The Mark Searby Review: MCM COMIC CON LONDON (May 2019)

After October 2018’s rather lacklustre London event, there was only one way for MCM’s flagship show to go, and that was up.

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Last month, I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of ReedPOP/MCM‘s flagship events, MCM LONDON COMIC CON, held at the immense ExCel Centre in the capital’s Docklands. After October 2018’s rather lacklustre London event, I felt there was only one way for MCM’s premier show to go and that was up. I’m happy to report that the low bar that MCM had set themselves did get cleared and the show has started to feel like its old self again.

Due to family obligations, I only attended on Friday and Sunday with the two days differing greatly, not just in terms of numbers but also in the atmosphere. I found Friday to be laid back, cool and calm throughout the entire day, proving to easy to move around and actually have the time to stand and look at vendors tables.

On top of that, it wasn’t hellishly busy in the Autograph Area either, a space traditionally overflowing with attendees. As it happened, I managed to chat to the whole CLERKS ensemble (Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran, Marilyn Ghigliotti and Scott Schiaffo) without being hurried along by a staff member or feeling the eyes of other attendees in line burning the back of my neck. Nothing was rushed, everybody was happy to talk; even the MCM staff were getting in on the action as they chatted to attendees waiting in lines.

It was so laid back that I managed to talk to actress Madison Lintz about her work in Amazon Prime detective series BOSCH: the conversation got very nerdy about the show and its influences! This chat, along with all of the rest of the Autograph Area attractions I wanted to see was done within thirty-five minutes. It’s a Searby Top Tip: If you want autographs, and the guest is scheduled to appear on a Friday, then go on that day!

MCM Comic Con is very good at layouts at its shows. There always seems enough room to move around the aisles and it is rare to see bottle-necking anywhere around the convention. This MCM London was no different and it was a treat to walk around and not feel like you are part of the Walking Dead, having to shuffle along and dart in-between people when you see that brief gap of opportunity open up. With all the space that the ExCel offers, it is good to see a convention utilise it in such a way that room to manouver was all around.

One impressive aspect that was instantly noticeable was the temporary wall that had been erected between the main Vendors Area and the Comics Village, the area of the event showcasing artists, writers and illustrators from every level of comic creation. This back wall blocked out a lot of sounds, which made it easier to talk to anyone who had a stand in the Comics Village.

I’m not sure if this affected business for the traders. From an attendees perspective, this appeared to be a good idea as it meant creatives could actually talk to those people at their tables without having to shout above the noise of the whole convention. Any time I walked through Comics Village, it was brisk and even by Sunday lunchtime, it had become nicely busy.

If you’ve been to MCM Comic-Con before then you will recognise the majority of vendors on the floor. From jewellery to computer games to collectables and so much more, there was a veritable feast of nerd-related merchandise on offer. One point I would make to vendors is to ensure your price tags are large enough to read from a distance. Many times over the weekend did I have to ask how much items were because the price tag was too small to read. Not having a big enough tag on the item can, and will, put people off not only buying the item but also asking how much it is.

Unlike most cons of this size and popularity, the word “exclusive” seemed in short supply at MCM Comic Con. Items that are exclusive only to that specific con are instantly going to piqued collectors interests, yet none of the vendors outside of Comics Village seem to have latched onto the idea of making exclusives – except, of course, for Funko.

Whether you like the cutesy figures – or rampant ubiquitousness – of Funko or not, it is hard to disagree that they have cornered the market in terms of the appeal of exclusives at conventions. In the US, it is huge business and we are slowly seeing that transition over to UK shores. Never once did I walk past the huge Funko booth and see less than a couple of hundred people queuing to get into the booth. Even by Friday lunchtime, the queue was snaking through the roped off area and around the booth. At one point it had almost lapped itself.

I watched as Funko Staff tried to keep up with demand: one five-minute spell saw them try and restack the shelves with the limited edition 10” Thanos Funko available at the show. But every time one went on the shelf, it was taken off by an attendee – demand was outstripping supply very very quickly. Exclusives are a brilliant way to draw in buyers, with even the MCM Official Merchandise stand swamped with big queues for people wanting to buy MCM t-shirts, hoodies and other clothing.

Still, not every vendor needs to have exclusives. But shows across the globe have shown that those that want to bring in the £££’s need to look at upping their exclusives game, if they aren’t already.

This year was the first time MCM put into place the procedure of clearing of the Main and Centre Stages after each panel. This process means that anyone who really wants to see a specific panel doesn’t need to go two hours beforehand and sit through panels they are not interested in, with attendees simply means lining up outside no more than an hour before the start of the panel.

I, along with many online commentators, was not sure how this was going to go down with attendees with space at a premium to move huge crowds of people in and out of panel halls, However, I experienced this new rule in play on the Friday with the CLERKS 25th REUNION panel and it all appeared to go off without a hitch.

The queue system outside was nicely administrated and everyone was moved in and out quickly and efficiently, with myself finding a seat pretty quickly. Straight after the panel, the announcement was made that the room needed to be cleared and everybody left – quite simple really.  

I’m not so much against the Room Clearing system; the problem it causes is MCM loses valuable time in doing so, requiring the cutting down of programming other panels throughout the weekend, especially on the Main Stage. Yes, there are presentations throughout the day on any number of their stages but the time between panels can sometimes be up to an hour. That is lost time which could have been given to another thirty-minute panel.

Generally, MCM also need to do more with their panels. I do feel MCM need to be bolder with their panel selections. People will point to the Sebastian Stan (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDER) and David Harbour (STRANGER THINGS, HELLBOY) Showcases as the big draws of the weekend and I agree, those are necessary panels. However, where are the ones showing discussing new TV shows with the creators? Or ones about upcoming films? Or about the future of gaming? Those panels do exist but they are few and far between.

Panel options should be overflowing. Attendees should have multiple panel options, all of which they want to see but have to make a choice. From 10am to 6pm, every day there should be panels running on all manner of nerd culture subjects. Basically, what I’m saying is MCM need to embrace the panels and go bigger… much bigger. I know, I know – I want the moon on a stick.

One area I’m never disappointed in, however, is the Asia Section. A veritable cornucopia of Asian culture through vendors, talks and food – this year, I actually got to sample some of the Japanese cuisines on offer and all of it was soooooo gooooood! This area of MCM is always busy and quite rightly so because it embraces a part of nerd culture that is, at times, side-lined in favours of your Marvel’s and DC’s, etc. There is so much to see and do in this area that if you don’t look around then you are doing yourself a disservice. And yes, missing out on some incredible food.

Over the May Bank Holiday weekend, MCM Comic Con once again opened its doors to all sorts of geeks and nerds. It has always been a popular show but, after the woeful October 2018 event, there was some slight trepidation that things would not be as good as they used to be. Thankfully, the team at MCM got the juggernaut back on the road and, with this event, it felt like it was shifting up through the gears again and making its way back to being an unstoppable machine, once again.


Full Disclosure: myself and my partner Samantha were able to attend MCM London Comic Con through the kind Press Office to provided us with passes for the weekend.

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