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Review: MCM LONDON COMIC CON (Excel Centre, London Docklands 28th – 30th October 2022)

Back once again like the renegade master. MCM London Comic Con (powered by none other than ReedPOP, the world’s largest pop culture convention organization) returned to the Capital’s Excel Centre at the Docklands, over the last weekend of October 2022.

The past couple of MCM London Comic Con events I’ve been notably critical of: the whole affair was starting to feel rudderless, herded like a lost sheep – things just not how they should have been or, more importantly, how they could have been. With that potential squandered, the worry was that MCM London Comic Con was getting further and further away from what it was pre-pandemic, a shell of its former self.

The pleasing thing was this iteration of the event felt like MCM London Comic Con was getting back on the right track. It felt like the energy was slowly returning not just with the fans who, to be fair, have always turned up in their droves, but also with the organisers who managed to pull out some decent guests and panels.

MCM London has always been about bringing one or two big pop culture guests and then surrounding them with other guests from popular TV shows and/or films – this time, there was the chance to meet Michael Sheen: yup, THE Michael Sheen! The chap from GOOD OMENS and THE DAMNED UNITED and also That Vampire Film Franchise That Dare Not Speak Its Name. Also, while we’re deep in Neil Gaiman territory, on hand was Tom Sturridge, Lord Morpheus aka Dream, from the insanely popular Netflix adaptation of Gaiman’s seminal comic book series THE SANDMAN, alongside Tom’s sibling from the show, Mason Alexander Park, who played Desire. (Pic of whom down below at the end of this review, one I’m particularly proud of!)

But the big guests didn’t stop there – the weekend also saw the likes of Anthony Daniels, John Rhys-Davis, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, Troy Baker, Magen Shipman, Tom Welling, Ray Chase, Laura Vandervoort, Erica Durance… a very impressive and substantial list of luminaries, more than willing to appear behind a table, sign autographs and take photos with the fans. Suddenly, MCM felt like it had its mojo back, in terms of its invited guests.

ReedPOP and the MCM team also seemed upped the ante when it came to panels – one area where the show had certainly lost its spark in recent years. You could watch panels on Netflix’s THE BASTARD SON & THE DEVIL HIMSELF, TRANSFORMERS: ALLSPARK!, HIS DARK MATERIALS, WRECK, a cracking retropsective on SMALLVILLE with the aforementioned Welling and Durance, and a presentation on the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES (although, to be fair, it’s DUNGEONS & DRAGONS so let’s see just how ‘blockbuster’ that film can actually be!).

Satisfyingly, there were even spotlight panels on some of the individual guests throughout the entire weekend, including those in the Creators Arena (formerly Artist Alley), the Writers Section, Anime and Cosplay fields, hosted by the likes of the hugely talented and very personable Louise Saul. It suddenly felt like there was so much more to see than just wandering the convention floor – now, there was a lot more attention on getting bums on seats around the multiple stages.

If you wanted to pick up merchandise, then it seemed the MCM stand was doing a roaring trade on their branded clothing, pins etc. (one desired prize – the ‘cat pin’ was a no-show due to manufacturing issues – boo!) Have they become THE must-have items now? You’d certainly think so from the crowds constantly jostling around the booth. Elsewhere, there were traders doing a brisk trade with some larger vendors really going to town on setting up their stalls. It was noticeable that some of the bigger, more established brands had not returned once again; however, this seemed to be to the benefit of others as it meant they had more footfall coming through.

The gaming area had a step up this time too with the return of Sega bringing a huge stand to market their latest games. There were huge sections for online gamers, offline new console gamers and even offline old-school console gamers – huzzah and hallelujah to the GameCube players! There was even a huge section reserved for tabletop gamers which was nearly full to capacity within an hour of the show opening, hardly surprisingly such is the current appeal of the hobby.

I have written in the past about how MCM is becoming the place to go to if you are into Cosplay. Well, this twice-yearly event is only getting bigger and bigger with cosplayers, being very noticeable the number of people there who had really gone into great detail in creating their costumes. I continue to be impressed with the number of cosplayers I see at this event and, speaking to someone behind the scenes at MCM, it seems that this is one of the big things that they want to lean into for future events: MCM to be the ‘home of cosplayers’.

Suffice it to say, they don’t need to push too much more because the place was filled to bursting with outfits, so much so that many were actually out on the lawn or upper deck outside the Convention Centre as inside, it really was a sight to behold. I can imagine that Saturday evening’s Cosplay Central Crown Championships was an absolute nightmare for the judges based on the quality, diversity and sheer professionalism of just some of the cosplay I saw while wandering around.

On the whole, MCM London Comic Con was a much-improved weekend event compared to previous outings. Yes, it wouldn’t be a comic con without still a few niggles: conspiciously missing vendors, guests and panel information not being passed to volunteers to be able to answer questions from the attendees, signage to rooms and locations around the venue not visible or clear. so and so forth. Also, the Pop Asia area – my favourite section of years gone by, so this is one of my biggest gripes – seemed to be scaled down quite a lot this time. Boo!

However, these issues aside, the whole affair felt like a big step up for MCM London Comic Con and a definite effort to return to pre-lockdown form. Good! We need these big shows to celebrate just how important and vital pop culture and the fandom around it can be. Long may the journey continue.

Photos courtesy of Samantha Payne

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