While Cosplay Zombie Walk was going on, I was away in the land of Kuroshitsuji, Steam Punk and Sherlock Holmes – the United Kingdom.
Another year, another London Comic Con MCMExpo. This year, however, we managed to get media accreditation (and that’s a first for a local cosplay blog!).
Again it was held at EXCEL, the home of many of the 2012 London Olympics events. After a convoluted tube journey due to subway works, we finally arrived.
I managed to avoid the queues by being Media, however I was reading my issue of Jump (can you guess which character) whilst waiting for my photographer friend Levin, who had to convert his early pass ticket into a paper wrist band (we only had one press pass between the two of us, which was a pity).
The early entry pass ticket allowed entry 2 hours earlier at 9am for a price of 16 GBP (as opposed to 10 GBP).
The large convention hall (approximately 2 Expo halls) dedicated to queues had a replica of a Tardis to sate the appetites of the fans before they even entered the convention. Even then the queues were monstrously long with swarms of people from all over the country and even Europe coming to one of the biggest cons in UK and Europe (The site of the 3rd Euro Cosplay Championships)
We were welcomed by 4 long rows of merchandise stores stretching the entire length of the convention.
There was a variety of merchandise being sold. For the eastern crowd, typical anime fare such as merchandise, figurines, tapestry, dakimakura, Gunpla, t-shirts, English translated manga, plushies, posters were sold.
Non-standard merchandise such as collections of doujins imported from Japan (including hentai, yaoi and yuri doujins which were being advertised openly), anime classics VCDs, woodle paddles that said Yaoi, Uke and Seme sating the desires of a crowd many of whom are probably incapable of going to Japan.
Price wise goods were sold at easily double the retail price in Japan.
Examples include Madoka figurines going at 25 Pounds, Gunpla at the prices in Singapore but in pounds, Lightning FFXIII-2 Figurine at 35 Pounds or FF7 Reunion Music Cd at a whooping 50 Pounds.
This was no doubt due to the high import prices but merchandise were still going off the shelf pretty fast for some of the more popular items.
It was quite apparent that the merchandise was pretty mainstream and not as updated as for example there was a dearth of (surprisingly) Sword Art Online merchandise.
On the western front, there was the usual fare of comic books, figurines, Lego, T-shirts, posters, Warhammer 40,000 figures and such.
These were obviously cheaper than in Singapore.
Weapon replicas of Eastern and Western pop culture were selling at approximately half the price that was sold in Singapore no doubt due to lower production costs and a larger market.
Generally compared to STGCC, I felt there was a lesser variety of figurines to buy and it was apparent that the storekeepers were going for mass market mainstream figurines as opposed to pandering to “obscure” stuff like Super Robot figurines such as Mazinger or non-mainstream anime.
It was interesting to note there were more Eastern merchandise on sale. I suspect it was due to the general availability of Western merchandise in the UK which was the cause of this.
However either ways it was mainly mainstream products.
What is a multi-genre convention without games?
The big publishers came in full force. XCOM Enemy Unknown and Borderlands 2 from 2K Games, Metal Gear Rising from Konami, Halo 4 and Forza Horizon from Microsoft, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Farcry 3 from Ubisoft, DBZ Kinect, Tales of Graces, Ni no Kuni, Tekken Tag Tournament from Namco Bandai were some of the many titles that came to the show.
The availability of brand new games and even unreleased games was definitely a nice touch to the convention. There were also classic NES games for people to play.
As the arcade culture has waned in the West, this convention was a great opportunity for fans to play the latest and classic arcade games which we take for granted back home.
There were many machines to choose from however one of the most popular games was DDR. Many tried their hands (or feet) at the games which were a dime a dozen in London (or I dare say UK).
In the non-video game segment, there was an area on YuGiOh by Konami and a board games area which featured board games such as Settlers of Catan and X-Wing Miniatures games for the crowd to try. The gamer fans amongst the crowd definitely had a lot of fun.
There was the customary artists’ area filled with the usual doujins, posters, art done by the various talented artists.
There seemed to be less of a slant of Eastern art compared to Singapore. However I apologize that neither Levin or I was able to make a more detailed comparison of the artists’ booths. There was also a manga school where students sat in a Tatami classroom learning how to draw manga. Other general stores included a cupcake store that made cupcakes dedicated to pop culture-themed cupcakes.
A dedicated signing area where stars such as Warwick Davis, the Wrestler Edge and Sci-fi author Peter F. Hamilton were autographing and interacting with the fans.
If you are a fan of western pop culture, it was definitely a place to attend.
Even amongst the booths the artist and creator of the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness was there doing sketches and autographs.
There were also many interviews with stars such as Matt Smith (The eleventh Doctor), Ali Hillis (the voice of Lightning) and Once Upon a Time.
The convention had 3 theatres and a stage of varying sizes to handle the multitude of such events. As with all conventions, one must definitely plan in advance to see what you want to see.
As this is the West, the 501st Division was in full force.
It was a nice touch to see Stormtroopers “patrolling” the queuing area.
Of course all of the common types of troopers and Imperial guardsmen were there in addition to Lord Vader.
Interesting additions included a full-sized Landspeeder.
However what made my 2nd day special was the section dedicated to Brian Muir, the British sculptor of many movie works such as the set of Harry Potter (e.g. The intricate fireplace), Indiana Jones‘ Ark of Covenant prop and most importantly Star Wars.
He was the sculptor of Vader’s iconic helmet, Stormtrooper armor, CZ-3’s helmet, and the finishing work on the C3PO suit.
Still in shock, I decided to go ahead and “interview” the man about sculpting whilst lamenting the fact that I did not bring my Darth Vader helmet for him to sign. He mentioned that the design of the helmet was meant to be a cross between a samurai helmet and a 2nd World War German helmet. It was illuminating to hear how a professional sculptor built a costume using clay to form a mask and then sent it to a plaster shop to be moulded and recast in plaster, before finally being remoulded and casted in fiberglass.
He also taught us how he used the classic method of grey paint with another coat silver followed by the polished gold finish to get the now famous C3PO sheen, a technique that experienced modellers are no doubt familiar with.
He was definitely very dedicated to his work and his wife showed pictures of his garden filled with trinkets to give it a nice space-y look. He then showed us a photo of his time in a convention in the United States with the First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment who all took off their helmets in respect to the man who brought us Star Wars.
Not wanting to leave empty handed, I bought a book called In The Shadow of Vader which I promptly asked him to sign and had a photo taken.
It was a great read filled with his experience about his various projects and plenty of photographs.
It was a real honor to meet this down-to-earth and friendly man.
There was an area in the Comic Con called JapanEX, which allowed con-goers to experience Japanese Culture.
Origami classes, Ceramics were some of the many retailers. There was a stage that had many showcases such as a Harajuku fashion show, Martial arts Demonstrations and a Taiko exhibition.
The greatest lure was however the food stalls. Traditional Japanese Dorayaki, Japanese influenced flavours such as, Yakisoba, Sushi and Kakigori (Shaved Ice) were all sold. The prices were obviously more expensive compared to back home as a small plate of Yakisoba was at 5 Pounds, and Kakigori was at 2 Pounds but it gave the con-goers a chance to experience the more uncommon Japanese food that they probably only saw in anime and in one central location.
Levin and I also bought quite a number of stuff at the Japan Centre booth which sold a variety of goods such as JUMP imported from Japan but sold at more reasonable prices (compared to Singapore) and walked home happily with the lovely September issue of Newtype, a Clamp works in Code Geass and a Dissidia postcard booklet for me and a September issue of Nyantype for him The Japan Centre stall was manned by Japanese wearing a variety of traditional costumes and a female Coser who was cos-ing an awesome Waver Velvet with Rider cloak on Saturday which we sadly did not take a photo of.
As one of the biggest Cons in UK and probably Europe, it did not dissapoint in the variety of stuff to buy or see.
This sums up our general Con coverage of the London MCM Comic Con Expo.
Hopefully this is a good enough salve for missing AFA on my final year. Please also read our article on the lovely sub-genre of Steampunk and Cosplay and EuroCosplay Championships.
Con Coverage by: Arvin Lim (reporter) & Levin Tan (photographer)
Check out more photos from the MCM Expo London Comic Con showfloor on our Facebook page!