AEISD: Leonard, here. I wasn’t the only one that was able to make the trip into the Capital last weekend – while I visited on just the Sunday, AEISD Contributor Mark Searby took a couple of train into town and explored the show on the Sunday, along with AEISD Photographer Sam Payne. Here is his take on this epic event…
Mark Searby: Legendary folk singer Bob Dylan once sang “The Times They Are A Changin’”. I was surprised not to hear that track played throughout London’s ExCel Exhibition Centre‘s PA system over the weekend, what with the news that the company behind London Comic Con‘s MCM Expo– one of Europe’s largest pop culture convention organisers – had been purchased by ReedPOP – one of America’s biggest pop culture organisers… the times are certainly going to be a-changin’ for this incredible show (and, indeed, the rest of the MCM shows that are run across the UK.)
But, let’s get this show out of the way, first. As with most MCM Comic Con shows, this past weekend’s event was a busy affair. Celebrities, gaming, Cosplay, panels and merchandise were all on hand. Not to mention it was kids go free all weekend too. However, as I have mentioned before, if you want autographs and/or photos with the actors etc at the event, then taking the Early Bird ticket option is the best way forward.
Once the automatic roller doors lifted up a speedy walk to the autograph/photo op buying booth is the first job. The lines can get long but the process was quick and easy. With “smile” autograph ticket for Hayley Atwell in hand (she wasn’t scheduled to start signing until 10:30am) a wander around the booths and stalls of the South side of the ExCel was in order. Within minutes of entering the venue, something felt different: there was a different vibe about the place and at first it was difficult to put a finger on what it was.
By the time I’d hit the end wall of the South section, it had become obvious – MCM had gone big for famous brands, e.g. Nintendo, Cartoon Network, Bandi Namco, DC Entertainment, WWE, Maoam(!) and Funko. London Comic Con had now become a Comic Con with an American touch. This is no bad thing as MCM already had a slight US convention style previous years but now with ReedPOP involved, it looks like they are ready to take bring some of the power that their US conventions have and transplant it to MCM’s conventions.
For the first time at MCM, I noticed more and more booths/stalls selling exclusive merchandise that was only available at MCM London Comic Con. The London Mint Office (printers of collectable coins) had a range of light up coins that had Marvel characters on them; Amscan, a foil balloon manufacturer, had an exclusive Baby Groot balloon for sale; Forbidden Planet had an exclusive STAR WARS Black Series ‘Captain Rex’ figure available; Monogram International debuted a limited edition WONDER WOMAN keyring gift set.
By far the biggest and most well known merchandiser selling exclusives was Funko. Back in April when MCM held their other London based Comic-Con Funko had a booth, yet it was a walk-in every single time and the exclusives were easy to pick up. The Times They Are A Changin’… MCM in October was a completely different beast. Long lines to get into the Funko booth for the Fall 2017 Convention exclusives. Each exclusive was limited to two per person but by Sunday a couple of them had been limited to one per person – full blown Funko fever had arrived at a UK convention.
Into the North side of ExCel and more booths, stalls and interactive experiences lay in wait. The Pop Asia section still does excellent business even though, stall-wise, it seems to be less and less with each convention. Marvel took over the entire middle space of the South side. It was a huge section and one that showcased their dominance in the pop culture market. On display were the costumes from both BLACK PANTHER and THOR: RAGNAROK. Beyond that was the show’s artist alley – Comic Village – a sizeable area that was brisk with foot traffic the couple of times I walked through it.
A word on the autograph set up at MCM London. The area reserved for the “talent” is nicely spacious and has lines quite nicely organised. The headliner was Anthony Mackie. By the time he arrived, shortly after 10am, his line was about five hundred deep. However, he shifted through them quickly but still had time to stop and chat with everyone – clearly a pro at these things.
When Hayley Atwell arrived around 10:30am, the area was awash with fans come to speak to her and get an autograph (mainly on MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER items), however while slowly moving through the line I, and many others, tried to take some photos of Atwell from afar as you were not allowed to take photos at the desk. Within seconds security came over and asked us not to take photos “We’re not doing photos at this time” was their line.
I understand that some of the talent at these conventions are nervous about having their photos taken, but if you are that worried then don’t do the event or ask to be cornered off in a booth – there are ways around it without agitating your fans. Interesting side note: This is the second time this year that we’ve been personally stopped from taking from a distance photos of Atwell. The first time was at Heroes & Villains Fan Fest and now MCM Comic Con. Is it just me her security are targeting? Or is it everyone?
I will say that by the time I got to talk to Atwell she was delightful and very jovial. Oh, and very beautiful. This is a woman who has a genuine smile that could light up even the darkest of rooms. We had a laugh and joke about working with Dominic Cooper and she was telling me what he is like to work with (unbearably brilliant and incredibly down to Earth, by all accounts – also, very quick witted). With her autograph across my AGENT CARTER boxset, I was off into the main area of MCM thinking what was all the fuss about in terms of taking those photos??!!
Shortly after, I dropped into the Gold Theatre to watch a panel about the designing of the world of BLADE RUNNER 2049 with some of the key architects involved. A fascinating discussion about how they had to keep it similar to Scott’s original dystopian world yet also update it to fit Villeneuve’s new world. Still photos from the set and concept art was shown on the giant screens while those on the panel talked about each piece on show.
With that, it was time for me to exit MCM London Comic Con for another year. It’s always an enjoyable convention with some many different areas on offer. However, this time it felt like it was preparing to shift up a gear or two. Next year’s events will be interesting to attend to see ReedPOP’s full influence. Come gather ‘round people… For the times they are a-changin’.