Tuesday 17 August 2010

Auto Assembly 2010

This past weekend, I had the honour of being a guest at this years Auto Assembly convention, which was held at the Holiday Inn, in Birmingham. For those of you who don't know... Auto Assembly is a convention which is devoted to the popular line of Transformers toys, comics, cartoons and movies, and is the largest Transformers convention in Europe (and in my opinion, the best TF convention in the world!). This is my 6th Auto Assembly, and I can honestly say that it gets better each and every year. The atmosphere there is simply amazing... I feel like I'm in attendance with 570+ friends, who all share the same passions and interests that I have.

Among the other guests were the incredibly popular Nick Roche, artist on the hugely successful (and brilliant I may add) Transformers: Last Stand Of The Wreckers... recently published by IDW comics. Also there for the first time was writer James Roberts, who co-wrote the aforementioned series along with Nick.
Also making their first appearance at AA were Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster, who of course are responsible for the brilliant Transformers: The Ark and Transformers Animated Almanacs published by IDW. Transformers comic legend Simon Furman also made a very welcome return after missing last years AA. The usual suspects were there as well, including Liam Shalloo (who recently coloured some of my work for Clear Vision's line of SPIDER-MAN dvds. Cheers for the awesome work, bro!), fellow Welshman and all round good guy Kris Carter, Transformers: Animated artist Lee Bradley, and my bro Jason Cardy and the lovely Kat Nicholson (who are both working on an illustrated version of A Midsummer Nights Dream for Classical Comics... and trust me, even if you don't read Shakespeare you'll want to read this: the artwork has to be seen to be believed).
And finally, there were three guests of honour this year. First guest of honour was Garry Chalk, who is of course the voice of Optimus Primal in the very popular Transformers: Beast Wars and Beast Machines (and of course, went on to voice Optimus PRIME in Transformers: Armada/Energon/Cybertron). Second was the incredibly talented and charismatic Scott McNeil, who along with Garry starred in Beast Wars, providing the voices of Dinobot, Rattrap, Waspinator and my personal favourite Silverbolt. I tell you, just seeing Scott go from one voice to another is just amazing (check out this video here to see what I mean!!). And last but not least was Derrick J. Wyatt... who is the lead designer on the most recent Transformers: Animated cartoon and an amazing artist (Derrick drew me an AMAZING rendition of how Death's Head would have looked if he had appeared in the show. Thanks Derrick!!).

I can't begin to tell you what this weekend has meant to me, and how much I enjoyed it. Highlights of the weekend for me were the following:
  • Being presented a customized Transformers; Revenge of the Fallen Sideswipe figure by my 'little bro' Chris (who has recently passed his exams to join the RAF.... well done bro, I'm very proud of you!), and a wonderful Optimus Prime sketchbook, personalized with my name on the cover by Sam, a wonderful young lady as a thank you for a sketch I did for her last year. Thank you both... I'll treasure these :)
  • Being given a custom made Grimlock Helmet by Sarah, an incredible young lady who had made the best Grimlock cosplay costume I had ever seen! Both me and Simon Furman were awestruck when we saw it (during the comics panel on the saturday). Sarah is in the United States air force, and let me say I have unlimited respect for her. I had drawn a sketch for her featuring the Autobots Inferno and Red Alert, and she was so grateful she gave me the Grimlock helmet! Thank you Sarah... god bless, this will have pride of place amongst my Transformers collection.
  • Being bought an miniature Optimus Prime toy, plus a Takara Animated Grimlock by Hannah, who is the lovely daughter of organizers Simon and Trish plumbe. Hannah is a very special young lady and one of my bestest buddies in the world. Thank you lovely :)
  • Getting to meet Garry, Scott, Derrick, James, Bill and Jim for the first time. And of course... catching up with Kris, Liam, Lee, Simon and Nick. Plus it's always great to see Jase and Kat (love you guys!!)
  • Getting to share the stage with both Garry Chalk and Scott McNeil during the script reading on saturday night. This was a real honour to be on stage with those guys... although I think my interpretation of Wheelie will haunt poor Garry forever!!! (By the way, hats off to the attendees who participated in this script reading in the roles of Blackarachnia, Grimlock and yes, 'awesome' Michael Bay! Well done guys and gal, you were amazing!!)
  • Having Garry Chalk come up and shake my hand after my performance of Sweet Home Chicago on saturday nights karaoke. Garry had performed an awesome Blues set earlier on in the evening, and that made my night.
  • My photo shoot with Tori and Isa, who are the coolest cosplayers I know!! Thanks for such an awesome laugh.... I giggle every time I look at those pics!
  • Having James Roberts compliment me on my Incredible Hulk versus Death's Head strip, and telling me that in his opinion, it IS canon. Thanks James!!
  • Seeing folks again from previous AA's, and meeting many wonderful new people as well. It would take me too long to mention everyone, but it was just awesome to see you all!
  • And last but not least, THAT entrance. Yes, I have to say it... but having folks tell me that they loved THAT entrance really means a lot to me. During the opening ceremony, each guest walks on to the stage to theme music, kind of in a WWE/TNA wrestling style (something I have to admit I helped convince Simon Plumbe of doing a few years back!). At last years Auto Assembly, my theme music was Stone Cold Steve Austin's wrestling theme.. to which I played up too when walking on (well, just a little bit!). This year, Simon rang me and asked if was willing to go the full hog and walk on the Hulk Hogan's Real American theme. Me, having no shame whatsoever happily agreed to.. and let's just say the rest is history. I shall now and forever be known as Hollywood Williams, thanks to Mean Dean (thanks for playing along with this bro!). I've been picking boa feathers out of my clothes ever since..... :)
Again, I can't put into words how much I enjoyed this weekend.... after a pretty rough couple of months, this weekend was a god-send. Thank you to everyone who made this weekend so special... from Auto Assembly organizers Simon Plumbe and his wife Trish, and daughter Hannah; Martin Fisher (Mr. Awesome Man!), 'Mean' Dean Holdaway, Billy Edwards, Lola Gudgeon and the rest of the gang (I apologize if I've missed anyone!! Feel free to email/Facebook PM me to tell me off!); my fellow guests and of course, everyone in attendance who not only took the time to talk to me, buy sketches and have their comics signed... but took the time to ask how my mother was doing (my mother has not long come out of hospital after a couple of serious operations). It really meant a lot to me... thank you :)

So to finish off, let me just say this:


'Hollywood' Soulman and the Auto Assembly
cosplayers..... running wild!
An INCREDIBLE sketch of Death's Head...
drawn for me by Derrick J. Wyatt. I'd always
wondered how an animated version of
Death's Head would look... and now I know!