• Mike Douglas

Portsmouth Comic Con


What a week for comic fans on the South Coast. Last weekend we had the release of Avengers: End Game and this weekend, Portsmouth Comic Con.

The Avengers film celebrated 11 years of movie storytelling and I was looking forward to seeing some End Game related cosplay, along with some of the many other things going on at Comic Con.

Last years event in Portsmouth was my first Comic Con event and I got fully involved (I cosplayed as Poison Ivy). The last few weeks/ months have been so busy I didn't have time to even think about my attire this year. A shame yes, but it was nice to not have to keep checking my vines.

Additionally knowing how long it took me to make my very (very) basic costume, gave me a lot more appreciation for those with slightly (much, much) more developed costumes.

This year the event was even bigger with additional space outside for stalls, wondering heroes and villains and displays. More rooms in the Guildhall seemed to be in use this year too. My feet definitely felt they had done more walking. It was great to see a diverse range of people come together to celebrate their shared love of comics, showing true community spirit.

There was a range of merchandise available from pop vinyls and replicas to flags and comics. I did enjoy mooching around the stalls and looking at everything. I had a flick through some amazing artwork that was very tempting. Part of the fun I think is discovering something new. For me that was the 'Department of Ability' comic. The comic focuses on characters with disabilities, and it is their disabilities that become their superpower. It was really interesting to talk with Dan (Creator of DOA) and his team about the comic, disabilities and mental health. I am hoping that I maybe able to get Dan on the podcast later this year to talk mental health, disability and DOA.

I attended one of the panel sessions, choosing 'Empowering Women in Comics' as the topic I was most drawn too. There were a few interesting things I noticed throughout the talk, and it was really enjoyable to hear them be discussed. One being the lack of women involved in horror related comics and films. I didn't know about this, so hearing the discussion of this genre being mainly produced by and for males was an interesting talking point. It was good to hear this is starting to change, even if there is still a long, long way to go.

The importance of characters such as, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and Star Wars' Rey were discussed. It was very refreshing to hear the panel talk about how these female roles are not secondary to a male, are not overtly sexualised and how, unfortunately, that is still a very rare thing. I loved the phrase and talk around - "If she can see it, she can be it", that's great, but now we need to make sure 'she' can see it.

I liked the fact the panel included a male, because I (personally) don't think this is a 'woman's issue' it's an everyone issue. However, most of the talking did feel like it came from the one male panel member. Which I wasn't too keen on. This gentleman had lots and lots of knowledge and was great at 'setting the scene', but seeing a male do most of the talking in a 'empowering woman' talk felt not quite right for me. But maybe thats just me. The talk was interesting nonetheless and the recognition of Black Panther as being a film that has similarly started to change views that a film can be driven, led by, and focus on a non white character was another talking point thats very interesting.

I left the panel session to see the cosplay competition outside. Wow, what a show. I'd seen some of the under 12 cosplay earlier and that was quite impressive. The Miles Morales cosplayer was great, his in character movements really added to the visual of him being Miles. There was also a small blue girl (I think a Star Wars character but, sorry, I'm not sure doh) and little Yoda had amazing costumes. The adults had an even greater range of confidence and characters. I soon realised how little I know about some fandoms. The world has apparently evolved way past Pokemon and Ghost in the Shell.

I really liked seeing a few families that were all in costume. A couple that stood out were the blue (I think Star Wars) mum and daughter, who were both in blue Star Wars person attire, and a family of Pocahontas, Wolverine and Wonder Woman. Seeing families together sharing their passion for comics/ films is amazing. Because of my mental health struggles I can find seeing this and imagining my future very difficult, but I do hope that it is something I can one day share with my family (you have no idea how scary and tense saying that makes me, but hopefully).

Seeing everyone interact with each other was lovely. There were a number of times when someone would see another person (dressed as the same character or a character from the same franchise/ fandom) and would then just start talking and have a photo together. It was a real sign of the love that comics, Comic Con, cosplay and Go Geek have created. The level of respect, admiration and celebration that was shown to those with amazing costumes, was also shown to those with maybe slightly less amazing costumes. It didn't matter if the costume was less expensive or thought out or if it was store bought. It didn't matter if they were small or tall, black, white, cosplaying as a different gender or their with a physical aid. Everyone was respected, celebrated and welcomed. That in itself is something that should be recognised.

Go Geek do a lot of other amazing things for our local community, including visiting children hospitals, so make sure you visit their website and social media channels.

On a similar theme, it was great to see Time to Change and Portsmouth Pride at the event too. Two projects that do a lot of work themselves within community groups, to develop respect, support and the ability to celebrate who you are. I have spoken about these guys a lot, so I won't do that again here, just make sure you follow them on social media to see what awesome things they are doing.

Then just around the corner was Dice. "Dice was founded in the Summer of 2015 when two different board gaming groups came together with a shared vision. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, lots of local support and hard work the pieces fell into place to be able to open the first Board Game Lounge in Portsmouth."

Followers of my Insta will have seen the occasional board game pop up (Thanos Rising is still my favourite) and visiting a local board gaming lounge is a great way to start or to meet a few people and try a new game. Dice have super friendly and helpful staff so make sure you drop into the Lounge if your in Southsea.

There was also a retro gaming area, with old school computer games. Not to mention the University virtual reality lightsaber gaming upstairs. However, I think I spent most of my time walking around the venue looking at all the different stalls, where there were plenty of items for sale. Some new, some old, some very rare looking.

The event was amazing and offered something for everyone. Whether you're going as a family, with friends, a partner or on your own, theres plenty to keep you busy. From panels, shows, kids entertainment (including dancing Jedi training), famous props, amazing costumes, toys, games, tea duels (yes thats a thing), hand wax modelling to meeting your favourite comic creators, illustrators and the voices behind Scooby Do and Tony the Tiger. Plus you get to visit the amazing Guildhall, which was once again a great venue for this huge community event.

I want to say a big thanks to the Comic Con Team, well done on a great event and thank you for inviting me along. I hope to see you again next year. Yes, thats right, next years event has already been confirmed! You can get your 2020 tickets now at portsmouthcomiccon.com for the 3rd Portsmouth Comic Con on 2-3rd May 2020. The event will once again be hosted at the iconic Portsmouth Guildhall.

Lastly, I wanted to mention something I saw on the Stan Lee memorial wall inside the Guildhall on my way out. The importance of comics, storytelling and world building to those of us with mental health illnesses/ struggles should not be overlooked. Whether its escapism, looking for a connection or something else. This world can offer love and acceptance when we can't find it anywhere else. For that I am hugely thankful, and when you see events like this that then celebrate this 'community', that, that is amazing.

More event photos can be found by visiting the Facebook page.

#Portsmouth #PortsmouthGuildhall #DicePortsmouth #ComicCon #Cosplay #GoGeek

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