Another year, another trip to the joys of Vienna Comic Con. A frontline report from 2023.
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Comic Con Vienna 2023
(Just me hanging out with a friend)
So the doors open, and a swirling mass of fandom swarms over the Messe Wien like the Army of the Dead fulfilling their oath to Aragorn at Minas Tirith in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King movie.
Welcome to my world.
As with every visit, my two days at Comic Con are an escape from the news, taxes and family skepticism as to whether I really need another model of a stormtrooper on my shelf (of course I do).
And, as always, a weekend to wallow in the absence of cynicism and enjoy two giant halls full of the creativity of cosplayers, actors, artists, writers, designers and others.
This Comic Con felt a little different. A little younger: the stage featuring content creators (streamers and similar) seemed particularly popular, for example. And a little less focused on entertainment guests.
(Jonathan Frakes, such a fantastic speaker; press photo © Felix Braune, David Bitzan)
Nevertheless, one of those entertainment guests was none other than Jonathan Frakes. His Saturday panel proved a whirlwind of fun. If I have half that energy at his age, I shall be a happy man.
Mr Frakes entertained us with anecdotes, banter and a fair few musical numbers. The man likes to sing. And this at the end of a very long day for him. A long day, because the huge interest in an autograph and photo meant he put in extra shifts to help clear the queues.
Ah, the queues.
Let us cast a mantle of silence over the time we lost on Saturday trying (and failing) to reach Mr Frakes. We were able to do so on the Sunday, fortunately.
Saturday was what you might describe as crazy busy, with lines for Mr Frakes and Andrzej Sapkowski in particular reaching such lengths that it made traversing parts of one hall a touch tiresome.
Books and artists
(A prized trophy from my visit)
Part of that shift from the TV and movie world was to authors. Sapkowski, for those who don’t know, wrote the Witcher series of books that spawned the games and TV series.
Another absolutely top writer was Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Rivers of London series. Thrilled to get my books signed by both at the Morawa stand.
One of the particular pleasures of the Comic Con experience is the willingness of guests to chat with visitors (which also explains some of the queues).
For example, I spent a lovely few minutes discussing script writing, The Wonder Years and Charles Dickens with Todd Langen, who, among other achievements, wrote the script for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Cowabunga.
And the great Barry Kitson explained the challenges of consistent character drawing. You know you’re experiencing something special when the answer to your question begins:
Well, when I draw Superman…
Space, the final frontier
(Another addition to the shelf: Monkey D. Luffy)
Aside from the queueing issues, the move to Halls A and B of the Messe meant much more space, especially in the “artists alley” section, where dozens of folk sold their prints, original artwork, jewelry, textiles and similar.
The more commercial expo part had its usual array of goodies. I failed to buy a stormtrooper (to the wider cheering of my family), but did come away with Monkey D. Luffy of One Piece fame. He wants to be King of the Pirates, you know.
Manga and Anime dominated the stores and artist booths to a greater extent than I recall from previous events. Much as I admire both, I hope future Comic Cons keep plenty of fandom diversity in both shopping areas.
Toss a coin to your Witcher
(On the set)
A final word on the cosplayers and cosplay sections. I stand in awe of the effort and skill that goes into the costumes worn by visitors. Same goes for the stands and staff in the dedicated cosplay areas.
This year had, for example, arcane and Witcher set pieces for photos, with appropriate cosplayers walking around, too. All courtesy of Walkiah Cosplay.
And no Comic Con passes without the obligatory selfie with Darth Vader. The lovely folk of the 501st Austrian Garrison put up great set pieces for photos, raise money for charity, and deliver goosebump-level entertainment with their opening parade. The Force is most definitely with them.
Until next year!