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Sunday, June 16, 2024

MCM Comic Con – Where did it all go wrong?

This past weekend at the geeky Mecca that is the Excel convention centre, MCM Comic Con (formerly entitled Expo) returned to attempt to dazzle us in London with three whole days of cosplay, comics, movies, manga, films, and games. Now, I say attempt with a fairly abhorrent sneer right now, as they may well have tried to stun, but wholly fell short with the brand spanking new, and downright dictatorial regime of running things. 

I didn’t attend as press this time around and perhaps if I had done, I would’ve found things to have worked slightly differently, but as me; a regular, run of the mill attendee like thousands of other people that weekend, I was sorely underwhelmed by the treatment and organisation of what could’ve been amazing. 

MCM events in general have always been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I prefer the quieter and more laid back atmosphere of other conventions in which I don’t feel like I may be steadily trampled to death. I usually go for the cosplay, and even before the new system came into play, I was the one that would prefer to mingle within Excel, without daring to navigate the perils of the actual convention itself. This time around, that wasn’t even an option as to so much as enter the building, you needed to have a wristband, or be intending to buy one. And oh what a fun filled saga that was trying to get one!

When the announcement for an improved ticketing system came through, I had high hopes. Maybe it would be more streamlined, I foolishly thought. But no! Even pre-paid tickets were still forced to march along like cattle through various cordoned off areas, certain sets of doors were off limits, and without trying to sound too macabre, it did feel suspiciously like we were being marched towards the slaughter house. What was at the end of these astronomic queues? Would we ever find out? Or was this all just one giant philosophical experiment to see how long it took for people to slowly lose the will to live and question the monotony of their own existence?

May's offering of London Comic Con was infinitely more manoeuvrable.
May’s offering of London Comic Con was infinitely more manoeuvrable.


It was quite plainly, piss poor planning. And if the wall to wall influx of people was anything to go by, perhaps also a gross overselling of tickets. Suppose the fire alarm had gone off; what then? How many hundreds of people would’ve been shoved to the ground and trampled in the rush to get out of a gapingly useless one way system within the Excel centre? Quite frankly I’m amazed that the incidents that did occur this weekend requiring medical intervention were as sparse as they were. That isn’t a testament to the skill of the staff, but rather blind luck. A lot of things could’ve gone wrong, and if they continue to run the event like this, then it’s only a matter of time before it does, and hell, may even result in a fatality one of these days. 

But that raises the question, would MCM even care? Considering the attitudes of some of the staff this past weekend, I’m very much inclined to doubt it. As soon as you’ve paid, that’s it. You’re old news – and I think that attitude is part of what’s sorely rubbed me up the wrong way. To be spoken to as if you’re nothing, to be snapped at for asking simple questions or daring to use the wrong door, is laughably appalling. For an event like this, I would’ve thought it was about uniting people, about bringing together various lovers of mutual fandoms and mediums and allowing them to interact and revel in an environment that is hard to come by within the UK. Instead, I felt at best like a host to a money sucking parasite, eager to bleed me dry and then move onto the next oblivious soul. 

That isn’t to say it’s entirely doom and gloom though. They did manage to get some things right! The new layout for the halls was welcomed, and once you did get into them, you did definitely have more breathing room than in conventions past. So why didn’t they cross that level of forward thinking over into the thoroughfare too? Why didn’t they stop and think, hang on a minute, we should probably spread this out a little more and try to make it more accessible, without forcing our patrons to fight tooth and nail through a crowd simply to get to what they’ve paid for. I know I am somewhat bitter regarding that point, especially since in my intrepid quest to get up to where I needed to be, I was inadvertently smacked in the face by a poster tube, but that surely wouldn’t have happened if we were capable of walking a safe distance apart from one and other instead of being packed in like sardines. 


Katniss Everdeen as photographed by Shinigami Photography.
Katniss Everdeen as photographed by Shinigami Photography.

The people too were obviously a great bonus to the weekend. Despite it’s flaws, MCM does attract a large and indomitable group of individuals that I honestly feel truly privileged to have met. These are the people that make events like London Comic Con tolerable. They’re the seasoned veterans, the cosplayers, the fanatical and fabulous folk that take the edge off the negatives and help to remind you of why you’re there. Granted, it makes for a bloody expensive weekend just to head down South to see them, but at the moment it’s a cross I’ll just have to continue to bear. The people that attend are what make Comic Con what it is, they’re the backbone of it, and as of late, I don’t think the’ve been getting the respect they deserve. Without attendees, it can’t run, so why treat the ones you do have, so badly? Why make them jump through so many hoops, and navigate so many obstacles, when it could easily be rectified? 

Chaos Vincent proved that despite a few hiccoughs, MCM still attracts some epic cosplays. Credit to Shinigami Photography.
Chaos Vincent proved that despite a few hiccoughs, MCM still attracts some epic cosplays. Credit to Shinigami Photography.


Take the new weapons rules for example; precisely how did that help things out? Why was there a double standard when it came to items being confiscated? Where’s the bloody trust gone? I do respect whole heartedly that planning any large scale event has it’s own hoops to jump through – and within the remit of the law, certain things have to be changed, but when there’s no legal stipulation to do so, why are we the ones to be punished? If you’ve always used but never abused the privilege of wielding a weapon as part of your costume, why are you suddenly being reprimanded and stripped of that right without doing a single thing wrong? Look at other events, LFCC for example had deactivated weapons being used as part of a costume in one trustworthy individual’s case, complete with paperwork, police approval, suitable transport to and from venue and even as part of the costume, it wasn’t utilised in a menacing manner. If that element of trust is there and you can prove yourself to behave in an appropriate manner, why is it a problem?

You had to be Street Fighter to brave the crowds. Credit to Shinigami Photography.
You had to be Street Fighter to brave the crowds. Credit to Shinigami Photography.


I find it incredibly ironic that in the interests of public safety, any weapon that isn’t constructed out of foam, or neon plastic can be confiscated, yet it’s perfectly okay to severely overcrowd a small thoroughfare. I can guarantee you’d get more accidents from the ensuing shoving, heat and anxiety than you ever would from someone’s costume prop being used inappropriately. So why not pick a side eh? You either want to consider alterations and the implementation of new rules to benefit the safety and enjoyment of your attendees, or you don’t. You can’t pick and choose. 

Despite the negatives here, I do think MCM made an effort to herald in some change for the better. They’ve tried to improve something that’s been getting bigger and bigger over the years, but they’ve aimed too high, too soon and buckled under the pressure. I applaud their good intentions on the matter, but they need to seriously reconsider their choices if they have any hope in hell of meeting the scale of demand for such a prominent event. 

In short, I’m disappointed by London Comic Con, more than I can accurately convey in words right now. In the past, I’ve looked forward to my twice yearly trips to the Excel. I’ve eagerly awaited the guest schedules, and planned my costumes with the buzz of knowing I had something fabulous awaiting me; it was even enough for me to bite the bullet and risk the crowds I don’t usually favour. But after this weekend, unless something changes, I doubt I’ll be attending our fair capital city’s con again. Learn from your mistakes MCM, take heed of the complaints and suggestions rather than turning a blind eye, and please for the love of god redeem yourself by the time I hit Birmingham next month!

Geeky Journalist, self-confessed cinephile, fashion fanatic, beauty blogger, and ever-so-secret connoisseur of jellytots.

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