The combination of Halloween and the MCM Expo in London this past weekend has left me incredibly drained. About 46,500 people attended the three day event, making it the biggest MCM yet. There also seemed to be quite a number of people that didn’t buy tickets and just came to stand around the ExCel centre in their costumes, so the numbers were probably even larger.
While the word “comics” is in the name, the lack of any major publisher booths means that the comic section was somewhat overshadowed by the massive video game section and the hordes of people in costumes. While I enjoyed playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and other games, and really loved all the people dressed up, I can only hope that the comics section continues to grow.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t lots of awesome comics available. There were an abundance of artists and writers, both those published professionally, and those selling photocopied minicomics.
One recent success story of UK comics has to be the oversized hardcovers released by David Fickling Books (a division of Random House). They’re currently collecting work from The DFC (a weekly, subscription only kid’s anthology comic that lasted 39 issues last year), and next year will start releasing original books. The most recent three books where released last month and were all ably represented at MCM.
Neil Cameron (perhaps best known online for the A-Z of Awesomeness) sold out of his book Mo-Bot high by Sunday afternoon, while by the time I got to the Etherington Brothers’ table that day they’d disappeared, hopefully also due to selling out of their comics, and not fleeing from the “the japanese drum troupe that decided to set up camp one metre from my throbbing head” as one of them posted after the con.
The final DFC attendee was Sarah McIntyre, and she seemed to be doing well with her beautiful Vern & Lettuce book, while her table (and studio) mate Gary Northfield had lots of his Derek the Sheep (the first ever creator owned comic in British kid’s weekly The Beano) book. Their ensuing Fleece Station was surely the most sheep filled table at any comic event ever.
Another creator releasing works in an oversized format in attendence was Garen Ewing, who’s Rainbow Orchid books are being published Egmont in the same format as Tintin. He’s busy working away on volume three to be released early next year, and was also showing off the nice hardcover version of volume one recently published in Dutch.
Sean Phillips was kept busy drawing sketches all day, though he managed to sell a fair number of books too, including the new series of Incognito written by Ed Brubaker.
David Hine talked with me about Bulletproof Coffin, the series he’s doing with Shaky Kane for Image, the reasons why crappy paper is actually more expensive for printing comics on, and how they haven’t quite figured out the best way to collect the series.
Will Kirkby draws some amazing stuff. He’s in the fantastic Birdsong anthology, and selfpublishes his own minicomic The Sea, as well as spending his time at the con creating some really nice art.
By the time I caught up with him he’d gotten sick of people taking his photograph, but he ended up adding even more embellishments later on.
Sitting next to Will was Nikki Stu (who is not the robot in this photo), another contributor to Birdsong and creator of the really fun video game inspired Herald Owlett comics.
After a slow start to the weekend Antony Johnston ended up selling out of several of the books he’d brought down with him. His schedule is now so full that he’s having to turn down work, which is a good sign for him.
This was Tom Hunt’s first con, but he managed to win people over with his delicious chilli brownies, the recipe for which he was selling as a really nice looking minicomic.
I hadn’t seen Josceline Fenton’s art before, but it’s gorgeous stuff and I was a little disappointed that she’d sold out of most of her books by the time I got a chance to talk to her.
Warwick Johnson Cadwell was impressing many with his art, including an awesome print featuring the most interesting looking passengers on the boat he drives (pilots?).
While I didn’t manage to get a photo of him, Timothy Winchester also needs to be mentioned, both for his comic People I Know and for letting me leave some of my bags with him behind his table. Thanks!
The Eagle Awards
The Eagles are apparently the oldest English language comics award around, and over the weekend the delayed 2009 awards were finally handed out.
I think only Accent UK (Favourite British Black & White Comic Book for Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man?), Kieron Gillen, and Jamie McKelvie were on hand to receive their awards (McKelvie for Favourite Newcomer Artist, and the pair for Favourite 2009 Single Story for Phonogram: The Singles Club 4 – Konichiwa Bitches, though some suspected the organizers just wanted to print the word “bitches” on the award) over the weekend. Both collections of Phonogram have been doing extremely well, and there is now at least the vague possibility of more Phonogram in the future if they keep selling. (Edit: apparently not.)
This may have been for the best as the awards are apparently not the most sturdy. There was much confusion and looking around on Sunday afternoon when a giant shattering crash was heard over the loud drumming. It turned out it was someone dropping Gillen and McKelvie’s award. Well, it’s only six months until the next awards, and both have plenty of work (both announced and top secret) coming out before then. Let’s just hope the actual awards will be made out of more solid stuff next time.
A full list of the winners, along with commentary, can be found here.
The combination of Halloween with an event well attended by anime, manga, and video game fans meant that there were more costumes than you could possibly see. I, unfortunately, missed most of them due to camera problems, but did manage to snap a few photos, including these fantastic creators who dressed up.
Awesome comics creator (and fellow Birmingham Zine Festival organizer) Lizz Lunney teamed up with My Cardboard Life creator Philippa Rice to amaze everyone with their knitted wizard beards that were also pockets. Amazing!
Lizz’ tablemate Joe List (of the Annotated Weekender and Freak Leap) could only sit by in sadness as he couldn’t grow a similarly fantastic beard to complete his costume.
Claude TC and Paul Fryer were clearly some of the most dedicated of all the comic creators in the costume department, impressing all with their Green Goblin and Wizard costumes (and their comics).
Philip Spence had cosplay bingo sheets to give out, and kept himself busy drawing all the amazing costumes he saw over the weekend.
I asked a number of creators if they had anyone cosplay as one of their characters. Nobody said yes, but Naniiebim (creator of Mephistos and the Birdsong anthology) had an accidental cosplayer when someone dressed almost identically like a character on the cover of one of her books.
Some of the costumes by the attendees (like the cast of Cats) were incredibly impressive, and it’s too bad I managed to miss taking photos of most of them. Still here’s a few I did manage to photograph.
The video game section of the con was probably the biggest overall, with countless booths demoing new titles or offering people the opportunity to show their stuff on older ones. This led to some pretty amusing occasions when watching cosplayers playing dancing up a storm on DDR or rocking out on Rock Band.
Other than the video games there was also more stuff for sale than you could shake a massive replica sword at. From origami, to contact lenses that made you look more like an anime character, to countless toys, to horrible American food (I did not know Mountain Dew wasn’t available in the UK), to this plethora of umbrellas.
Well, there had to be some didn’t there? The biggest problem would probably the noise. In fact that deserves its own subhead.
In addition to the usual ruckus created by thousands of people talking and playing videogames there were some extra noises that made MCM somewhat trying at times. When I first arrived on Saturday afternoon I was somewhat confused by the occasional giant *twumps* that were coming from somewhere. Eventually I discovered them to be the result of the full scale wresting ring that was located in one corner, and the noises were people being slammed into the mat. This wasn’t exactly my thing, and its existence confused others, but there were usually fairly large groups of people gathered around when matches were going on indicating its popularity.
What was a bigger problem, and what I heard more complaints about than anything else, were the taiko drummers who were part of the JapanEx section of the expo. While they were good, they were also incredibly loud, and their hourly performances combined with their placement directly next to the comic section of the expo led to not a few sore heads amongst creators who had drank a little too much the night before.
The less immediately noticeable problem with the drummers were the fairly large number of artists who complained that they had hurt their throats while trying to talk to con-goers over the loud drumming. The only concession was that the drummers weren’t there all the time, and people did seem to like the violinist who played pieces from Miyazaki films when they weren’t performing.
It was the first time that the event had been open on Friday, and a few creators weren’t able to get there in time to set up for that day, leaving the comics area looking at bit sparse when the event started. Perhaps a bigger problem was that Friday was only open to three-day ticket holders, so anyone showing up on the day hoping to get in was turned away. This meant that the day was less well attended than it could have been.
Crowding was also a problem at times, though more with people gathering around the exit and entrances to the building to talk and pose for photos than getting around the booths. And really you have to expect crowds at an event like this. I did hear about some massive costumes that blocked entire isles when their creators walked around, which seems like a slightly larger problem.
The tube! Aaaah, it took me hours to get both to and from the ExCel centre on Saturday because of delays, meaning that I missed some panels I’d hoped to see. This wasn’t the fault of the MCM organizers, but I hope things run more smoothly for them next time.
Overall it seemed like everyone I talked to had a positive expderience, and don’t think anybody said they wouldn’t be coming back again. The next MCM event is in May of next year, and to all to all the creators I didn’t get a chance to talk to I apologise. I’ll get you next time.
Matthew Murray can’t stop travelling. When he does manage to sit down somewhere he reads a lot of zines and comics, yet not even MCM Could sate his cravings and he always wants more.
I’m afraid you might’ve misunderstood us – there’s no possibility of more Phonogram. I don’t want people getting their hopes up for nothing!
I thought Kieron said that someday, in the far future, there might be. But that it was a vague hope.
Sorry if I misunderstood.
Although obviously DC or Marvel weren’t there, there were publishers like PANINI, TITAN, SELF MADE HERO and MARKOSIA, all of whom are fairly large, especially in the UK industry. And often people like AVATAR have made the trip across the pond.
“One recent success story of UK comics has to be the oversized hardcovers released by David Fickling Books (a division of Random House).”
And the names of these books are? You know, in case any of us reading are interested in finding out more about them…
Tony: You’re right! Sorry I didn’t mention that in the article.
Nick: Two of them were mentioned (Mo-Bot High and Vern & Lettuce), though I could have made that clearer.
The third is Monkey Nuts.
Thanks for that, Matthew. I can go and look them up now. :)