The very first year that Steve and I appeared at the MCM Expo the event fell upon the same day as a Millwall game. It’s not a detail that I would remember were it not for the fact that it meant that my first experience of the con was sitting on a packed tube full of confused skinheads and teenagers dressed as cats. There has probably never been a more perplexed railway carriage anywhere in the world and I found myself developing an instant fondness for this oddball of a con.
I mention this story first because really the teenagers dressed as cats (and Pokemon and cardboard boxes and pretty much anything else you can imagine) are the heart of MCM. That’s not to say they are the only audience there (in terms of floor space, it’s probably the biggest comic con in the UK) but at its very core the event is about people who say the word “random” a lot, cutting loose and having fun. As a result, MCM has always had a kind if energetic buzz about it that you just don’t find anywhere else and it’s this buzz that is the key to why this year’s event was so successful.
MCM has taken some flak over the years for its rather diverse (random, you might say) range of exhibits. While other cons focus on comics or movies or trading or whatever, MCM goes for a bit of everything but in times such as these it’s exactly that kind of diversity that you need. If you’re only going to go to one comic con then the obvious choice is the one that lets you see as much as possible. MCM is not so much a comic convention as a convention for the sort of people who like comics. It’s a subtle distinction but one that breeds the kind of extremely loyal fanbase that descended in droves upon the Excel Centre last weekend.
For our part, we were taken completely by surprise by just how busy the con was. We brought our usual hefty amount of stock, expecting it to last the entire event (especially given a slightly disappointing audience turn out at Kapow) but instead found ourselves completely sold out of copies of Moon by 5pm on Saturday. The result was that Steve had to scurry back to Essex on Sunday morning, while I tried to learn how you sell prints of characters from a book you don’t have (turns out, you generally don’t). By 11am we were back up and running however and went on to smash our all time sales record by some way.
I should mention, in the interests of fairness, that we had a much better pitch than at Kapow, being as we were right next to the auditorium and the booth for ASDF (who I’d never heard of before the weekend but who I’m pretty sure most teenagers would readily kill for.) This naturally translated into better sales but the fact that we took more than twice what we made at Kapow and paid less than half for the table left me pondering whether we’ll keep Kapow on our calendar next year.
Organisation wise we’ve got no complaints. Comics Village (who run the comics side of the event) have gotten very good at pre-show communication this time around and having every table get a small blurb in the program was a nice touch. Despite the huge crowds, there was always a volunteer on hand when needed and they were (as has always been the case) extremely helpful and friendly.
The one part where the organisation fell down slightly was in the execution of the Eagle Awards on Friday night. The Eagles themselves are probably a topic for another day but the very low audience turn out was a bit of a shame. Steve and I certainly appreciate being able to hog the free beer but I can’t help but think that if they were properly publicised and perhaps held on the Saturday night, the turn out would have been far better. We ran into only two non-comics industry people at the awards and they confessed that they’d only found the event by chance. Given the announcement about the demise of the Eagles, I wonder whether the lack of publicity was a deliberate move to send the awards off quietly with an eye to focusing on next year’s new “MCM Awards.”
The Eagles is but a small part of the overall event however and a low turnout for one small part is not enough to spoil the experience of what was in all regards a fantastic convention experience.