Lorenz at Comic Con, London 2013
MCM Comic Con 2013 is somewhere I’d go again
You know, as bad as it may be to cling to stereotypical concepts of other cultures, you can’t deny the obvious potential for tons of cheap laughs. As a citizen of Germany, I always found the image of bowler-wearing English gentlemen with glorious curly moustaches sipping cups of tea with outstretched pinkie fingers fairly amusing.
Still, in recent years a mixture of PC-induced guilt and academic curiosity has instilled a longing in me to check out the UK for myself, and though my trip to London certainly wasn’t intended primarily as a cultural lesson, it did manage to convince me that British people don’t actually tend to look like the stereotype on average. Who knew.
Anyway, even though I usually cover the Games section of Pie Magazine, the community-minded nerd in me felt compelled to tell you good folks about my journey to the 2013 MCM Comic Con London,
I’m not much of a traveller, and my abysmal sense of direction frequently causes me to get lost at stations and airports, but the opportunity to meet a couple of fellow internet loons from The Escapist (shoutout to my buddies TimeLord, Ahri, TheSaw and Chrono212!) and gawk at geeky trinkets while dressed up in costume was just too good to pass up.
After making my way from Heathrow into London and getting a first impression of the city’s tube system – a tangled web of architectural nonsense quite possibly dreamt up by M.C. Escher, with the CCTV cameras providing a slightly Orwellian vibe – I arrived at the hostel and discovered our room was basically a tiny bunk bed prison cell overrun by hungry ants. Thanks, RestUp London!
At least there was a decent kebab shop adjacent, as well as a nearby Tesco; by the way, you Brits should consider yourself incredibly fortunate to live in a country where supermarkets and grocery stores are actually open on Sundays. Also, as cramped as our room was, it was sufficient for playing a couple of fun drinking games in the evening, with the added benefit of the discovery I apparently enjoy Strongbow.
Fuelled by the breakfast of champions, i.e. standard McDonald’s chow, our group of five set out to the first day at the Con on Friday morning. Upon arriving at the ExCel grounds at the Victoria Docks I quickly learned a new lesson about British culture: people there love to queue. I’m not typically an impatient man, but had I not met a couple of interesting people to talk to, my guess is standing in line for over an hour would have driven me mad.
Speaking of queues, even though it was Friday and the expo was only open to us privileged folks with weekend tickets, the amount of people gathered for the event opening was massive. I haven’t checked the official numbers, but one of my mates said that last year’s MCM had attracted about 70,000 over the entire weekend, and judging from what I saw I had no reason to doubt him.
The crowd was packed with people of all shapes and sizes wearing outfits and costumes ranging from hilariously bad to 100% awesome; even while still in the queue I encountered Pokémon trainers, shinobi, Street Fighter villains, assorted superheroes, alchemists, Aperture Labs scientists, Imperial Stormtroopers and the Cookie Monster, to name but a few.
Once we were let into the Con, it took us quite a while to get our bearings and check out all the things it had to offer. Looking in from one of the entrances, roughly the first third of rows were dominated by stands offering all manners of merchandise, the left and right being mainly focussed on manga/anime and more traditionally western geek swag respectively. Long tables and racks were stacked with plushies, t-shirts and hats, jewellery, collectibles, cosplay articles, board/card/video games, replica swords (foam, wood and steel), steampunk trinkets and more, infrequently interspersed with specialized shops selling wares like cybercandy, ornate quills or high-end graphics hardware.
Dotted around the middle of the huge hall we discovered multiple booths staffed by video game publishers such as Activision, Nintendo, Square Enix, Capcom and Bandai Namco. Here gamers were invited to try out exclusive playable demos of new and upcoming titles; I myself gleefully took a crack at several, first and foremost dystopian cyberpunk action adventure Remember Me and Marvel’s wacky hack-n-slash shooter Deadpool. Other playable demos included new titles for franchises like Dynasty Warrior, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, Resident Evil and Lost Planet.
Super-powered mercenary Deadpool and his trusted sidekick Rubber Duckie
The far side of the expo hall was mainly dedicated to Comic Village. Here comic artists of various styles and domains sat behind their tables, offering signed high-quality prints of showcased artwork, entire comic books, or even commissioned art such as quick portraits for cosplayers or specific art requests – all at a certain (though reasonable) price, of course.
Visitors were merrily chatting it up with artists, discussing the arts and crafts or debating personal trivia and random matters of geek culture. Seeing the incredible variety of drawing styles, colouring techniques and picture composition was amazing – a true testament to the unlimited manifestations of creative genius. Needless to say I purchased various cool prints myself and met a couple of very nice people in the process!
A friendly comic book artist named Dave
The far left and right of the hall were reserved for a slightly weird but no less appealing mix of other activities. Various signing areas were packed with fans trying to get artworks signed and pictures taken with their favourite artists, writers and actors. Several booths offered previews of upcoming movies and projects, such as the Halo movie “Forward Unto Dawn”, and an entire section was set aside for Vidfest UK, expanding the video branch to all things webcast and Youtube.
Other areas served the purpose of presenting both new and established board and card games, creating a mix of enthusiastic promotion and active gaming as visitors sat down with friends and game makers alike to try out different products of all genres. And while we’re on the subject of games, it should be pointed out that MCM Comic Con wasn’t devoid of competitive gaming either, as a large section on the far right was dedicated to e-sports, with events like fighting game tournaments for Super Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3.
Those visitors more inclined to combine a friendly gaming session with stretching their muscles a bit felt right at home in the far left corner, where about a dozen arcade machines running Dance Dance Revolution tempted expo-goers with good music and pulse-pounding fun. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like the spectacle of an Aperture Labs test subject going up against a Timelord in a friendly bout of DDR.
The far corners of the expo hall were occupied by two massive theatre stages, apparently offering a wild mix of exclusive presentations, movie previews and music acts. Yet to be honest I didn’t venture inside either one, because simply sitting outside the main theatre for five minutes carried a semi-serious risk of going deaf. It kind of felt like God had left his car door open and cranked his stereo’s bass dial up to 11, and at one point my teeth actually started vibrating.
Anyway, I was still partial to the right side of the expo hall, as this was where JapanEx was located; here a couple of small stands offered authentic Japanese meals and snacks such as roast duck curry, fried chicken sticks, miso ramen, sushi and my personal favourite, Nice Ice. A machine was used to shave a pile of thin ice flakes off a big block into a small plastic dish, which was then soaked with flavoured syrup and garnished with fresh fruit and sweet chocolate sprinkles; an absolutely delicious treat, the consumption of which was almost a necessity on Saturday afternoon, when the crowd had swelled to such massive proportions that the heat became sweltering and the ventilation units were fighting a losing battle against the acrid taste in the stale air.
Last but not least, the near right corner housed the Totally Cosplay stage, where several cosplay competitions were held over the weekend. In all fairness some of the costumes on display were enormously impressive, but even the simple process of running laps around a block of stands yielded more variety in cosplaying, and I was decidedly more interested in things like taiko drum demonstrations and the origami workshop.
Nice Ice, our savior in the sweltering Saturday heat…
Getting back to my personal experience with the MCM Comic Con, Saturday saw a marked increase in our little group’s geek factor as we all dressed up in costume before heading out to ExCel. Between the five of us we had the 10th and 11th incarnation of the Doctor from Doctor Who, a catgirl, a Hunter zombie from Left 4 Dead and a Creeper from Minecraft. Needless to say our spirits were high, despite the fact our hostel had been blitzkrieged by a horde of rowdy Borussia Dortmund fans in town for the Champions League finals. T
he MCM Games theatre had a few interesting panels lined up, such as an exclusive demonstration of highly-anticipated PS3 exclusive The Last Of Us, demos for Remember Me, Lost Planet 3 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and a Q&A with Camilla Luddington, the voice actress of Lara Croft in this year’s Tomb Raider reboot. (Lorenz on the new Tomb Raider game.)
My personal highlight of the day was a panel with Mark Meer, the voice actor of Commander Shepard in the critically acclaimed Mass Effect series. Chatting openly about various aspects of his personal and professional life and history, Mark came across as incredibly sympathetic; he is a self-proclaimed nerd, citing pen & paper RPG ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ as his inspiration and fantasy RPGs in general as his springboard to success, and it would have been hard to doubt the man, seeing how he appeared on-stage in a custom-made outfit, cosplaying as his own interpretation of a high-ranking Hydra officer from the Marvel comic ‘verse. During the Q&A with the audience I actually got a chance to ask Mark a question, and after the panel he signed my N7 dogtags. Score!
VA Panel with Mark Meer, voice of Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)
On a rather curious note, I have a suspicion my ugly mug might start appearing around the internet in the coming weeks as attendees gradually upload their Comic Con pics. You see, even though unintended, the synergy effect between the costumes worn by me and my mate TimeLord was undeniable, and we must have been stopped by dozens of groups of people for impromptu photo shoots; one time there was a momentary lull in the press of bodies around us and we stopped to quickly sort out our goodie bags, and as fate would have it we’d stopped right in the middle of a crossroads between the expo’s busiest avenues, and suddenly a sea of people were clamouring for pictures with the two Doctors. It felt crazy, what with all the attention our walking time paradox was drawing, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also kind of kick-ass.
A Tale of Two Doctors
Things got off to a flying start on Sunday, as our catgirl had undergone an overnight metamorphosis and transformed into Chell from Portal, and she even brought the ever-chatty Space Core to keep us company at the expo.
Following an interesting demo of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes at the Games theatre, Mark Meer came on for another panel, this time in the company of Raphael Sbarge, the voice of Mass Effect NPC Kaidan Alenko; as the two VAs entered a lively back-and-forth about their time working on the games, many more questions were answered and lots of laughs were had by all, especially during the concluding Mass Effect Bloopers game where Mark performed lines provided by the audience in his Shepard voice.
At this point I want to make special mention of one particular event: When the interviewer steered the conversation towards inspiring creative content in the fan community, they played a one-minute excerpt from the music video for “Commander Shepard”, performed by Miracle Of Sound. As you may recall from one of my articles (Lorenz on Miracle of Sound), Miracle of Sound is a one-man music act headed by Gavin Dunne, an internet friend of mine over at The Escapist; I’d like to take this opportunity for another quick shoutout to him, and assure all of our readers that Gav has been no less prolific since then, so if you’re in the mood for great music with even greater stylistic variety, head on over to iTunes and Bandcamp and get an earful! … Wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, if Mark Meer thought Gav’s music was cool enough to sing along to, who’re you to argue?
ExCel exterior, Sunday afternoon
Leaving the 2013 MCM Comic Con for the final time on Sunday evening, I looked back on a spectacular weekend of great sights and fun activities and felt immensely satisfied.
Sure, I’d blown a ridiculous amount of money on things I don’t necessarily need, but it was my understanding that’s what these events are for. We took some time to wind down on the lawn outside the ExCel grounds where hundreds of expo visitors had gathered to lounge about or party at the metal stage, and my mate Chrono212 even took some really neat cosplay shots of our little group.
Considering the unusual spell of good weather over the weekend I find it a bit odd that I’m currently down with a severe cold, but then again I suppose it should come as no surprise that spending three days in enclosed spaces with tens of thousands of people might result in contracting the hypersniffles from Borax 9.
Guess I might as well use this spell of plague to slim down a bit after days of greasy burgers, Cornish pasties and Jammie Dodgers to make sure I fit into next year’s costume. Because one thing’s for certain – this will not have been the last time I attended an MCM Comic Con in London!
I found my Tardis!