Ah MCM Comic Con – the biggest of the UK con scene, returned for its first London convention under the auspices of its new ReedPOP owners.
What’s changed and is it for the better? Is it just the signage or is there more? Here’s our review of last weekend’s pop culture extravaganza.
CH CH CH CHANGES
The stages saw a marked shift in branding, size and content, moving from Main, Gold, Silver, Bronze stages to the more descriptive Comics Stage, Creator Stage, Centre Stage and a return of the MCM Live Stage from Birmingham.
The latter saw many of the stars in attendance taking to the open Live Stage in the middle of the show floor. This helped create a real sense of occasion and community – rather than having a dark theatre, the Live stage sees guests up close with the fans.
Anthony Daniels, C-3PO from the Star Wars franchise, took this opportunity to grab a mic and mingle with the guests, plucking cosplayers to join him and inviting questions from anyone who had something burning to ask.
Highlight of the show, Anthony thrusting a microphone into attendees faces and demanding to know “What is Star Wars about?” – “Erm it’s about an empire and they…”.
He brilliantly cut them all off before giving the correct answer “Star Wars is about a gold droid called C-3PO”
The Centre Stage saw a mix of guests from Tom Ellis (Lucifer, Miranda, Once Upon a Time” to some of the Overwatch voice actors, to a frankly amazing Cosplay Panel cohosted by Jess Banks from Costume & Play and Robin Bates from Coaching for Geeks (that’s me! – Robin).
The latter entering the stage in a giant Pikachu costume and declaring himself ‘the greatest cosplayer the world has ever known’ before being put in his place by Dream Away Cosplay, The Short Weirdo, Helen Alice Cosplay, Kenny Cosplay Stuff, and Rocket Penguin Cosplay.
The Comic Stage saw the likes of Rosario Dawson from Luke Cage, and panels on designing comics, using them in life, and many guests from the world of comics and the wider media around them.
The Creator Stage, nestled in the CreatorScape – home of YouTubers and Podcasters on the show floor saw the likes of The Quidditch Premier League, London Gaymers, Superhero Therapy, and our own founder Robin Bates (that’s me again! – Robin) tackling a variety of topics from being successful on YouTube, content creation, and gamifying your life (guess who did that one?! – Robin).
The PopAsia Stage could do with some work; currently an uninspiring installation such as you’d find acting as a breakout room at a less exciting convention. It featured a mix of acts and demos and with a bit of attention and sprucing up could be something great.
Hey MCM, go hang out at HyperJapan and see what they do!
Meanwhile the Main Stage hosted some of the Arrested Development cast (no Jeffrey Tambor unsurprisingly) plus Orange is the New Black, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, Tom Ellis (he was everywhere this weekend), ITV’s Plebs, a Moana singalong, the developers of LEGO The Incredibles, as screening of Batman Ninja, and of course the cosplay masquerade.
The main stage had a lot fewer seats this time around, perhaps as many of the stars took to the Live stage, but was less awe inspiring despite the talent present.
Across the board there has been a marked shift towards a more diverse range of topics and speakers, which we can only applaud – ReedpPOP’s PAX events are still miles ahead, but MCM is clearly learning and making changes here. he big names are still taking to the stage
Newly branded Cosplay Central was… well the team there does an incredible job of fixing any damaged cosplay, and there were changing rooms.
Famed cosplayer Ivy Doomkitty was kind of plonked on the edge doing signings, away from both the main signing area and the cosplay, so looked a little out of place. and lacked visibility
Elsewhere onsite Costume & Play had props and costumes to try on, some scenery to pose with, and a team of experts ready to help.
Incorporating them into Cosplay Central and making a proper zone with activities and experiences would be a great move by MCM.
Well this got bigger! Plenty more comic artists and writers took up resiedence for the wekennd and this felt like a brilliant shift back towards being an actual comic convention. While MCM has always been a pop culture affair (the MCM standing for Movies, Comics, Media), comics have always felt a bit of a poor relation.
Situated next to the Comics Stage tales from the vendors stated that it may well have been their best year ever at MCM. Rumour has it that DC will be bringing Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, and Klaus Janson along in October so the Comic Village is on the rise!
No big changes here with the standard ExCel outlets being very expensive, and a brilliant selection of Japanese outlets on the periphery of the PopAsia area.
Very many choose to leave the show for food and the nearby cafes, restaurants, Nisan and Tesco undoubtedly did well.
After Marvel’s huge presence at the last London show, the floor itself felt a bit lacking in things to do. Plenty to consume passively or purchase, but few free things to interact with.
The Steampunk crew had some props and activities, a marketing piece for Jack Reacher featured a virtual shooting gallery, the gaming areas had videogames to try with Nintendo claiming the lion;s share of the floor, and a new addition – boardgames! Again mostly to buy, but some demos were available to try. There were two types of escape room to try… and the rest was a big shop.
Reading it back it doesn’t sound too bad, but more activities, games, adventures, and interactive stuff would help keep the heaving crowd occupied, especially on the Saturday.
SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
Things are shifting for MCM and largely in the right direction. A broader approach to content has been taken and whispers are of them taking over an additional hall for October’s show.
They need more content to fill it rather than more stalls to buy things from, otherwise it runs the risk of annoying the fans it so seeks to serve.
Saying all this, we had a great time at MCM London Comic Con – I’m a little jaded after doing nothing but conventions for the last 4 months and this one is doing a great job of tweaking its offerings under new ownership.
The last minute addition of Tom Ellis really pleased attendees and some theming of the new areas would make it something spectacular.
It’s getting there and worth your while if you want one of the UK’s largest pop culture conventions for sure!
Robin Bates – will always toot his own horn!