Thursday 23 January 2020

Your guide to Dublin Comic Con: The dos and don'ts of Ireland's largest comic book convention

It's your chance to sit on the Iron Throne, or snap a selfie with a sci-fi hero, our self-confessed nerd runs through the dos and don'ts of Ireland's largest comic book convention

In costume: Expect to see stormtroopers and Darth Vader costumes at Dublin Comic Con this weekend
In costume: Expect to see stormtroopers and Darth Vader costumes at Dublin Comic Con this weekend
'Game of Thrones': Jaqen H'ghar will take part in a Q&A

Ed Power

It's Comic Con weekend in Dublin - which obviously raises the question: what exactly is a Comic Con? The answer is that the Saturday and Sunday event is a celebration of movie, television and (of course) comic book fan culture, taking place at the Convention Centre at the docklands. 'Game of Thrones', 'Dr Who' and 'Alien' cast members will attend alongside the creator of the classic video game 'Doom' - yes, the one where you dash about shooting everyone in the face - and of the original 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' comic strip.

If you're shrugging right now, well… okay. Comic Con probably isn't the weekend distraction you're looking for. If, on the other hand, 'Game of Thrones' is what gets you through April and June and you have strong opinions on the directorial prowess of Ridley Scott v James Cameron, then lucky you. All of your sci-fi Christmases have arrived at once. We expect you have already dusted down your Aquaman costume and are practising your conversational Dothraki.

Obviously, Dublin Comic Con isn't the Comic Con. The world's biggest iteration of the event, at San Diego, recently concluded for 2016, having welcomed through its doors cast members from 'Suicide Squad', Justice League, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and with fans literally lining up all day and night to gain admittance to its higher-profile presentations.

Yet while the Irish Comic Con is far smaller - with some 20,000 attending against San Diego's 130,000 - it is nonetheless perfectly formed. Plus, you don't have to cross an ocean and a continent to get there, so there's that as well. Below are some of the highlights. Tickets will be available at the door though, with all the pre-booked slots already snapped up, probably best to get there sooner rather than later.

Star appearances

'Game of Thrones' watchers will have fond recollections of Jaqen H'ghar, the riddle-speaking assassin with the damp fringe who befriended Arya Stark and then arranged for his secretary to bump her off (or something - we were watching at 2am so details are fuzzy).

Tom Wlaschiha, the German actor who played H'ghar, will attend Comic Con, for a public Q and A (Saturday midday) and will sign autographs and pose for pictures (tragically he will not be recreating H'ghar's signature move of speaking in riddles as he rubs a wet cloth over a corpse).

A further treat for Westeros fans will be a public symposium (Sunday 1pm) by Tommy Dunne, the Wicklow television "armorer" overseeing all the weapons on 'Game of Thrones', ensuring their authenticity and heraldic consistency, and who has worked on 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'The Bourne Ultimatum' (he had a cameo as a barber in the very first episode of 'Game of Thrones').

Also appearing will be Paul McGann, star of 'Withnail and I' (he played the "I") and, far more significantly from a fan perspective, the eighth 'Dr Who' (albeit the most short-lived with only that single movie appearance). He will take part in a Q and A (Sunday 4pm) and, yes, sign autographs.

Be aware that celebrity guests usually charge for autographs and pictures - and while prices for all participants are not yet listed on the Comic Con website, they typically range from ¤20 upwards (Michael Biehn, star of 'Alien' and 'Terminator', will charge ¤40 on Sunday).

You'll have to queue, too, so small talk potential is limited. And if you're having your picture taken, remember Comic Con has a photographer on site so no need to set your phone to selfie mode.

Interactive exhibits

We've all secretly dreamed of perching on the Iron Throne from 'Game of Thrones' (bonus points if you shriek "burn them all!" as your bum brushes the seat).

At Dublin Comic Con, you can clamber into a life-size replica, in addition to exploring a creepily accurate recreation of a tunnel from the 'Aliens' colony and a mock-up from the video game 'Skyrim' (the one that takes 4,000 hours to complete and mostly involves beheading orcs). It's as close as you can get to the real thing without having to actually become a movie star.

Artist Workshops

It isn't widely acknowledged but Ireland is a well-spring of comic book talent, with artists and writers from this country contributing to 'Spider-Man', 'Transformers' and other popular lines. There is also a robust, if under appreciated, local "indie" scene.

At Comic Con an upcoming generation of writers and illustrators have the opportunity to bask in the wisdom of their elders, with 'Secret Of Kells' / 'Song of the Sea' director Tomm Moore leading a workshop in the "art of visual storytelling" (Saturday 1pm) and well-known Irish artists Ruth Redmond and Triona Farrell giving a presentation (Saturday 2pm).

Later, Dublin comic publisher Lightning Strike will talk about the small press comic scene (Sunday midday) and there will be a discussion about 2000AD, home of 'Judge Dredd', and the wider British comic industry (Sunday 2pm). For anyone aspiring to break into the business, it's an opportunity to wedge a foot in the door.

Artist alley and exhibitor stalls

If comic and science fiction devotees enjoy one thing more than talking about their hobby, it is splurging all their savings on it. For those eager to off-load a lot of cash in a short time, get thee to the artist alley and exhibitor halls. The former is, as per its billing, a little artsier, with hand-crafted and bespoke items for sale.

In contrast, the exhibitor hall is fandom on steroids. Looking for a scale model of Hellboy or Battlestar Galactica? Well, set your wallet to self-destruct because there are going to be lots of goodies for you to blow it all on.

Costume competitions

Who doesn't dream of leaving the house dressed as Batman / Deadpool / Boba Fett. What…no? Just me then. In fact, Ireland boasts a huge cosplay scene, with aficionados spending thousands on their superhero and science fiction costumes.

Indeed, members of the community can take their devotion to extremes. Consider the Irish cosplayer who appears in public only in his Batman outfit. Nobody knows his true identity, only that he looks plausibly heroic squeezed into black and purple lycra.

You'll also see attendees dressed as popular characters from 'Star Wars', 'Lord of the Rings' and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not to be confused with DC Comics, the one which keeps putting out all those awful movies).

Not surprisingly, Comic Con has become one of the biggest events in Irish cosplay with participants battling to be named best dressed entrant (the struggle is figurative of course - anyone expecting to see Harley Quinn and Daenerys Targaryen wrestling on the floor have probably come to the wrong convention).

Newcomers are welcome, though be warned that the standard is high: simply donning a blue cape and introducing yourself as "Superman" won't cut it.

Irish Independent

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