Why MCM Comic Con 2019 is as open to families as it is to the superhero-obsessed
I’ve been into the superhero genre before it was one. I don’t mean that in a hipster-esque “I liked it before it was cool” sorta way. This is simply more of a fact to emphasise just how excited I feel about all of the developments which are taking place today in film and TV land as these memories from my childhood are revived for the silver screen. Like Robert Pattinson being cast as Batman, for example. Didn’t see that coming – like, at all – but I’m compelled nonetheless.
In my youth I’d tune into Fox Kids for my animation fix of X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Hulk, while Cartoon Network was the one for Batman and Justice League. On the live-action front there was Power Rangers, Big Bad Beetleborgs, The Masked Rider and VR Troopers holding it down too. In the playground we’d fight – not literally; although a brawl was never too far away since I was born in Hackney – over who would get to be which Ranger before re-enacting the episodes we’d seen.
I’d sporadically buy superhero comics with pocket money – Beano was my bread and butter though; large up Dennis the Menace – and as I write this I’m getting flashbacks of the awesome X-Men trading cards I used to collect. But one thing I never did in all those years is attend any events to represent my passion for pop culture. Not until very recently.
I’ve been to midnight screenings, double bills and in one case even a triple bill for new superhero-themed releases but never had I actually gone to any large scale experience for such a thing. Nor was I really aware any existed to be honest, not until a few years ago when MCM Comic Con was brought to my attention. Although it was actually founded in 2001, so why wasn’t I familiar with it sooner?
Most of you will have heard of San Diego Comic-Con in the States. It’s the mecca of all things nerd and launched in 1970. There you can generally find announcements about the newest slates from Marvel, DC and co, complete with all the A-list stars talking up their new roles and what can be expected. For example, Robert Battinson may well be present this year at the July event.
But the UK’s MCM Comic Con? I was always left a bit indifferent after hearing about the line-up in comparison to the US edition in truth, with the likes of Red Dwarf stars on the roster seemingly paling in comparison to all the Chris’ – Evans, Hemsworth, Pratt – and so on present and correct for the Californian counterpart.
So what changed? Fatherhood, actually. Of all times for me to go and explore MCM Comic Con in London, I first did so in October 2017 with a then five-month-old daughter as my sidekick rather than any of my friends. I really had no idea what to expect or how much effort to put into attire, so settled on my Batman hoodie while equipping Roma with, you guessed it, a Robin onesie.
I didn’t know what the etiquette was, how friendly or intense people would be but we went for a good four hours or so to soak it up and see what it’s all about. With the brightly coloured costumes donned by people with pride and the care-free, non-judgemental attitudes all around, it was clear to see what MCM Comic Con stands for.
And having met cosplayers for the likes of Walter White, Harley Quinn and the Joker, all of whom were lovely, the penny dropped and what the event represented clicked. It was less about which special guests are on the line-up but more so the people on the ground walking the halls – the community itself. In effect, it’s the guests who make it special rather than the special guests.
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So fast-forward a year and Roma and I got a bit more creative with our attire. In keeping with my ongoing work to accustom her to Harry Potter, I bought her a Hogwarts uniform from Asda that would allow her to become MyMiniMe Granger. So the logical step from that point for me was to get the necessary ingredients to become Daddy Potter. A Gryffindor tie and scarf – budget versions from a prop shop obviously, you seen how much the official merchandise costs?! – alongside a grey V-neck were teamed with black jeans and Converse. Job done.
With MCM Comic Con London always running over a three-day stretch, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at ExCeL London, the first year we went was on a Friday, which was fairly quiet by comparison to what followed. For October 2018 we rocked up on a Saturday and it was heaving, which I’m told is always the case as most won’t have to book time off of work. Many car parks were rammed and after finding somewhere to leave our broomsticks we joined a procession of crowds from the minute we arrived.
Another notable difference between the two Cons is that for the first year I took Roma in her buggy. The second time around I did not for the simple fact that she could walk by this point. And once removed from her chariot – it wouldn’t have been long before I received the puppy dog eyes and a request for a cuddle from her – I’d stand no choice of strapping her back in without going to battle. Plus, having seen just how congested it gets there on a Saturday, it’s just as well I went without.
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This year, rather than wait for October to roll around again as we had previously, Roma and I attended the May 2019 edition of MCM Comic Con in London. In the same way we levelled up our wardrobe year-on-year from Batman-inspired to Hogwarts students, I felt like we had to step it up again and really put some effort into cosplay. So we did. And I’m very pleased with how it went.
With Roma already in possession of a Spider-Girl outfit, complete with mask she generally doesn’t want to wear for more than five minutes, I thought I’d don something complementary. Having been to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse together this year I decided to become Miles Morales. Not really knowing where was best to acquire a costume from, I got mine from eBay and hoped for the best.
Similar to a morphsuit, it was a more than snug fit despite being a XXL to the extent the zip at the back wouldn’t do all the way up. It was just as well though because getting out of it to use the toilet was a real concern of mine ahead of the day.
But I managed to conceal the gaping opening at the top of my back with the red hoodie required to make the transition while throwing on some old red Nike Dunk high-tops I’ve had for years for the finishing touch.
This year we attended on the Sunday and for the first time I headed straight for the main car park under the Excel centre. At £20 it’s not particularly cheap but the parking lasts all day and you can really get closer to the entrance than you can with some of the other options.
Once we entered, Roma clung onto me like, well, Spider-Girl. So I can only commend her efforts. But it wasn’t long before she warmed to the many masks and cascade of costumes appearing before our eyes and soon became happy to dart about the place. Perhaps it’s because of my own circumstances but it seemed to me that there were more families dotted around the venue than in previous years. It could well be that awareness is growing or perhaps that Sunday is just the day of choice for those with kids to head along.
And I’m sure another contributing factor is probably that, as of 2019, individuals with a ticket can bring up to two children under ten in with them for free, which is an amazing way to open up the event to families and spread awareness across different generations.
Granted, I don’t recall seeing any other toddlers but the fact parents like myself are taking their babies and children out to share in the splendour of superheroism is very exciting to me and I can only applaud their efforts – especially those who cosplayed. I remember walking past one young lad with his parents and we looked at each other smiling as he was wearing the same getup as me, apparently also an appreciator of Into the Spider-Verse.
Evidently I’m still finding my feet in the cosplay land and it’s more than clear that it’s a way of life for many who attend. So one thing I’m not entirely sure on is whether there’s any sort of etiquette involved when you attend an MCM Comic Con. Should you make terrible dad jokes that confuse people? I asked one guy in the toilet ahead of me dressed as Flash if he could be quick about it. Ironically, he was a bit slow on the uptake and went to explain himself before I simply pointed at the logo on his chest to avert getting punched before he relaxed / silently pondered whether he was going to get gags like that all day.
So do you just walk up to people to ignite conversation? Hope they speak to you? Or avoid all form of communication beyond that of people watching like you would do on public transport? What’s the deal? My approach is usually the former. Just accost people and hope they’re nice enough to talk. In any case, I’ve found their attention is generally on Roma, so that’s always a solid way to break the ice. But everyone I’ve come across, whether they’re an old hand at cosplay or a newbie has always been only too happy to talk and take photos together, which circles back to my earlier point about community.
Right off the bat, our first picture of the day was with the official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who had pitched themselves up against the MCM logo. Indeed, it’s not just cosplay fans doing the rounds who you can grab, there will be some official parties also present doing their thing in addition to props, backdrops and the like, some of which invite interaction.
Notable examples include the TARDIS that many Doctor Who fans were eager to model alongside, a mosaic being made up of animal lovers at The Secret Life of Pets 2 booth, Amazon’s tactile display of Fire tablets for kids, Star Wars setups and more. And let’s not forget you can also find live performances in areas of the event like those from Krush LDN, a K-Pop dance group who the little lady was rather taken by.
On the back of our visit on Sunday 26th May, I know I’m already genuinely excited and thinking about going along again in October and how Roma and I can possibly consider stepping up our cosplay game from this time around. Us as a duo alone should hopefully paint enough of a picture that you needn’t possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things comic to walk through the doors and enjoy yourself – you know, given the fact she’s only two.
No matter where your deepest interests on the film and comic spectrum lay, if you’ve even got a passing interest in pop culture then MCM Comic Con, like Thor, is definitely worthy.