We went to the MCM Comic Con, in Birmingham on Saturday just gone (19th March). Here are some various random observations.
Getting to the NEC Birmingham is quite easy for us – we drive over, it’s between 45 and 55 minutes depending on traffic and this time it was pretty good. There was a queue leaving the M42, which took up about 10 minutes of the journey, but it was always flowing. On the way back however, we noticed a pretty bad car fire on the A42, which looks like it had closed that road for some time. Not sure by how long we missed that, but glad we did, and hope everyone involved was okay.
We parked in East 5, having pre-paid for our parking the night before. I can’t stress enough how useful this is if you intend to go to an event at the NEC. The queue for car parking tickets was about 100 meters long, and I suspect was roughly a 10-20 minute wait in temperatures hovering around 4C. Car parking was £12, which is high, but it’s a captive audience. We couldn’t book reserved / priority parking which puts you outside the event halls, I guess there wasn’t any close enough for the Comic Con event, but we’ll check again next time.
We had priority tickets for the event, it’s £5 more, but you can go in from 9am rather than 11am. We never intended to get there for 9am (and if you do, you’ll queue even with a priority ticket), but we got there around 10:15am-ish, and walked straight in, past the 11am queuers. I recommend this approach!
The event was in an L shaped hall and quite big; bigger than November last year which felt very cramped. It was a little more open this time, although still quite cramped in the main section. There were the usual selection of vendors and guests, but since that’s not why I went, I won’t comment. We didn’t go to any of the events either, although there was an inflatable theatre in which they were taking place. Greté was there to shop, and I was there to take photographs.
There were some really good things.
- There were a lot of Rey’s. It’s great to see another interesting and dynamic character for female cosplayers to play. Of course, gender is irrelevant (I saw at least one female Kylo Ren), but for women who want to play women, it’s great that there’s more choice, and with costumes that aren’t revealing or sexualised. There were, as always, the usual collection of Lara Crofts, Harley Quinns, female manga characters I never recognise and Black Widows (among lots of other female characters, don’t get me wrong). I just thought it was nice that popular media has presented another strong female role model, with any-age appropriate dress, and hope we get many more in future. Which reminds me, there were quite a few Dana Scully’s as well come to think of it – always handy to break out a smart suit and wear an ID badge.
- There were a lot of families all in costume, many of them with very young kids who seemed to be having a great time. I don’t remember previous Comic Cons being quite so kid friendly. I guess for the kids it’s normal – get dressed up as your favourite character, it’s just as we get older it becomes more nerdy and weird. We should learn from that – nothing wrong with it at all. I think it’s great that people felt comfortable enough to bring their kids along.
- Lots of excellent costumes in general and clearly a lot of effort had gone into them. There’s always the regular semi-pros, the 501st Legion, that company who pays cosplayers to dress up (can’t remember what they’re called), the guys in the Batman suits that look like they just walked off the set, etc. I do wonder if they can be off-putting at times. But then there were the regular broad range of almost-semi-pros, amateurs, last-minuters, threw-on-a-fezzers, wore-my-tardis-dressers, and came-dressed-as-Jessica-Rabbit-in-my-7-inch-heels-and-bearders. It was really a great collection of people.
The not so great.
- There was an unnecessary amount of body odour. I know, everyone’s wearing Lycra, or vinyl, or rubber, or fur, or leather, or whatever. But if you know you’re going to be in close proximity to a lot of people just use some antiperspirant or deodorant that day, even if you don’t normally. I know, some folk have medical conditions, and I respect that, and I absolutely have no desire to stop those folk attending or having fun, but there are just some guys who can not be bothered to make the basic effort of wearing deodorant, and there’s no excuse for it.
- I go to the convention to take photographs of costumes. There are people wearing those costumes, and the costumes range in quality. I want to capture people who’ve put in some effort and are enjoying themselves, and I work hard mentally not to judge the people I’m looking at outside of those parameters. Clearly, I’m also human, so I naturally find some people more attractive than others, or more interesting, or whatever. I work hard to ensure I’m not just there taking pictures of attractive women in revealing outfits – that’s not why I or they are there. However, there are clearly some people only taking pictures of people they fancy. I stopped a pair of ladies and asked if I could take a picture, and one of the pair stepped sideways out of the shot. They were both in costume (the lady who stepped sideways was in a less revealing outfit than her friend). I had to drop the camera and ask her to step back in to the frame, at the same time as her friend was encouraging her back in as well. I don’t know if she was just shy and didn’t want to be in the shot, but I got the feeling they’d been stopped by other people who just wanted a picture of the lady in the more revealing outfit and it made me a little bit sad and somewhat angry.
- I felt a bit sad for the two of three rows of signing tables. Pairs of people behind a desk – ageing actor + agent, all the way along, waiting for someone to turn up so they could earn another bit of cash. I know, it must be lucrative, and I’m being hugely hugely disrespectful. Fans love to meet their heroes, their heroes love to meet their fans, and if you’ve got a fan base then you should turn up and everyone’s a winner, but the two times I walked through that area it just felt devoid of soul. Sorry.
Lots of vendors, the usual range of stuff, not really why I go, but it kept my wife occupied for the four hours we were there. Shout out to GenkiGear which is where my wife spent the bulk of her cash. She does love their stuff. There seemed to be about a thousand versions of Monopoly on sale, one for every fandom and universe, including Firefly. There was quite a nice little Steampunk area, although it didn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention, one guy with some amazing art there though (who’s name I didn’t take down – aha, just remembered, I think it was this guy).
- Getting into the venue from the car park was amusing. If you’ve been to the NEC you know they run a shuttle bus service from the car parks. We were on a side of the NEC we’ve not been to before, and we walked from the car park down towards the road (past all the people queueing for car parking tickets, see above). As we got to the road, we could see the bus stop to our left, but everyone was streaming over the road crossing and not far in front of us we could see some buildings. So, sheep-like, we just followed. Sadly, those folk were more optimistic and younger than we were – the buildings we could see weren’t the exhibition halls, and so it was the feared long walk from the car park to the entrance. We got the bus back. Next time, we’ll be much less sheep-like.
- There was a mock fight between a Rey, a Kylo Ren and a Finn. I’m pretty sure if you’ve never seen the film it counted as a spoiler – they didn’t spoil the other thing though.
- I saw the worst Han Solo ‘look-alike’ ever, even if his costume was authentic looking, he looked like an accountant.
Overall it was a good day out – not the cheapest way to spend four hours if you’re not interested in the events or the star signings, but not the most expensive day out either, and great to see so many excellent costumes and folk enjoying themselves.