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Mark Brandon gets done in by a day at MCM ComicCon in London

Back when I were a lad, after a hard day down the mines or up a chimney, if you had a spare sixpence, you’d drag yerself across the cobbles, covered in coal-dust/soot [ok, that’s enough Northern stereotyping – Ed] to your local comic shop and buy the latest issue of Green Lantern, and take it back home where you could sit in your bedroom and bask in the wonder that was comics, until your mum called you down for tea. Comics, aah… .

With that in mind, attendance at ComicCon – the twice annual MCM event held at London’s capacious ExCel Centre – might seem like arrival in Nirvana. But while the event may have the word ‘comic’ in the title, finding an actual, hard-copy, printed-on-paper comic is a tough call these days. For the humble comic has moved on, now subsumed in a bewildering, sprawling galaxy of ‘cool stuff’.

I fancied I saw a few crusty old ‘real’ comics fans trying to battle their way past a full squad of Colonial Marines hunting two scarily-real looking Aliens before being flattened by a swarm of Stormtroopers, Gundam, Sith, Armoured Batmans (Batmen? Doesn't feel right…), Justice League Drag Queens, Warhammer 40K Space Marines and perky Sailor Moonettes on their way to a sneak-peak of…/interview with…/manga karaoke/whatever. Or maybe I just imagined it. 

ComicCon is a kaleidoscopic festival of sensory overload. Cosplay – I confess I hadn't come across the term until fairly recently, but it’s definitely a ‘thing’ – takes centre stage, and the spectacle is worth the modest admission price by itself. Whether individual costumes or entire teams culled from anime, comics, games and all manner of TV and movies, animated and otherwise, the amount of time and effort taken was astounding.

Beyond that, it’s almost difficult to know where to start, where to turn and how not to miss all the ‘cool stuff’ going on. Movies, games, novels, memorabilia, interviews, Q&As, exclusive screenings, photoshoots and competitions all battle for attention in the ExCel’s two cavernous exhibition spaces and ante-rooms, while the event also spilled out into a dedicated cosplay arena outside, thronged with young and not-so-young people revelling in a special opportunity for free play, under a titanic screen showing trailers and previews for forthcoming cool stuff.

Having gone with a bunch of friends, I was in ‘long range observation mode’ for the scant few hours we could all manage, rather than being able to wander off on my own and sink into a screening or Q&A session, but I managed to get a sneaky new look at Universal/Illumination’s upcoming Secret Life of Pets, which looks every bit as good as the trailers have promised, and was tantalised by the look of upcoming 3D stop-motion movie Kubo and the Two Strings. 

On the games front, I foresee having to buy a PS4 to indulge in the deliciously-nasty looking Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade, the beautifully-animated  Overwatch, the epic God Eater 2 (which rather has to be seen to be believed…) and the astonishing One Piece Burning Blood, a fighting game which puts you right inside a dark universe of manga pirates. Oof.

I was surprised by the sheer amount of anime at ComicCon, from DVDs to collectables, t-shirts, prints and all kinds of memorabilia, perhaps accounting for around 50% of the total eye-candy on offer, an impression reinforced by the huge number of anime cosplayers strolling, posing and cruising the colourful throng. One of the two exhibition spaces was pretty much all anime, with stuffed Pikachus and piles of Death Note t-shirts spilling into the other.

The anime universe has now gotten so big it’s impossible to keep track of everything, and there was lots I couldn't identify, and even the merchants – who I’d expected to be more expert than me – hadn't heard of the various anime Blu-ray or DVD I was after, but I made off with some goodies nonetheless.

If you are expecting a thoroughgoing collectors fair, I think MCM ComicCon may come as something of a disappointment but as a fun, colourful, slightly bewildering plunge into all that ‘modern pop culture’ has to offer, you won’t find a better way to part with a few quid.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of those slightly older fans who is happier with a more relaxed, nerdy vibe, less of an accent on games and more for the older fan, I can recommend the alternative, smaller, London Film & Comic Con held over four days at the Olympia in Earl’s Court in July. 

Mark Brandon is a writer and animation geek based in London. Mark has been a fan of all things animated since he can remember, and a writer since he could put pen to paper. He has worn many hats, including journalist, recruiter, managing director, illustrator, club DJ, brand director and management consultant, but prefers his writer hat. He has completed two novels - one at age 9 and the other at age 40 - but not published either, perhaps due to too much hat-juggling.