Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Armageddon Expo Wellington 2014: Chilly Weather but with Hot Guests from "Arrow" and "Supernatural"!

While the international media tends to focus on large comic conventions in the USA, like San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con, discerning fans are already be aware of how the pop-culture convention scene is heating up in the Southern Hemisphere.

Recently, popular celebrities like Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Ashmore, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristian Nairn and Jason Dohring have appeared as guests in conventions held in various Australian cities. And even in New Zealand, a few of the cast from TV series "Arrow" met with their fans at the Armageddon Expo shows in Hamilton and Wellington recently in May/ June 2014.

And all these without the hair-tearing angst of SDCC Hall H + Ballroom 20 campouts!

Red Dot Diva's Kiwi pal, Felicia Elliot, was on hand to take in all the bicepstuous activities when she attended a Armageddon Expo event for the first time. Even though this report is a few months late, Red Dot Diva is certain that "Arrow" fans and celebrity hunters would still love to read Felicia's firsthand account of her celebrity encounters.

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Considering I’ve done SDCC for the last couple of years and being shut out of tickets to this year’s awesome geek party, I thought it was time to check out something a little closer to home.

Armageddon has shows in Dunedin and Christchurch earlier in the year, Hamilton and Wellington late June and then Auckland in October. As I live in Wellington, what better place to start then my home town? I missed an opportunity a few years ago when John Schneider ("Smallville", "Dukes of Hazzard") was here with the Generalissimo Stan Lee and have been kicking myself ever since.

I was eagerly checking into Armageddon’s Facebook page to see who was coming to our fine shores. Being that it is hiatus season in the US, the chances of some good high-profile actors coming over was high. Plus it’s a good excuse to come check out one of the coolest places on earth (cool being the operative word, but more on that later). When I saw that Steven Williams was the first big star that I could get excited about was coming I was more and more leaning to going. But when David Ramsey was on board for Wellington, it was definite and the announcement of Manu Bennett as guest was the icing on the cake.

I brought the 3-day pass and cocktail evening ticket, but as I kept doing research and finally getting into the TV series "Supernatural" (how I missed this to start with, I have no idea) and thinking about photos and autographs, it made more sense to upgrade to the silver pass which allowed me priority access into all three days, the cocktail party on the Friday before Armageddon and 4 photos and 4 autographs.

The Hamilton show was held first on the 24th/ 25th June, and with Samantha Ferris, Steven Williams, DJ Qualis, Jake Able, James Patrick Stuart (all from "Supernatural"), Michael Rowe ("Arrow"), Christopher Judge ("Stargate SG-1") and other comic artists and anime voice actors as guests, it was setting up to be an awesome Wellington event.

Felicia and David Ramsay at cocktail party
After the Hamilton event, the celebrities were seen travelling around the North Island experiencing Hobbiton in Matamata, Rotorua and Taupo before hitting Wellington for the 3-day con (the joys of a holiday weekend). By then, David Ramsey from "Arrow" has joined the rest of the gang.

Friday night saw the cocktail party start the event off with a bang (plus 2-4-1 Budweisers didn’t hurt either). Between 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM, we were able to mingle with the stars and we were allowed to take our own photos. Everyone was so nice and friendly and no-one minded having their photo taken with a bunch of star-struck fans. For someone who has been to SDCC and found it near impossible to get anywhere near someone you admire, this was a refreshing difference.

On Saturday morning, we lined up about 9 AM for a 10 AM opening (yes, lining up only an hour beforehand). Those with the gold and silver passes were able to get in about 5 minutes before everyone else, so we all lined up to get our photo and autograph tickets.

I had picked David Ramsey, Manu Bennett and Michael Rowe plus Steven Williams as my four included in the pass price as well as an additional "Arrow" trio and "Supernatural" quintet plus a "Arrow" trio photo/auto for my mother’s birthday present as she is a huge fan of the series.

"Arrow" panel
After that was done, we then camped out in the main panel area for the rest of the day and were treated to stories from the "Arrow" boys, the stars of "Supernatural" and Chris Judge in between going to get photos done.

Sunday happened to be one of the coldest mornings Wellington had had for a while. No wind but a decent frost (bear in mind NZ is in the middle of winter at the time). The day was pretty much spent in the panel room as there were the same panels as Saturday, but of course different stories from everyone – I will admit I was now becoming a "Supernatural" fan girl. I also got my photo with Steven Williams that I had completely forgot about on Saturday (he was definitely not feeling the best, as I think he and DJ Qualls got to sample some of NZ’s fine wines) along with the "Supernatural" quintet. I also got all the autographs that I wanted.

"Supernatural" panel
The next day was even colder than Sunday and for those standing outside waiting to get in, it was a frosty experience. There was also a little problem with the gates and it seemed that we, the pass holders, were going to miss out on that little bit of special treatment but lucky we were able to go through a gate that was working.

There were panels by the three stars from "The Hobbit", a few anime voices and a promo viewing of the new local film “What We Do In The Shadows” - a mockumentary about vampires (side-note: I saw this over the weekend and it is hilarious) as well as group panels. The day then finished off with a cosplay show and I thought some of the costumes were awesome.

To sum it up, as a first timer to a NZ con, I was suitably impressed. So, bring on Armageddon Expo Auckland in October!

Key Points:
• Home town so no worrying about accommodation and transportation
• Not having to camp out overnight
• Smooth running of the whole event
• The venue – this was the second year that it was held at the Westpac Stadium and even though the con was held in the concourse and was cold, it is the best place for it
• Awesome guests – now just waiting for Nathan Fillion to come over
• My mother’s birthday present – once it was framed, it was so cool. And she loved it too!

Awesome birthday pressie for Felicia's mom


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Oh, "Arrow" fans - don't miss out on the Manu, David and Michael doing the haka during a panel!
Click here for that awesome video clip, taken by Felicia.

Thanks so much to Felicia for the report! Red Dot Diva can't wait for the write-up for Auckland! ;)

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