Conventions

MCM Comic Con London – October 2019 (A Family Perspective)

This was our 5th MCM comic con in London and whilst I didn’t hugely enjoy the one at the start of the year as it was busy, I must say that this one was even less enjoyable and has seriously impacted our decision as to whether or not attend again in the future. However, there is one very important factor which helps us make this decision, which is the fact that we have a 1 year old child. This was already his 3rd MCM and until he is a little older will most likely be his last.

Let me pre-warn you at this point that this post is a bit of a long read and if you’re a huge MCM fan you probably won’t agree with where I’m going with this… I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! I know that people who went on the Sunday had a better time than us on Saturday (I know that Saturday is the busiest day – although of course this year it was Friday, not Saturday which sold out).

Not very baby friendly

If you really couldn’t care less how this show is for kids, skip to the next heading so that you can miss my little rant!

When we first took Ripley here it was perfect for him, and he was only 4 weeks old! We had his photo taken with some Lego people which was really cool, there was loads of room to move about and even at lunch time we were able to relatively easily feed him. When we returned a few months later this accessibility had decreased significantly but we put that down to the fact that originally there was supposed to be a Heroes and Villains event on the same weekend in London. Why Fan Fest thought they could compete with MCM is beyond me and inevitably it got cancelled and a lot of those people went to MCM instead.

MCM must have been rubbing their hands together and mentioned that they would try to make sure that everyone who was meant to go to the Fan Fest event would still be able to have a good weekend in London, especially those who traveled in from afar. What I guessed this meant was an increase in ticket availability, and that’s how it felt at the start of 2019. It was busy as hell. I think what then happened is that they thought this time around, “that went pretty well, let’s increase ticket availability”.

This time around was by far the busiest MCM I have seen and if that is the case, who can blame them? I think it won’t affect most people who can still push their way through the crowds and see what they want to see, and if they lose a minority of faithful visitors in the process, do they really care? With that amount of money being made, I’d say no – and I can’t honestly say that I would make a different decision if it were my business… At the end of the day they’re there to make a profit so no hard feelings!

It really was busy though! I couldn’t get to well over half of the stalls with a baby in a buggy, and even though I really wanted some of the Funko pop exclusives there was no way I could queue that long with a baby. A year ago, getting in to that stall even with a baby wasn’t a problem!

The crowds were the biggest issue this year. As I mentioned I couldn’t physically get to most stalls and most of the visitors were completely oblivious or couldn’t care less about there being a baby in a buggy making its way around the halls. We struggled to find somewhere to eat lunch even though we purposely decided to go for lunch shortly after 11:00 to beat the rush and the queues for the limited number of baby change facilities were huge! It is mainly this which ruined it for us, and I know that other people with babies and young children struggled a bit too, and similar problems were faced by people in wheelchairs, although thankfully people had a bit more respect for them.

One thing which wound me up this time and last time is that there is an area for families with kids to escape the hustle and bustle of the show. Last time we came we couldn’t even feed our baby there it was so packed, but this time it was a bit bigger, and at the start of the day it was actually really good. He was able to play with some props and have a crawl on the floor. But by half way through the day we had the same issue this time as we had previously. It’s an area for families, yet it was filled with adults (without a child in sight) wanting a place to sit on the bean bags checking their new yu-gi-oh cards!

Even though there were MCM staff there, they don’t seem to care that it’s meant to be for families even though it is one of the features I love the most about MCM compared to other shows. When we first took him it was great but now the tree house is just too full, and towards the end of the day absolutely filthy, which isn’t great considering kids crawl and roll around on the floor in there.

But I don’t want to do them a discredit when it comes to the thought behind this area, they considered it well, did am awesome job at decorating it and lead the pack for even just having it… it just wasn’t executed that well during the latter part of the day. When the day started our little hulk absolutely LOVED it!

But saying all that there is one thing they are good with when it comes to babies, which is that they bring you straight to the front of the queue so that little ones don’t need to be stood about for an hour trying to get in. Again that’s one thing I do love about MCM and even at the start of the year when I queued for an autograph with Jason Mewes he personally came and got us from the back of the queue so that our little man didn’t have to queue.

Overall though, from the perspective of a parent with a young child who can’t walk yet, it’s becoming less accessible and enjoyable every time and has done for the past couple of shows. Next year we’re going to have a break from MCM and go back to London Film & Comic Con which is where our love for cons started and which we haven’t been to since starting to go to MCM… It’s a bit like MCM’s dirty little cousin in the Olympia (The Excel is such a nice venue in comparison) – much smaller, less bright, fewer big exhibitors etc but always seemed much more comfortable, relaxed and they have the better guests any way!

Special Guests

One of the main reasons why we go to comic con is to get some signatures and maybe some photo-ops… We’ve had some really cool ones over the years! (although if I’m going to be totally honest, the vast majority of these have come from Walker Stalker events)

MCM usually has a few good guests but limits the number to be relatively low. There is also always a big focus on comic book writers & illustrators as well as people from the worlds of gaming and anime, whereas my interest is more tv and film. Therefore this year wasn’t great for us guest wise, especially as I usually look forward to the opportunities at an October event for horror guests.

The best guests for us were 3 of the kids from IT / IT: the second chapter, although I only got an autograph from Sophia Lillis who plays Beverley Marsh in those films – I would have got the other 2 as well (Jaeden Martell & Wyatt Olef) but I wanted to save more of my budget to get a Simon Pegg autograph. So this year of course he was the big name star they had with the only other really big names (Jason Momoa, David Morrissey, Jonathan Ross and Paloma Faith) being there on Friday just for panels or to introduce screenings.

Other guests did however include (not counting other guests who were just there for panels):

From the world of gaming

Roger Clark & Bryan Dechart (Red Dead Redemption 2), Charles Martinet (Mario), Troy Baker (Uncharted), Nolan North (Uncharted)

From the world of film & television

Jason David Frank, Catherine Sutherland & Nakia Burrise (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), Amelia Rose Blaire (True Blood & Scream)

From the world of anime & cartoons

Michael Jones, Lindsay Jones, Barbara Dunkleman, Kara Eberle & Arryn Zech (RWBY, Red Vs Blue and Camp Camp), Tara Strong (Powerpuff Girls, Fairly Odd Parents & Rugrats)

From the world of comic books

Yungblud (The Twisted Tails of the Ritalin Club), Geof Isherwood (Dr Strange, Spiderman & X-Men), George Perez (The Avengers, Wonder Woman, The New Teen Titans & Crisis on Infinite Earths), Gary Frank (Doomsday Clock, Superman: Secret Origin & Supreme Power), Jim Shooter (Superman, The Avengers & Secret Wars), Kit Buss (Critical Role & Cloven: Bloodlines), Ian Churchill (Cable, Deadpool, The Uncanny X-Men, The Avengers and the Hulk), Glenn Fabry (Precher & American Gods), Emma Vieceli (Life is Strange, Olivia Twist, Doctor Who & Alex Rider), David Hine (Spiderman Noir & Silent War), Dan Watters (Coffin Bound, Lucifer & limbo), Guillermo Ortego (Moon Night, Astonishing X-Men & X-Factor), Alison Sampson (Hit Girl: India & Winnebago Graveyard), Ollie Masters (The Kitchen & Snow Blind), John Wagner (Judge Dredd), Mark Buckingham (Miraclemen, Fables, Hellblazer & Sandman), Sarah Graley (Minecraft, Glitch, Rick and Morty & Invader Zim), Ben Oliver (Judge Dredd, X-Men & the Justice League), Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + Divine, Iron Man & Darth Vader) and Eoin Marron (Killer Groove & Sons of Anarchy: Redwood Original) + loads of independent artists and writers!

From the world of online content producers

Holly H, TomSka, Jamie Jo, AceTrainerLiam, Daniel J Layton, Dean Dobbs and Kick the PJ

From the world of authors

James SA Corey (The Expanse), Alexandra Christo (To Kill a Kingdom), Kim Newman (The Anno Dracula series), Anna Smith Spark (The Empires of Dust series), Connie Glynn (The Rosewood Chronicles), David Quantick (All my Colors), Deborah Hewitt (The Nightjar), Jason Arnopp (Ghoster), RJ Baker (The Bone Ships), Tade Thompson (Rosewater), Tamsyn Muir (Gideon the Ninth) and Anthony Horowitz (The Devil and His Boy)

One thing which was different this year and to be honest quite unique for a con is that you could pre-buy an autograph during a specific time slot. As it turned out they weren’t strict about enforcing these time slots, which suited us as we wanted to get out of there, but also you still had to queue as long as ever. BUT one thing it did do was guarantee you an autograph on that day which is nice because he have in the past missed autographs due to queue lengths being too long for the guests, so a big thumbs up for that.

I didn’t get any photo-ops this time, but I’ve seen some of the photos from the day and heard from a few people and it looks like that went as smooth as ever – they always do a good job with those! Again better than London Film and Comic Con whose photo-ops look a bit like old schools photos.

The MCM Website & Announcements

This is one thing which bugged me this year, and did so for a long time – it’s not just the website but their social media announcements as well. In the lead up to London, was also the Birmingham show and much of the news we were getting was about (if I remember rightly) Birmingham, and London almost felt like it had taken a bit of a back burner. It was really late with announcing guests with a lot of the panelists only being announced a couple of weeks beforehand.

Even worse were the announcements for show exclusives, with the suppliers announcing them pretty close to the con and then MCM rehashing that information a while later. Hardly any of this information went on to the website either which meant that for many of us, we had no idea where we should go to get the best exclusive items. In the end only 4 announcements made it on to the MCM website regarding exclusives:

  • Alien 40th Anniversary gold coin by Fanattik limited to 1,000
  • 2 t-shirts and 1 hoodie from the Forbidden Planet “Life is Strange” range
  • An MCM pumpkin badge which you got for free if you were a weekend ticket holder (so not an exclusive this is what you can buy announcement)
  • 4 pops, 2 movie moments, 3 bags (which even on the MCM site still were advertised as San Diego Comic Con exclusives, so they obviously didn’t sell too well and also didn’t remain exclusive) and 4 t-shirts (each of which look like they came with a box of cereal) by Funko

There might have been more exclusives – for example I know that at least one of the mystery box companies had an MCM exclusive box. But I have no idea cause it was never announced on their site.

They always also do produce the nicest show guide I have ever seen from a convention (comic or otherwise), and certainly the London Film and Comic Con looks like a cheap fanzine in comparison. I like that they always put this guide on their website too – not this year!

The other one which stuck out for me, even though I don’t attend any of them anyway is the Fringe part of the con – which they’ve now re-branded as fan meets. They have it on their section along with a form for you to fill in if you want to hold something, but they never released a schedule.

I know they redesigned the site this year, and it does look really nice, but it just wasn’t updated enough, and if they were having teething problems, I think they could have done a little more on their social media.

Exhibitors & Vendors

This year was one of the best I’ve seen for exhibitors to be honest and both show floors were absolutely packed, showing off new tv series, movies, games, online content creators, figures, pops, board games and so much more. There really was something for everyone there this year, and I think one of the most popular exhibitors with an awesome display was Hasbro. They had a load of photo ops pieces including a huge Optimus Prime, and a bunch of figures and toys on display. Sadly, just like with so much of the show I missed being able to go around the stall itself because it was just too busy for someone with a baby in a buggy.

Even though I couldn’t get close to so many of the vendors due to the crowds (I hope they all did really well as a result), I was able to see a few and whilst its no exaggeration to say that maybe a fifth or sixth of stalls sold at least some Funko pops, there was actually a lot of variety this year! I saw plenty of different good including:

  • Retro action figures (in and out of the box)
  • New action figures
  • T-shirts
  • Fudge
  • Gameboys & other vintage consoles and their games
  • DVDs (which you very rarely see)
  • Comic books (major release published and self published)
  • Art
  • Posters
  • Autographed items (including sports memorabilia)
  • TV and movie scripts
  • American and Japanese sweets
  • Home decor
  • Masks
  • Cosplay supplies
  • Cakes
  • Swords
  • Lego pieces (some quite unusual or difficult to find) and lots of mini figs
  • Dolls & cuddly toys
  • and SO much more

It really was the most varied show we’ve been to so a big hats off to them for that… I know I’ve moaned a lot in this post about it but its all down purely to how difficult to was to navigate the show with a baby. What they do, they do very well and there’s a reason why MCM has become so popular. It’s not a comic convention its a popular culture convention, and that culture is becoming more and more popular with every Marvel movie which comes out or every X Box release, and certainly every time a new Funko pop figure comes out!

Personally I wonder whether they are becoming a victim of their own success and whether they need to make it bigger if they’re going to get more people through the door. It looks like they have some room to expand! And I’m not the only one who has said those exact words. It is always advertised by themselves and its attendees as a family… It’s getting less like that or at least a little more dysfunctional. One example of this is how poorly some of the people reacted to Yungblud being there. He was promoting his new graphic novel, within the MCM community he should have been celebrated regardless of whether you like his music or fashion sense… It is becoming a strange mixture of too crowded in one corner and elitist in the other… I liked it a few years ago when it sat snugly in the middle.

I have spoken to some people who said that this year Sunday was very quiet, so maybe that would be a better day but it can be so hard to predict (since when does Friday sell out before Saturday!), which is why we are going to give some other cons a go next year… Mainly heading back to London Film and Comic Con in spring to see how they’re getting on after a few years of being absent from those.

As a whole is it still a good convention?

Yeah I’m sure it is, most people had an absolute blast.

Is it still a good place to bring a young child as I had stated last year on my other blog?

I really don’t think so.