Rediscovering MCM Comic Con – London
I’ll just put this out there. I haven’t attended an MCM event in London since October 2003. At that time it was in just one of the smaller halls at the Excel and you could circle the entire space in a few of minutes. I had just started attending signing events and went to meet Emma Caulfield and Julie Benz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer plus Garrett Wang and Tim Russ from Star Trek: Voyager.
Not particularly sure why I didn’t go to more afterwards, money was always an issue back then, other events seemed to get more of the guests I was interested in and the focus of MCM seemed to move towards Anime and Manga which is not a huge interest of mine. Then as it got bigger came the reports of how badly organised it was, too many people, difficult to get what you wanted etc which put me off even more.
I did once go down to meet some friends while I was at another event and even just hanging around it felt chaotic and far too busy. So why go now?
Last year I went with friends to the Birmingham event. That was obviously smaller but was a great reintroduction into how the MCM events now work and are organised. I say organised but there are many things that you’d argue are not organised and could easily be sorted out. But I enjoyed it. There was a much better selection and variety of stalls to look around and the guest interaction was very good so I felt I had an idea how things worked.
There were a couple of guests announced for London that I was interested in meeting, Katrina Law from Spartacus, a show a friend got me into and which I binged all at once and actors from which are pretty rare in the UK. Also Roger Cross who has been in many things but I’ve recently binge watched all seasons of 24 and he was a great character in that. Plus it was my birthday weekend and I thought it might be nice to hang out with some friends who were also going so a ticket for the Sunday was purchased.
Then they announced a couple of main cast guests from The Big Bang Theory for the Sunday only and on top of reports of big crowds and difficulty getting things done on the Saturday it started to sound like Sunday wasn’t going to be fun. Hard to know how many would turn up for them as it’s a very popular show but the cost of meeting them was ridiculously high in my opinion. I loved the show when it started but I certainly wasn’t going to pay £40 and £50 for their autrographs, let alone the £60 and £70 being charged for a photoshoot. Some people do seem to just throw whatever is asked at the guests to meet them these days. I’ve definitely become more selective and some might say cynical about it all.
So it was up early and on the train into London, getting to the venue just before 8:30, dreading big queues and hassle but surprisingly getting wristbands straight away, meeting up some friends and hanging around at the door closest to where we needed to be ready for a 9:30 opening (thanks to those who’d been the day before and knew where to go).
One of the best things they seem to have done is take over the entire Excel site for this event. Everyone is there for different things and with the event running in halls on both sides, letting people in to that area to just wander around until the many entrances opened really helped to minimise the queues and made the whole thing surprisingly calm.
Then the shutters went up and all hell broke loose with people running to get to where they needed to be, people falling over, being pushed aside etc. No staff to control anything or stop this. One of the reasons for this, the dreaded ‘smiley’ queue.
At other events you usually queue for each guest and hand over money for your autographs at the table. At MCM you have to queue to buy ‘smilies’ which are basically autograph tickets to a certain value. The only problem, there’s only one place selling these and one person selling them. If you’re not in that queue almost instantly you can be waiting an hour or two just to buy the tickets. Why on earth they don’t have more booths for this, or even have them in the main concourse area so you can buy them while waiting to go in just doesn’t make sense. They know it’s slow and frustrating for people so why not just do the logical thing if you’re going to stick with this system?
But as there were a few of us together by this point, we managed to split up with one friend buying these tickets and others getting into the signing area and starting to queue. It all worked out brilliantly and the signing schedule for everyone we all wanted worked to our advantage too.
First up was Katrina Law. Second in the queue, she was absolutely lovely. Bubbly, cheerful, trying to wake the Sunday morning crowd up. I played a little on it being my birthday weekend and got her to sign my Spartacus bluray sleeve (making sure it was the season she was in lol) and a 10×8. Unfortunately she had been told not to do pictures at the desk even though everyone was posting them on facebook and twitter the day before.
Not her fault and she was very sweet about it but this was a bit annoying and another area where the organisation let things down. Either allow it or don’t but if you put signs up saying none, then enforce it although people should also respect it. Normally with a sign up I wouldn’t have asked but as she was clearly doing them the day before it was worth a try. I didn’t want to pay what I felt was too much for a full photoshoot or have the hassle of hanging around to collect it as I gather this is another area that has severe problems at MCM events, although some were being printed instantly this time I was told.
From there I had an almost two hour wait for Roger Cross to start signing so joined a friend in the queue for someone she wanted to meet and by the time that was done, we started the queue for Roger. Don’t really like being first in a queue as it’s good to get a sense of what the guest is like by watching the interaction with the people in front but I had no need to worry.
Roger has been in so many things and I hoped he would have a good selection of photos on his desk. Luckily a friend was his assistant for the weekend and I’d been able to find out that he only had photos from Dark Matter as that was kind of what they were promoting but how ridiculous. At least it meant I had time to find and print one of my own so thanks for the heads up.
Again, he was so chatty and great to talk to. He loved that I’d watched 24 in one binge and I also talked about Continuum a bit. Thought it was great that it was my birthday weekend and did allow a quick sneaky photo. Thanks to my friend for taking it.
The autograph area seemed well organised overall but once in it we didn’t leave and it felt relaxed and easy to move from one person to another. I think if you left to go and do something else there was a chance of not getting straight back in depending on queues but it all worked very well.
After the autographs it was time to hit the stalls and what a selection there was. Far better and much more varied than the other events I’m used to. Also managed to catch Camilla Luddington (Grey’s Anatomy and voice of Lara Croft in the recent Tomb Raider video games) being interviewed on the MyM Buzz stage in passing which was great as one of the friends I was with is a big fan so that worked well and then there was much wandering.
Because everything is now so well spaced out it was pretty easy to get around and look at things. Managed to avoid spending any more money despite a few good deals being noted and eventually left tired but surprisingly not stressed and feeling pretty good about the whole experience. I’m sure if you had a lot more to do your opinion may vary and I know some people had problems but after avoiding the event for so long I think if I limited the amount I needed to do (and they usually only get one or two guests I like) it is now a much better event to attend and I certainly won’t write it off any more even though there seems to be much that could still be improved. Didn’t try to get into any of the panels or do any photoshoots but for a reintroduction to the event and to see how it works now it was perfect.
Thanks for the company and help from the friends I did meet up with but unfortunately, as is the case with these things and everyone having different things to do, I didn’t meet up with everyone I knew was there, just the occasional hello in passing so very sorry to those people for that and I didn’t take any photos. I think I was just enjoying looking around and getting a feel for the event for the future.
So let’s see who they get for the next one, I may very well be there again now I know it’s not so bad.