As a shy ten-year old, I left a cinema in Salisbury, UK in the late 1970s in awe at the majesty of the first Star Wars film and the intimidating presence of Darth Vader.
Fast forward 40+ years (where did they all go?) and I left Vienna Comic Con in awe at the majesty of the event… and the intimidating presence of Darth Vader.
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A con for all
This is just a quick look back at my experiences at my first-ever Vienna Comic Con (in 2018). I could talk a lot about the cosplayers, the live action, the guests, and the exhibitors, but let us begin with the most important aspect: the pervading spirit.
Despite making my living through words, I find it hard to describe. But an atmosphere of openness and acceptance dominated…a natural friendliness…perhaps a shared sense that we’re all just living out our various fandoms, with no need to justify or defend our love of fantasy, film, comics or cult heroes (and heroines).
We’re all equal under the Comic Con sun.
You want costumes?
The hundreds of cosplayers left a lasting impression. Frankly, the quality of the costumes was outstanding. Many of them looked as if they’d just come off the film set or fallen out of the pages of the comic book.
As a Star Wars fan, nothing beats finding yourself in the middle of a scene from a film, with cosplayers and scenery creating one of those photo opportunities that has you messaging your friends in trembling excitement afterwards.
(Me and my friends from the Empire)
In my case, I found myself arrested by a small group of stormtroopers and forced to kneel before Lord Vader. (Who then proceeded to photobomb my selfie, such behaviour being one of the inevitable consequences of falling to the dark side of the force.)
These cosplayers were part of the Austrian garrison of the 501st Legion.
As well as providing fans with an unforgettable parade of figures from the films, the legion does a great deal of charity work for a local children’s hospital. It’s the kind of fan group that picks up your cynicism, gives it a sharp talking to, then sends it off to bed with no dinner.
You want stars?
Obviously, a Vienna Comic Con isn’t going to get the full cast of The Big Bang Theory to attend, but stars like Andrew Scott (Moriarty to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock) and others are heavyweights you don’t normally see in a small European country like Austria. So hats off to the organisers.
They say fame comes at a price. And, unfortunately, so does getting close to fame. A personal encounter with these stars requires paying extra for an autograph or photo token. But it’s money I parted with willingly.
John Noble (aka Lord Denethor from Lord of the Rings) was an exceptionally gracious gentleman, who made time for each fan. My two kids joined me for his live interview on the main stage and both came away impressed and not a little inspired.
Sylvester McCoy (aka Doctor Who and star of The Hobbit films) was equally gracious and generous, making each fan feel special even at the end of what was likely a tiring day. He even reacted kindly to my conversational faux pas when I mentioned how nice it was to see an English face (he’s Scottish).
At the 2019 Vienna Comic Con, Sean Astin and Alex Kingston proved equally fan-friendly. And you can read about my celebrity encounters at the 2022 event.
You want things?
Almost 400 exhibitors had stands at the event, selling everything from Assassin Creed tumblers to Zelda replica swords.
I got my sister a long-searched-for model of the NCC-1701 USS Enterprise, and held tightly to my wallet as the notes inside begged to be exchanged for Andúril, the sword wielded by Aragorn in the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
One huge hall housed the more commercial exhibitors, while another featured artists, artisans, comics and their creators. I wish I’d had more opportunity to explore them all.
If only there was a way to travel back in time and take in all the displays and performances I missed…
(Sadly, not in operation)
Roll on the next Comic Con.
Find more thoughts and a few visitor tips on the main Comic Con event page.