10 + 11/03/18 - Walker Stalker Con London / by Paul Boyling

The Zombie hoard invades the London Olympia ( Z Walkers )

The Zombie hoard invades the London Olympia (Z Walkers)

*NOTE: Originally published on 12/03/18* - Coverage for Cosplay Culture Magazine

It was the first time I ever attended a Walking Dead focused convention (the property-focused conventions I had previously attended were the Star Wars Celebration and The Doctor Who Experience respectively.) Nevertheless, the London Olympia (the West to the ExCel Centre’s East) was packed to the brim across the weekend on the 10th and 11th of March. 

Despite the great cosplay of the living characters from the show - there was an overabundance of Ricks, Carls and Negans; the latter being epitomised by UKNegan - the Zombie cosplayers upstaged everyone. Companies and groups such as Events2Scare, Project Alice FX, Zombie Business, Z Brothers FX and Z Walkers showcased the monumental effort put into the zombie make up, prosthetics and costuming, all of which exhibited exquisite detail. Whether they were dressed up as police officers, hillbillies or even elderly retirees, all of those involved were truly committed and immersed into their roles; slowly shuffling around the Olympia with the trademark hissing, squealing, roaring and biting, whilst preying on unsuspecting fans and guests alike.

Michael Traynor (Nicholas) was the guest judge of the Cosplay Contest; the winners of which were split into two categories: Best Hero Cosplay and Best Villain Cosplay. Onei Cosplay won Best Hero as Rick, accompanied with the severed head of fan-favourite zombie, Winslow (signed by Walking Dead director and special make-up effects guru, Greg Nicotero). Bourne2Negan / Spaghetti_Negan won Best Villain as, you guessed it, Negan; complete with Lucille the barbed-wire baseball bat and shouting “Hot Diggity Dog!” without hesitation.

Certain guests during this weekend were impossible to get close to; Jeffery Dean Morgan (Negan), Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Chandler Riggs (Carl) were the most popular for signings and pre-booked photo-ops. Queues for them all were in the hundreds, stretching as far as the eye could see. Riggs received an “In-Memorium” panel for his recently slain character, where he himself and other cast members - including Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori) and Danai Gurira (Michonne) - discuss the impact of his character on the show, as well as the fond memories from the first season to the current one, and how it has affected him growing up on the set alongside the character.

However, the best panel by far had to go to Michael Rooker (Merle) - who took an improvised turn during his Q&A when he suddenly darted into the crowd to directly interact with fans; lightly jogging as he switched between the two audience microphones on each side of the auditorium, much to the audience’s shock and amusement. Katelyn Nacon (Enid) as well as Caitlyn Vanbeck (X-Factor finalist) both performed musical sets during the convention.

Non-Walking Dead guests included Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan and Ryan Hurst (Sons of Anarchy); Eliza Taylor, Richard Harmon and Sachin Sahel (The 100); as well as Henry Ian Cusick (Lost, The 100)Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead) was also in attendance to not only  promote the third season of Ash vs Evil Dead, but also his second autobiography: Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, following up with a week-long UK book tour.

Overall, it was a fun and interesting experience, but nowhere near as grandiose and overwhelming as the MCM London Comic Cons. The open floor plan of the Olympia allowed free movement and despite the huge queues for signings and photo-ops, it still offered the big, bustling "Con"experience, but within a quaint, relatively small-scale atmosphere.

You can see the full gallery of my cosplay photos from across the weekend here.

You can also check out my other photos from Walker Stalker Con on Instagram.