Tag Archives: conventions

Marvel Universe Live – A Review

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My review of Marvel Universe Live?

F**king Awesome!

There you go.

What … not enough?

Okay, but where in the name of Margaret Elizabeth Carter do I start with how amazing this show is?

First off, a quick word about the venue in which I watched the performance, the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield. I’ve been there before, for the wonderful Yorkshire Cosplay Convention last year (you can read about that / see my geeky derp face here) but this was my first visit to see a show. The place is MASSIVE, and even before the show started, it was brilliant to see the hundreds of children in the various costumes of their heroes, making me feel like the future is in good hands with these young geeks (Geeklings? We should make that a thing!).

Btw, some of these photos are mine, obviously (a lot of them have already appeared on Twitter and Instagram, and if you’re ever in those online neighbourhoods, please feel free to have a look around and say hi!) but I have enhanced this post with some images culled from the net, simply to illustrate how awesome the design of the show is. You’ll be able to tell the difference. The net ones are the nice and focussed images, whereas mine were all taken with the shaking hands of THE MOST EXCITED GEEK IN THE WORLD!!!

Seriously, the kid in the Iron Man costume behind me was a bit of a … well, let’s just call him a handful (although to be fair I really do think that maybe he was a little young to sit through a two-hour show) and he did seem to have a weird fascination with kicking the back of my seat, but, such was my excitement that I spent most of the time on the edge of said seat anyway, so ultimately this Iron Toddler and myself got along fine.

The only other interaction I had with a costumed geekling was when one of them was guided along the row of seats by his mother, who smilingly explained to me that “Hulk has a weak bladder” to which I replied “Well, I’m not gonna argue with him.” I’m forever grateful that my portcullis of good taste slammed down upon my initial instinct to shout “HULK SLASH!”

I didn’t cosplay, of course, but I did choose my clothes appropriately (including my Cap beanie and Civil PHWOAR shorts haha!)

Anyway, the show began, and I got my first glimpse of the spectacular (and really rather clever) way in which the story’s superheroics could be presented in a theatrical environment. I’m not a HUGE fan of seeing live shows, and some of you more experienced theatre goers might justifiably laugh at my caveman-like awe of what to many might be old-school stage tricks. But still, here was the mighty Thor himself, crashing to the ground in a vortex of light and smoke, holding aloft the Cosmic Cube itself, the Tesseract!

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A quick note here. The show obviously touches on aspects of Marvel lore (and with admirable diversity in some places) and so any review is going to reflect that. There are degrees of interest in the Marvel concepts (from zero to my own level, and beyond) but the rise of the superhero genre in popular culture means that a lot of folks can maybe pick Hawkeye out of a line-up but don’t necessarily know that J.A.R.V.I.S (the Artificial Intelligence in the movies, voiced by Paul Bettany) amusingly stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, so I’m going to presume that MOST people reading this know SOMETHING of the Marvel Universe, and take no prisoners in explaining EVERY LAST FANBOY NOD that the show contained.

So, essentially, the Tesseract is a power source that could be used to do evil, and so Thor smashes it into segments that are scattered far and wide. His evil brother Loki (or his spawn of a Frost Giant adopted half-brother, but let’s not go there) seeks to reassemble the segments for his own wicked plans and the heroes band together to stop him. That’s the thrust of the story, really. The Avengers (plus Spiderman, X-Men members Wolverine, Storm and Cyclops, and in a lovely piece of marketing foreshadowing the recently announced movie, Captain Marvel) track down the segmented pieces and must retrieve them from the hands of various Marvel Supervillains (and btw, that’s what I meant about the diversity of the franchise concepts used here – the villains included Black Cat, yet to be shown in mainstream Marvel movie, and A.I.M, basically another evil version of SHIELD that’s been usurped as the big bad in the MCU by Hydra)

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All of the missions to retrieve the segments were spectacularly staged, realised through a mix of lasers and lighting and projection, plus the many “sets” that were wheeled unobtrusively into the arena to signify new locations. One weird thing was to see some characters on motorbikes (the Falcon and Red Skull) but yes, the Falcon DOES fly very convincingly (as do several other heroes and villains) and the bikes kept the action moving along at a wonderfully brisk pace.

And at one point, Captain America pulls a motorbike stunt that Will. Take. Your. Breath. Away!

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The effects throughout were mostly amazing. My favourites were Nick Fury and Maria Hill in a jeep that rolled over in a ball of flame, and the moment where Cap slung his shield from one side of the arena to the other (a very clever piece of two-shield trickery). One lovely little moment came when Loki was trying to use his mind-control powers on the assembled heroes. Fans of the movies will know that Loki has a trait of projecting multiple images of himself, and rather wonderfully, the heroes being hypnotised in the arena show suddenly had an actor in an identical Loki costume standing in the shadows at their side.

For me, only two effects didn’t work, and to be fair, they’re probably two of the most difficult to replicate in a live show. One of them was the repulsor rays from Iron Man’s gauntlets and the other was Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk. The rays were projected onto the floor in front of the actor and the Hulk … well, if any UK readers are familiar with Mr Blobby, there IS an element of that character’s rubbery awkwardness in the costume. That said, these visualisations only suffered in comparison to how brilliant everything else was, and as stated, are two of the hardest parts of the Marvel Universe to recreate without CGI.

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Overall, this is a great show to see, whether you’re a geek or not. There are some great jokes in there too (listen out for Loki’s description of the audience as “a herd of human cattle, stinking of polyester and nachos”). And for what it’s worth … I can thoroughly recommend the candyfloss and accompanying Iron Man mask!

 

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

 


Dark and Depraved – Sheffield Horror Con 2016

WARNING! CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE … IF YOU DARE!

Hello!

So … On the weekend of 9/10 July 2016, I returned to Sheffield for another Con. The last time I was there was for the Yorkshire Cosplay Con held at the Sheffield Arena, and this one was a little bit different in that while the previous event was largely Comic and Anime themed, the latest was centered around the genre of Horror, and as such had a wonderful focus on the dark and the depraved.

The venue itself was the magnificent Magna Science Adventure Centre, located in a disused steel mill, and as such was the perfect environment for a event celebrating the sinister.


As if the venue wasn’t atmospheric enough, a great effort had been made to add to the Horror ambience. My favourites were probably the corpse outlines on the floor and the body bags suspended above the Information Desk, but of course every way you turned there was something to give you a scare.

There were plenty of activities at the Con, and although I didn’t indulge in the Special Effects Make Up stalls, I did venture forth into a tent to be attacked by a couple of zombies. They were genuinely scary, and they really did seem to be going for it in the struggle. Rather unfortunately, I ended up with a little (presumably fake) blood on my hand from the lady zombie’s boob, but she was immensely gracious about it and allowed me to wipe my hand on her hoodie.

I was thrilled to make friends with Vivienne and her larger relative Willow. They were both lovely, and I got the chance to stroke a tarantula’s belly, even though we were never properly introduced and I didn’t catch her name.

There were some great guests at the convention, including Kane Hodder (the original Jason Vorhees) and Horror Author Shaun Hutson. I managed to catch a talk from Pinhead himself, the wonderful actor Doug Bradley, and even meet Horror-Icon Linnea Quigley, upon whom I had something of a crush back in the day. Weirdly, a little while before I’d even booked my ticket for the Con, I’d posted a picture on Twitter of a sketch I’d done of Linnea, and so when we chatted I showed her the picture on my phone. Her reaction was … interesting, although she did agree to a photograph. See that smile? That’s ME STILL CRUSHING YEARS LATER!!! I should point out that the sketch isn’t just some weird imagining of mine. It’s based on a shot from the movie Night Of The Demons, and is kind of the Horror movie equivalent of the Marilyn Monroe white dress/subway moment.

Speaking of Horror Icon crushes, I also got a snapshot with the beautiful Emily Booth (star of the brilliant Cradle Of Fear and Evil Aliens, among other things). Weirdly, I bumped into her again at Sheffield Station as I waited for my train home, and she very kindly agreed to a quick selfie. I’ve censored my face on both photos because it seems that her superpower is to plant the most giddy fan boy smile in existence on my face, and the world isn’t ready for that. The one taken at the Con has me showing teeth and everything!

Of course, Linnea and Emily weren’t the only swoonsome Horror crushes I met that weekend. The Divas of Dread themselves, CL Raven, had a stall full of scary goodies at the Con, and I was absolutely privileged to spend some time in their company. They’re as charming and funny in person as they are online, and much friendlier than their brilliant and terrifying fiction would suggest. I eagerly snapped up a copy of their book, The Malignant Dead, which they were kind enough to sign. You can find their take on the weekend here.

They also introduced me to another writer I was familiar with from Twitter, Mark Cassell, and he too gave me his autograph on a copy of both his novel The Shadow Fabric and his short story collection, Sinister Stitches. Again, Mark proved the adage about the scarier the work, the nicer the author, and it was great to meet him.

As evidenced by my post about my last trip to Sheffield and also my escapades at MCM Liverpool, one of the most brilliant elements of a Con is the cosplay, and this weekend was no exception. The quality of the costumes was breathtaking, and one thing I noticed was that many of the cosplayers stayed in character for almost the entire event. For example, the zombie in the first photo below had been wandering the corridors of the Magna Centre snarling at passers-by, and the reason we got chatting was because I was the only person she met that actually snarled back. The werewolf in the second picture is actually called Francine, and we’d already run into each other previously at Yorkshire Cosplay Con. She gave me one of the best laughs of the weekend when, out of the dozens of cosplayers I got a snapshot with, she was the only one who asked to see the photo to make sure she looked okay.

One cosplay I wanted to make special mention of was THIS little guy. He’s … what? Five? Six? And dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I have seen the future of Horror and it’s this kid!

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Of course, even monsters and ghouls have to eat, and it was fun to see discarded masks scattered around the cafeteria …

Over the two days, I really enjoyed taking a look around the many stalls selling tons of Horror stuff, and I wish I could have bought more, but I still came away with a whole bunch of cool stuff. I picked up a copy of CINE by Stuart Keane of Dark Chapter Press, who I kind of know because my story FOUND FOOTAGE was published in their Flashes Of Halloween anthology. I got a Death Note Fob Watch and temporary tattoo. There was actually a tattoo artist working at the Con, and my friend (and it would seem now, official Horror Con Photographer) Louise almost talked me into getting some real ink, but it was either the needle or meeting Linnea Quigley, so the temp ink was as far as I went. This time.

I bought a “stitched flesh” t-shirt that looks MUCH more convincing in real life, and the COOLEST cushion covers ever! TARDISES and Superheroes and Lament Configuration Boxes! Oh My!

One stall that I really wanted to buy something from was the Ginger Zoo, which was kind of cute, knitted chimp-like figures reimagined as Horror Icons. I loved them because the mash-up was so gloriously inappropriate, ESPECIALLY the Human Centipede one!

So, a great weekend, and just because it’s so ace, here’s another pic of the water feature outside Sheffield Station AND the pianos there that are free to use. The next Horror Con I’m planning to visit is in Birmingham in February 2017. There’s probably a few more I’ll be enjoying before then, but if Birmingham is half as good as Sheffield it’ll be brilliant!

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading!