Twice a year, in May and October, a growing number of cosplayers, stall holders, comic artists, YouTubers, photographers and pop culture fans make the pilgrimage to ExCeL for MCM London Comic Con.
From its humble beginning taking place in a small hall, MCM (Movies, Comics & Media) has transformed into a convention that now takes up the whole of the ExCeL centre for a weekend, attracting attendance figures of over 130,000. Over the years it has expanded not just across England, Scotland and Ireland, but also Belgium and Germany.
It was SciFi Shows’ Paul Miley and Wolf Events’ Bryan Cooney that got together in 2001, as they planned to hold an event in London, similar to American fan events and the Memorabilia shows at Birmingham’s NEC. In May 2002, London Expo was born.
The conventions sees cosplayers bring fictional characters to life, walking amongst the crowds as well as taking to the stage in the masquerade. Photographers are there to capture their detailed costumes. Comic artists showcase their latest work and take on comissions. Stalls are stacked with merchandise related to the latest films, anime, games and comics. Plus you’ll also find uniquely original t-shirts, kawaii plushies, Japanese music and… cake.
In 2013 the event was rebranded, changing its name to MCM London Comic Con, and it is the London event that has become Britain’s biggest pop culture festival. Everyone’s experience with MCM London Comic Con is unique and different, but for many, it has become a permanent fixture on the calendar and they make sure to never miss it.
Talking to a number of regulars who have been attending and exhibiting at MCM London for years, they were asked to share their thoughts on the event, what it means to them, and why they continue to attend. And some of those people still call it Expo.
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Hideki of TokyoToys
I’m not just saying this, but meeting Byran Cooney… he was pretty much inspirational for me, because he was honest to me. I meet a lot of people and they talk a lot of rubbish. They say, “We’re going to do this,” and it never turns out.
I thought, “You know what, this guy seems to know what he’s talking about. He’s not over-hyping himself, and he actually understands how to do this without destroying the industry. Maybe he could help TokyoToys with his show.”
This was the very first London Expo. We thought, “We’ve got nothing to lose, let’s go.”
We went there and we did so much better than any other show that we had done. If I remember back, it’s almost embarrassing, because we felt a great sense of pride in our stall, but it was only two tables!
I remember we would be walking away from the stall to go to the toilet, and we would hear young people go, “OH MY GOD, TOKYOTOYS IS HERE!” They would scream like crazy and run to us, like really super happy! We felt we were quite a big company, but now, when I look at it, the fact that we were two tables, it’s kind of embarrassing in a way. It just shows that people were excited about manga in a completely different way than they are now. [Back then] it was so new and fresh; the products weren’t available anywhere else.
MCM gave us the confidence that manga was bigger than it was. That’s really important. Even though we had a market stall in Greenwich, we had never seen the amount of customers that MCM brought. And we didn’t think it could even be possible. Just imagine, we had a website and a market stall, but we only ever saw a small number of manga fans. So we always thought that the industry wasn’t that big. That was when MCM Expo completely turned it over our heads. We went from seeing [at our market stall], on a weekend, on average, maybe 20 customers, to seeing maybe thousands at a convention. Now it’s in the hundred thousands every MCM London weekend! It gave us the confidence to get a shop after seeing how big the audience is. It’s definitely helped us get confidence and expand our business.
It’s a very successful show. If it wasn’t we’d be like, “Oh no, we can’t do it anymore.” But the people who we meet at the shows, like the MCM crew, we always love meeting the crew. It’s always nice to see them. It’s almost like meeting family. And what we love about MCM is for a weekend, you’re in an environment which is completely different to your normal life. You get to be around a load of people who love the same stuff as you do. You get to have a load of fun conversations with everyone. It’s great fun. Everyone enjoys it, they all love us and we love them. So it’s great!
Sonia Leong of Sweatdrop Studios
Prior to 2005, MCM was very much a signature event and meeting celebrities. But when anime and manga really started kicking off in mid-2000, myself and Emma Vieceli, when she was a part of Sweatdrop Studios, we were one of the most well known independent UK manga publishers in the country. So we were contacted by the MCM organisers, saying, “What could we do to bring a little of this into our event?”
We started off asking for some tables for small press people to sell their stuff, but also mix it in with big namers as well, because we find that a lot of segregation tends to not do anyone any good. Since 2005, it started off quite small, and it’s just massive now! It’s really nice to see how many halls MCM takes up. It used to be that there would be several other events taking place in ExCeL at the same time. Now there isn’t any room for that at all.
It’s great seeing all the people heading here on public transport, and then you see more and more cosplayers. It gives you that, “YAY!” feeling, that you’re a part of something. Just seeing the sheer amount of people who are into the same things that you are into, that’s probably the nicest thing. It feels like a real sense of community, so it’s lovely and I’ve always liked that.
It’s a great day out, it’s great for shopping, it’s great for getting some deals, but more importantly, it’s great for getting that personal experience with that artist or writer which you wouldn’t get anywhere else. The main thing is to support the independent creators. So that’s why the Comic Village has been a really important part of MCM. It’s made for people to actually meet the artists and the writers face-to-face. Here are the people who actually make it! Go to them! Support them!
We’ve been at MCM since anime and manga pretty much started here and we’ve always had a stand here. Always! There is a big anime and manga following for this event, more so than some other conventions around the country. If you’re into Japanese anime, you’re very welcome here.
We get a lot of new faces, so it’s nice to be introduced to lots of young ones coming for the first time. Because I’ve been in this business so long, many of these kids have seen me give workshops and talks in schools, and I’ve told them, “By the way, there’s a massive event in London! It happens twice a year. You should go to it.”
Despite what some people think, it’s not the easiest industry to be in. I’m doing my dream job, drawing comics and manga for a living, but it’s hard work. I’m not rolling in it either. So these events are really important for us financially, because every little bit helps. Also, if you like someone’s artwork, maybe buy a print from them, or a small comic. Little gestures like that mean a lot to an artist.
For one thing, the MCM events are a really big deal for me. I always make sure to go to them, because that’s my core audience. I don’t ever try to miss any of them if I can, because it’s that important to me.
In May 2010, my school friends invited me to go to an “anime convention”. I hadn’t heard of MCM London back then and I didn’t know very much about cosplay at all. As a kid, I had a lot of free time on my hands so I decided to go (with permission from my mother, of course). I’ve been attending every London event since. I guess that tells you enough about how much I enjoyed my first event. It was like nothing else I’ve experienced. Intrigued by other attendees and with a bit of help from the internet, I researched what cosplay was and decided to try it out myself in May 2011. I thought, “It can’t be that hard!” That was my first mistake. Although it was quite difficult, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
MCM has allowed me to meet amazing individuals who I’m lucky to call friends now. I’ve met various people from all over the country. Even people from all over the world! I believe this is what makes MCM special. It brings like-minded people together in a safe environment to enjoy what they’re passionate about. MCM and cosplay have granted me an escape to a world slightly away from reality for a weekend. Even though it’s not quite the fictional worlds that we fantasise about from the media that we watch, read and play, I’d say it’s the closest we can get, and MCM provides this setting wonderfully.
It’s been incredible to watch the event grow throughout the years. As it gets bigger, the number of attendees also increase. I’ve definitely seen a lot more children and families attending MCM recently. I’m very glad to see that everyone, including veteran attendees, are still as welcoming and accepting as ever. I want more people to have the opportunity to possibly meet lifelong friends at MCM like I did and this can only be achieved if we can provide a friendly environment for all.
Additionally, there have also been more guests attending the event. I definitely enjoy meeting international guests who I wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. One of my best memories from MCM is meeting WIT Studio. I’ll never forget the producers of Attack on Titan complimenting my Mikasa Ackerman cosplay. At that time, I really felt my confidence in my cosplay shoot up. I also really enjoyed the recent Japanese music guests such as BAND-MAID and Amatsuki, which was definitely one of my highlights from 2016! MCM always has something for me to come back for.
Even after all these years, MCM London is one of the events I look forward to the most every year. I’m grateful to be a part of its growth.
Tom Smith of JPU Records
No MCM, no JPU Records – simple as that! We began here some seven-or-so years ago, armed with a single table and a box packed with kick arse CDs we’d picked up from Japan. We didn’t really care if we sold anything, we usually spent the weekend at MCM anyway and thought it might be a fun way to meet cool people with similar tastes. Skip forward to present day and this is now our fulltime job! We don’t really import many CDs anymore, because the bands we love have willingly signed to our label and allowed us to manufacture and distribute their records over here! We even brought one of the bands over for their UK debut at last year’s MCM London Comic Con; a band called BAND-MAID whose latest album Just Bring It managed to get into the official UK Rock Chart, and their first proper UK show sold out, even wowing the bods at Metal Hammer too, who wrote a killer live review.
The main thing that keeps us coming back to MCM is the people. We keep our prices nice and cheap; generally £10 a CD (imported CDs are usually double that), to make it easier for new people to try out the bands we represent. Nothing makes me happier than selling a CD to someone who doesn’t generally buy music from Japan, but wanted to take a punt, and then next MCM they’re back and hungry for more! Now we schedule our releases with MCM in mind, to always make sure we have as many new releases out just in time for the event, or in some cases available at MCM ahead of the official release.
It’s been great seeing MCM grow year-on-year. Before I started selling CDs here, I used to attend with friends in the hopes of picking up imported and rare goodies I couldn’t find in the shops. That was around ten years ago. I always remember Bryan, the CEO of MCM Comic Con, calling me up at my old job writing for the video game industry trade magazine MCV. He was really excited to report that MCM had grown to a huge 30,000 attendees over its weekend, and that we should write a news story about it. Now it’s heading towards the 200,000 mark! It’s amazing!
I first visited an MCM event back in 2005. The event was already about three years old at the time, but anime and gaming was only just starting to get a foothold. I could count the number of cosplayers I could see on my fingers and it only filled a hall or two, while a caravanning event dominated the rest of the ExCeL centre. These days MCM will eat at least 20 of those halls for breakfast and then look at the concourse as a light snack.
It wasn’t long before cosplay became a mainstay, and some of the community offered up their time to help nurture it. The Cosplay Desk became a regular feature where volunteers ran a bag drop service and helped with costume repairs and advice. This lead up to the masquerades and now the big international events like EuroCosplay, and I’m proud to be part of that team.
I’d spend most of my weekend taking as many cosplay photos as possible and the evenings capturing the masquerades. It was still a rarity back then to see photos make it online so we saw it as a service. Thankfully even though I couldn’t possibly dream of catching every cosplayer in attendance, there are many more talented photographers sharing their time with the community than there used to be.
To me, these events are a fantastic bridge between those who’ve been in the community a long time, and those new to it. MCM is enough of a casual family-friendly event for many to make it their first. It always feels familiar, yet it’s vast enough that you can find just about any niche covered. You see so many new faces each time and eventually the regulars will wind up with us behind the desk or on the stage sooner or later!
My first time at MCM London Comic Con was in 2009 as a exhibitor in the Artists Alley. Back then it felt like 30 artists; it was quite small, quite intimate. It was a mixture of big names and amateurs breaking in. Over the years you see artists come and go, artists grow and the community grow. There are now 240 tables from the 30 when I first started. You can see people who have started their art careers with this show.
I’ve met so many people in the industry through this show. Just look at the hall in general, the size of it. Comic Con has also been about people who have this huge passion for geek culture. You see people coming here for the first time, and people coming back again. Kids have grown up with this as part of their yearly experience.
For me, there’s a sense of pride actually when you see this show grow. As an artist, the community that supports you is so important. Getting to meet them and sometimes just thanking them for supporting your work, or going to the cinema where the film posters are out that I’ve done. You get that connection with the audience and that is so crucial.
I’ve had people coming back to my table for years, supporting the books and video games I’ve worked on. When I do my commissions, I’ve had people come to me to draw engagement pictures for them, and they propose to their girlfriends or boyfriends at the convention using my artwork. It’s amazing to be a part of a special moment in someone’s life, but to see these relationships bond and go to the next level, because Comic Con has such a significance to these people that they [want to propose here].
In its way, the convention is a whole new way of experiencing artwork. When you walk through the show, you know what grabs your attention, you learn those little tricks and it helps you become a better artist, because it all comes down to art fundamentals. It all ties into each other, pushes you and motivates you to work harder. I do sketch covers and people love getting themselves on the front of a sketch cover. I never did caricatures till I started coming to MCM, so that pushed me to up my game when it came to facial expressions, to getting likenesses.
You see so many people coming around the world for this show. It reminds you that this is one of the top tier shows worldwide. People come here because they love dressing up, because they love seeing the artwork, they love the experience in general. I think that’s a testament to how the show is run. Because it’s not run like a conveyor belt; it’s a community, it’s organic and it grows. It has its own unique flavour compared to all the other big cons; it has that genuine feel to it.
Tofu Cute has been attending MCM London Comic Con since May 2011, when Tofu Cute was only a year old. We were originally recommended to attend MCM London Comic Con through the Cosplay Community at the time, and we have never looked back!
Our favourite MCM memory is from the very first time we set up our now famous, ‘Kawaii Alley’. We had been working on setting up our huge stand for nearly two days with our team of dedicated ‘Tofus’. The carpet layers finally arrived to fill in the isle between Tofu Cute and our sister company Dreamy Bows. They placed a roll of carpet at the top of our stand and rolled it straight down the middle, all the way to the bottom, like a huge red carpet (but of course it was actually pink!). It was a glorious Tofu moment, and we now eagerly await this part with anticipation, every MCM.
The event has grown a lot over the years, just as we have. It’s wonderful to see so many different people really getting into the spirit of it, and embracing their inner geek. Each year we see more and more people, big and small, (sometimes really small) dressing up as their favourite characters, spending quality time with friends and family and enjoying all things weird and wonderful. It makes us feel even more special that so many of these fabulous people see our stand as a glowing pink landmark to visit each event, stocking up on goodies to get them through the busy weekend ahead.
For us MCM is a very special event, as it allows us a little time with each one of our customers, who have travelled far and wide to visit us. It allows us to hear feedback, make new friends, and catch up with our oldest customers. But most of all it allows us to share what we love most of all with everyone attending MCM, which is our Tofu Cute ethic: “Stay young at heart and allow fun items to inject positive energy into your everyday life!”
Tofu Cute will continue to attend MCM to keep spreading our positive Kawaii energy, as long as people want to embrace cuteness into their hearts.
I was just discovering what cosplay was through coplayers in America that did vlogs on YouTube and skits at conventions. It looked like fun. I then discovered that we actually had an event here in the UK called MCM Expo. This was back in 2007, and at the time there wasn’t really much of a community, advertisements or social media around geek fandom. There wasn’t really any cosplay music videos, ‘popular’ coplayers, nor Facebook pages either. I only had an idea of what it would be like through the odd convention vlogger, and there were always short videos of people gathering and dancing to that one song from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
I was so immersed with watching anime and reading manga and I didn’t know anyone else who was into it. The idea that there are actually people out there who had watched and read the same things as me was so exciting! I didn’t even have Facebook back then, so there wasn’t really any way of connecting with people with the same interests. After some planning and discussion, I managed to talk my parents into taking me to my first convention. It was October 2007, and I’d decided to cosplay Sakura Haruno from Naruto after purchasing the costume cheap from the first online shop I found. I didn’t bother with a wig. Looking back, it was horrendous.
The convention itself was in one hall with stalls selling mostly anime merch and a few gaming and Japanese related items. Most of the people there were anime fans and there was so much room to actually look around and approach people. I had a few people ask me for photos, which was crazy to me. Like, “These people want a photo of me!?”
Stepping outside the west entrance of ExCeL and seeing it covered with people in a variety of costumes and various colours, it’s crazy to see what MCM London is like today. Now there’s a lot more families with children that enjoy seeing their favourite superheroes and Disney princesses. Before I wouldn’t have stopped to talk to random strangers who stopped me for a photo, nor board the tube wearing a pvc catsuit in pride. I also met my partner through cosplay and some of my best friends along the way.
It’s a struggle every year to contemplate whether I want to spend money on a ticket and hotel for MCM London; add to that the travel and parking. Then I’m dealing with headaches from wigs, cosplay malfunctions and exhaustion from not sleeping the week before, because I was sewing something that I spent all year procrastinating and worrying about. There’s always this voice in the back of the head, saying “Will I look okay? Will people like it?” After all that, I still go. It’s all down to the people and the atmosphere. Also, because it was my first convention, there is always going to be something nostalgic about it that I just can’t bring myself to miss one. I see the same familiar faces each time, and honestly, if I hadn’t attended way back in 2007 and discovered this cosplaying addiction, then I don’t know where I’d be today.
It’s not just a convention, but a second home, a coping mechanism, and the place you can fit in and just be yourself, creating great memories with like minded people.
Sarah Childs of Gyzra Ink
It’s a strange feeling, walking through the giant empty ExCeL centre halls. People run past me pushing mountains of boxes and building complicated scaffolding as they hang posters and arrange plush animals. The air is filled with nervous excitement as lights begin to glow, bright colours fill the room, and the smell of Japanese cuisine and sweets welcomes me home.
I began showcasing my work at MCM London in 2010 and have since then sold all over the country at the various MCM shows. I had been visiting the event for a few years before then as a cosplayer (spending way too much money on merchandise!) when a lovely artist gave me her time and explained how to create my very own manga.
A year later I found myself sat behind my tiny stall, absolutely terrified, and hoping that just one person might like my work. To my surprise I was inundated with smiling faces and questions. Artists in Comic Village, who I had looked up to for years, ran over to give me welcome advice, and visitors blessed me with kindness, many of whom have become life-long supporters of my work. I’m not sure I had ever smiled so much as I was smiling on that day. I drew until my hand was falling apart, yet seeing everyone so excited for my work kept me going.
Since then I have: created a complete trilogy of manga graphic novels, totalling 680 pages of traditionally drawn art; evolved my table dramatically – it has dragon wings now!; met hundreds of amazing people and grown so much. When I started, at the age of 17, I was so nervous about talking to people that I could barely speak, but the people of MCM have taught me how to be confident, to be proud of my art, and to enjoy every moment that I can.
I’m not the only one who has changed either. When I started, Comic Village was so tiny, but now that the show has erupted into all its various halls and events, Comic Village has been able to open its doors to hundreds of artists and writers. The extreme mix of art styles, backgrounds and experience makes Comic Village unique. Perhaps there is even a table waiting to have your name on it?
MCM is my favourite place on earth, and MCM London will always be my second home. Thank you MCM, all its visitors and all its wonderful artists! I would not be where I am today without you.
Standing proudly beside my family, friends and behind my art, an exhibitor runs past shouting, “They’re coming!” before thousands of cosplayers charge into the hall. Suddenly the building comes to life and music fills the air. The show has begun!
Jojo of LoveJojo
I initially heard about MCM London from my friends who had attended before. The way they described it to me was very intriguing so I decided to check it out. I first attended as a con-goer back in 2006 and I was so excited. I had been to cosplay events in Asia before so I knew what kinds of things to expect. I decided to cosplay my favourite anime from the 80s; Creamy Mami, the main character. It was so much fun, especially when other fans of the anime recognised the character!
The first time I attended MCM London as a stall holder was in 2012. As I had been attending as a customer for a number of years before that, I had gotten a good sense of the community of MCM and the people who attended. I was fresh out of university and decided to book my first table. I did not go into it with the intention of setting up a fully-fledged business; it was just for a bit of fun and to enjoy the experience. I ended up really enjoying it, booking the next event straight away and the rest is history!
Each event has its own special memories. There are too many to mention! I love the community surrounding MCM London. I love seeing everyone’s cosplays and knowing all the hard work and commitment that has gone into producing them. I feel that being surrounded by this hardworking and creative energy encourages and inspires me to reach higher, to be the best that I can be.
Being on your feet for upwards of 12 hours a day during the convention with hardly any sleep means that there has to be something that gets you through the day. And this is definitely the people I meet. Every single person I meet and speak with is filled with kindness. I love talking to everyone about their interests and passions related to LoveJojo and MCM; be it the Japanese culture, kawaii fashion and the kawaii lifestyle in general. It makes us all feel united and that there are people who share your interests and passions too. Being at MCM London definitely gives you a real energy shift from your everyday life.
It makes me feel extremely humbled to have been and still be a part of the growth and journey of MCM London. From the very first time I attended, I could feel the buzz surrounding the community it had created. Every time I think about the people I will meet at the next event, the old memories, as well as memories that have not yet been made, it fills me with excitement.
To the present day, the event has grown so huge and I have met so many wonderful people along the way, many of whom I have developed lifelong friendships with. These are people I may not otherwise have met and I am so grateful for this. MCM London has also helped to shape the person I am today. It has helped me to appreciate and embrace myself for the way I am and for the things I love. It has helped me to realise that life is not about trying to fit in with the standards that society has set for us and to encourage us to pursue our real passions fearlessly. I want to spread this message to more people and help them to realise that true happiness lies within us!
MCM wanted to build more of a comic scene here and Emma Vieceli started helping to organise the Comic Village, asking comic artists to attend and word just got around very quickly. That was 2008 and it was more like an island at the time. I think there was maybe 20 tables. I was on one of them.
There’s a sense of pride that there’s this many comic artists in England, because when I first started out there was no one. No one was coming to conventions with this sort of art style. I have an enormous amount of pride, just because there’s so many more and they’ve all got different styles. There’s cartoonists, graphic novelists, there’s superhero comics, there’s manga artists, there’s video game concept artists. Just the breadth of different styles, you don’t really get that at many other conventions.
You don’t get a lot of younger artists at conventions either. A lot of the conventions in the UK are either too expensive or they’re curated, so they can’t get in the door, whereas MCM is a free for all. Everyone is on the same level.
It does bring in money and it is a profitable show. It’s nice to know that you can come here, you can sell to fans and you can live as a cartoonist. That’s always nice. Some shows you do quite bad at, but MCM… for me certainly, it’s a good show where I can sell my books and my comics. I can carry on as an illustrator. Comics are such a poor paying medium that you need a convention like this where there’s lots of people, lots of fans. So to do well at this show, if it means I can work as an illustrator for the next six months, then that’s fantastic!
My best experience at MCM was a couple of years ago when two young girls came over, maybe about 10-11 years old. They dressed as one of my characters. They cosplayed as Chloe Noonan; she’s a Monster Hunter that doesn’t have any super powers. That was a comic I did about five years ago. They really liked that character and they cosplayed as her. I was like, “Oh, that’s really nice, that’s quite touching.” No one knew they were dressed up as that character… except for me. So when I spotted her, I was just like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe that!”
I like the fact that MCM is a pop culture event. It’s like San Diego Comic Con, or Wizard World, the big shows in America. We don’t have anything like this here. A lot of other conventions have tried and just failed. A lot of people still have this stigma that this is a convention for teenage manga fans. It’s not that. You’ve got every age range you can think of. When I see families and it’s their day out, the kids are excited and they want to touch everything, it does warm my heart to see that. I like the cosplay, I like the kids dressing up and running about. If I was their age, I’d be doing exactly the same thing.
Flashback to the beginning of 2008 where I fell in love with the concept of blogging and writing about my fair share of teenage adventures. A younger version of me that’s so eagerly immersed in the discovery of new things and experiences. Add in a crazy mix of romantic entanglements and a lifestyle diary and you have a fortunate blogger who gained a meaningful readership across the world.
Shortly thereafter I began blogging about cultural events around the country in an attempt to share my thoughts on trying things for the first time. I was diving into all sorts of epic fulfilment driven by my curiosity, with countless instances of trying new food, new places, new events and new adventures. These were the key pillars on which my humble blog was anchored on.
The desire to write about more increasingly quirky topics eventually brought me to cooking shows, vegetable cons and (you might have guessed this part) Japanese culture shows and comic conventions. So, cosplay? Check. Incredible fan bases? Check. What about the avid community? BIG check! This is the trail that sparked my encounter with MCM! I originally first attended the event in early 2010 after hearing from fellow lifestyle bloggers and YouTubers talking about the cool things they fell in love with at MCM.
In retrospect, I’ve not missed an MCM London show since, also adding Birmingham, Manchester and Telford through my years of creating cosplay videos. The event has given me the chance to be creative in regards to artistic pursuits; capturing the fun vibe as well as showing off the costumes and the people behind them. However, that said, you might be wondering what keeps me coming back for more? That’s the main point I want to emphasise here: MCM to me has always been about the community aspect and the social interaction that goes within. Over the years that is what I treasure the most; the friends I’ve made through various MCM Comic Cons up and down the country. I honestly have no words to describe the importance of the connections I’ve made with people through attending MCM. Some of my closest friends, the guys and gals I collaborate with in all the Instagram cosplay projects I work on, the thousands of people I’ve featured in the cosplay videos I’ve filmed through the years – they all stem from what MCM has gifted to me… and that’s the chance to bond with people who are just as excited as you are about all the geeky minutia life has to offer.
I want to thank MCM for all the fun memories the convention has enabled me to create, placing me in a captivating bubble and being surrounded by a wonderful community that welcomed me with open arms back in 2010. To this day, amidst all the international travel I do, attending over 20 cons a year, it’s the tradition of reuniting with friends and being invited to a massive celebration of our passion at MCM London. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Amy of Cakes With Faces
I first heard about MCM London online, and went with my friends as a visitor. I cosplayed as Amu from Shugo Chara. As soon as we got near ExCeL there were other people cosplaying and soon I felt like I fitted in completely!
My first stall at MCM was right at the start of Cakes with Faces, in October 2011. Seeing all the amazing artists in the Comic Village was part of what motivated me. I decided to go for it and booked a table, as well as starting my online shop at the same time. It was a huge amount of work and a lot of late nights getting ready. I was so nervous about whether anyone would like my designs, and I still remember my very first customer!
The best times at MCM are meeting my followers and people I’ve chatted to online. I love it when people come to say hello, and even bring drawings of my characters! I also love seeing children’s reactions to cosplayers – for them, they’re meeting their favourite characters for real and it’s a magical moment!
My stall has grown with the show, from one small table with just five t-shirts, and now I have a whole booth. It’s an opportunity to meet my followers and get reactions to my artwork, and I always launch new products at the show. It’s also a chance to show my designs to new people who might never have heard of Cakes with Faces. I always make my stall as colourful as possible to bring it to life and show what my artwork’s all about.
MCM is so much bigger now than when I first went, and it’s great to see it go from strength to strength. It’s amazing that there are over 130,000 people over the weekend –an unbelievable number! Comic Con is special because it’s a complete escape from the real world. Nowhere else can you see 30 Frozen princesses in a day, or a colossal Titan hand in hand with Hatsune Miku. Everyone’s free to lose themselves in their fandoms and meet other people who are into the same thing, however obscure. You can feel at home, dress however you like and no one looks twice (or if they do it’s because they want a photo!).
MCM London is THE main UK con – it’s big, loud and an experience I always recommend to anyone who’s into geeky culture in any way!
Neil Gibson of TPub
MCM London was the very first comic con I attended.
This was 2011 and I had started writing my first comic book in my free time. I really only got into comics in my twenties but loved the medium and I wanted to see if I could make them. I figured that comics cons were the best place to sell initially and get feedback so I needed to do some research.
The cosplay was the first thing that blew me away. The sheer number of people who dressed up and were having fun. And THAT’s what really stuck out – the atmosphere of no judgement. No matter how you dressed, no matter what you were into – it was cool. You like dressing up and fighting with lightsabers – cool. You created a cardboard transformer – actually pretty awesome. You and five friends all dressed up like cats – can I take a photo with you? Everyone knows that people are bullied for not conforming in school and to see a place where people could have fun in a supportive atmosphere was just awesome. After I got over the cosplay, there was the games section and the food stalls and what I was really there for – the comic section.
So many artists and creators plying their wares and almost immediately I saw one of my favourite books on one stand. Strange Embrace by David Hine. I had read a review about this book when I was working in Mexico and had an ordeal getting a copy, but I loved it and right there was the creator! I also got to meet a few illustrators that I later collaborated with. I was liking this MCM Comic Con!
The next year I attended my first con as an exhibitor and I have never looked back. I go to every single MCM Comic Con, be it in Glasgow, Dublin or Copenhagen. Each show gets bigger and better and I can’t see it stopping anytime soon!
(Neil Gibson is a #1 bestselling comic book author and publishes a range of titles through www.tpub.co.uk. Come visit him at any MCM)
Gail of Amazing Cake Company
We discovered MCM Telford first. I took the children when they were really small, and it was like, “Oh, this is cooler than the memorabilia shows we used to go to.” It was more in line with what they liked. Then we discovered the London show, and it was like, “Wow!”
We first exhibited in May 2012. MCM London helped with recognition of our brand. Because we’re from Warrington, we didn’t find many people that knew what MCM was. But it’s building and it’s growing. We’ve promoted MCM as much as we’ve gained business from it in our local area. We tell people about the shows and they’re excited by it. I’d say geek culture has only really exploded in the last three years where it’s become really mainstream. Before it was, “Those weird people over there.” Now, everybody wants to embrace it, which is great.
Our best experience was in May 2015. People came up to us and they said, “Gosh, you’re here! We found you! You’re always the first stall we come to!” That really made us feel special. To hear that out of the mouths of customers who you didn’t really know, but they see you as something special at an event, you make up part of their day… it gets to you. It hits you. We didn’t realise that.
We just feel part of a huge happy family here. There’s so much work involved in getting to the shows and putting them on. But there’s just that happy feeling, the vibe we get off the customers and the other stall holders. We’ve made so many really nice friends. Our shop is in a shopping mall, and the contrast between the people there compared to the people that exhibit at MCM, and the staff at MCM, it’s unbelievable. We would just stay and work in this environment if we could.
May and October are the highlights of our years. Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham; we have different customers that seek us out in different places, and some that come to every show. To make them happy, we actually make cupcakes based on what we know they’re going to want.
To be one of the biggest comic cons and have it in the UK, you got to take your hats off to the team. It’s Bryan’s vision and Bryan’s brought it. He’s put the team around him that has made it happen. It just keeps getting bigger and better. You think they’re never going to top it, and they do. It gives me goosebumps!
I first started going to MCM Expo in May 2009 after a friend of mine had been to the October event the year before and told me what fun they’d had. It was the first big con I had ever been to as I hadn’t long since started cosplaying! I’d only been to my local Waterstone’s ReCon before then (remember those!?). Since then I’ve consistently been to every London MCM since.
May 2017 is my 17th Expo. I never tire of it; I love the atmosphere, the sights, the sounds, the stalls, the games, my friends and just seeing cosplayers everywhere! Getting off at Custom House and walking through the tunnel to ExCeL makes me feel like I’m coming home every time. That is exactly what keeps me coming back year after year. As weird as it may sound, I also enjoy leaving because I love spotting who’s been to the event at London Paddington train station. Con-goers are so easy to spot!
At my very first MCM I held a cosplay meet where I met Rachel Isrl, who is now my best friend. I’d never be without them now, as well as all of the many other great friends I have made. Going to MCM, cosplaying and going to these meet-ups has helped my confidence and self-esteem grow. Where I was once an extremely introverted person, I’ve slowly come out of my shell and become the person I am today.
My best memory is taking part in the cosplay masquerade in May 2013 with Rachel. We cosplayed from Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, with myself as Syaoran and Rachel as Sakura (the epilogue versions), and we won a judges award! It was such an unexpected shock and was the first time I’ve won anything for cosplaying! I’d love to take part in one of the international competitions one day when I can make a costume worthy enough for it.
It makes me happy to see how much the event has grown over the years, to see how popular it has become. So I will continue to attend for as long as I can. After all, it’s more or less my second home! And I shall forever continue to call it Expo!
Adam-James Foulkes of Brambletyne
Back when I was a Senior Producer at Nickelodeon, I put my hand up to help out at MCM Comic Con, as we were launching the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the time. This was May 2012 and I’d never been to a real Comic Con before, but always wanted to visit the the US shows… I actually had no idea that a London show would be so popular! We had the huge theatre area booked out, and I was supposed to be helping get people into the preview screening with co-creator Kevin Eastman. I had a good walk around between the usual merch stalls and games stands, but when I thought I’d got to the end of the hall, I discovered rows upon rows of smaller quirky tables, with lots of eager comic fans dashing between them.
I squinted around, looking for some kind of corporate logo to explain what this all was, but it wasn’t to be found – turned out I was in Comic Village, with each table a portal to an independently owned world, full of unique characters and fantastic original storytelling. I’d worked at Nickelodeon since I was 16, and despite being a mainstream comic fan, I’d never imagined that I could possibly tell stories of my own independently, without a corporate machine behind me. I hid my bright orange pass, and skived off for the rest of the day. Stepping between each of the worlds, which each creator had poured so much love and passion into – I just knew there and then that I had to be on the other side of the tables one day.
A year or so later, I’d left my 13-year career at Nickelodeon behind, teaming up with ex-SEGA artist Lynne Triplett to create our three issue mini-series FAR FROM FAITH. Our first MCM London was crazy… we were armed with nothing but a Kickstarter-green table cloth and leaflets to promote our crowdfunding dreams. If the project didn’t get funded, this would have been a one-and-done.
Thanks to an overwhelming amount of support, we got funded and returned to the next MCM London with our first issue, which we then followed up with parts two & three a year later. Off the back of this success, I was able to form Comics and Video Games studio/publisher ‘BRAMBLETYNE’, which is currently mostly funded by work for clients like Disney Interactive. Despite working on art on iOS, Android, and console games recently, we never miss a MCM London show, and continue to sell our US-style beautifully printed comic books, including the recent release PROJECT AUTUMN, which brings together ten different Comic Village artists to tell one sequential story in its first issue (Including Emma Vieceli, who’s actually responsible for creating Comic Village, back in the day!) – A comic that’s directly inspired by that day that I first discovered Comic Village, which changed my life forever!
Lydia of Genki Gear
We initially heard about MCM through a Google search. We were looking for shows to attend, came across MCM’s website and was really impressed with it. We had never heard of the event before. We were in our first year, we just wanted to try something new and MCM looked new, exciting and a little bit different.
We first attended back in May 2005. It was much smaller then, but it’s grown so much that it’s been exciting to attend it every year. Our best experience was when we had our tenth anniversary in May 2015. We launched the ten pound range and it was just insane! It was such a buzz and an exciting show. We did loads of different things with partners across the show, and MCM is a good event to be able to do that with; running different competitions with MCM Buzz and Neo, various partners who are here to promote you when you’ve got a really good event like that going on. Everybody responded really positively to the fact that it was our tenth anniversary.
In terms of how much the event has grown, we’ve been here at every show to see it and the difference between the show now and the show back then is amazing. We’ve gone from two tables in one hall on one side, to now two big stalls and multiple tables in both halls. We’ve grown with the event.
MCM bring good guests, but it’s not just about the guests. I know they work really hard to get different experiences for people to actually come and visit. You’re not going to see the same stalls every time. It’s lovely to see the difference and quality of the corporate people who attend. There’s always something new that you wouldn’t expect to see here.
MCM London has helped us grow our brand. We see a lot of people here, we get to reach a lot of our customers. They come up and say, “Oh, I saw you last year!” Or they’ll go on the website afterwards and they’ll tell their friends about us. So, it’s helped us reach our target audience. It’s our main show of the year. We spend three weeks before every show preparing for it. Plus we launch our new ranges here twice a year. So for us, it’s a prime event.
It is the biggest mixed multimedia show that we can attend and introduce people to our brand in the UK. We couldn’t think of not coming to MCM. It’s definitely a must for us to attend it.
I was a 14 year old spotted girl, into anime, who had weird hair and was different from a lot of people in school. I went on my own to this event that I heard other weirdos with weird coloured hair and who liked anime went to. I met some people at the train station, as I was coming into MCM Expo, and I still know them today. It’s been an event I attended before I exhibited at it.
MCM London was the second event I ever exhibited on, back in May 2010. I did a Google search of events where I could get a table at and MCM just came straight up. Because I knew the event, because I liked the event, I applied.
The Comic Village… there were maybe 20 tables. It was tiny! Sitting next to my neighbours, I got to know people! It wasn’t as huge as it is now, and it gave us a little more time to get to know each other and to chat. It was the first time that I felt part of an artistic community. It just stuck with me, the feeling of doing something that I love, with people showing that they love what I do. People coming over saying that they love my drawings, artists next door sharing lunch breaks, sharing coffee. The people was the thing that stuck around me.
I’ve seen MCM grow a lot in those years. I think it’s grown for the same reason that I come back every year. That community, those people, the spirit of it. It draws you in. It doesn’t divide, MCM unites people. Having that experience, to go from being a real outsider and feeling that MCM gave me a community, to now feeling like a real insider. People come up and say, “Oh, I met you at MCM. Are you going to this event?” People told me that they bought tickets to MCM London just to come and see me. To have that connection be so strong, that somebody really wants to meet in person, that’s such a funny feeling. Then they’ll tell me that they’ll come back because they love it.
As an artist, my reason to draw is to communicate. My reason to draw is to talk to somebody through an image and to have a message conveyed from my heart to theirs. A lot of people now know my work online. I’ve been very lucky to have a reasonable sized following. They feel connected enough to travel all over the country, sometimes over Europe, and they will have bought a ticket, just because I’m at the show.
I think the online world is brilliant, and there’s a huge amazing community, but to actually hug a person who has touched you, to actually have somebody say to my face that they love what I do, that never gets old. MCM has been such a boost to me as an artist, because it means I can stay independent. I don’t have to work for a company, I don’t have to draw what somebody else wants me to draw. I can draw what I love and what’s important to me. Then I can come straight to fans and make a living selling at MCM. That is so important and that has enriched my life.
The first time I attended MCM London in October 2004 was the first time I attended an event like this. I found an advertisement in a gaming magazine. Not long after I saw it I chatted to someone who had been to the event and recommended that I go.
One of my favourite moments was meeting Troy Baker in October 2013. I cosplayed as Sister Esther, as my favourite anime role of his was Father Abel from Trinity Blood. When I met him he took my hand, held it between both of his and said, as Abel, “It’s so wonderful to see you again Sister Esther.” My only regret is that I had no one to film it, but it was a moment I will never forget. Another favourite moment was the first ever EuroCosplay in October 2010. I was so in awe of the cosplayers, my jaw dropped several times.
MCM London has helped me grow as a person and it has given me the freedom to be myself. I was a shy person when I first attended. When I entered the Cosplay Masquerade a year later I started chatting to people in the queue to break the ice, which helped beat my shyness. I did this every time I entered the masquerade and do so when I queue to enter MCM London.
My photography started at MCM and with guidance from fellow photographers, Russell Fenton and Jonathan Nert Cullinane (aka ManyLemons), my experience grew. I found my place and that was to be a cosplay photographer, because my main goal was to capture the cosplayer’s hard work they had put into their costume; especially if it was their first costume. I love to make people smile when I ask to take their photo and see the joy when they see them.
To see the event grow is fantastic as the UK doesn’t have many big cons like America. It is a brilliant atmosphere to be in. Every time I talk to people who are going for the first time, it fills my heart with joy that they get to experience it as well.
Before I started going to MCM I only had a few friends and now I have many friends from around the country. Even in Europe. I love to make new friends and share my geekiness with them. Seeing my friends is what keeps me coming back to MCM, as I only see them a few times a year due to living far apart. I also met my boyfriend through the MCM forums back in the day. Plus, MCM London is only 30 minutes away from where I live, so it is easy to get to.
I was first invited to MCM London in 2007 as a guest when my good friend and collaborator Doug Braithwaite had to drop out. At the time the Comic Village was expanding and I was told that 20,000 visitors were expected over two days. That number seemed unbelievably huge at the time! I was introduced to Emma Vieceli, who was running the Comic Village at the time and I remember enthusing over my OEL manga, Poison Candy, which had just been released by Tokyopop.
I made a lot of friends through that first convention. There was a real sense of community and also of reaching a whole new set of fans through the world of cosplay that was growing out of anime and manga. To be honest I also had a sense of being slightly marginalised from a whole new world of popular culture that was drawing on comics but not necessarily recognising or respecting the source material.
If anything that has grown over the years, “Comic” conventions are springing up everywhere and have a growing attendance from a very wide demographic. There is gender equality and the age of attendees is anywhere from toddlers to pensioners with a lot of family groups. That presents a great opportunity to spread the word about comics, but there is still a sense of frustration that while people may be wearing the T-shirts, watching the movies and buying the merchandise they are still largely ignoring the actual comic books. There are times when the Comic Village feels more like the Comics Ghetto.
What I would like to see is the Comic Village smack in the middle of the convention. Comics creators struggle to make a living while their work is still unarguably the creative source of all those other media, from movies and TV shows to the toys and video games. That’s why this is called the MCM Comic Con, not Fantasy Con or Cosplay Con. The reason I come back to MCM is to meet and talk to people who are often not really familiar with what we do. Over the years I’ve convinced a lot of people of all ages and interests to pick up their first comic and many of them have come back in later years to tell me that they are now enthusiastic comics readers and fans.
The fans who flood into the ExCeL centre for MCM Comic Con are the friendliest, happiest, most excitable group of people you’re likely to see for any event in London. I hope we can send even more of them home clutching copies of those unique collections of words and pictures that kicked off the whole thing.
Andrew Partridge of Anime Limited
I initially heard about MCM Comic Con when I was at Bandai Entertainment in Europe about 11 years ago. It was taking off at a time my friends at ADV had attended and they strongly recommended that us and Manga UK come as well. So sure enough we came along in due course. It was really small attendance over time when I was with Bandai, and it just grew as I moved from company to company.
MCM is something we’ve always come to since we started. We’ve never stopped. Seeing fans here has been the number one way to meet people. So much so we might venture to other events, but the only one that we’ve kept going to is MCM Comic Con. Being here ten years, we’ve seen it grow from being one half of a hall all the way up to being both sides of ExCeL, which is incredible. And everything has grown up with it.
For me, my favourite memory is when we started as Anime Limited and we brought Shinichiro Watanabe, the director of Cowboy Bebop. It started a very fruitful long-term relationship with bringing Japanese guests of honour to MCM. Connecting people from Japan to MCM London Comic Con is a great pleasure of ours and it’s honestly a great joy every time, whether it’s a title to us, Manga UK, or anyone else. It’s something we’re super happy about.
We’ve managed to help bring a whole range of guests that weren’t easily accessible before. So everything from Japanese directors who are coming to do location hunting for a film, over to people who started studios, like the founder of Studio Wit, the people who made Attack on Titan; and the founder of Studio Bones, the people who made Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s been a really good symbiotic relationship for us.
Reaching fans and new fans is something we pride ourselves in. MCM has made that so painfully easy for us to do and it couldn’t be better. It’s a chance to meet the people who actually make it possible for us to do what we do, the ones who are actually putting their money towards our titles and saying they actually believe in our product. That’s impossibly valuable. If you don’t listen to what the fans are telling you, then you become irrelevant after a year or two. We’ve been here for five years now and I hope to be here for another 50… at least! Someone else will be running at that point I hope!
I can’t speak highly enough for what the team has done. MCM has grown from being an event which was basically a chance to get a few autographs and maybe buy a few things, to an event where there’s actually things to do. It’s not just a big shop, it’s a place people come to meet other people of similar interests that they’ve never met before. It shouldn’t be as revolutionary as it is, but MCM have made it seem so simple that it’s so impressive. That is extremely difficult to do and they should be very proud of it, and we’re proud to have been a part of it at Anime Limited.
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A huge thank you to everyone that took the time to contribute.
By Shalimar Sahota.