Costume Drama pt. II: The Reckoning (MCM October 2014)
This was my second London Comic-Con (my first was this year’s May event) and it was just as hectic; a non-stop parade of bright costumes, over-excited whooping and serious bargain hunting. My own quest for the most reasonably priced Pokémon plushie resulted in me buying precisely nothing, but I did have a lot of fun doing it. I also learned that there are now far too many Pokémon for anyone to realistically catch ‘em all. I mean, where would you keep them? Other lessons learned this time: flapjacks are essential for convention survival; there is only so much comfort to be gained from a pink unicorn before you start posing it into amusing positions; and that MCM is the only place where pub security guards will give you a funny look for not carrying an elaborate weapon on your arm…
And while I can’t pretend to know much more about the comic world than I did last time, I have at least learned the names of a few key characters and boned up on my Attack on Titan. I was slightly more conversant in the language of manga than I was last time – give me another decade and I might even be considered competently knowledgeable. It’s also nice to see that Turnaround’s stand now has a good reputation among the punters (‘the stall that sells all the good manga!’)
Favourite costume of the weekend? Cactuar from Final Fantasy. Whom I initially thought was a giant courgette.
I spoke pretty extensively about my thoughts on the first London MCM of the year in May, so this time I’ve handed over to my colleagues to have their say on another fantastic weekend of comic madness…
I have never been wedged on a train between a Pokémon and a warrior with a sword before. But then I’ve never been to Comic-Con. Despite being a comics fan, my tastes are limited to the indie/alternative real-life type stuff, with a couple of superheroes thrown in for luck. I knew next to nothing about manga or anime. And although I’ve seen pictures of elaborate cosplayers, I had never been face to face with one.
So it was awesome when, at 9.30 a.m., I looked up from our stall to see a Goth-Mermaid with a leathery tail and a tangle of silver tongues for hair. Over the course of the day there were gas masks, pink bears, decorated bikinis, fur coats, giant hammers, laser guns, tutus, and beasts on all fours. And then there was the noise; video games, hoots, roars, theme tunes. It was like being in a casino in space. It was like being at Pride, but for self-proclaimed geeks. Everyone was having a really good time. It was one of the few days of the year people could wear a tail without looking odd.
I learnt some things too. The super fans who came to the stall were really enthusiastic in explaining what manga they liked and why. I now know there is girly stuff and stuff for boys, but both are usually read by both genders. I know it can be cute but also gratuitous, and that it’s worth reading even if you’ve watched all the anime. By the end of the day my brain was overwhelmed by input, but in a good way. Comic-Con was chaotic, a complete frenzy. It was nuts and it was brilliant, and I am looking forward to the next one.
The stage was set for my Comic-Con experience when, me being new to both Comic-Con and to London, other more well-seasoned Turnaround team members kindly took it on themselves to take me aside to make sure I actually knew where I was going the day before I was due to head out.
“Go to Bank and get the DLR – you know – the DLR? Oh. Well, er, go to Bank and follow the flow of teenagers in brightly coloured costumes. Trust me, you’ll see them.”
This advice was markedly different from that given to me before the only other convention I’ve ever attended, The London Book Fair, which was, “go to Earl’s Court, and follow the girls carrying tote bags.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting –a few people in school shirts and ties under pre-branded Hogwarts robes maybe? – but it wasn’t the proliferation of hand designed, in some cases seemingly gravity defying costume craftsmanship that I saw. From costumes to conversation the devotion of comic book fans is evident and it is inspiring; perhaps my favourite memory of the whole weekend was the boy who spent three quarters of an hour deciding which comic he would spend his six pounds pocket money on.
A motto of mine, akin to “all publicity is good publicity,” is “all enthusiasm is good enthusiasm.” So, in honour of the incredible enthusiasm on show over the weekend, I want to start a personal challenge to know as much as possible about comics before the next Comic-Con. I want to be able to look at a seven foot bright pink bear strolling past and think, “but of course, there goes gloomy bear,” rather than just, “huh – cool.”
Hold me to it, esteemed readers of the Turnaround blog!
This was also my second Comic Con and I already feel like a master manga-slinger! Sort of… I actually still have much to learn. But, although I am not 100% “in the know”, I absolutely love being at MCM. For much of my life I’ve been at the fringes of fandom – generally more keen on band t-shirts than comics, but always in cahoots with the super-fans and self-proclaimed geeks. I think that the thing I love most about Comic Con is how truly huge it is. Huge in size and scale, obviously, but also huge in demographic. At first I expected just to see a lot teens dressed as Batman and Sailor Moon… what I ended up seeing were thousands of different costumes, all of which I could only describe as “amazing”, many lovingly-sewed and created by truly talented, enthusiastic people – and by people of all backgrounds. It’s not news that fandom is no longer limited to gender or race or age, but it’s great to see it in action.
I love seeing people who – in my youth, at least – would once have been alienated by mainstream culture; now they are suddenly at the forefront of all forms of creative pursuit. At Comic Con, they gather en masse. This is their world, and they can do anything they want in it, and what they are doing is having what seems like the best time ever. I have never seen so many happy, enthusiastic, nice people all in one place. As I saw two different incarnations of Link pass each other, they paused, hugged, took a photo together and both merrily went on their way.
Even if I don’t feel like I’m quite part of it, I feel grateful to be warmly welcomed as a spectator in this vibrant community. I feel even more grateful to be a part of a team that brings such a lot of fabulous graphic novels to the fans!
As for my favourite cosplay of the day? Whoever came up with the Sharknado costume is a genius. All warrior women get my vote, especially the one carrying a flag threatening to bring the pain (in quite a few more words!) to any potential gropers. The lovely tan-clad Attack on Titan folks always catch my eye (especially as they giddily bought our early release of Volume 14!). But I think my absolutely favourite had to be the girl who turned the Iron Man concept into an ornate ball gown, bringing what I thought was a whole new level of creativity to cosplay. Maybe this is nothing new, but I was impressed!
And to all of you who were at The Fox at the ExCel on Sunday night – thanks for making my weekend by singing the Pokémon theme song at the top of your lungs!
Firstly a disclaimer: I do not really know anything about graphic novels. The interweaving series and long stories arches that draw others in simply serve to baffle me completely. So it was with some trepidation I headed down to the Excel Centre to work and attend my very first Comic-Con.
While I am usually eagerly heading to the very front of the DLR (best seat in the place) today I was too distracted by the amazing costumes of others on the train. The sight of two girls trying to get their homemade costumes down the thin aisle of the train was far more interesting to me than the majestic skyline of Canary Wharf which normally requires a cursory Instagram snap.
If I thought the cosplay on the train was good, that was nothing to the sensory overload as I joined the hordes of people milling around the venue. The atmosphere was like that at a gig or party, everyone looked genuinely overjoyed to be there and I was swept up in the air of general excitement. It was surprisingly touching to see the hordes of young teenagers saying goodbye to their parents, as they headed inside to meet their anime idols. What can seem a niche interest of which mainstream society pays little attention to, had become a whole world for one weekend inside MCM.
It is always great to see people enthusiastic about books but the levels of love for these manga series wasn’t something I had encountered before. People were happily handing over bundles of cash for 10 books at a time, gleeful at finally getting their hands on a long awaited volume. When they learned that it was my first Comic-Con they were also extremely eager to share their love of different series, educating me about what I should start my comic education on.
From a surprising number of Doctor Who costumes (though only 10 and 11), to the Frozen girls, the cosplay was definitely my favourite part of the day. The photo I rushed to get of me with a large pink bear saw me come over all fan-girl, even if later investigations revealed it to be Gloomy Bear, a giant bear who violently attacks and eats humans. So, whether you are a fan of comics or not, I would definitely recommend a trip to MCM.
This is my sixteenth MCM and seventh as a part of Turnaround. It’s been over 24 hours since the show finished and I’m only now getting the feeling back in my feet. It’s tough work organising and manning a stand for three days straight, especially when you have to carry a bunch of noobs who know nothing about manga (I kid! I Kid! Seriously, without my colleagues this show would never run as smoothly as it does). Regardless, there is never a dull moment at MCM as every level of fan-boy and fan-girl descent on Excel to check out the latest in comics, anime, movies, TV, video games and any other medium the geek culture has invaded. Whatever fandom you are a part of, MCM will cater for you. You will however get sensory overload as you encounter cosplay ranging from X-Men, Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan, Star Wars and I could go on forever.
As always, it is thrilling to meet our clientele and get a look at what is popular. Attack on Titan continues to grab attention as well as old favourites Fairy Tail and Mobile Suit Gundam. But new challengers also appear to be emerging as Hatsune Miku flew off our stand (no doubt due to her current run of concerts and rather strange performance on the David Letterman Show) and the latest version of The Heroic Legend of Arslan by Hiromu Arakawa (creator of the bestselling masterpiece Fullmetal Alchemist). Other strong performers include Say I Love You (manga fans love their romance) and the new series Witchcraft Works (and witches in high school it seems).
I did however find time to partake in being a fan for a while, which included saying hi to Kieron Gillen – who at my first MCM was one of many small press exhibitors in the comic village and is now writing Iron Man and Young Avengers for Marvel (soon to be writing the new Darth Vader series for which is going to be awesome) – and getting to meet legendary anime director Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo). Mr Watanabe was there promoting the UK release of the amazing Space Dandy (manga version released next year from Turnaround, how’s that for a plug). Unfortunately, this did lead me to having my photo taken with someone in a Meow suit and my façade as a serious professional geek was rumbled as I nerded out over someone in a giant cat outfit (but I regret nothing).
It may not be fun being shoved into an overcrowded DLR carriage or navigating the hallways through thousands of people, but it is always refreshing to see fans of every variety come together for one weekend to take in all this industry has to offer. Roll on May 2015 (But not too soon, as I’d like to work in a sitting position for a little while longer)!