A day after the Amsterdam Comic Con edition of 2017 wrapped up, we look back at an event with international allure on a Dutch scale.
Stepping into the Amsterdam RAI venue, we quickly noticed how easy it was to get in – no lines, no bag checks and a very relaxed atmosphere. In the entry lobby, a lonely Jurassic Park jeep was the first sign of what was to come – as were the masses of people dressed up in cosplay outfits. Grabbing a program and looking at the included map, it turned out that most of the action was concentrated inside just one large hall of the event center, with another hall serving mainly as a food court as well as hosting the main stage on which celebrity panels and cosplay contests were being held. Providing further entertainment to Comic Con guests in his hall were a videogaming exhibit with tons of retro consoles to enjoy and a wrestling ring, in which local wrestlers showcased their skill. Not quite the spectacle that is the WWE experience, but a nice demonstration of a very physical sport that was certainly enjoyed by the Comic Con crowd.
The bulk of the activity was in the other hall though, where I was instantly greeted by a set of three cars from the Back to the Future franchise. Naturally a DeLorean time machine was present, but perhaps even more impressive was that the other cars had actually been used on screen in Back to the Future II. A similarly cool experience was found on the other side of the hall, where replicas as well as original items from the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises were on display – including a version of Freddy’s famous sweater which was worn by Robert Englund during one of the movies.
The majority of the floor space was reserved for tons (and I mean TONS) of merchandise though. Posters, comics, board games, pop up toys, t-shirts, videogames….you name it and it was probably there. With the comic book culture now so firmly engrained in pop culture it’s not hard to find something with a Marvel or DC character on it at any random store, but it was nice to see a lot of stuff that I had no idea even existed. Who knew you could play Monopoly with an Uncharted or Halo theme, or that giant swords based on their videogame counterparts would be for sale here? Although I wasn’t inclined to buy, it was definitely worth a look – and judging from the visitors carrying bags full of merchandise around, there was something there for nearly everyone.
The main attraction at the event was probably the talent that had driven or flown in, with comic book artists on one end of the hall and a host of movie/TV actors on the other side. Being something I rarely see firsthand, I was extremely impressed with the skills being demonstrated by the comic book artists on hand, which included Nick Brokenshire, Mike Collins (pictured below), Frazer Irving and many others. Commissioning a drawing from them – often made to suit a visitor’s personal wishes – made for a unique and personal memento, and the prices charged were often less than the going rate for an actor’s autograph.
Heading over to the actor’s section of the hall, it was easy to see which actors were most in demand by looking at the lines in front of their tables. Pamela Anderson was the star attraction here, but John-Rhys Davies, Billy Boyd and local star Carice van Houten also had a constant stream of fans waiting to meet them. And as is the norm for these events, autographs and photos did not come free – but that didn’t stop hundreds of fans from forking over 80 euros to get an autograph and photo with Pamela Anderson to take home. Other celebrities were charging more reasonable prices, like 25 for American Ninja Michael Dudikoff or just 20 for 1980s Doctor Who Colin Baker.
The real magic for the fans, however, probably doesn’t come from the autograph and/or photo they take home with them – it’s the chance to meet these celebrities and exchange a few words with them. In this sense, all the actors we saw delivered in spades. They were courteous, took their time with fans and often engaged in friendly conversation with them even when not signing anything. One of the big benefits of the Amsterdam Comic Con being a relatively small convention compared to the San Diego edition!
Closely tied to the presence of these actors were the various panels that were organized. Far removed from the largely scripted events that take place in San Diego, the Amsterdam panels very quickly opened up to questions from the fans. For better or for worse, actually. The question pool for Pamela Anderson ran dry after just two questions from the shy audience, after which the moderator would take over until someone in the audience chimed in again with “So Pamela, how do you feel about Donald Trump?”. She replied “I’m actually Canadian, but I’m not a fan” – but the fact that she omitted her US citizenship from that answer (she has dual citizenship) was probably telling enough.
The Lord of the Rings panel saw far more crowd participation, as fans had plenty of questions for Billy Boyd and John-Rhys Davies. Both were great sports, with Boyd hugging a fan upon request and Davies obliging when someone asked for his iconic “not the beard!” to be repeated. It was Billy Boyd who stole the show though, with his live rendition of “The Edge of Night” from Return of the King. Both actors clearly enjoyed being on stage together as well, and Boyd revealed to us later that it had actually been several years since he had last seen Rhys-Davies. Their reunion made for arguably the best panel this year’s Amsterdam Comic Con had to offer and was a great end to Saturday’s lineup of events. They were scheduled to repeat the panel on Sunday, so we’re hoping fans got a similarly good experience then.
At a much smaller scale than the San Diego version of Comic Con, this weekend’s event in Amsterdam certainly seemed to cater well to its audience. The crowds weren’t as overwhelming, there was a ton of cosplay action to be seen, and nearly everyone went home with what they were looking to find. We imagine most of them will be back next year.