Geek Fest Version 1.0 this saturday!! (22nd feb)

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Screen Con and free comic book day by Wayne Madden

IMG_1078IMG_1077This past week saw Imagination and Sci Fi madness arrive in the North East, as the first ever Screen Con was held in the Parks Leisure Centre, in North Shields.

Added with the celebration of this being the first ever Screen Con event, and being held on the magical “May the Fourth”, was further celebration in Free Comic Book Day – an opportunity for bookworms everywhere to receive some free samples of comics and artwork from their favourite franchises.

As we queued for Travelling Man on Newcastle’s Grainger Street, it was obvious that we were actually a little late; despite the fact it was almost an hour before the shop was due to open! The line, which stretched down the road, contained an array of characters – some in costume and some without – who had come from all walks of life to obtain something free and something Geek for their creature comforts.

Slowly, the line began to move, and we were ushered into one of Newcastle’s premiere locations for comic book shopping – a sale quickly escalating tIMG_1071his normally pleasant pastime to fever stations – and dotted throughout the store several piles of comics from which we were encouraged to, help ourselves. Some of the titles available on this year’s FCBD were Bongo’s Simpsons, Dark Horse’s Star Wars, IDW’s Judge Dredd and NEC’s The Tick – the Blue paragon of virtue and justice. If you missed any of the action available (like I did with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) you’ll be pleased to know there are previews available online at the official FCBD website.

Next, the party moved up the street to Forbidden Planet, where a slightly less prepared store randomly handed out a bag containing four comics to everyone who queued. When we got in the store, there were no comics to be seen, and further requests for additional bags were ignored. In comparison, through Travelling Man’s method, I was able to obtain 35 comics from the collection – thus the only reason I missed out was because Forbidden Planet failed to adopt a similar structure. Alas, they also failed to provide a sale, a missed opportunity to capitalise on the extra footfall created by the day’s festivities.


With the comics safely in my bag, I headed to Screen Con, an event I’d be hearing so much about over the past few months. So unusual was it to hold a Sci Fi event of this kind in the North East that many people still talk about the comic book store in Whitley Bay – which closed sometime around when Metallica played at the Ice Rink. Guests at the convention, asides fIMG_1076rom stall holders, included such personalities as Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Sylvester McCoy (Dr Who, The Hobbit) and Alan Harris (Bossk) and there were several talks and events organised throughout the entire day.

Cosplay was a big influence in the event too, as many people came dressed as their favourite characters, from video games like Tomb Raider and Metal Gear too superheroes like Batman and The Incredible Hulk. One of the most positive things about the entire event was seeing people dressed in such ridiculous but well-made fancy dress, even if virtually every child present was the Eleventh Doctor, and nobody could tell you who William Hartwell or Patrick Troughton was! Stalls were packed with the latest merchandise, and although well stocked, they did seem a little more favourable towards the Star Wars and Doctor Who influences present, their prices doing little to IMG_1070compensate ticket holders for the price of their GA – at £10 – which sadly didn’t include the obligatory, and often much prized, compensatory autograph from one guest.

I can’t think how many career moves can be forged from simply stating you were one of the actors present as Darth Vader choked Admiral Motti to death in the boardroom – the actor who played Motti himself died last month, aged 66. As most attendee’s had their favourites to see, it was of little consequence that the less famous celebrities were left sitting around, watching as the queues even past their own table and people struggled to have Boba Fett sign their limited, mint condition, 1982 replica action figure* (Ed Note: A Boba Fett Back C 1982, Mint on Card, can retail for up to $500)IMG_1065

For an initial event the attendance was the most promising thing and the fact that people are willing and able to turn up in such spirits should be something very promising for both future events like this and also encouraging more Geek and Gamer orientated clubs/evenings in social settings, though Grainger Games ludicrously large Hummer outside the main entrance made for an eyesore if nothing else, provided they offered little to the event except to remind people they exist – and in doing so, gave people the perfect opportunity to remember where to buy their next Star Wars game!

As Screen Con prepare for their next instalment (October 2013, FYI) there is much excitement about the possibilities of what an establishment event like this can do in the North East. Certainly holding it outside of convention time and giving people the chance to come to an original function is a brilliant idea – even if the admission price was slightly steeper than expected – and the additional autograph prices left a sour taste.

next blog red dwarf part 2!

more photos