MCM London Comic Con - Saturday 25th May 2013 / by Steve Russell

This weekend saw those of all geeky denominations descend upon the MCM Expo Center in London, converging for the bi-yearly event: London Comic Con. 

I was there this past Saturday, wandering the crowded halls and partaking in a few events in order to bring you this, my “Other Guy” take on the LCC. 

Now, before I dive head first into this piece I’d like to take a brief moment to explain my absence as of late. I’ve been away shooting a short (b)romantic comedy entitled ‘First Date’. Between this and ‘real life’ work, I’ve not had any real time to myself. I shit you not when I say that shooting this movie has been one of the most rewarding, exhausting, experiences of my life. If I wasn’t on set, shooting, then I was at work. Wash, rinse, repeat.

However, now that I’ve entered the post production phase of ‘First Date I’ll be able to return to AniFest and post more frequently for you anime guys and manga girls, or vice versa. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about ‘First Date or what, exactly, makes a (b)romantic comedy then feel free to check out anyone of these numerous links:

@stevetendo

My personal Twitter account and a more hands on, direct inside opinion to the process of writing, producing, directing and now editing this movie.

@firstdateuk

The official ‘First Date’ Twitter account. For all the latest updates on the project and, if you have any questions, this would be the account to follow!

'First Date' on YouTube

Late to the party? No problem. Check out all the Behind The Scenes footage as we take you behind the camera and show you the in’s and out’s of what went into making ‘First Date’ a reality on a day to day basis. 

Okay, the shameless plugging portion of this segment is now coming to an end. But, please, do check it out. If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow or The Inbetweeners this is for you. As a quick aside: I was super aware that just one little typo would make it read ‘Fist Date’ a totally different movie, I’m sure. 

Now, back to the LCC and my, fair warning, detailed adventure. 

I was the first to arrive that morning and, after determining that my friends would not get there for a while yet, decided to hole up in a near by Wine Bar. After watching numerous Doctor Who Cosplayer’s chase each other around waving Sonic Screwdrivers, I decided this dimly lit establishment would be the best place to call home for the next half hour or so. It was a great experience minding my own business, sipping on (actually pretty decent) filter coffee and reading A Dance With Dragons: Dreams and Dust whilst casually watching people in varying levels of dress and undress (I believe they called it: Cosplay) wander in and out of the Wine Bar. 

The Welcoming Committee.

When my friends finally did arrive I made sure to set an initial ground rule with them, giving that this was their first experience at a Con of any sort. The rule was simple: No judging. This place is a safe haven for those who have a passion, a love, of similar things to converge and belong. I didn’t want them to walk in with predetermined expectations of what they would encounter. Let’s hit reset instead and establish that ‘oh so simple’ rule.

No judging. 

Sure, there were a couple of moments where we saw people in outfits they probably shouldn’t be wearing. But that wasn’t a comment on them as fans, or even the fact that they wanted to Cosplay. It was more a reaction to the millionth tubby Harley Quinn. But, hey, who gives a fuck? If they want to dress up and if they’re having a good time, then more power to them. That’s what this, and every geeky, event is about: it’s for the fans. 

Now, I know that this won’t be a particularly popular comment for some, but I promised pure candor, didn’t I? And, in the interest of fairness, I will deliver. 

I thought that the entire lining up/purchase process was a joke. It was so poorly thought out and executed it was almost hard to believe that they’ve been doing this for years and years. Obviously you have to be forgiving to a degree, factoring the sheer amount of human beings filing into the ExCel, but at what point does it make sense to have three lines, each lining up to different sections that provide minor services? 

The product of an hour and a half of my life.

Allow me to explain. We spent a total of two hours in line in order to gain two things: a stamp of admittance was the first token after an hour and a half or so. After handing over my money, I got the token in return. Figuring that a token wouldn’t be enough we got shepherded out into another line. Well, more an amalgamation of people. There was no real order, just a collection of pushy geeks loosely forming a collection and, eventually, a line. Once we got to the front of this queue we were issued with a stamp to the hand.

“Awesome,” we figured, thinking somewhat naively that our ordeal was finally at an end. We were then asked to join another line. This is where we began to get confused. The simple question of “Why?” coupled with “What is this line for?” seemed too much for the poor line herder, who never really provided a clear or conclusive answer. 

I watched, confused, as kids half my age jumped over the ‘barrier’ (read: loose tape that was tied between two poles, but was already over stretched and lying sadly on the floor). “HAH!” I said. “HAHA!” we laughed to one another. “Why would they line up for so long, only to leave now?” we openly mocked. This stamp is clearly not enough, we’ll be heading for a wristband in no time, and then we’ll finally be cruising into the Center itself.

How little we knew. How wrong we were. 

Fly, you fools. Fly!

Lining up for a further 15/20 minutes lead us around the arena, looking into the confused eyes of those in line, back to where we initially started lining up! “Fly, you fools. Fly!” comes to mind. And what did we get for those additional minutes, apart from line cutters and sheer frustration? Did we get our fabled wristbands? The only thing that justified this further line and kept us going, our spirits already quickly dwindling.

Nope.

We got to line up for the sake of lining up. We were in a line to leave the fucking line. 

Let that sink in for a second. 

We could have simply left the line after receiving the stamp, just like those kids did. The doors in the ExCel center are like hangar bay doors; large enough to deal with the relative influx of people coming in and, most importantly, out. Why then were we forced to line up to leave through a massive open door, one we could have also walked through if we had simply followed suit? If only we had the guts to do what those kids did.

Straight up stupid. 

Press pass for October and next year, please Tobika. Yes? Yes. 

Thankfully, despite that initial two hour hiccup and it now being about 1:30/1:45pm, the rest of the experience was a pretty positive one. We decided to get some sustenance before carrying on with our mission, and grabbed something from one of the many coffee bars in the arena. I bought an Americano, sandwich, Lemon Slice (oh, so naughty) and a bottle of water for the low, low price of £12 something. Arena prices, so something to be expected. No bitching on that fact, kids. These are the types of punches you’re going to have to roll with if you’re going to go to Festivals or Cons. 

Finally heading onto the floor, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the atmosphere and scope of it all. There’s so much to see and quite a lot to do, you don’t really know where to look first. 

One of the first, unavoidable, things you’d notice is that the place was packed. And hot. Way hot. One of the highlights of my day was having a man faint near me on his way out and kicking my ankle. That was awesome. I offered a rather unsympathetic “What the fuck?!” before turning and realizing what had happened. So, to that guy, I hope you got rehydrated and got some air, bro. Like at a gig, look after each other out there, kids.

Having a basic idea of what you want to do, see, or experience is beneficial for these kinds of things. Unless you’re there for the ride, in which case wander free. I, however, had a good idea of some of the things I wanted to see. First and foremost was the Last of Us panel. 

“What time was that going down?” I ask. 

“12pm,” someone responds.

“Okay, cool. Wait. What?!” I exclaim, “It’s fucking 2pm!” 

Calm down, calm down.

“Okay, okay. That’s cool. We’ve still got Edgar Wright! I love that dude. What time is his panel?”

We share uneasy glances between us as it dawns upon us. His panel was at 1:15pm. We’d officially missed the two main panels I had wanted to attend, and all to grow 2 hours older (but not wiser) in three lines just to get in. 

Wonderful. You wouldn’t have thought that I’d been in the area since 9:50am.

With these facts begrudgingly accepted by all of us, we relegated ourselves to simply enjoying the ride and experiencing Con-life. We observed loads of Cosplay; some amazing, some not so. 

My personal favorites were a young handicapped kid who had come dressed up as Darth Vader and had his wheelchair transformed into a tie fighter. Yeah, a motherfucking tie fighter! His parents are clearly doing it right. 

My other favorite cosplay was two guys dressed up as WWE’s own Team Hell No. There was some awesome detail in the Kane costume, and a gnarly fake beard on the kid playing Daniel Bryan.  

There were also a bunch of Deadpools patrolling around the floor, there to promote the upcoming game. 

Girls getting their Yaoi On.

On the other side of this spectrum was some douche who decided he’d be..I dunno... funny, I guess...at least in his mind. Some guy in slacks and an old, stained t-shirt had donned a lame Darth Vader mask and tiny lightsaber (not a euphemism, people) and then proceeded to walk around the Con staring at people. He would sidle up against those who were distracted, looking at objects/DVDs/yaoi/whatever and wait for them to turn and, inevitably, come face to face with him. I guess he thought he was being funny. All I saw was some motherfucker who came to this thing by himself with no other intention than to be a jerk and try and make young girls jump. 

The independent, creator owned, comic book, section was pretty rad. The only downfall I found with it was the spacing between the stalls. Those makeshift alleys were way too tight for the kind of traffic flow and interested parties that were trawling through them. I felt the constant need to push through, due to the stream of people, rather than being able to take the time to look at some of these comics. Which is a shame, as some of this stuff looked awesome. I wasn’t able to grab any business cards, or really pick up any books because, ironically, it was clearly a victim of its own success. If there was a wider path set, to accommodate the traffic, allowing people to actually engage on a real level with these comic creators then that would surely be nothing but a win/win for everyone involved. This section of the Con was one of the most interesting to me, as I’ve long been interested in Creator Owned material and would love to one day frequent it from the other side of the table. So any burgeoning artists out there, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

Comics at a Comic Convention. Whodathunkit.

It was nice to see Board Games getting their own section on the floor as well. CCG were also represented, with a space to face off against other enthusiasts in friendly match ups. As someone who has only just embraced this side of geekery, I thought having an area dedicated to Board Games was a nice touch and a further point that, despite being called the London Comic Con, these events go so far beyond just comics. 

Like most Conventions, at this point in time, one of the last things people actually go to Comic Conventions for now is the actual comics. This is a real double edged sword for the industry, but it’s also something that’s way too deep to cover in this article. For a great viewpoint on this subject though, make sure to check out Morgan Spurlocks’ (you know, the Super Size Me guy) documentary; Comic-Con: A New Hope. 

No games I play were represented (namely Game of Thrones, the amazing Last Night On Earth, as well as Hero Quest and Eclipse) but this just gave me an opportunity to have a look at other games that I may be interested in playing one day. 

The Whole F'N Show.

On the flip side of this however, is the placement for some of this events guests. I’m sure that this is what it’s like at every Con, but I find it perplexing that the event organizers would spend so much money to set up these special guests (with hotels, food, etc) just to then place them along the edges of the center, away from everything. Hell, even the YouTube guys had more space than them! Not knocking on this spate of YouTube celebrities, but it’s a little sad looking along the walls and watching some, apparent, special guest/celebrity looking back at you, sad and desperate for your attention. 

“Please want my autograph,” their eyes almost seem to cry. 

“No.” I respond, despondently. 

This was true for the majority of their guests, bar Tom Baker and the always fun to watch Rob Van Dam. I grabbed a sneaky picture of him as he was signing some stuff, but I’m pretty sure he was the consistently busiest of the relegated Special Guests.

One of my favourite areas of the Con had to be, hands down, the Steam Punk area. Although I have a knowledge of, and an appreciation for, steam punk, I’ve never fully immersed myself into it as a sub section of Sci-Fi. I would love to remedy this, so if anybody has any recommended reading or movies I should check out, please let me know in the comments below! 

There’s something about the aesthetic nature of what Steam Punk is that just reeks of cool to me. I would love to see more movies utilize this very specific design, and personally think it would look great on a screen, big or small. 

As an experience, there was a real mixture of highs and lows for me. The waiting and lack of clarity of the queueing process really sticks in my mind, as does the heat and sheer jam packed nature of the con. 

Lutece Probability Theory. Or lack thereof. 

Being in this kind of environment however, surrounded by people who are as geeky, or in a lot of cases, geekier, than myself is awesome in itself. 

I actually think British Geeks are possibly some of the nicest people you are likely to meet, as long as they don’t fall into that obsessive, Uber-geek category. You know the type, the kind of person that can’t wait to attempt to point out the possible inconsistencies in your costume or fandom: “That’s the wrong shade of black,” for example. Jerk Vader too. But, in all honesty, with any event, and the thousands of people that attend them, you’re bound to run into a few jerks. But surrounding yourself with like minded people, no matter what kind of geek they are (Anime geek, great. Wrestling geek, awesome. Video game geek, fantastic!) will always be the most appealing aspect of going to anything like this. In that respect, the organizers did a great job in creating and nurturing an atmosphere that helped to, essentially, become self sufficient.

They helped to create an event that guarantees that people, no matter what walk of life, are able to come together, albeit for a total of three days and communicate with those who think the same was as they do. Their excitement is usually palpable, infectious even, and it’s obvious that so many of these people are in their element here. 

They have, in essence, found where they truly belong. 

They have found their tribe.

Tribe.