Comic cons are a booming business in the United Kingdom. More and more are springing up all over the UK at various sizes with a variety of companies behind them. There are enterprising spirits have created accessible events for almost everybody in the country but you’ll still see major events that take place in major cities that draw in crowds of thousands. The biggest comic con in the UK at the moment is the MCM London event. It takes place twice a year at the ExCel in London. It took place Friday 28th October - Sunday 30th October 2016 and was attended by over 130,000 people from ages 0-100. So how did it go?
Once you get through the queues and crowds, you’ll step inside into the extensive space MCM hires out to host a number of things including countless stalls by big and small businesses sell a number of products, stages that hosted a number of panels and other presentations including the screening of The Darkest Dawn on Sunday morning, booths to try out some of the latest games and promotions for upcoming films. This writer ended up experiencing the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them mobile virtual reality platform on the Google Daydream. After having a go at casting my own spell with the virtual wand that ended in a ball of virtual flames, I got to have a taste of the virtual world set within the Harry Potter universe. Virtual Reality is a platform that has the potential to face criticism of the graphics feeling too fake for one to immerse you into but this game did a good job in bringing the user into its magical world. The responsiveness is stellar and the potential for further progress is encouraging. VR may have a way to go in terms of graphics but the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them game is a step in the right direction.
After checking out the gaming side of things, I ended up wandering around the many stores with an untold amount of unique products for the thousands of customers to buy. One of the stores that stood out was The Sorting Kat. Named after the owner’s obsession with the Harry Potter franchise, the business sells a variety of products from jewellery to cornered bookmarks to frames inspired by a variety of shows including Rick & Morty, Adventure Time and Harry Potter. This particular MCM event was the second she’s attended with her store after previously attending as a customer but one thing she’s always enjoyed is the craft: “What I love seeing is people’s props because as one crafter to another it’s what I enjoy most.” The enjoyment of the event was shared by Phil of Sstutter, a London-based acrylic jewellery business that’s been running since September 2014: “The thing that I like most is that you’ve got a lot of people who relish in the occasion of dressing up. I think it’s great that there are places like this where people have a home to do this.”
Comics are the original reason why comic cons began many years ago. Whilst it can feel like comic artists can get swamped by all the hubbub of everything else in the event, comic artists and authors were prominent at MCM London Comic Con and able to converse with old and new readers. What struck out were two comic writing teams who were working on series that can make a real impact. The first was a comic from Deadpool co-creator Fabian Nicieza called IBD Unmasked, a comic series that follow a group of superheroes who deal with two of the most common inflammatory bowel diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. This comic series will be brought to the comic reading community by Marvel Custom Solutions and Takeda Pharmaceuticals and its aim is to shine a light on the physical and emotional difficulties people with IBD face. A unique idea with remarkable talent behind it, this could be among a new trend of comic books with heroes who have certain ailments that differ from the norm and bring a degree of relief to the real life survivors. Another comic artist trying to be inclusive to an oft ignored community was Tab Kimpton, the creator of Discord Comics. Among other things, Kimpton has been working on a series called Minority Monsters that feature a number of characters that are designed to represent the many sexual orientations and gender identities regularly dismissed or misrepresented in popular culture. Some of the characters readers will encounter in the series include Sir Fabulous the Bisexual Unicorn, Captain Sashay the Genderqueer Merperson and a personal favourite, Reverend Tumbles the Pansexual Satyr. As a member of the LGBTQA+ community, it’s refreshing to see a writer represent us in a way that isn’t condescending or insulting. Kimpton is running a Kickstarter to fund the Minority Monsters further, which is definitely worth checking out.
A growing aspect of not only the events run by MCM is cosplay. It’s something that one will always spot but at MCM London, it was impossible to escape the thousands upon thousands of people dressed as their favourite characters. Whether they were wandering alone or within a group of friends or family, cosplayers were everywhere. The variety of costumes was staggering and impressive. Examples of cosplay sources include Suicide Squad, The Young Ones, American Horror Story, Hellsing Ultimate, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, Dragonage, and Overwatch to name a few! The effort and time afforded is countless and it appears that MCM London made it worth their time. Whilst the business of the event may have proved overwhelming for some, it didn’t put off attendees like Simon Watt who said: “It’s like a family reunion with thousands of your favourite cousins.” Nige Wyatt who is also known as the Southampton Spiderman said it had a “great atmosphere.” A number of cosplay competitions were held over the weekend with rather brave cosplayers performed as their character in front of audiences and judges in order to win prizes. A staple of comic cons everywhere, MCM set a standard that many smaller events aspire to.
Overall, MCM London Comic Con came off as a rich event full of content designed to cater for anyone. The plateau of wonder and possibilities is close to endless and whilst it may not be ideal for anyone who may struggle with being around huge crowds it is, as attendee Sophi Maloney put it, ‘worth the long travel down.’