17th February was the MCMEXPO MIDLANDS COMIC CON in Telford and when I set off I was a little apprehensive as not only had I never attended Midlands Comic Con, but I had no idea where Telford was. At first I thought HorrorTalk was asking me to go to Tulsa, but when I realized I wasn’t going to Oklahoma I chilled out a bit and enjoyed the ride.
For those who have never attended a comic convention and have no idea which building you’re aiming for, it is always advisable to aim for the one with the Star Wars Stormtroopers outside. If that fails just follow the oddly dressed people in extremely ‘daring (in any interpretation of the word)’ outfits and in Telford MCM there was an abundance of these.
I can honestly say that I have never seen a more impressive collection of Cosplayers, Lolitas and Animegao in one place (a Lolita in a taxi was kind enough to inform me of the differences and the cultural faux pas of calling someone the wrong category). This was hugely down to the attendance of the legendary Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the mind-blowingly popular Final Fantasy games (amongst others), there to promote the launch of his new Nintendo Wii game – The Last Story. I am happy to say I was one of the first players of the brand new game, so was happy to walk away with a fantastic poster for competing in the multi player melee mode. However I was also one of the first losers of a game that most people hadn’t even seen yet so I had a few weeks to wait before I could expect to redeem myself.
The Last Story is a third person, over the shoulder game that uses stealth and tactics in real time to take down an opponent over a beautifully designed location. I knew my greatest weapon at that time was everyone’s inexperience so figured a gung-ho charging tactic before anybody could work out the buttons was the way to go. In hindsight with this being a STEALTH game this meant I just threw points at the other players who happily accepted this blonde sword wielding idiot charging through the centre of the arena at them just to get killed, re-spawned and repeat.
When the time was up we were shown our scores from each kill and our overall ranking, but regardless of the sense of defeat I felt, Nintendo had done its job and convinced me I had to own this game… Even if it IS only on the Wii.
After my demoralizing defeat it was time to bag me a bargain. Nothing lightens my spirits quite like the lightening of my wallet over funky keepsakes. I have to admit to being disappointed though over the minimal choices for someone who DOESN’T want to buy anime or manga products. Considering this was a COMIC con I was a little frustrated to find only 1 stall that stocked a worthy collection of comics and graphic novels. As for non-anime merchandise? There was a limited amount of options in comparison to the hundreds of suppliers of Asian imports. I did however find someone stocking my ‘diamond in the rough’: A Ghostbusters, slimed Peter Venkman figure released by Matty Collector.
The figure is just one in a huge range of collectors pieces that include the Ghostbusters, Vinz Clortho possessed Tully, Vigo and Walter Peck with containment unit as well as a huge 20” Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with city diorama. The figures aren’t cheap though. Being shipped from America by the time it gets to British shores you can expect to pay £30.00 for a single figure (or £110 for Puft) but the figures are so well sculpted and so collectable that hardcore hoarders will easily see the value in owning a piece of the collection. Most of their figures have already SOLD OUT so if you are considering owning one there’s not much time to think twice.
For a more cost effective treat I got to meet Neil Gibson who was promoting his Twisted Dark trade paperback (previously reviewed by Horror Talk) and new comic series Tortured Life. A £20 bargain of all his publications signed by himself and the artist Casper Wijngard was something I couldn’t refuse and made the journey home later that day a lot more interesting.
One of the big pulls of these conventions is the celebrities that attend. As well as Hironobu Sakaguchi, there was Tom Hopper and Adetomiwa Edun from BBC’s Merlin (Sir Percival and Sir Elyan respectively) who attracted a great crowd for their Questions and Answer sessions but the celebrity highlight came with the attendance of Warwick Davis from Star Wars, Willow, Harry Potter and the hit comedy series Life’s Too Short. It has to be said that Warwick is an incredible entertainer with the microphone and was really fun to hear his stories behind the scenes of the series and his opinion on Star Wars being released in 3D. During his talk I raised the topic of the cult Leprechaun franchise that will be 20 years old next year and wondered if there was anything planned for its milestone anniversary. He was happy to divulge that there is something in the pipeline for an anniversary edition and that he would be on board for another movie (it has recently been rumored that he may be doing a remake of the original, whether this is true and if Jennifer Aniston is going to be involved is yet to be seen).
To mark the occasion I purchased a Limited edition Warwick Davis mug for a close friend and got a photo of horror’s favorite Irish fairy tale, signed by the actor.
My last stop was Artists Alley where a majority of the artists were, once again, anime and manga specialists but I was thrilled to see the incredibly talented artist and writer Naniiebim and took the opportunity to buy all her books from the Here Be Demons comic series and anything else I could get her signature on.
I also took the opportunity to talk to a few artists regarding the controversy over Marvel’s lawsuit against one of Ghostrider’s original creators Gary Friedrich. The result of the court ruling potentially meant that Artists Alley was a hotspot for Disney Detectives looking out for people drawing characters they shouldn’t be, something that has long been an innocent tradition in conventions all over the world. As it happens nobody either knew or cared about the ruling, which lands on the fence of either being confidently reassuring or blissfully ignorant.
|Something I will have to keep my eye open for is independent British comic Mister Who from Dual Amp. Mister Who is a vigilante crime-fighter on the streets of London. What makes this concept special is its connection to multi-media music and visuals. The comic comes with a CD containing a soundtrack to read your comic to, there’s a music video that has an animated adventure and to follow up the website has a competition offering a chance to be illustrated into their next video. The innovation behind this kind of infinitely adaptable comic series can potentially change the face of independent comics.
My last stop was with the phenomenally talented artist Matt Dixon. This was my fourth time visiting him at a convention and each time he reveals more of his addictive artwork. Being a regular to these events even HE couldn’t believe the popularity of that year’s MCM. Recently Matt released a collection of art cards called Dixon’s Vixens through non sports card specialists Cult-stuff and though I had purchased a set in November (at Birmingham NEC) I had to pick up a couple more as selfless gifts for friends AND to steal a few of the chaser cards out of them for myself (shhhh tell nobody).
The MCM Telford show was a huge success through sheer numbers, but I question whether the stalls made as much money with most of the attendees being younger than 17. This was also the first time that I had left an Expo BEFORE the announcement that ‘everything is closing in 5 minutes’ came on. I felt that I had experienced all that the event had to offer way before I should have. This could have been down to any number of reasons; The small number of guests, the specific anime market or the fact I spent up faster than if money was going out of fashion. I think MCM Midlands needs to re-think their approach next year. Either dive in with both feet and make it an Anime-expo, with popular voice actors and studios attending, or consider the larger spectrum of fans who like live-action horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres. Regardless, it was a great day out and I look forward to comparing it to next year. I’d better save up first and work out what costume I can wear.
Fun Fact: I swear… I saw a kid in a full-body Pikachu outfit flicking through a box of cartoon porn
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