As I’m a contributor to the ebb and flow of t’internets, and as seems demanded of pretty much every journalist and blogger out there, I have been asked if I would put together a list of my favourite highlights of the last twelve months. This was asked of me a couple weeks ago and, I’m going to have to admit, I’ve procrastinated on this one.
Oh, boy, it’s been a tough list to put together. 2014 has been a true roller coaster ride of a year and I’ve struggled to narrow the list down to just the ten highlights: I’ve even cheated and included some in the list which aren’t individual moments or instances – it was the only way I could keep the list down to under fifty items!. However, ten is the limit, I’ve been reliably informed by an impartial adjudicator that them’s the rules and I’ve done what I can. I recognised that the list was getting a bit long, what with my rambling an’all so I’ve broken it down into three parts – I’m fired up, I’m determined and I’m on a mission! Let’s do this!
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier midnight premiere (25th March 2014)
This was a fun one – a double feature of Joss Whedon‘s Avengers and the latest instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at Cineworld Sheffield on their huge digital IMAX 3D screen. In the company of t’Missus and a couple of lovely fellow SDCC UK Attendees members, this evening served as the perfect warm-up for our California SDCC adventure, on the horizon a couple months later. A pint or two in the cinema bar, a viewing of a film (that I worried, thanks to our over-familiarity, was going to turn into Nerd Karaoke but turned out to be just the blast of a ride it always is), some streamed footage of the London premiere that had taken place only hours before and then, bang on midnight, the first ever national screening of the Russo Brothers efforts – followed by some heavily intense geeky chatter in the sports bar next door afterwards! (Read my review of the film, here!)
A trip to the cinema might seem like an underwhelming entry on to this list but it really was a fantastic night in the company of some good friends and my darling wife (who I sometimes keep up with, toe-to-toe on the nerd scale, when I really concentrate), and also the moment I realised that Marvel Studios were absolutely doing it all so right: creating an entire solidified universe on both the small and big screen with ramifications beyond the standard CTL-ALT-DEL setting of most action movies. Ooh, and I got a tasty Black Widow print out of it, too. Result!
9. MCM Expo Birmingham (22nd/23rd November 2014)
This whole weekend was just such a blast – it was the first MCM Expo event I’d ever attended and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had attended enough ‘comic cons’ at this point to worry it was going to be a couple of high profile Special Guests distracting everyone from the fact that the event an elaborate nerd ‘flea market’. As it happened, this couldn’t be farther from the truth – yes, there are plenty of stalls and retailers, piling their wares (including a fully operational tattoo parlour, which I’m certain would have concerned a couple of mums and dads, dropping off the kids outside the Birmingham NEC!) but the attractions around the periphery of the Expo’s layout were extraordinary: a Robot Wars arena ‘cage’; a truly amazing Steampunk display and panel stage; an area especially dedicated to Star Wars, including a full landspeeder, podracer and a large space for cosplayers and hardcore fans including the UK Garrison of the 501st Legion; the Autograph Booths; an incredible Comics Village, showcasing some of the cream of upcoming UK comics talent… It just went on and on, I was blown away about how much had been crammed into this event by the outstanding MCM Expo team.
But, for me, the cherries on the top of the cake were the Special Guests Signing Tables – which I didn’t queue up for, as it happens, for personal reasons. I’m not one for collecting signatures for the hell of it, I’d rather have a personal moment with whoever I’m interacting with – which featured names from film and TV, including those that were also attending panels in the MCM Expo Panel Tent, aka the Marshmellow, also known as the MCM Condom.
This giant, white, inflated area, located within the Exhibition Space itself, held panels from the likes of Harry Potter‘s Tom Felton, voice actor superstars Vic Mignogna and Todd Haberkorn, Saw/The Princess Bride star Cary Elwes, Breaking Bad’s R.J. Mitte and the cast of Red Dwarf, throughout the whole of the weekend. These guests managed to overcome the rising humidity of the tent with good grace and humour and made it an amazing space, full of tales and recollections of their times on set, along with drinking in the joyous atmosphere of fans, relishing the opportunity to share their enthusiasm with fellow enthusiasts in the room. Brilliant stuff.
This event was also the first ever that I had been given a Press pass to, my first real step in becoming a real bo… er, I mean, a real journalist! In that capacity, I even got to interview Danny John-Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf) about his history with comics, some secretive upcoming projects and his time as judge for this years British Comic Awards. My first ever face-to-face interview: I think Danny was very generous with his time, considering my naivety! It just irks me to discover that, in putting this list together, my website has seen fit to delete my MCM Expo overview posts – I’ll be going over my notes and re-uploading these in the New Year, promise. I’d hate for the MCM Expo guys to think I just came along for the hell of it!
8. The (Nerd) Brethren Court
Not so much a single event or person but a whole family that I now consider my best and closest friends – the online community that is something that I have become a part of in five short years and yet has developed into a collective that I am so proud to be a part of. From all the people I interact to daily on Google+, Twitter, Hangouts, Pinterest, Tumblr, Ello, (…fine, fine, Facebook as well!…), to the incredible Google+ SDCC Community which, I am absolutely certain, is only scratching the surface of what it can be for SDCC fans and is one of the things I’m most proud of putting together, to those who seek me out and meet up with me in ‘the real world’, just to say hello and introduce themselves (something that humbles me so much and blows me away every single time it happens), and to those who reach out and support the website in a virtual way by commenting and reposting what we put on the various social medias. You really are the reason why I’m so committed to keeping it going, because if you are willing to talk to me, I’ll keep on striving to talk to you. I might not get round to everybody on as such a regular basis as I’d like but I’ll try harder to keep in touch and strive to be as important a part of your life as you are to mine. Thank you, everybody, for the very depths of my heart.
I have to highlight: Alyssa Franks, Megan Gotch, Barb S., Mark Searby, Jeff Mueller, Chris from Nerd Fu, Syzzlyn (Tina) from Red Dot Diva, Angie from Nerd Girls, all the gang from The Nerd Element, Rob S. from The Futon Alliance, Violet from Gender Biased Reviews, Kyle from The TF Review and the many more who have joined us on the Hangouts – thank you so much for making it the most rewarding part of what I do so far. It’s such a blast to talk live with my fellow comrades!
Jason Nieves, Jesse Linn, Christopher Stiver, Rachel Bueno, Chris Chen, Jimmy David, Carlo Duya, Doug Fortney, Donna Gardner (the most dedicated fan of anything I know, bar none), Brandon Jimenez, Kelly and Kerri (love you!!), Hesus Ng Sunrise, Luis Sam, the entire Intel FB Group (the first rule of the Intel Group is you don’t talk about… wait. Damn!)… The list is endless and I’ll stop there, knowing that eventually I’ll forget someone. But the one guy I especially want to single out is Khanh Thai, a guy who goes above and beyond for his friends, making them, in the process, his family. My wife and I are so honoured to have you in our lives, Khanh. Thank you.
7. Interviewing Paul Levitz / Kieron Gillan / Michael Uslan / Geoff Boucher
When I set up the Englishman In San Diego website, I knew that the primary draw for any site like this is content and, for that, you need something special. The live Google+ Hangouts are a fantastic way for me and my fellow guests to interact directly with other like-minded SDCC fans, each and every Sunday, and I look forward so much to starting them back up in the New Year (watch this space). However, they’ve also given me the opportunity to invite extra Special Guests along to talk about their con experiences and their interactions with fans at such events.
To that end, this entry can’t be narrowed down to just one guest that we’ve had on the Hangouts – each and every one has been a highlight and I’ve been especially grateful to them for taking time to join us. From San Diego Convention Center Press Officer Steven Johnson, talking about what became the ultimately doomed Convention Center Expansion Plans, to ACE Parking’s Jon Gjerset who we managed to speak to before the issues with their Parking Sale arose, to ReedPOP’s Brian Stephenson talking to us about their ambitious plans for that October’s New York Comic Con event, to Comic-Con International’s David Glanzer who it always a pleasure to talk to about that organisation’s hopes and dreams for San Diego Comic-Con, not just for the next few years but well into the future.
But I have to single out a couple of guests who, without this website and the Hangouts, I would have never managed to get to talk to – for that, I will be always grateful.These guests include: DC Comics editor/VP Paul Levitz, who talked about the enduring relationship between the creators that attend the cons and the fans that clamour to meet them (I must credit Red Dot Diva blogger Syzzlyn for the introduction, without which the interview wouldn’t have taken place – thank you!!); writer Kieron Gillan, who jumped in at such a late notice and was such an amazing guest in that all we had to do was just wind him up and let him go, full of stories of meetups with fellow creators at cons – and the drinking sessions that ensue; Michael Uslan, a fascinating and endlessly enthusiastic man who I could listen talk about Batman and the legacy of that incredible character, forever and a day; and, finally, my first ever proper interview of a subject, outside of the hardcore SDCC circle, journalist/writer/Hall H panel moderator Geoff Boucher, a man who has given me the most encouragement for what I think the site could achieve, if I just focus and give it my all. I promise, Geoff, that’s exactly what I intend for in 2015 – the last twelve months have only been the beginning!
Click here for #6 to #3, and here for my Top Two Hits Of 2014!