Sunday, 24 May 2009

[188] MCM Expo, London, 24/05/09

In the spirit of taking up opportunities and trying things offered by living in the country's capital, yesterday I went to the first day of the MCM Expo, which is held at the Excel complex - an exhibition and conference centre in the London Docklands area.

I'd read up on the Expo's site beforehand, so knew to expect all sorts of Movies, Video Games, Comics and Anime-based nonsense, as well as an attempt to break the world record for the most video game cosplayers in one location (which, it seems, they broke). Nevertheless, I was still surprised that even before I had boarded the tube at London Bridge, I had spotted a good dozen bright-eyed teens in Bleach/Naruto-affiliated costume. The density of costumed people grew as I travelled closer, walking through the hyperdeveloped dockside area in the late morning sunshine. Then I turned a corner, and rising over the slight incline, saw a forest of fanatics ahead of me.

I'd hazard to say that there were more people in costume than wearing civvies. When queuing for tickets (in an orderly, if erratic line housed in one of Excel's hangar-like halls), it seemed like a real symposium of super-geeks. While waiting, an anxious buzz went through the line, a vicious rumour - they'd sold out of Pocky already!

Cosplay is a weird and awesome hobby, with the sheer expression, craft and imagination going into some of the outfits being incredibly impressive (some of my favourites: Purple Tentacle, Earthworm Jim, Faith from Mirror's Edge, the Companion Cube from Portal). Less fun, however, is the uncomfortable, seedy edge provided by the younger and more revealing ends of the anime-fan spectrum (pre-teen under-cleavage is not a nice thing to witness), and also the culture that goes along with it. It seems the 'free hugs' sign movement has now hit the zeitgeist, and countless were on display (as well as off-shoots such as 'free glomps').

Fair enough, it's Utopian, it's free love, it's revelling in each other. But there were certainly some leering older men, often with beards and long hair (NOT ME), taking advantage, indulging in said hugs and snapping photographs. Bit creepy. It was a source of discomfort and bafflement for a lot of the like-minded, 'responsible' people I spoke to - squeezing through crowds of kids not knowing where to look, or where to put your hands. But who am I to spoil others' fun?

So I buried myself in Objective Journalism, taking photos of the venue and the attractions, and not so much the people. The MCM Expo is eclectic, and comes off as a real collision of geek cultures. Sure, there was a huge area of packed-out anime stalls, selling plushies, manga and DVDs, but the film, video games and comics areas were no less interesting. There were a few celebrity guests, such as Linda Hamilton, Tony Curtis and Craig Charles (attached to a stall from which you had to make a purchase in order to get an autograph) too. Some shops just seemed to have airlifted in their stock, with interesting turn-outs from Barringtons Swords and a corset sellers.

Other attractions included lots of gaming-related stalls, from developers and publishers like Capcom, Koei and Rising Star, but chief among these was a playable preview of the new and much anticipated Batman: Arkham Asylum game from Rocksteady/Eidos (recently pushed back to a Q3 release for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3). They also had plenty of arcade cabinets and game stations set up for competitions and free play, such as Dance Dance Revolution, Rock Band, Battle Fantasia and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. These areas were packed and popular.

By contrast, the film area was a little underwhelming, with a few big billboards and a small screening area showing a reel of trailers from summer movies, like The Land of the Lost, Bruno and Funny People.

I spent by far the most time in the 'Comics Village', which had a really nice turn out of various artists, writers and creators. Because of the diversified nature of the Expo, it meant that most of these people (who had been at previews events, like the Webcomix Thing), weren't being mobbed by fans, which meant I was able to have chats with a few of them. Name-dropping time. It was great to finally talk to Marc Ellerby, and the lovely Sarah McIntyre (who has posted up her own pictures of the Expo here, here and here), and to see Howard Hardiman, Jamie McKelvie and Rich Johnston again.

The 'big name' in the comics village was Warren Ellis, in an apparently rare appearance. There was a huge queue, but I went towards the end when it had died down. He was maybe a little grumpy, but that was understandable - he was certainly happy to see the queue was almost gone. I'm not one for signings, I don't feel comfortable in the contrived, regimented atmosphere, but I got a tiny bit of conversation in there along with an autograph for my first volume of Transmetropolitan, so I was happy (some weren't so happy, though).

In the Ellis queue, I bumped into Mr. David Wynne, writer/artist of Damnation and Mindhack, and he proved a jolly companion, as he confronted his comic idols and bought original art from them. Also, Dave and Barry from Comic Syndicate seem to be getting more and more swish every time I see them - they had a stall and a press pass, so were covering everything they could.

It was a thoroughly overwhelming, but wholly enjoyable time. I came back exhausted, but smiling, and armed with a small collection of comics.

- Ellerbisms Volumes 1 and 2, by Marc Ellerby
- Nice Cup of Tea and a Deadline, by Sarah McIntyre
- Damnation, by David Wynne (read my review of the book here)
- A beautiful, one-page piece called True Story, by Howard Hardiman
- The Flying Friar, by Rich Johnston, Thomas Nachlik, Thomas Mauer and Ian Sharman

Lovely stuff. I'm effectively righting some of the wrongs imposed by my meagre budget. I'm slowly catching up with artists that I've spotted at previous events, but not had the money to check out. Still more to go though, as evidenced by my weak protestations in response to Adam Cadwell's half-joking hard-sell tactics. Luckily, there'll be a next time.

You can see my full set of photos here.

1 comment:

Jared said...

Nice summary of events!

I also like the increasing sense of surreality (is that a word?) as the tube gets closer and closer to the venue. (Or, in this case, to the stop nearish the venue). All of a sudden, you look up from your book and you're surrounded by people in ninja rabbit suits...