Friday, 27 June 2014

Expo & Cons Motor City Comic Con 2014 by Jennifer Ings

Motor City Comic Con 2014

By: Jennifer Ings

The first time I ever met John Barrowman at a convention was at C2E2 2012 in Chicago. Now you might be wondering what this has to do with Motor City Comic Con two years later, but bear with me.  I knew John collected Captain Jack figures, so I had decided to surprise him with a miniature version. As anyone who's ever met John can tell you, he's a big kid at heart and a geek like everybody else. Not only did he start playing with it and showing it off to his helpers, he made me autograph it for him.

This was also the Con where our talks about "Scavengers in Space" started. During his panel (which was his first standalone panel in America), someone had asked what his favorite props from the show were. John began telling them about the book that had was on Jack's desk and how he'd always read it. And he "acquired it" and took it home after they blew up the Hub. I shouted out the title, John stopped and looked at me, then nodded and said "Scavengers in Space. That's the book. How'd you know that??? I love you!"

I saw him later that day when I went to get an autograph for a friend and he asked how I knew what book it was. I'd had a copy of it since I was a kid, since I'd loved reading old sci-fi books that I would find at flea markets, second hand book shops, etc. I showed him a photo on my iPad of my Doctor Who/Torchwood bookcase, where I also had my copy of "Scavengers in Space".  

John snatched it up and started looking at my photos and was having a blast looking at the various props I'd done and my Doctor who action figures. That was when he saw the Gwen miniature. John kept pointing at it and exclaiming that he needed a little Gwen. So I promised that the next time I saw him, I'd bring one for him and I'd also bring my copy of the book.

A few months later, we met up again at the Toronto Fan Expo.  As requested, I brought little Gwen and my copy of the book. John got so excited when he saw the book that he proceeded to tell everyone in the area and his handler all about the story behind the book and why he loved it so much. Then he laughed and said to his handler, "But you probably don't care about this at all, do you?" The guy actually said he didn't mind, but you could tell he had no idea what we were talking about.

John signed the book as himself and as Captain Jack for free and commented that he'd been trying to find another copy to read, so he wouldn't ruin the one he "acquired" from the set. I laughed and said I wished I had known, because I had a spare copy back home in Michigan. So another promise was made: The next time I saw him in person, I'd bring the copy of the book and he could have it. Little did we both know that it wouldn't be for 2 more years before he was at another event close enough to Michigan for me to attend.

Which brings us to the present and Motor City Comic Con. I gathered up the book and a few Brotherhood of Harkness goodies for John (as well as an added present from me) and headed out on Friday morning. The first thing we noticed was that John was positioned directly across from the big Star Wars display being presented by the 501st and the Rebel Legion. Since I had a press pass, I had the chance to hang out and talk to some of the staff working his area. We all joked that at some point, John was probably going to end up over there playing with the stuff (he behaved until Saturday, when he decided to ride on the Tauntaun).  Because of the large amount of visitors who wanted to meet John, the convention was issuing numbered tickets and admitting about 50 people at a time into the queue. We waited patiently, talked to several other visitors, and continued joking around with security.

When we finally were admitted to the queue and made it to the front, John lit up the moment he saw us. He said he remembered me and got excited because I was wearing my Brotherhood shirt (he'd received one at Christmas in Glasgow from one of our members and Tweeted a pic of himself wearing it). At that point, he declared he was going to lift up my shirt and then put his hand up my back. He was trying to explain that the backing material for the embroidery was itchy and he always wore a t-shirt beneath his (like I was). There was also a little butt grabbing and comments about how nice and tight it was. Typical John and completely harmless. But more than a few fans were wide eyed and wondering what was going on (and probably how to get him to do the same to them!).

Now it was present time. I gave him a replica Torchwood ID card and some ribbons from Gallifrey One (Brotherhood goodies). Then I set a comic book down in front of him and smiled. I told John that I knew he liked and collected comics. And since he's been promoted to a regular on Arrow, he really should have a copy of his first appearance. It took him a moment before he realized that the comic (Justice League #94) was Merlyn's first appearance in comic form and his eyes widened in shock. He was actually speechless for several minutes before thanking me.
But I noticed he kept looking at my messenger back as we were talking. I took out the book, grinned, and handed it over. John squealed, jumped up and down a few times, then started showing it off and yelling "There's a story behind this!" He asked us to take a photo of him and to post it on Twitter so he could see it later. Then said, "I knew you had it in there! I've been waiting for it since I spotted you guys in line! Thank you so much! This and the comic are going in my special place at home where I keep all of my important things. This is awesome."

We chatted a little about his Merlyn costume (since I'm in the process of making one) and John answered a couple of questions for me about some details. He asked why I wasn't wearing my Jack cosplay, since he'd remembered it from the other cons. I told him I'd wear it Sunday for the panel and that I was bringing the Doctor's hand in the jar. John stared at me for a moment and asked, "You actually have the hand in the jar? Seriously???" I told him yes, I'd actually made one and had gotten a few pointers from Nick Robatto (the original prop maker). John said to make sure we came back to the booth on Sunday because he wanted to see it.

We came back on Sunday (along with Handy), and once again got a ticket to wait in line. His security guy ran over to us to take photos and said they'd been waiting all weekend to see the prop, ever since hearing about it on Friday. We talked for a bit about how the Con had been going so far, if he was enjoying working with John, and just a little about Doctor Who stuff. Kelsy (who works for Heroes For Hire), was thrilled when we walked up. She immediately called over to John, pointed to the prop, and started asking where I got it from. I explained that I made it and we made our way over to John. He immediately snatched it up and started playing with it, saying "Damn! It weighs just as much as the one we had on the show!" He did ask why there was no water, I explained that I would fill it up with later before the photo shoot because didn't want to carry it around while full. While empty, the prop weighs about 9 lbs. But when you fill it with the one gallon of water that it hold, it weighs about 17 lbs. John asked his security guy if he'd seen it yet, and was told "Yeah! I ran over there the minute I saw it and took a bunch of pictures of the jar and her costume!"

It was pretty funny because since he was so busy playing with it, he completely forgot about the line and started talking to me about my costume. John complimented me on my cosplay and said he loved how accurate it was, since I've got the exact model/brand of boots, belt, braces. etc. that were used on the show. I also have a leather vortex manipulator that I made.

John especially loved my coat, since it has all authentic WWII brass buttons, RAF rank braid, and a real RAF buckle. I joked that he could wear it later if he wanted and John said, "Sure! That'd be awesome!" he signed the top of the jar as both himself and (like my book) as Captain Jack Harkness.

We headed off to get a good seat at his panel, had a great time talking to other fans while waiting, and was asked to pose for a lot of photos with Handy. And John's panel was a blast. He's always full of energy, enthusiasm, and gives honest answers to his fans. The entire room was packed and it was standing room only.

Maybe next time Motor City Comic Con will listen to him when he says that he can fill the big room! Check it out on YouTube if you get a chance.

I capped off the day by heading over to my photoshoot. Kelsey was there helping out and the moment she saw me, she said, "Hi! John said he's wearing your coat for your photo!" John gave me a big hug when I walked in, put on the coat, and I asked if he wanted to play with my replica Webley or the jar. No surprise, he went for the Webley.  At first, we were just standing and waiting for the photo.

But then John suddenly turned around to strike a Captain Jack pose, so I did the same with the jar. The photographer went nuts and was loving every minute of it! He snapped the picture and made us wait so he could check that it came out and said it was his favorite shot of the weekend. John helped me back into my coat, I thanked him and wished him a safe flight home, then he hugged me again and said, "You're drafted... welcome to Torchwood."

All photos courtesy of Jennifer Ings

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