One random May saw the coming of something great, a pilgrimage of many people from different walks of life – from Furries & Gamers to the Cosplayers & collectors there was not one geeky subculture left behind at the ‘mecca’ that is the London MCM Expo. For those of you who have never heard of the expo… Shame on you! It’s where sub culture lives and breathes; it’s a huge playground and congregation for those with somewhat ‘niche’ interests to come together and partake in a plethora of activities especially catered for them. The expo itself is a very new experience to London and was founded in 2001 by well-known and respected convention overlords Paul Miley and Bryan Cooney. What is now a three-day extravaganza was only the one day when it first started – and trust me, one day is not enough!
Comic Con is nothing short of an experience. The journey to the centre becomes a masquerade itself, from the brightly coloured costumes to the attendees shouting “hey! cool Cosplay!” at each other whilst general passers-by look on in shock, awe or amusement.
The Friday sets itself as an introductory day to the weekend. It’s also probably the best time to shop. There are literally hundreds of stalls where you can find anything related to every comic book in the stratosphere. There’s fan art; sword replicas (some were real and I was scared); decoden phone cases; wigs – I even peeped a look at the ‘naughty’ section; yes hentai (Anime porn) was readily available in plain white packaging… My favourite among all of these had to be the ‘Cakes and Such’ and ‘Emerald Cupcakes’ stalls, not because my inner fat girl was calling my full African name, but the intricate decorations of Pokeballs and comic heroes alike where too good to ignore – I was most impressed by the ‘Bazinga!’ cupcake with the brilliantly awkward face of Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) smirking at you. There was of course some pretty amazing art – my favourite among that being ‘Killer Bunny’, if you’re into gruesome caricatures of, well everyone… I highly recommend.
Saturday saw a record number of attendees in the history of the London MCM Expo. I opted to escape trudging through swarms of masked villains and Powerpuff Girls and decided to sit in the MCM’s main theatre for a few of the panel discussions. The panel discussions are an opportunity for the fans of different shows and animations where they can get up-close and personal with the writers, actors and directors of the certain programme; they also act as educational tools for young (and older) people who want to be the next big thing. Like a good journalist, I made my way to the front of the hall and managed to catch the end of the Anime Industry Panel, which also doubled up as a live Manga Podcast where notables such as Jerome Mazandarani; Tony Allen and Andrew Partridge discussed everything from the latest Manga releases . There were also Panels from TV and film screenplay writers who had written episodes for Buffy The Vampire Slayer; Teen Wolf and Thor which was a detailed run down into how to make it into the business and, more interestingly, why television holds a lot of prospects, much more so than the silver screen – one golden nugget of advice I took away was that it’s okay to start in the middle – “start from where you see the vision clearly, then write the rest around it”. Saturday being the busier day could only mean one thing… Celebrity guests! If you’re a huge fan of anime and manga, the legendary ‘Cowboy Bebop’ director Shinichirō Watanabe made an appearance (which was also his first visit to the UK! No-one had ever invited him apparently) and discussed everything from Cowboy Bebop to The Animatrix and his keen interest in mixing music, in particular Jazz, and film. The MCM guest of honour this season was none other than Edgar Wright, the mastermind behind popular British comedy films – Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) popped in to the MCM theatre to discuss his latest movie and the last in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’; The World’s End (released July 19th).
As well as the many main events and demos happening around the main hall, in the much more quieter and modest settings of the Excel Campus, cosplayers from all over England were forming alliances and showing the world it’s fine to celebrate Halloween every day. The meets are basically meetings were other cosplayers get together and just be themselves; they could be cosplayers from the same categories or different types. I happened to stumble across one of the many ‘meets’ that were scheduled on the Saturday and involved a hell-of-a lot-of group hugs, Kodak moments and tips on cosplaying. As well as the meets, the expo offered it’s very own ‘MCM Fringe’ which was basically a band stage where bands of different genres (mainly rock and electro) showed off their talents and played for their roaring fans.
The whole weekend I had asked many a fanboy and fangirl about why they love Comicon, of course I got the usual “because of the freebies”; and the all-important “half naked babes” but there was one reason that stuck in my head and resonated like the sweet screech of Xena’s warrior call – “you get to feel like a child again, too often people grow up and forget that innocence, that excitement you get when you see an old collection of something, or that old game… I’m a 32 year old man bringing my 6 year old son here, but secretly the child in me never left”
If you missed out this time, I wouldn’t put away your sailor-moon outfits and Yu-Gi-Oh cards just yet, the expo will be back, and you can bet your EU limited edition Naruto Storm 3, that we’ll be there… Cosplay ‘n’ all!