MCM Comic Con London 2023
Review: MCM Comic Con London, 27 - 29 October 2023. Tickets from £21. Find the next MCM Comic Con event here.
In a bid to broaden my cultural horizons, and as a lifelong fan of anime and manga, I decided to attend my first Comic Con event; this year’s MCM Comic Con London.
Comic Cons, or Comic Book Conventions, are events that bring together people who are passionate about comics, anime, manga, and all things science fiction and fantasy. Early precursors to the modern Comic Con include Japan’s science fiction convention, Nihon SF Taikai, which started in the early sixties, and the Golden State Comic Con in San Diego in the early seventies.
These early conventions started as fan organised, not-for-profit gatherings where like-minded people could come together and discuss their passions, and dress up as their favourite characters. This practice of dressing up, known as cosplay, has deep roots in Japan’s fan culture. Cosplay has now spread across the globe and has become an integral part of the Comic Con experience.
While profit is very much at the heart of the modern Comic Con, the events still retain a strong sense of community and inclusivity. In the UK, Modern Creative Media (MCM) is probably the biggest and most well-known of the companies that create large and profitable Comic Con events. This year’s MCM Comic Con London took place across three days from Friday 27 – Sunday 29 October.
Before attending, I read numerous guides on how to navigate Comic Con. All advised that a well thought out plan was the best way to approach Comic Con. I decided to discard this advice and have a less prescriptive approach. My plan was to wander around and let the whole experience wash over me. I thought that in this way, I would spend more time on what I found interesting. It turns out that the experts were right.
The sheer scale of MCM's Comic Con meant my laissez faire approach was completely ineffective, and unnecessarily exhausting. With over 60,000 visitors each day, around 300 artists, well over 500 stalls, 5 stages and a huge number of industry panels, workshops, talks, meet and greets, performances, experiences, and autograph and photo opportunities – without a plan, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and end up wandering around in an overstimulated daze. This is what happened to me.
While there are so many opportunities to spend money, by far my best experience of Comic Con didn’t cost any more that the price of admission – that was, seeing all the extraordinary and creative costumes worn by the attendees.
Many Comic Con attendees have clearly gone to remarkable lengths to recreate their favourite characters. It was such a treat to see the imagination and ingenuity that people used in bringing their most cherished characters to life. Being around so much joyous, unbridled creativity was truly inspirational and my best experience of Comic Con 2023.
Along with the spectacular creativity on display, another pleasant surprise was the real sense of community, inclusivity, and friendliness, which started on the train to the Excel Centre. I saw people of all social classes, gender presentations, ages, ethnicities, and physical abilities coming together to enjoy a shared passion. This diversity spread right across the event, from the attendees to the exhibitors. I can’t think of any other commercial cultural event that is so diverse and so inclusive. The fandom can be proud.
If you are planning to go to an MCM Comic Con event, particularly in London, I would recommend taking at least some of your own food and drink. While there are plenty of places to buy junk style food – the queues were very lengthy, the quality low, and the prices extortionate.
Photo by @colourbricks
I would also recommend looking carefully at the event map at home. Hard copy event maps (whether as signage or on paper) were few and far between but essential to help orient yourself in the maze like space. Additionally, both the wifi and phone signals were patchy at best, which meant that the event app, with its online map, was largely useless as a means of navigating the cavernous space in real time.
Photo by @colourbricks
Next year, I will plan in advance to do no more than three things each day. My top priority will be to spend most of my time enjoying, and learning from the creativity of the attendees. From the numerous professional photographers in attendance, it seems that the best strategy for seeing the most people is to choose a central location and sit still. Eventually, absolutely everybody will go past you.
MCM Comic Con 2023 was inspiring – not because of MCM or its organisation of the event, but because of all the bright, beautiful and inspiring fans.
If you love anime and manga, you may enjoy reading my review of the RSC's My Neighbour Totoro, which you can find here. You might also enjoy reading our review of the Young V&A's exhibition, Japan: Myth to Manga here. Perhaps you need some real world magic - find it here.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos © Catherine Flutsch 2023.