Another summer, another Comic-Con. Yesterday, I went to MCM London Comic-Con at the Excel Centre and as usual, had a complete blast. But I think it’s easy for us hardcore fans to forget that to anyone who hasn’t been, this could seem like a strange and intimidating new world.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been telling everyone I know that I’m going to Comic-Con and realised that I was being asked the same questions over and over again. So here are the answers and a little taste at the next Comic-Con.
1. What is Comic-Con?
Wow, okay, where to start. Basically, it’s a Comic Convention. But when I say that, people think comic books. Yes, you can get comic books there, but it’s so much more. Comic-Con caters to any fandom you can name from Final Fantasy, Doctor Who, Rick and Morty, Mario, Phoenix Wright, Overwatch, Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, DC… the list is endless.
When trying to explain this all to a real non-geek, she asked ‘so it’s like the ideal home show but for sci-fi’ and that’s probably the best way to put it. There’s merchandise, shows, special guests, you name it, all packed into the whopping great ExCel Centre in London.
2. Do a lot of people go?
HA! Hahahaha! Yeah, a fair amount…
In 2016, MCM London Comic-Con had a record-breaking 133,156 people attending the three-day event, making it Europe’s leading comic con and the third largest in the world. And the San Diego Comic-Con pulls in the same number every year. This is by no means a cult event of a few thousand people.
Probably one of my favourite moments of Comic-Con actually begins BEFORE I even get there. Travelling on the underground, I start my journey seeing no one around me wearing a Doctor Who scarfs or Bioshock t-shirt. Maybe closer to zone 1 or 2, you see a girl with a lighting bolt scar drawn on her forehead and another wearing Hello Kitty ears. They see my Doctor Who scarf and we exchange a knowing smile.
But the time you get to Canning Town, you’re in it now. Eleventh Doctors come out of the woodwork. There are giant Keyblades made of paper mache jabbing you in the back as you struggle with the DLR platform. There’s a Deadpool (there’s ALWAYS a Deadpool, even before the movies started) and several variations of Spiderman. Going from boring reality to this weird communion with people who all speak your language means by the time I’ve reached the Excel Centre, I’ve already well into my Comic-Con spirit.
3. Do you have to dress up?
Not at all, you don’t have to dress up. A lot of people don’t, but then a lot of people do. It’s easy to think that if you dress up, you’ll be the odd man out but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I don’t dress up, I feel really left out! Last year, I went as Osgood from Doctor Who and was blown away by how much fun it was. Half the fun of Comic-Con is ogling everyone’s amazing creations.
Without wanting to generalise, the sci-fi, fantasy and anime genres tend to attract somewhat introverted people. Obviously not exclusively – no genre in the world exclusively attracts one type of people, but I’d say a vast majority of the fans of this world are of a certain sort. Of which, I am one. There’s a reason why we attract a label, in the form of Nerd or Geek in a way that Romance readers don’t. What do you call all the readers who only read autobiographies? When is their convention?
Comic-Con is a chance not to feel like the odd one out. You’re surrounded by people who love the same things you do. A vast community of people who are all in on the joke.
5. When’s the next one?
Depends where you’re based and what you’re interested in! Here’s a selection to choose from for the rest of the year:
BONUS QUESTION: How do I survive Comic Con?
If you’re thinking about going for the first time later this year, here’s my few top tips.
- Bring a big bag! You will want somewhere to store all the goodies you’re going to buy.
- Bring a charger! This is just common sense – you’re going to be taking a lot of photos, especially when a lightsaber fight breaks out, or two Deadpools face off and you don’t want to be caught with low battery.
- Food and snacks! You can buy food at the Excel Centre if you really want to. But it’s expensive, pretty dire quality and the time you spend queuing is wasting precious browsing time!
- Get there early! The Excel Centre gets swamped fast – especially on the weekend. If you get there early and don’t want to stick it out the whole day, I find an early start and out around 4pm avoids the hoards nicely.
- Bring money! The cash points at the Excel Centre are like really crappy arcade games. They take your money and the prize you get is the cash you asked for. Make sure to bring your money with you rather than panic and queue forever there.
- Bring money! I know I just said that but this is important – bring cash money, so when you’ve spent your money you have NO MORE MONEY. It’s really easy to keep tapping that card but you have to resist the temptation to buy everything!
I hope that seasoned Comic-Con goers this has been a laugh to read and for any newbies, that it’s answered any lingering questions or doubts. All I can say is this is probably one of my favourite events of the year and there’s no one I know that I wouldn’t recommend a day in the world of nerdom.