Last weekend London’s Excel played host to MCM Comic Con and broke its previous attendance record with a staggering 130,560 attendees. I was one of them, and damn was it fun!
I’ve been to conventions before, I’ve even been to the Excel venue in London’s Docklands before – this however, was my first MCM London Comic Con and nothing had quite prepared me for the scale of this sprawling mass of modern pop-culture. I made the short jaunt across the Thames from South to North by cable car, a journey I’m familiar with following my last visit to Excel for Destination Star Trek a little over a year ago. As impressive as that was (I saw Captain Kirk!) the whole event wasn’t quite a third of the size of MCM London and was easily negotiable within a day. MCM is something else, and instantly I regretted allowing myself just the Sunday to take it all in. In my defence my daughter’s birthday fell squarely in the middle of the three day event leaving me powerless to attend earlier, and even attending the day after came with a condition, buy something My Little Pony related for my two girls or face the consequences.
As coincidence has it my birthday falls squarely in the middle of the next visit of MCM to London from May 27-29th. Family day out? I think so, they can’t argue, it’s my mother frikkin’ birthday!
Hitting the floor flailing
I was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people and the amount of stuff to look at – I mean look at it, comics, movies, games, merchandise, zombies – ZOMBIES ARGH! – cosplayers, TV stars… I went somewhat into autopilot and found myself wandering aimlessly trying to take it all in. Fortunately a mere twenty minutes later I came to my senses, gave myself an internal pep-talk and looked for a spot to take a few minutes out to formulate a plan. As luck would have it I found sanctuary at the MCM Buzz stage where Jamie Bamber (Apollo from BSG) and Edward James Olmo (Captain Adama) were finishing up a Q&A [See it here]. As Battlestar Galactica fans dispersed I took a moment to sit and study the official show guide.
Panel Hop Like A Pro
It’s virtually impossible to see everything at an event the size of MCM London so I settled on a plan that revolved around three particular panels, one familiar, one completely off my radar and one unknown. I was kicking myself for missing the Mr Robot panel from the day previous where Amazon Prime gave out hoodies with the show logo on, many of which were in evidence on the floor on the Sunday, I’d really like one of those. Panels generally last half an hour and can be found at various locations around the convention from the Gold Theatre in one corner of the main floor to the Platinum Suite located on levels above the main concourse.
Eri Suzuki | Sunrise Inc
The first of my panel picks is the one I potentially knew the least about. Eri Suzuki, a voice artist in her own right, was in attendance to give a presentation on the future of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime franchise from Sunshine Inc, the company that’s been behind the series since 1979. Knowing almost nothing about anime I figured it would be a great exercise to push myself into the unknown, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
I’m not a complete heathen and I had at least heard about Mobile Suit Gundam. What I didn’t know was that a Gundam is distinguishable by its tri-coloring and V shaped antennae on its head. Noob or what!? I also learned that Sunrise are releasing Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin II this year with a further series Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans also in the pipeline.
Despite the need for an interpreter Eri Suzuki came across really well. Humble, funny and as excited to be there as the fans themselves. Am I an anime fan now? Well, not yet, but this venture into unfamiliar territory was fun anyway.
R.J. Mitte | Breaking Bad
This was my safe bet, I loved Breaking Bad having binged the entire series in the space of a few months last year, it was a close call making it though as a last minute schedule change saw the panel switched from the Platinum Suite to the Gold Theatre – the two are as far apart geographically as could be possible. It was a challenge navigating the concourse at the height of the lunch rush to make this one, alas, I got there in time and squeezed my singular arse into a singular vacant chair near the front for a decent view.
For those who suffer with memory loss R.J. Mitte played Walter White Jr in AMC’s hit show about the cancer suffering chemistry teacher turned meth lab murderer Walter White aka Heisenberg. Mitte offered insight into the behind the scenes of the show on which he really grew from a child of 14 into an adult. My favourite line of the day came during the Q&A section. When asked if he received advance copies of the show or waited to watch on Netflix like everyone else Mitte deadpanned:
“I don’t watch that shit! No, I’m good thanks.”
He went on to explain that he hates to see and hear himself on screen so he would watch the season openers and finales only and to this day has never seen the series in its entirety. The point led to a more serious opportunity to educate many of the audience on the cause and effects of Cerebral Palsy with which Mitte is a sufferer, though not to the extent portrayed by his character in Breaking Bad.
Alan Tudyk & Nolan North | Conman
This was the unknown, literally. I hadn’t seen the announcement of the panel the previous evening at around half an hour to midnight and obviously the show guide simply alluded to surprise guests. Why the hell not? I though. I’m glad I did because what happened was the highlight of my day.
In what could be construed as life imitating art, imitating life, imitating art, or something along those lines the surprise panel was Alan Tudyk and Nolan North from the incredibly funny Vimeo exclusive show Conman. Tudyk was famously the pilot of the ship in Joss Whedon‘s Firefly alongside Nathan Fillion. Fans still crave more episodes and the show attracts a fierce and strong cult following. Using this premise Tudyk set about creating and starring in a comedy show based on life after a famous sci-fi show that was cancelled too soon and attracts a fierce and strong cult following who crave more episodes. Conman follows Tudyk’s character Wray Nerely, as he attends conventions to talk about the fictional show (Spectrum) whilst trying to hide his equal parts contempt and love for the fans, genre and show. His much more famous and wealthy former co-star and the captain in Spectrum is played by one Nathan Fillion. It’s like Inception! Conman features appearances by a number of members of geek royalty including Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day.
At the time of the panel I hadn’t seen Conman, that evening inspired by the panel and the clips they showed from the series I paid my money and have ploughed through half of the season already. Check it out now at Vimeo, you will not be sorry. Fortunately, the highlights of the panel have been captured for prosperity, and you can watch right now.
Between The Panels
With the panels sorted I used the time between to roam the floor, take in some merchandise (I procured one Rainbow Dash and one Pinkie Pie plush for the kids. Job done, I can return home in the evening) and experience some of the sites. Two highlights came in the form of photo opportunities. The first featured The Walking Dead where you could be immortalised in a picture being eaten by zombies, the second was a replica of Doc Brown‘s Delorean time machine from Back to the Future where you could dress up as Marty McFly, hold a hoverboard and sit in the famous, and currently very topical, vehicle.
For gamers there were any number of consoles and games to play on. Tournaments and championships took place and Twitch (the game streaming platform) had a prominent presence. Despite winning a Sonic the Hedgehog II tournament on the Sega Bus as a teenager, I’m not a confident gamer and shied away from participating, preferring to spectate from a distance.
Formula One team Maclaren Honda were in residence with an enormous F1 simulator that filled the room with engine noise, whilst more modestly, legendary Iron Man comic book artist and writer Bob Layton spent time on the convention floor at his booth chatting to fans and signing artwork.
With so much going on and even more to see it’s about time for a montage.
The Good, The Bad and…
Today was a really good day! And that is my overriding take-home from my day at MCM Comic Con London. I had a lot of fun despite attending on my own. I feel like I saw everything I wanted to in the one day I had available to me, but to really get the most from an event of this size you do need at least two. It is super-crowded, you do feel like a salmon swimming upstream whenever you need to get anywhere, but wisely, there are chill out areas too, to gather yourself before moving on. Everyone was friendly, a point exemplified by the number of signs being displayed offering free hugs. Though mostly coming from teenagers I felt it inappropriate to take up any of those offers.
Will I be back? Are you not paying attention? I already said I would at the beginning of this article, a long, long time ago right up there at the top. Yes! MCM London is a fab event with plenty to do for all ages and nerd persuasions from Manga, to anime. Comics, to TV. Film to Gaming and so much more inbetween.
MCM Comic Con returns to London next May from the 27th to 29th and then again in October 2015. Check out mcmcomiccon.com for all the information including other events around the UK and beyond.
… The Cosplay