Alphabet Soup Goes to Comic Con

Alphabet Soup logo by Paul Morton
Nick Cross writes:
I've just about recovered from my trip to the MCM Comic Con at the weekend, located at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands. No matter how many times you've been before, this cavalcade of comics and cosplay is always an overwhelming experience. Let me share with you the sights, sounds (and occasional smells) from a Mecca of fandom!

At 8am on Sunday morning, my two daughters and I set off on an epic journey, one that would come to define the struggle of humanity against the forces of darkness. OK, actually we got on a train and then a tube and then another tube and finally the Docklands Light Railway, but it took hours, alright!?! Normally, one or both of my kids would be cosplaying (i.e. dressing up) as their favourite characters. However, as my eldest is in the middle of her GCSEs, we went forth clad only in the armour of geek T-Shirts (my other daughter pointed out that we had all chosen Marvel characters, which was a happy coincidence).

A slightly crazed Team Cross about to embark on their Comic Con pilgrimage

How to describe a Comic Con to someone who’s never been? Have you heard of Gay Pride? Well, this is Geek Pride, a biannual festival of homemade costumes, rubber axes and a few personal appearances by icons of fandom. This year, the big draw was The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg, whose recent appearance as Lex Luthor in Batman Vs. Superman had the fans paying an eye-watering £150 for the opportunity to have their picture taken with him. Universal Studios had paid their own big wodge of cash to sponsor the event and their adverts were everywhere, with a particular focus on the Warcraft movie, which looks amazing but has suffered from withering reviews.

Just another day at the office

The convention seems to get bigger every year, welcoming over 100,000 people across the weekend - it now occupies two huge halls on either side of the Excel Centre, plus various event and VIP rooms. As the popularity of superhero movies and TV series continues to rise, so conventions like this rise with them. The London event is just one of many that take place around the country, and a rival event (confusingly called the “London Film and Comic Con”) takes place at Kensington Olympia in July.

These young people are cosplaying Characters from Homestuck, an epic and wildly successful interactive webcomic that seems to be mostly unknown outside the fandom

A surreal moment happened as we arrived at the Excel, when a security officer shouted “All weapons to me, please” and patiently checked that the many swords, axes, laser blasters and giant hammers were not going to cause actual bodily harm.

You're no-one at Comic Con unless you have a gigantic weapon.
But could he be compensating for something?

Although Saturday is the best day to see the cosplayers in all their glory, we’ve switched to Sunday in recent years because the Saturday crowds and queues got too much. There was still plenty to see, and it’s tempting to just stand in the huge corridor between the two halls and watch the weird and wonderful costumes go past. Some people seem to choose the largest and heaviest outfits possible, which can lead to body odour problems and difficulty moving through a crowd! Comic conventions are always incredibly diverse and welcoming affairs, and it was great to see whole families in co-ordinated outfits (a group dressed as The Incredibles caught my eye) or the wheelchair decorated to look like a Mario Kart.

Yes, it's Deadpool meets Hello Kitty, because
there's nothing weird about that at all...

There was so much stuff to see (and merchandise to buy) that it was only after a couple of hours that I started to wonder where the actual comics were! Luckily, we soon came upon the Comic Village, a large area tucked at the end of the hall, where indie comic creators were touting their wares. I’m not good at talking to strangers, so I usually drift through this area quite quickly, feeling embarrassed and trying not to make eye contact. But this year, I felt acutely aware of the huge comic, movie and gaming brands that dominated the show, and I wanted to support the people who were actually making something new rather than just regurgitating the same familiar characters and storylines.

The helpfully signposted Comic Village

I came out with a good haul of reasonably priced and quirky comic fare, and I got to chat with some friendly people into the bargain. I have to admit that I found the female comic creators more approachable than some of the men, who came across as rather serious and forbidding. That was until I heard someone calling out my name, and turned around to find the smiling face of SCBWI author Nick Cook!

Nick Cook (right) with his trusty co-pilot Karen Errington

Nick had his own stall and was doing a roaring trade with his Cloud Riders YA series - he’s built up a loyal audience by attending various fan conventions. His stall was certainly impressive, with gorgeous framed prints of the airships that feature in the books and a cool augmented reality gadget that goes down a storm (pun intended) at school events.

The Cloud Riders stall in all its augmented reality glory

It was interesting to see the diversity of creators and products in the Comic Village, from scratchy black and white indie comics to glossy full colour affairs that aped the production style of the major publishers. A number of people were selling printed versions of their hourly or 24 hour comics, and it was fun to sample those. Everyone I talked to had had a good time and solid sales, although many of them were very tired after 3 relentless days!

My indie comics haul

After just four hours at Comic Con, the kids and I were pretty tired ourselves, so we began our journey home, our bags stuffed with swag. If you’re within reach of London and you fancy joining in next time, there’s the July event I mentioned, as well as another MCM Comic Con at the Excel in October. Better get sewing that ridiculous leather costume and sharpening your massive sword now!


Nick Cross is an experienced word juggler, Undiscovered Voices winner and 2015 honours recipient of the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for fiction.

Nick's most recent children's short story Transition Day can be found in issue 13 of Stew Magazine. He also blogs regularly for Notes from the Slushpile.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds exhilarating Nick, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for sharing the trip


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