As you’ll know if you follow me on Facebook, Comic Con went really well.
In fact, to quote GLaDOS from Portal:
This was a triumph.
I’m making a note here:
It’s hard to overstate
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
I drove up to ExCeL on Friday afternoon, where I had booked 2 nights in the Ramada hotel. The journey was pretty long as the M25 was absolutely rammed with Bank Holiday traffic, but I eventually arrived at around 7pm. The hotel was nice enough, although the offer of free parking turned out to be slightly misleading; they have a very small car park in front of the main entrance that is indeed free on a “first come, first served” basis but it was permanently full (I don’t think I saw an empty space, even for a moment, the whole time I was there). The vast majority of the available parking was Pay & Display at a rate of £12 per day. Still, at least the WiFi was free and had a decent bandwidth.
I chose to drive up in girl mode and didn’t take any guy clothes with me at all, so this was to be a “full time” girl mode weekend. I’d booked the hotel in my girl name, and there were no problems whatsoever with check-in and I was soon in my room and unpacked. One nice touch was a personalised greeting on the TV screen, which I know is a bit twee but it meant something to me given the circumstances.
I changed out of my casual outfit and into a dress and went down to the bar. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting it to be empty apart from two bar staff and two guests. But I thought I’d have a drink anyway, and I certainly needed one after I got the bill for the first drink. I ended up having two glasses of beer and a steak sandwich and the total bill was around £25. Ouch. Since there still weren’t more than a handful of people in the bar, I went back up to my room, watched a bit of telly and then turned in.
Next morning I got up, had a quick shower, and got some basic make-up on, which didn’t take too long as I hadn’t fully taken off my make-up from the night before (I had left my eyes, but had taken off my foundation), and went down for breakfast. I didn’t have a lot of appetite and didn’t each much, which was a pity as it had cost me £7.50 extra (a special half price deal – no, really), but I just had no appetite. I think I was nervous and apprehensive, but I don’t know why as there were people in costume all over the place outside the window, walking down to the ExCeL centre already.
Back up to my room and I started to get ready. It took me less time than expected, especially as I already had the majority of my make-up on already.
I had worried that the dress was a little shapeless and badly proportioned (as you can see from this Facebook post), which was my fault for specifying a shorter length when I ordered it, because Milanoo had to make it both wider and shorter than the original design in order to do so and I had concerns that it was ruined as a result. But, as I said, I take full responsibility for that – they just did as requested. If you compare my dress to the model pics (see my earlier post) then you can see that the bottom of the dress should have another layer or two of black, and has much different proportions.
However, once I had the outfit all together, and a corset on under the dress, and the lacing on the back of the dress pulled in tight, and a black petticoat tutu underskirt on (which I positioned so that it was visible below the hem line) then it took on a whole new shape to it and I was really pleasantly surprised how well it worked. The whole ensemble just came together. Although, having said that, it was clear that the outfit was more of a Burlesque or ‘Saloon Girl’ look rather than the Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) / Classic Lolita look I had been aiming for.
I was all ready by 10.30am and, even though my ticket didn’t give me entry until 11am, I decided to go down anyway. So, with my outfit looking better than I had dared to hope, I headed out of my room with confidence. That confidence was enhanced even further by a girl in the lift telling me I looked amazing. Yay!
Out the door, and the centre looked to be about half a mile away and my feet bore up well, and I entered by the East Entrance. Almost immediately a photographer asked to take my pic, which was a confidence boost. I then walked up to a member of staff to enquire where to get my ticket scanned, only to be told I had to turn around and exit via the way I had come in, walk round the side of the building, and then walk the entire length of the building externally, and then enter via the West Entrance. Arses. I did so, and it was a very long walk! And then when I got in, the queue appeared to be immense. However, it was fast moving and I wasn’t held up long. But what was a bind was that they had laid in metal chicane barriers which turned a short walk across the entrance hall into a very long back & forward walk. And, worse, the volume of people meant that the barriers weren’t needed (people were just able to walk at the speed they wanted – no queueing). It would have saved me an awful lot of walking if they had opened up a direct shortcut. By the time I got into the main hall I felt that I had already done more walking than I had intended to do in the whole day. But my feet were holding up well, no doubt in part due to Doctor Marten’s patented Air Cushion soles.
It had probably taken me just over an hour from leaving the hotel to actually getting into the show.
The place was absolutely heaving, and it was rather bewildering. But I wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and looking at the stalls. The outfits that people were wearing were fantastic; some had obviously put a lot of time and effort into them. You can see an album of photos that I took by clicking this link, which will take you to Facebook (you don’t need a Facebook account to view them).
One outfit that I particularly loved was a girl in a wheelchair who was dressed as a mermaid. I thought that this was just so clever and lovely – turning her situation into something positive by wearing a costume that an able-bodied person would be unable to.
The large central corridor down the spine of ExCeL seemed to be the place where you could “see and be seen”, so I spent some time there and took a lot of my photos of people. Sadly my earlier confidence from being photographed evaporated as nobody asked to take my photo, although several times when I complimented someone on their costume and said they looked amazing, they replied that I looked great too. So that was something I guess, but overall I felt rather anonymous. I think that really my outfit was just too generic – to really stand out you have to look exactly like a recognisable character from a film, TV show, comic or video game. Certainly the ones that most often prompted me to say something were that; notable examples being ‘Barf’ from the film Space Balls, Moxi from the video game Borderlands, a Viper pilot from the original 1970’s Battlestar Galactica, Judge Dredd from 2000AD and films, Leeloo from the film The Fifth Element, and Alita from Battle Angel Alita. I really wish I’d managed to take a pic of Alita – I talked to her and told her how much I love the character and what a good job she had done on her costume, but for some reason I didn’t think to take a photo of her. I should have done.
There were also a pair of Weeping Angels from Doctor Who, a guy in full Warhammer 40,000 power armour, several people dressed as Iron Man (one of which had a proper powered visor that opened and closed), and there was also a girl dressed in a feminised version of the Master Chief armour from the Halo video games.
By now my feet were starting to get pretty sore, but to have lasted for 3hr30 and to have done all that walking was a testament to Doctor Marten I think. A friend had advised me to take some fold-up ballet pumps in my handbag and I had heeded that advice and brought some, so I changed over. The relief was palpable and I was able to continue on. The ballet pumps didn’t look entirely out of place with my outfit either, which was a definite bonus.
One cool thing for me was to meet Jonti Picking, who is the guy behind Weebl’s Stuff who has produced such things as Weebl and Bob, On the Moon, Magical Trevor, Cat Face, and the “Badger Badger Badger” meme. He was running a stand selling his merchandising, with the help two staff members. I’m afraid I got a bit fangirl on him and gushed that I had followed Weebl and Bob since the first episode in 2002. He just kind of looked at me in a “what am I supposed to say to that?” way, which was a little awkward although he was friendly and didn’t come across as rude or anything, just at a loss for words I guess. So I kind of said it for him and said that I guessed I didn’t know what he was meant to do with that information. We both laughed awkwardly, and he then said that it had indeed been going for a quite a while. We talked a little more and then he got interrupted by a question from one of his staff, then turned back to me after and apologised for doing so, and I thought that at this point it would be polite to just thank him for his time and move on. I did briefly consider asking for an autograph, but frankly I felt that the situation was altogether awkward enough so thought better of it.
I was getting a little tired and thirsty, so I sat for a while at a table at one of the food stalls, after getting fleeced for almost £4 for a can of Coke and a small bottle of water, and watched the world go by and took a few photos. Then I decided my feet were ready for the boots again, so swapped them over and after wandering around for a little longer, decided to head back to the hotel as it was around 4.45pm and really I felt I was done.
In the lobby of the East Entrance, I found several professional photographers taking photos of people for free. Most had slave flash guns with diffusers on tripods, but one guy had umbrella reflectors so I waited for him to finish photographing the person he was doing, which took ages as the guy was amazing and was pulling some brilliant poses, and the photographer was really inspired to take many pictures. The guy was also able to lean back limbo-style and do a really passable impression of Neo from that scene in the Matrix. It was impressive and slightly freaky in equal measure. Finally that shoot finished, and I asked the photographer if he would photograph me. I proved to be a far less inspirational subject and he got a picture in only a minute or so. He then gave me his card – Martin Siggers Photography – so I could look for the photo later.
And then I was done.
So I walked back to the hotel, went up to my room and changed out of my costume. It felt like a scene out of Mr. Benn in a way.
I could happily have packed up and driven home at this point, but I was booked into the hotel for another night so instead I had a long hot shower, then re-did my make-up, changed, drove to a nearby Tesco, filled the car with fuel, bought a bottle of wine, had a McDonald’s for dinner, and then drove back to the hotel. I spent the majority of the evening watching the Eurovision Song Contest and drinking wine, which was quite fun – especially as I had the company of Facebook, Twitter and a Eurovision thread on a forum on which I am a regular. It felt like a virtual Eurovision Party.
I checked out at around 9am the next morning, and decided to drive across London and stop at Old Spiltalfields Market at Shoreditch. But I will leave that to a subsequent blog post as this one is quite long enough already.