A Saturday Con ticket for £8? That’s a whole day’s fun for around $12!? The year is 2006 and I’ve arrived at my first MCM Comic Con. Not yet a Comic Con but an Expo, a single room inside London’s ExCel Exhibition Centre. Eight years ago my love of MCM began, an event just big enough to have Christopher Lee perform a talk, and to attract Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as they kicked off the promotion for Hot Fuzz.
A few years later, I rocked-up with no preordered ticket, queued for two hours for a wristband and spent another Saturday wandering through the stalls, trying to find the cheapest Pocky and chatting to young artists selling prints and self-published comics.
Before I knew it, the year is 2013 and the Con is now the biggest in the UK. Prebooking for £15/$25 is a must to avoid the queues. Massive banners, posters for upcoming movies and games hang from the air conditioning and everything has overflowed into a second, huge room.
This month I attended the year’s second MCM Comic Con in London, the brand having expanded into other UK cities and now its largest Con by some margin. The tickets are £20 if you don’t like to queue, but still £15 if you do (around the ExCel Centre’s not inconsiderable perimeter and through two of its exhibition spaces before you’re let loose into the Con itself).
MCM has grown into something comparable to San Diego Comic Con in spirit, if not in scale. There’s no grand Hall H, but there are crowds cheering and applauding stories the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, or Matt Smith have to offer. Cosplay rules the day from the minimal effort required to wear a cardboard Pikachu hat (given away underneath Nintendo’s giant, inflatable Pokemon stand) to the ubiquitous Iron Man (with working helmet) to the adoring crowd queuing to meet Jessica Nigri on her delayed three-day visit to London in the bleak mid-Autumn.
Comic Village has grown from a few tables hidden in a corner to a flourishing, well-represented flank of booths, tables and standees sporting enthusiastic artists and their wares.
MCM has learned from a few local events over the years. Its gaming heart has swelled with support from many developers and publishers akin to Eurogamer’s own annual Expo. A number of delicious stalls offer Katsu Curry and noodle dishes that would have been the USP of Hyper Japan only a couple of years ago.
As many of us know by now, a Con can succeed or fail on its atmosphere. As MCM expands, so do the queues but the effort invested in the costumes and the willingness to pose and be photographed has grown with it too. Sure, every 6th person should perhaps have discovered deodorant by now, but these transgressions can be forgiven amongst a crowd already inclusive enough to contain large men proudly dressed as Sailor Moon while Deadpool helps a generic Mech fix her wrist-blade.
MCM is the closest thing we have in the South of England to a large-scale, mainstream Con. I’ll be there next year to stand amongst my fellow nerds, eat noodles and play obscure JRPGs I’ll never own. Here’s to the ever-expanding culture we all call home.
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