TNG)

LeVar Burton (Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: TNG)

Returning to the autographs hall I managed to get signatures from more of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast: LeVar Burton (Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge), Brent Spiner (Lt. Cmdr. Data), Gates McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher), and Marina Sirtis (Cllr. Deana Troi). Brent Spiner was brilliant and joked about having remembered seeing me before at San Diego Comic Con – whilst I had seen him there once before it was in 2013 and not 2011 as he thought. Marina Sirtis also had a good chat with us commenting how she’s also British, but that she’s never been to Leicester herself.

It cost quite a bit to get all of these signatures, but it was something I thought that was worthwhile as it’s not often you get to see the (almost) full cast in one place. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a TV series I had watched when I was growing up and was a series I’d enjoyed with friends whilst in primary school and later in high school. To see and speak to them, even those I’d seen before, definitely made it seem worth the price.

Cosplayer: Elsa (from Disney’s “Frozen”)

Cosplayer: Loki (from Marvel’s “Thor”)

Harley Quin (from DC’s Batman)

We headed back to the show floor to look around some more and this time I got many more photographs of cosplayers in some pretty great costumes. From one of the stalls I got a Kenner Super Powers Red Tornado figure for $20, and a free novel from another stall. We didn’t spend as much time looking around as we’d already seen the majority of the stalls, and everyone we looked at during this afternoon were ones we’d seen previously. This time around I spotted Sgt. Slaughter – a wrestler who was popular in the 80s and had been turned into a G.I.Joe character for the animated movie.

The “Toy Hunter”

We also went back to the Toy Hunter’s stall – this time we had a bit of a chat and my sister had her photo taken with him. I think my main focus during this afternoon had been to see what cool costumes I could photograph – though with how crowded it was most of the time I didn’t manage that many.

We left the convention centre at around 16:00 as we needed to be at the Star Trek event in the evening and I didn’t want to be late. To save some time we decided after dropping our things off at the hotel, to eat at the Five Guys place over the road from the Manhattan Centre. The food there was greasy and awful; both of us were not that keen on it at all. It was easy and convenient though, the purpose of “fast food” I suppose, but I imagine neither of us would eat there again.

Hammerstein Ballroom

After about an hour in the line for the event, we were let in to find out seat just after 18:00. It turned out that our seats were far better than I had realised and we were not only in the centre of the centre block, but also only 9 rows from the front. I could probably have used my DSLR for this event as it turned out, but I got by getting pictures with my phone instead.

William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek)

William Shatner and Patrick Stewart

The event started at 19:30 and before we knew it the time had flown by and it was 21:00 and the end of the panel. It was a really great evening getting to hear stories from the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and we were both really glad to have paid the extra to attend this. There were stories such as Patrick Stewart believing his new car to be faulty when one day on the way to the set there had been an earthquake. They were even asked by the audience if any of them would like to be in the next Star Trek movie, though only Marina Sirtis said she would.

Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton

Denise Crosby, John De Lancie, and Marina Sirtis

Each of them also recounted funny times they remembered behind the scenes and also stories of fans that had told them how they had inspired them. I wished the evening had lasted longer; a good sign that it had been worthwhile.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by a grocery store to pick up some lunch for the next day.

New York 2014 Day 6 – New York Comic Con Day 1

As New York Comic Con didn’t open until midday we were in no rush to go anywhere – we’d already seen most of what we wanted to. We got up just before 08:00 and hung around the hotel for a few hours. By the time we joined the queue at 10:30 there were quite a number of people already waiting. After scanning our passes we were directed into a queuing hall where we then sat and waited for over an hour.

Fortunately we were in the first row, even though there were a lot in front of us. The downside though is that the queue was badly organised. People were queuing four or five abreast and when they let us in they didn’t do it row at a time, they did the first two rows at the same time meaning that people that had come in after us would get in before us. It was a disorderly mass of movement from there through three doors to a single (switched-off) escalator that led up to the show floor. In this madness there were some people that were trying to run up the down escalator as well, just to try and beat the queue upstairs.

Dalek from the episode Victory of the Daleks

Cosplay: Wonder Woman

LEGO Ezio (Assassin’s Creed)

Voltron

Once inside the show we spent the next five hours walking around it to try and cover as much as we could. I don’t think there were as many cosplayers as in San Diego on this first day, but there were far more stalls selling goods than there. In San Diego there were big corporate stalls such as Sony and Microsoft and every few private sellers; here the majority of stalls were small independent shops and artists. I didn’t understand why manufacturers such as Chevrolet were there though – I can’t see the connection to comics. I heard a rumour though that Chevrolet were brought in at the last minute to fill some space that had been left by Mattel pulling out – I don’t know how true this was though.

Cosplay: The Joker and Catwoman

Cosplay: Snake Eyes (G.I.Joe)

Cosplay: Captain America vs. Spider-man

We both ended up buying more than we intended, and eventually it got to the point where we decided we’d buy no more for fear of running out of space in our suitcases. My sister at a few points decided to sit and wait with the bags whilst I went around a few aisles. I think if it had been in the UK I may have spent far more than I had done. One of the stalls we visited was run by the guys that do the “Toy Hunter” series on TV, so my sister decided to buy a plush “Gizmo” from the movie Gremlins from them, and knocked them down a little on the price.

Gollum (aka Smeagol)

Azog (from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit adaptation)

Smaug

Thunderbird 1

The show floor was almost split into two as the various halls meet. Probably around two thirds of the way into the hall the ceiling lowers and then on the other side of this is another large hall (though not as big as the other side) which is mostly more artistic stalls. In amongst this area is WETA, the workshop that did the work on films such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. One thing that did surprise me though was that they had a large model of Thunderbird 1 for the upcoming new series (to be aired in 2015) – something I didn’t realise they had involvement in.

USS Reliant NCC-1864 (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

Serenity (from Firefly)

Cosplay: Silent Hill

Cosplay: Psycho (from Borderlands)

Cosplay: The Winter Soldier

Cosplay: Vega (from Street Fighter)

Once we’d finished we headed to the ReedPop stand outside the show where we picked up the lanyards and t-shirts we’d preordered. Thankfully it was a shortish walk back to the hotel from there, but we did stop off at a 7 Eleven to get food for the next day. Having dropped off our shopping we then headed out to get some dinner.

For the evening meal we decided to go back to the Jolly Monk as it was nearby and easy, and went for their daily special. This was a smoked bacon wrapped meatloaf with double buttered mashed potato and sautéed green beans. It was actually very nice, and the service was excellent so we made sure we left a good tip for the waitress.

For dessert we walked a few blocks past Times Square to a place we’d seen before and bought a Double Mousse New York cheesecake. It was quite expensive but also very large, and very nice. We certainly wouldn’t be going hungry any time soon! We also picked up a couple of almond croissants on the way back for the following morning’s breakfast.

Once we got back to the hotel we stayed there for the remainder of the evening and checked how our suitcases would fit our purchases. It had been a tiring day, yet there were another 3 days of Comic Con to go.

New York 2014 Trip Preparation

After visiting North America for the first time to attend San Diego Comic Con International in 2013, one of the biggest conventions of it’s type in the world, I was left wanting to visit America again. The previous visit was a great experience and I was keen to visit San Diego Comic Con again. Unfortunately the friends I went with didn’t want to go a second year running so I decided it would be a good idea to consider tying in convention going with a visit to New York City, a place I also wanted to visit at some point anyway. This time I invited my sister along as she hadn’t been on holiday without our parents before, and she’d never been outside of Europe.

As she hadn’t been abroad since 2002 it meant she hadn’t had a passport for a while so this was the first thing to sort. We decided that even if we couldn’t get tickets for New York Comic Con that we’d still go so it made sense for her to get this sorted ready so she’d have her passport ready at the point we needed to book flights. I also advised her to leave her visa waiver until closer to the time so that it’d give her more time to re-use the it if necessary.

Outside of Comic Con there would still be quite a bit to see so it made sense to have several days outside of the convention as well to take in the sights. New York City is made up of 5 outer boroughs known as Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Islands. The majority of tourist attractions are in Manhattan, though I was keen on trying to see some of the other boroughs.

We started off by plotting the sights we wanted to see on a map. Around this time I then booked tickets for “Rock of Ages” on Broadway as seeing a show is one of those things that is a “must do” when in New York. It also made a good birthday present for my sister. A friend I usually travel abroad with also decided he’d hop down to New York from Canada for a long weekend so for some of this trip there would be the three of us, though he wouldn’t be joining us for Broadway.

There was very little planning to do for this trip except to make sure my sister had everything she needed for the trip, and knew what to expect when we got there. As part of my marathon training I did have to figure out what runs I’d need to do whilst in New York and decided I could probably do them around Central Park.

Finally the tickets for Comic Con went on sale. The way they were doing this was different to San Diego as they don’t sell out quite as quick, but we weren’t sure how quickly they would. As 4-day tickets went on sale first and would cost the same as two 1-day tickets we decided we’d have a go at getting these first. The idea behind this was that if we missed out on 4-day tickets then we’d still get another chance at getting tickets. As it turned out we were fortunate and got the tickets we wanted.

After this I then pre-booked tickets for the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. exhibition and a tour of the Statue of Liberty. Any other planning we’d do would then be dependent upon the schedule for Comic Con.

Now we just had to wait for the adventure to begin…

SDCC 2013 Day 4 – San Diego Comic-Con Part 2

This was a very late start as the first panel we wanted to go to was the Felicia Day panel that was before one for “How I Met Your Mother”. By this point I’d had enough of cooking pancakes every morning – they’re not particularly healthy, so decided to have a croissant, yoghurt and banana instead. I had been tempted to get up a lot earlier and to queue for Hasbro, though from what I’d heard the previous day the Boba Fett figure I wanted to get was selling out so quickly each day it would probably still be pointless queueing that early.

Our leaving out was then delayed slightly further by one of the others in the group spilling cough medicine everywhere. By the time this was cleaned up we’d lost about 20 minutes, but headed for the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton anyway.

Pop tarts and Carl’s Jr.

We queued outside the Hilton for quite some time, with the volunteers continuously rearranging the queue system. I assume this was mostly due to them trying to keep the walkway clear. Part of me wondered if they did that to try and keep people hopeful, though I realised this was not the case when they announced it was unlikely that the queue past a certain point would get in.

By the time of the panel we were told that the panel was full due to there having been a large number of people queue overnight for it, and so we’d wasted the morning (not the organisers fault, they did warn us it was a possibility but we stayed in hope we were lucky). I think this panel would have been better placed in Ballroom 20 or Hall H due to it’s popularity, it may have then made it easier to get in on the Felicia Day panel.

Due to this we headed over to Ballroom 20 to see if we could get in on the Family Guy and American Dad panel. It was a wait of just over an hour due to it being a very short queue for that hall (shockingly!) and we managed to get in.

Voice cast of Family Guy

For the Family Guy panel they brought out the cast and played a short clip of what we could expect over the upcoming season. Between Family Guy and American Dad some of the audience left so we moved forward a little, my plan being I wanted to get reasonable pictures of the Vampire Diaries cast later if I decided to stay. I’ve never seen American Dad before and even after watching the clip during the panel it didn’t really make me want to see it either.

At the end of the American Dad panel I decided to stay which meant first watching a panel for True Blood.

The cast of True Blood

At this point I’d only ever seen one episode so didn’t really know what to expect. During this panel they played a sizzle reel for the upcoming season – by the end of this panel I realised I needed to get back to watching this series.

Finally it was time for The Vampire Diaries and for this panel a number of the cast and writers took to the stage to talk about the next season and for a question and answer session. At the start of the panel they played a clip that looked back over the past 4 years for Elena, Damon and Steffan and then moved on to show clips from the upcoming season.

The cast of The Vampire Diaries

I quite enjoyed this panel and it was interesting to hear what they had planned and their thoughts about the characters. Once this was done I decided I may as well stick around for The Arrow panel. The trailer for the new season was brilliant and got a good reaction from the crowd – particularly when they introduced Summer Glau.

The cast of Arrow

During the discussion segment John Barrowman, the actor who played “The Dark Archer” in the series (and Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood), turned up to crash the panel. At this point he drew all the attention towards himself away from the rest of the cast and when he got left out on a question about the season 2 opening episode (which he isn’t in) he got annoyed about it and answered the question too. I couldn’t really decide whether or not the attitude he was giving them was just an act or not though.

John Barrowman

I’m sure he does respect and enjoy the company of the cast though as he bought “Oliver Queen” a gift on his way to the panel and was wearing an Arrow t-shirt. As the panel went on he did seem less self-centred and answered fans questions politely so I’m sure the attitude earlier was just him trying to have some fun (which after a couple of days signing stuff I can hardly blame him).

Red Power Ranger, Power Rangers Megaforce

Iron Man and Iron Woman

At the end of this panel I went back to the exhibitor hall for the last time. We’d gone to find the friend who’d left after the American Dad panel but we couldn’t find him. We did however get to photograph a lot of cosplayers and it gave me chance to buy a few graphic novels (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Death of Spider-man, and Death of Spider-man Fallout).

Harley Quinn, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Xena: Warrior Princess

It felt rushed as we knew the exhibition hall would be closing soon but we wanted to make the most of what remained of our last day to try and see as much as we could.

Talon

By 19:00 we’d left the hall for the last time and started heading back through the Gaslamp Quarter. This was quite slow progress as there were a lot of people leaving the convention centre as well. Along the way we came across people cosplaying as a dragon and rider from “How to Train Your Dragon” which was drawing quite a crowd.

Zombie Apocalypse

Not far from this though we came across a very large zombie horde, easily a couple of hundred people. It seemed to go on for ever and there wasn’t just your normal zombies either. There were people cosplaying as characters from comics who had been zombified as well, and a couple of headless ones too (which I presume to have been the headless horseman from Sleepy Hollow).

Also on the way back we came across a famous US model named Adrianne Curry who was cosplaying as Mileena, a character introduced in Mortal Kombat 2. I felt bad about interrupting her in a restaurant, but as I wasn’t the first person to have interrupted her there I thought maybe it’s not too bad. She’d done an amazing job with the costume, just as so many other cosplayers had – but was amazed by the contacts that she was using to get the effect on her eyes.

Adrianne Curry

Once back at the hostel it was time to pack ready for the flight home the next day. I couldn’t fully pack though as I was taking a friend’s bottle of Jack Daniels back with me that he’d gotten from Tennessee, but he wasn’t around at the time.

Afterwards we went out for one last American meal on Broadway, and once again it was a burger and fries. It was a good meal, though the service was understandably slow as this like every other restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter was bursting at the seams with Comic Con attendees and presumably the locals. They did get a friend’s order wrong but he wasn’t bothered by it and ate it anyway.

SDCC 2013 Day 3 – San Diego Comic-Con Part 1

I intended on an early start, but my alarm did not go off meaning the pancake breakfast was somewhat later than expected. By the time we got to the convention centre the line extended around the back, past the Marriott, and along the seafront. It was a fast queue though and before long we’d made it into the badge collection room. At this point they give you all your badges so you don’t have to queue on consecutive days and then give out a WB bag with one of a number of designs on it along with a Dexter lanyard and a souvenir guide.

San Diego Comic Con International 2013

As we wandered from there we realised we were near the Ballroom 20 queue so joined it as there was a The Big Bang Theory writers panel coming up. The wait was around 2 hours, but we got in to the panel and it was thoroughly enjoyable. They explained the writing process and gave away a few hints about what was coming up in the next season. To moderate the panel they had Melissa Rauch, the actress who plays Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz.

During the question and answer session, one person dressed as Boushh revealed themselves to be Johnny Galecki, the actor who plays Leonard Hofstadter. It was a funny moment and the Star Wars quote was definitely sufficiently nerdy enough for Leonard to have said in an episode.

“Who do you think you are?”

*Boushh removes mask*

“Someone who loves you”

It had started off with him asking a question that couldn’t be understood due to a voice changer, then him reasking it before saying the answer wasn’t acceptable – which was the trigger for that exchange.

Bernadette moderates The Big Bang Theory writers panel

From the panel we went downstairs to the exhibitor hall where a massive number of large companies and private sellers were set up. Our first stop was the far end of the hall where they’d set up a Microsoft Xbox One and Sony Playstation 4 demo area as part of a larger gaming area.

Jessica Rabbit

Galactus

Queen of the Dead

Iron Patriot

Along the way though we went via the LEGO stand where we were told if we went to the Sails Pavilion and queued there we’d be able to get a free LEGO figure (whilst stocks lasted); it seemed like too much effort though for no guarantee of getting one. We also passed a few cosplayers and the Sideshow Collectibles stand where they had large models of Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and Han Solo in carbonite.

Sony Playstation 4

To start with I had a go on the PS4 game, Drive Club; it wasn’t bad but it was no Forza or Need For Speed – games which I’ve never missed an entry in the series for. Apparently the version we played was an alpha that was only 35% complete, so I couldn’t really too judgemental of it.

My best lap time on this was 9 seconds off the fastest for the day despite crashing several times and never having played on a Playstation before so figured it’d be an idea to have another go at some point as the winner would get a PS Vita.

Once we’d each finished having a go on this game we were given a PS4 keyring with the Drive Club logo on the reverse.

The queue for the Xbox One moved at a similar speed and was to play Ryse, a Roman Empire game made by Crytek. Unfortunately the controls didn’t feel too good and there were too many “Quicktime” style events during the game play.

Xbox One

I have a lot of respect for Crytek and the entries they’ve made into the gaming world to date, but with the inclusion of so many quick time events so early in a game and pretty much the only form of gameplay in the demo that was available I felt they’d lost it.

At home I play videogames on an Xbox 360, but I’ve not yet seen anything to make me want to get an Xbox One, so may yet end up switching to Sony. The booth did however get you to use some headsets that were actually quite good and made me tempted to get a pair of the same for home.

The surrounding area was then for specific games such as a booth for Blizzard Entertainment, and a box for watching a trailer for Watch Dogs in. Some of the stands gave away free stuff such as badges, whereas the Blizzard stand had a signing for The Art of World of Warcraft. If it had been a Starcraft one I’d have been tempted!

Brent Spiner (Lt. Cmdr. Data)

Our path then took us through where booths were set up to advertise TV shows such as a new Stars show called “Black Sails” and a prison that was set up for AMC’s “The Walking Dead”.

There were a few famous faces we saw during the morning’s walk as well such as the voice actor behind one of the characters on Family Guy, Patrick Warburton (Joe Swanson and other characters). We saw him just wandering the show floor, not actually at a booth for signing.

Signing at a booth we saw Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek), which was pretty cool. There were places there for Marina Sirtis (Cllr. Deanna Troi) and Michael Dorn (Worf) but they weren’t about when we passed.

We also got to try out Google Glass for a show called Intelligence. They took our photos during this, possibly as a record of who had used them. I didn’t really get on with Google Glass that well as I couldn’t wear my glasses at the same time.

Kevin Sorbo

Whilst we were queuing though I did spot Kevin Sorbo, the actor who played Hercules in “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”, and Captain Dylan Hunt on the Gene Roddenberry series, Andromeda.

We then gradually worked our way out of the hall via the artists alley and sat around eating snacks for a while to let our feet recover from the morning. We didn’t have much, just a few bits we’d bought from a 7 Eleven the day before but it was just to tie us over until the end of the event.

When we went back in the wandering was just as aimless as before as we looked around stalls. Though after about 30 minutes one of our group went off to visit another panel about videogames.

Before this though, we came across the Enterprise D bridge restoration booth where they had 3 of the chairs from the bridge. These weren’t the actual chairs that Paramount Pictures used in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the ones that were from the Star Trek Experience that recently closed in Las Vegas.

On the Enterprise D bridge

We then started to take a more methodical route through the hall and eventually saw Gillian Anderson (Special Agent Dana Scully), Chris Carter (writer) and Dean Haglund from X-Files, Marina Sirtis (Cllr Deanna Troi) and Michael Dorn (Lt. Cmdr Worf) from Star Trek: The Next Generation. We also saw John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood) but this was the one actor we weren’t allowed to photograph.

We also came across the BBC America booth where they were selling exclusive items, but more interestingly they had a display with a dress worn by Doctor Who companion Jenna Louise-Coleman (Clara), the suit worn by Matt Smith (11th Doctor), the copy of the suit worn by William Hartnell (1st Doctor) and the scarf worn by the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker.

Gillian Anderson

We’re all damned! Apparently.

Eventually we left and joined the queue for Hall H in the hope we’d get to see the Metallica panel. It was a long wait and for a good portion of it there was someone preaching about Christianity and that everyone in the queue was damned. It was particularly funny, especially when people passing by started copying him in jest and when the news crew turned up and attempted to interview him (something he totally ignored).

When we got into Hall H, I was shocked by how big the room was. Apparently quite a few people had been in there all day which explains why you can never normally get in there unless you start queuing the night before. This left me in two minds as to whether it would be better for them to empty it after each panel but this would mean a lot of wasted time and the inability to watch consecutive panels.

During the panel they brought out the members of Metallica and played the trailer to their new movie. The bass from the trailer was incredible, and the film actually looked quite good. There was then a short question and answer session that should have been followed with seeing who had won tickets to a secret gig. They made a bit of a mess with though as not everyone had been given lottery tickets for it. Somehow our row ended up with two as well.

James Hetfield of Metallica

It was slow work getting back to the hostel from there as the crowds of people made a mass exodus from the convention centre. When we got back it was a chance to relax and rest our feet for a while before heading back out to get some food – once again to Subway.

SDCC 2013 Day 2 – San Diego

This was my only full day in San Diego without Comic Con so it was my best chance to see some of the city. Surprisingly I woke up at 05:00 and just couldn’t get back to sleep so instead got ready for the day ahead. Breakfast at the hostel consisted of pancakes with maple syrup; so quite an American breakfast! It was the first time I’d made pancakes myself so I was lucky they came out edible and in one piece.

San Diego Convention Centre

We then headed out into the city to do some exploring. I tried to get a new US adapter so I could charge my phone, but the place we tried didn’t sell any. So instead we headed towards the convention centre and the Marriott.

This morning the queue to get into the fulfillment room in the Marriott was even longer than the night before and seemed ridiculously long. I was tempted to go off and do something else but the volunteers assured us that it would probably get even busier later in the day. As I’d already paid for the t-shirts I realised I had no choice but to queue. Whilst queuing the other two went off to get a drink and ended up in the Nintendo gaming lounge for a while.

Mario

By the time I got my order it had been just over an hour since I’d joined the queue. I bought an extra t-shirt whilst there as I thought it’d be good to get the Sandman one as well.

Once I’d picked up my t-shirts the other two had arrived as we’d agreed they’d check up on the queue progress after an hour in the hope that I’d have finished by then.

After explaining what they’d been doing and that they’d won a t-shirt we headed to the Nintendo gaming lounge to play some games and to see what else we could win.

Han and Leia dancing

In the lobby area of the Marriott there was someone playing as Mario and another as Luigi. In the entrance to the gaming room they also had someone playing as Pikachu (a character from Pokemon).

When playing some games the Nintendo employees would give you a token which you could redeem to get a t-shirt once you’d got enough. For some other games they gave away free items such as pin badges and a Mario hat.

Here I tried out a few Wii-U games such as a 3D Mario game and a Luigi specific one. There were also two places you could have your photograph taken either on a Mario landscape or with Donkey Kong.

I didn’t really get on that well with the Wii-U games and one of them felt a little laggy when there were 4 people playing on it at the same time. It could have been though that this was just a development version so may not have represented the final product.

Vikings lady

Over the road from the hotel we went to a place for the History Channel’s “Vikings” show. For this they had a boat race where the fastest time for the day would win a Viking shield signed by the cast. Before having a go you have to sign a waiver and then put on a life vest and helmet. We paddled hard and almost tipped the boat but our time was the fourth fastest of the day.

At this point they gave us a free copy of a Viking comic and we decided to have another go to see if we could do better. Once again we had to sign the waiver.

This time we paddled hard but our time was actually worse – possibly as we’d crossed into the next lane and the boat in that lane toppled over.

There was so much still to see but we decided it was about time to get some food. Along the way we came across some girls dressed as Tetris pieces, and some replica Jurassic Park cars to advertise a new musical. Our first attempt at finding somewhere to eat failed due to how busy it was, but on the way in two girls asked if we could have our photo taken with them (we were wearing Mario hats).

The food place was a sports bar where I went for a bacon cheeseburger with fries. It wasn’t bad and was a good choice I felt for my first proper American meal. I was pretty sure that one of the people sitting on the next table was one of them from the Ryan vs. Dorkman Star Wars fan videos.

Defiance Dodge

Having gotten a refill of my drink we walked with our drinks back to where Ender’s Game was located. We stopped briefly for a replica of Ecto 1 but soon joined the queue. Just before we entered we had to get rid of our drinks as they were not permitted inside. Once in the first thing we saw was a replica of a lounge which was an actual set from the show. This was then followed by walking through other sets and getting to see some props.

Ender’s Game – Storage Locker

Ender’s Game – Porthole

Having seen that we decided to continue along that road towards where we went the night before. The next thing we saw was the spice shop from Grimm, though I didn’t bother photographing it as it didn’t really look much like it. In the area I assume is normally a car park we headed over to where there was a van for Falling Skies. We queued for quite some time and whilst in the line I won a t-shirt by answering the question “Who does Noah Wyles play?” – which is of course Tom Mason. It turned out the queue was not really worthwhile as once in they let you watch some scenes from season 3, but ones that had already aired.

Smurf

From there we went to another trailer where they were showing a 3D trailer and IMAX exclusive scene from Gravity. It didn’t look too bad, but not one I’d see at the cinema – I’d be more likely to rent it from LoveFilm once released.

The next area was for the upcoming game, Mad Max. For this one you could have video taken of you in the car which would then be superimposed over a post-apocalyptic road scene. They also provided things like helmets, goggles, and weaponry so you could get into character for it. I made a bit of a mess of the weapon reloading though!

Once done in the car they then give you a free Mad Max t-shirt. As I’d quickly changed into the t-shirt they asked me if I wanted to have my photo taken in front of the car.

Mad Max

The Walking Dead “car crash” we’d seen the night before was now populated with zombies roaming as well. From what I could tell it seemed to be advertising a new game featuring Merl and his brother Daryl from the TV series (these weren’t characters in the original comics).

The Walking Dead

We had a quick wander past the other booths for DC Comics/Kia “We can be heroes”, Adult Swim (Robot Chicken) and a few others before deciding we’d pretty much seen everything. We headed in the direction of the Hilton hotel next to find out where the Indigo Ballroom was as we knew there’d be a “How I Met Your Mother” panel there on the Saturday.

Batgirl

Whilst sitting around there the actor who plays “Beast” in Beauty and the Beast walked past, followed by Kristin Kreuk (who plays Beauty). Sadly I didn’t get to take a photograph of her as by the time I’d spotted her she already had a crowd getting signatures. I waited patiently but someone came to lead her out of the hotel. She walked past a second time five minutes later but I still missed her – I think to some degree she wasn’t keen on people wanting to take her picture.

As my travel adapter wasn’t staying in the wall socket I went in the shop in the Hilton and bought a two-way USB adapter for just over $20. At first I was a bit confused about the price as I didn’t realise this shop, unlike the others I’d been in earlier, did not include sales tax in the price. It would have been nice to see some consistency.

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag – The Jackdaw

Outside the hotel we had another look at the LEGO in daylight before wandering down the dockside to get a photograph of the Jackdaw, the pirate boat from Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. By this time the sun had started to get lower so we headed back to the hostel to relax for a whole before heading out to Subway for an evening meal. Only the two of us went out as the other had come down with a cold and wasn’t feeling too good.

SDCC 2013 – Preparation

I’ve been to conventions before, and not just as a visitor, but have never been abroad specifically for a convention. Up to this point I’ve never even been to North America either so when the opportunity arose to go to San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) it’s a chance I couldn’t pass up. As I some friends that would be in America for several months anyway it seemed like a good chance to meet up with them for a few days as well so started formulating a plan and decided that I’d fly out for two days of SDCC and then have one day to look around San Diego.

San Diego Comic Con International logoThe problem though was that it wasn’t guaranteed we’d be able to get tickets. For SDCC the tickets go on sale months before the actual event, but before this you have to pre-register so that you’ll be sent a link to where you can try and get tickets closer to the time. On the day of registration we each opened up a browser window and waited for the ticket sales to be opened. Of the three of us only one was able to get through to the ticket sales page even though we’d all tried visiting the page within seconds of it going live.

Fortunately one of the group being able to access the page is all it takes – this was enough for tickets to be booked and our attendance to SDCC being guaranteed. It was a bit touch and go to start with though as the page failed to load once for the one that got through to the queue – fortunately due to his web development knowledge he was able to rejoin his place in the queue and continue the wait.

Once we had confirmation we made the mistake of waiting quite a few months before booking a hotel; fortunately after some extensive searching we did find a suitable hostel not far from the convention centre so once again we were quite lucky.

Beyond this though, there was no real preparation for going to SDCC. I had viewed a few blogs about people’s experiences and got the general impression that panels are very busy and would require a lot of queuing. It also sounded like there was very little chance of getting a Boba Fett from the Hasbro stand.

All I could do now was wait, and hope for the best.

In the last few weeks before the event I started to think about what camera gear I’d need to take with me – the plan was I’d take anything I could possibly need with the plan of storing away at the hostel anything not needed for Comic Con. As I’d got a day to look around San Diego I figured I would need my large lens and flash just to be on the safe side.

Camera Equipment and Gadgets

Camera Equipment and Gadgets

Packing List

  • Padlock (for backpack)
  • iPad
  • Card reader (for photo backups)
  • Canon Speedlite 580EX
  • Lenspen
  • Air blower for removing dust
  • Lens cloth
  • Canon EOS 5D mk3
  • Canon 28-135mm lens
  • Sigma 150-500mm lens
  • Charger for iPhone and iPad
  • Earphones
  • USB Camera adapter for iPad
  • iPod Shuffle
  • Audio adapter for airplane
  • Compact Flash
  • Camera batteries
  • Passport
  • Foreign currency

Since taking the photo I’ve since decided I don’t need to take a remote release with me and a couple of the other bits. The reason for taking so many batteries is that I don’t want to take my charger, and I have no idea how many photos I will be taking and will probably leave my camera switched on most of the time. I’ve also decided since then to not take the Gorillapod – I can’t see me using it.

King Richard III

Whilst I was away in East Africa the University of Leicester (which is the University I went to and is located in my hometown) announced that the skeleton they had unearthed in one of their trenches sunk into the car park at Greyfriars in Leicester was indeed that of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. This was determined by comparing the mitochondrial DNA to a descendant of Anne of York, Richard’s sister.

The Guild Hall

Within weeks of this announcement they set up an exhibition in the Guild Hall of Leicester with plans to have him buried in the cathedral, St. Martin’s Cathedral Church of Leicester, which is situated just next door. Around the time that the extensive DNA testing was taking place to confirm the identity of the body they also took a 3D scan of the print and did two things – they first produced a 3D print-out of the skull and then employed an expert in facial reconstruction to estimate what the person would have looked like by adding muscles, fat, and eventually skin-like structures to the skull into it resembled a person.

King Richard III of England

This facial reconstruction was also made part of the exhibition and was still on display months later when I finally got chance to visit.

The Guild Hall opens at 10:00 during school holidays so figured it would be a good idea to get there early in case there were queues. Fortunately we were the first in the line and didn’t have to wait too long.

The exhibition is quite short, and the very first thing you see is the facial reconstruction of the fallen King (other than a couple of informational boards). Though a couple of days after we visited it was due to be leaving on a tour of the country, starting with Bosworth Battlefield – the place where this King fell at the end of the War of the Roses.

3D printed replica of Richard III’s skull

For those not familiar with Richard Plantagenet’s history, he was short-lived in the role of King after the death of his brother Edward IV. Rather than Edward’s 12-year old son take the throne this was taken away by the former King’s marriage being declared invalid, therefore making what would have been Edward V illegitimate. This then ties in with the stories of the Tower of London’s Prince’s Tower where it is rumoured his nephews were murdered.

During the rebellion that followed he went to battle with Henry Tudor (who later became King and the first of the Tudor dynasty) and was later killed in Bosworth – the last King to die in battle, and one of the few to do so in England.

During the battle some of his skull was sliced away along with other wounds, both of which could be seen on the skeleton found under Greyfriars. After his death his hands were bound and carried to Greyfriars where he was buried without ceremony, and based on the evidence appears to have just been thrown into a hole in the ground without any recognition – the reason his remains were lost for so long.

14th Century Leather Knife Sheath

Pewter Paten and Yew Pin

Alabaster sculpture in painted oak case

Spectacle buckle, ring, ring, Richard III groat

Cup, Tyg and Hawthorne comb

Greyfriars Stonework

Leicester Automation Clock

Once we’d finished looking around the exhibition and reading about the excavation via the interactive display of the King’s bones, we moved on to look around the rest of the Guild Hall as despite living in Leicester I’ve never actually looked around it.

Across the courtyard is the entrance to a chamber and the Great Hall. At the time we were there is was filled with chairs as apparently the Guildhall was going to be used for a wedding that day.

From the Great Hall we took the stairs from the rear up to where there was a bedroom and then another room with old chests and other old furniture. It reminded me a little of the other Guildhall I’d seen before in Coventry.

The Great Hall, Leicester Guildhall

Next to this is then a library with a relatively small number of books – I’m sure I’ve got more books than them at home, but none as old as these. From there it is then a short staircase back down into the courtyard. We walked from there through the next archway into the cells. There were a few cells that you could look in, and also a torture device known as a Gibbet.

Leicester Guildhall

There isn’t really that much to see in the cells so we wandered back out into the courtyard and had a look at some of the pieces they have there. On one of the exterior walls is a massive clock known as the “Leicester Automation Clock”. It is a replica built from parts of the original and extensive notes that were available describing the original. There is also an old water fountain dating from around 1922 which is sculpted to look like Æthelflæd (Ethelfleda), the daughter of Alfred the Great and defender of Mercia. In 918AD, Æthelflæd had repelled the Danes from Leicester, hence her importance here.

In memory of Richard III

It was then time to go over to the St. Martin’s Cathedral Church. A few years previous the King Richard III society had paid for a memorial slab to be placed near the altar in the cathedral, one which describes his final resting place as being nearby in the Greyfriars church.

This was the first time I’d been in Leicester’s cathedral as well – surprising considering how many I’d visited to photograph. This one is a little unusual as far as cathedrals go, and that is because it was built as a church and later became a cathedral. It also has no pews for people to sit at.

As part of the King Richard III they have a person standing at the memorial stone who will talk about the King to anyone who wants to listen.

St. Martin’s Cathedral Church, Leicester

We didn’t stay there long though as we knew that there would be a talk at the dig site every half hour, on the half hour. So we left the cathedral behind us, taking a few exterior photographs as we went and walked over the road to New Street. From the outside you’d never be able to tell that behind the green gates was the burial place of a King. As Leicester City Council will be expanding the King Richard III exhibition to include the burial site at Greyfriars they have left a tent over the part of the carpark where the open trench from the archaeological excavation remains open.

Tent over trench 1

The first trench they dug just happens to have been the area where they found the bones of King Richard III and will soon have more permanent protection rather than just the tent. It seems the rest of the car park will remain used by the Council as the other two trenches where they uncovered parts of the Greyfriars building have now been filled in and parking spaces painted back in.

The Grave of a King

This then brought our tour of King Richard III sites to an end at the same spot the King was once buried. It is expected that the final resting place of the controversial Richard Plantagenet will eventually be inside the cathedral in Leicester.