A couple of weeks ago, I went to one of my favourite places in the world: London MCM Comic-Con.
If you’ve read this and immediately you’re thinking “comic-con?? isn’t that just for 30 year olds that still live with their parents and spend all their time playing Dungeons and Dragons??” then you’re also probably one of those people that thinks they’re too cool to enjoy things and that a comic convention couldn’t possibly be for you. But if that is the case, I’m going to straight up tell you that you’re wrong.
I used to be one of those people. I used to think anime was just cartoons, and that cosplay was kind of odd and that the kind of people that went to comic conventions couldn’t possibly be anything like me.
But then I pulled my head out of my ass long enough to realise how bored and unhappy I was trying so hard to be whatever it was I thought I was supposed to be. And now, anime has ruined my life, I’ve sold my soul to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I spent more money on books last month than I did on my rent.
The thing is, life gets so fucking exhausting if you’re constantly living with inhibitions that prevent you from being entirely, wholly, unapologetically you. But as soon as you allow yourself to say fuck it and embrace pure, unironic enjoyment of things, you’ll feel a lot freer. And I think that’s something that as a society we have all come to accept. It seems like we grew up and realised that we were all just as weird as each other, so fuck it let’s just stop pretending.
MCM though, is a place where you can wholly and fully embrace the full extent of your nerdiness without any judgement.
People from across the country come together to celebrate and share their interests, covering the full spectrum of nerd culture, from manga to gaming to Star Wars, and what results is a place of love, acceptance and diversity.
If, like I was, you’re using public transport to get to London MCM then your journey begins with a game of follow the fellow nerd, as getting to the ExCel Centre takes you on a convoluted tour of the underground and you end up trying to find out what train those kids from Dragon Ball Z got on. Eventually, though, you find yourself squashed into a carriage on the DLR train with seven Stormtroopers, Jon Snow and Harley Quinn’s nose shoved up your armpit.
Even queuing to get in to the venue is made enjoyable, as you gaze in awe at the huge amounts of effort, money and creativity some people have put into their costumes. Someone had created an incredibly realistic Iron-Man costume entirely from foam, my friend’s Link cosplay was breathtaking and two guys walked past me that looked so convincingly like they had just strolled out of a scene from Attack on Titan I nervously adjusted my own Scouts Legion jacket. Admittedly, due to time and money constraints, I’d gone pretty half-assed this year.
However, the great thing about con is that there really isn’t any pressure. You can go to as much or as little effort as you like. Outfits ranged from Totoro onesies to professional-style costumes, who were mostly spotted outside posing for photo after photo.
The other great thing about cosplay is the way it can bring complete strangers together. I had been in the building thirty seconds before a couple of kids also in AoT outfits ran up to me asking to get a selfie. At my first con, I’d gone as Katniss Everdeen, and had someone run up to me in the most beautiful Effie Trinkett costume calling “Katniss! Katniss! It’s so good to see you!” to which I had no idea how to respond.
Once inside the ExCel centre, you’d be forgiven for being a little overwhelmed as your senses are assaulted by everything pop-culture. Disney princesses and superheroes alike sweep past you as they make their way towards the huge array of stalls selling comics, t-shirts and more Funko Vinyl figures than I even knew existed. Japanese candy stalls offer kitkats in flavours ranging from the mysterious ‘spicy red bean’ to vanilla cheesecake and whilst I did succeed in refraining from buying a life-size poster of Light Yagami, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on various other unnecessary pieces of merchandise, like a DeathNote and this mini Eren Jaeger figure – I mean how cute is he?
As well as the huge number of stalls tempting you to spend all of your money on things you want but definitely don’t need, is the ‘Comic Village’; a maze of tables filled with artists and their amazing artwork. Every year, the comic village provides a space for budding artists to showcase, celebrate and sell their art and comics. I can’t begin to express the importance of supporting art, but I doubt you even need convincing. Their talent speaks for itself.
There is also an area dedicated to gaming where a number of big games developers exhibit some of their latest and upcoming releases. I have to admit, however, as someone whose gaming knowledge starts with The Sims and ends with Pokemon, I didn’t spend all that much time there.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the venue, fans had the opportunity to meet special guests, who this year included Catherine Tate, Veronica Taylor and Riverdale’s KJ Apa. There were also food stalls selling bubble tea and some delicious smelling food – I tried my first Japanese onigiri, though don’t ask me what was in it. I have no idea. It tasted pretty good though!
There was also a replica Iron Throne people could have their photo taken on, several VidFest panels and even a Minions tattoo parlour…
One of the best parts of the event, though, was the excitement going on outside. Thousands of people from every fandom imaginable were gathered in the sunshine, chatting, laughing, taking photos. Meet-ups were organised, some at the event, like a parade of Totoros and Calcifers we passed following a girl holding a sign saying ‘Studio Ghibli meet-up’. Many others, however, had most likely been arranged online; people who followed each other on Twitter and Tumblr, or through some other platform where fans could come together through their shared love of a particular series. Con provides the perfect environment for people to bring what would perhaps ordinarily be shared online, off of the internet. It’s a safe space for people from across the country to meet up and bring a little bit more of their interests to life.
I have written pretty extensively on my excessive emotional involvement in fictional worlds (Attack on Titan) and how I have become so engrossed and invested in them that they (Attack on Titan) have essentially ruined my life (Attack on Titan). But I think comic-con is a perfect example of why escapism into fictional worlds really isn’t all that bad.
MCM, like many other conventions, creates an environment in which fiction, something that would ordinarily be anti-social, becomes social. It brings people together and it allows people to create something more out of the fictional universes, books, games and shows they enjoy by themselves.
We want more from our fiction now. It isn’t enough to simply consume, we want to get involved, immerse ourselves as completely as possible. Sherlock is a perfect example of this. That show blew up, and one of the main reasons was the way it broke down that barrier between fiction and reality, between the show and its audience. The show had such a huge online presence, as did its fanbase. Every time an episode aired you barely needed to watch to know what happened – one glance through your Twitter timeline would give you a shot-by-shot live analysis of the entire thing. And then there were the discussions and the memes and the sometimes questionable fanart that came after.
But what it showed was that audiences don’t want their viewing or reading experiences to be solitary, and they don’t necessarily want them to start and end within the form they are consumed.
Japan, unsurprisingly, are well ahead of the curve on this one. Just this week, the creators of Yuri On Ice hosted a ‘Yuri on Festival’, where fans of the show came together alongside the shows creators to celebrate their love for the series and to get some exclusive extra content.
Regardless of why you go – whether it be to meet like-minded people, spend too much money or just for the sesh with your friends afterwards – London MCM is a wonderful experience for everyone with an interest in nerd culture. It’s a safe space, full of acceptance, and the only place where Ash Ketchum, Kylo Ren and Moana can all be seen having lunch together.
So, have any of you guys been to a comic-con? Did you cosplay? Let me know what your experiences were!
As always, thanks for reading my nerd-ass ramblings,