Aberdeen in the northeast of Scotland is famous for its granite buildings and quarries, with the latter contributing granite to many famous locations including the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo Bridge in London. It’s a nickname both the city and this convention wear with pride.
In 2017 Granite City Comic Con was again held in the Doubletree by Hilton Treetops Hotel, which is something of a mouthful of a name and not to be confused with the other Hilton hotel in the city centre. Not surprisingly for a Hilton, Doubletree is a comfortable and relaxing location with great catering and bars.
Granity City Comic Con is only in its third year and it’s clear that the organisers are not interested in standing still. They’ve expanded the attractions for fans and this year was the first time they had booked US guests.
The guests included voice artists Steve Blum and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, whose credits range from Marvel and DC properties to Stars Wars and Resident Evil. TV and film were represented by Michael Henbury, Peter Roy and Gerald Home, actors from some of the most successful franchises in history including Star Wars and Harry Potter. From comics, the legendary writer John Wagner, and artists Glenn Fabry and Ryan Brown. A squad of cosplaying judges were seldom far from Wagner, waiting on his words like he was Chief Judge, while Fabry and Brown jokily tried to undo the efforts of the Belfast Tourist Board.
A few innovations – well, they’re new to me – seemed great ideas, like the Boast Board and Cosplay Masquerades. On arrival at the con, attendees were given tokens which they would award to their favourite cosplayers. At the end of the day, the cosplayer with the greatest amount would be the winner. Also, in a much less competitive and encouraging way, the con also encouraged cosplayers to come onto stage to show off their costumes free of any judging or scoring. I especially liked that part of the con.
Some cons, like the Showmasters ones, skew quite young and sometimes I’m left wondering “What the hell is the Hillywood Show?” while I stare at a lengthy queue of chattering fans. Yes, there was a lot for the kids and teenagers at GCCC, but they also catered for older fans.
Forty-somethings who grew up on Starsky and Hutch could see the iconic and rather enormous Gran Torino, while thirty-somethings could sit inside Knight Rider’s KITT (it would unexpectedly talk to you, which caused more than a few squeals of delight from grown men) or The A-Team’s GMC van. The light drizzle on the first day didn’t put many fans off this automotive step back in time.
Another nod to those in middle-age (or heading there at speed) was the room housing the early home computers. The Retro Museum had some wonderful machines, including a ZX-81, something I had not seen in more than three decades. Seeing some of the machines was a trip down memory lane to Christmases past and the crowded bedrooms of old friends as we all huddled round a small black-and-white screen. It was also strangely validating how many children were happily playing the prehistoric old games. Who needs HALO and its lifelike gameplay, eh?
Also, it would be unforgiveable of me to fail to mention one of the best aspects of the weekend. Team GCCC, whether that be the organisers or the volunteers, were all exceptionally friendly and couldn’t have been more welcoming or helpful.
Criticisms? None, really. Although let me offer a train of thought that may, or may not, be worth sharing. The Hilton Treetops Hotel is approximately 2.7 miles from the main train and bus stations and involved an additional 25-minute trip on a local bus. So I did wonder if the healthy crowds there may perhaps have been even greater in a more central location. Aberdeen, after all, is Scotland’s third most populous city after Glasgow and Edinburgh. By comparison, Glasgow’s premier comic con GCC is held next to the main bus station and is less than a ten minute walk from Central Station. Edinburgh Comic Con is similar: at most a ten minute walk from Haymarket Station and not far from the castle and bus routes. Both cons have relocated in the last two years and are much better for it. Like I said, I offer this up not as a suggestion of relocation but as a comparison.
So, final verdict? I always like it when conventions surprise me. The nostalgia element was high at GCCC and that, I guess, is what cons are to a lot of fans: a chance to revisit former and perhaps happier (or at least simpler) times. Granite City Comic Con ticked those boxes for me, and I’m looking forward to seeing what TEAM GCCC have planned for 2018.