I first realized that there were movie cons which included comics in their line ups when I bought a model magazine for research purposes. I have since discovered that there are huge London conventions held at Olympia and the Excel Arena, events attracting huge audiences over a weekend with cheap entrance fees of around £5. Alarmingly, they’re almost completely ignored by the UK direct sales comic market.
I attended the London MCM Expo at the Excel Centre on the Saturday and was amazed at the number of young people patiently waiting in line to enter. Previous MCMs have seen over 30,000 people through the doors over a weekend and the organizers predict even more this year!
As you can see from the event's online guide, while there is a heavy accent on cosplay, manga and anime, there are also plenty of video games and movie companies displaying their wares. The movie and games companies use these events as promotional tools, running constant trailers for their movies and letting attendees try out their new games. Other stalls are packed with manga and anime on special offer and a suprising number of cosplay stalls selling replica costumes and weapons. (I traveled from the expo in the same train carriage as a young chap who had just bought a samurai sword, who got a few funny looks from fellow passengers).
The Comic Village section had its own stage area as well as over 80 small press and artists’ tables. The comic village does have a manga bias, which is to be expected. As well as manga publishers such as Tokyopop, Self Made Hero and Sweatdrop Studios there were Markosia, Diamond Distributors, Ilex Press, Avatar and Incognito Comics. Alan Grant was also there, promoting and selling Wasted, and Bryan Talbot was scheduled to promote his graphic novel, Grandville, on Sunday.
At the moment the comic sections of these cons seem unable to attract enough comic fans to encourage comic professionals, dealers and publishers to attend, or should that be there aren’t enough comic professionals, dealers and publishers to encourage comic fans to attend? If the MCM expo could attract a hard core comic audience it would give dealers and publishers a base from which to try and reach the much wider audience who attend.
MCM represents the latest lost generation of comic readers, which both UK and US comic companies have failed to sell their products to. This audience is perfectly at home with fantasy based action, they are a prime target audience, and they’ve got money to spend (those samurai swords were £40 a pop!).
Whereas comic conventions are, primarily, the domain of men 30 years and over the MCM was a multicultural mix of teenage boys and girls. This type of event seems a golden opportunity for the comic industry to sell and/or promote its wares to the wider audience it’s been searching for. The task of the comic industry is to find a way to speak to them in the same way that manga, anime, computer games and movies.
• The next London MCM Expos at London's Excel Centre take place on 29-30 May 2010 and 30-31 October 2010. For al the latest news visit www.londonexpo.com or for all MCM events across the UK visit www.mcmexpo.net
""MCM is the UK's only convention that combines such a massive range of stuff in one place," comments comics creator Paul Duffield, who had a stall at the event, "and to be honest, even if you stripped away every non-comics stand in the place, the remaining stalls would still challenge (and probably beat) the other major UK comic conventions in terms of number and diversity. I think it'd be a big shame to write it off just because the comics presence is still new and overshadowed by the parts of the convention that are already well established."
"After waiting in a queue that went round like a long snake, we were pleased that it was worth it. Games, anime, and comics aplenty. But the most exciting bit for us was meeting some very talented artist that were showcasing their work."