WHO DOESN’T LOVE A CLASSIC HERO?
By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall of Tysall’s Photography
Old heroes never die. And it looks like they aren’t fading away either. Cosplay fans – those who love dressing up as their hero seem to be giving the likes of Batman, Robin, the Joker and Cat Woman a whole new lease of life.
Along with Star Wars Storm Troopers, Jedi Warriors and dear old Darth Vader himself, these classic characters wander through the NEC halls rubbing shoulders with Japanese Manga comic characters and cult heroes and villains from computer games and internet series. These cheerful costumers descend upon the Birmingham NEC twice a year when the MCM Birmingham Comic Con comes to town.
In my opinion the event is probably the most entertaining exhibition held at the NEC, as you lose yourself in the fantasy and make believe worlds. And you just have to admire the incredible costumes and make-up that have been created just for the occasion.
As well as paying tribute to their heroes, the MCM Comic Con also has an array of actors, actresses, writers, illustrators, producers, prop makers and others involved in making the films and programmes we love so much. Topping the bill at the November event in Birmingham were Lee Majors of the Six Million Dollar and Fall Guy fame and Liv Tyler famous for her roles in Lord of the Rings and the The Incredible Hulk 2008 film. Plus a host of other top names.
For me, meeting Bob Baker – the writer of my favourite animated characters, Wallace & Gromit, was a special moment. This prolific writer has written for many TV series and films including Bergerac, Z Cars, Shoestring, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Doctor Who and more as well as being the co-creator for Doctor Who‘s famous robot dog, K9.
Bob was there with writer and producer Paul Tams. They were signing copies of their book, The Essential Guide to K9 which is very topical at the moment, seeing as K9 is all set to hit the big screens with K9 Timequake.
The pair were very excited about the forthcoming film. Paul explained how it came about. He said, “We did a K9 TV serial in 2009/2010 for Disney XD in Australia. They kept replaying the old episodes. Once we were out of contract with Disney we had hopes of making a second series but then we were asked if we would like to make a movie, which we were very pleased and excited about. Bob has written the script, I’ve added some visual jokes in. For the movie, K9 must be bigger and more outrageous. It’s an action adventure with CGI effects, set in deep space with lots of heroes, androids and monstrous aliens with the main villain being the classic Doctor Who character Omega.”
The release of the film will coincide with K9’s 40th birthday. Bob Baker continued: “Dave Martin and I created K9 initially for The Invisible Enemy series of Doctor Who in 1977. We had a dog-loving scientist, Professor Marius who couldn’t bring his own dog with him so creates one on his computer. We wrote it just for his story but the production team wanted to keep him on. Forty years on and K9 is still as popular as ever.”
Also involved with K9 Timequake was prop maker, Louise Edge. Louise was working by remote control the K9 she had built, much to the amusement of the younger visitors to the show. “This is specifically built for Bob and Paul, it’s a retro classic, and it’s made from a mix of fibreglass and foam with a lot of electrical junk!
“I’ve been a professional prop maker for around ten years and before that I was doing it as a hobby – a hobby that got out of control. I am self taught. My dad taught me how to make things from a really young age.”
Louise decided to make a robot dog for herself some years ago, after losing her own beloved pet. She said, “I watched Tom Baker on Doctor Who and thought that if I had a K9 it would last forever. So I made one and I ended up being invited onto the Graham Norton show with it. It was suggested there that maybe I should become a professional prop maker. I joined Merlin Entertainments – I used to hang around and pick people’s brains! Since then I’ve trained in pyro work and animatronics.”
Another artist of a different sort who was showcasing his talents was illustrator Graham Humphreys who clearly had the knack of drawing horror and macabre, although a visit to his website shows a whole range of beautiful artwork. Graham told me that he studied graphic design and illustration at Salisbury College of Art Learning all aspects of the craft and has worked with a wide variety of film makers, designing and illustrating posters and campaigns. “I’m currently working with Arrow Video who specialise in cult films,” said Graham and have done many covers for them. “But I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I’ve always drawn, since I could pick up a pencil. I was inspired by old film posters, things like posters for Hammer Films.”
Take a look at his work: www.grahamhumphreys.com
As well as stars, there were masses of stalls selling all kinds of collectables and replica items; and of course there were the cosplay stars themselves. Just everyday people of all ages, who’d taken the trouble to make their own costumes and come as their own favourite hero or villain.
So another great MCM Comic Con show brimming with interesting people and characters. Visit the website for news of all the upcoming MCM Comic Con shows: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/