One of the oldest events in my own calendar returned to its annual home at the NEC today, the original Memorabilia show. For the second year in a row, they also tagged on what they called the ‘MCM Birmingham Comic Con’, broadly advertising that entrance was free to the comic con in line with entrance to the Memorabilia fair; a ‘two-for-one’ event if you will.
On arrival, the queue to get in for those who hadn’t pre-paid was horrific and circled the neighbouring hall. More than one person turned back when they saw the queue, particularly those with kids. It did, in fairness, go down quite quick though and was managed well by the NEC staff ably supported by teams of stormtroopers, biker scouts, Jedi Knights and, bizarrely, the Stig.
The event itself was vibrant, overly busy and sported the usual plethora of different aspects of popular culture. The ever present Manga and Japanese stands were once again in abundance along with movie props, action figures, t-shirts and both new and vintage toy stands. There were gaming stands, movie stands and photograph opportunities with a plethora of stars and movie props all littered across the two halls. It was, and always will be, a great event for the curious, the lovers of TV and film and those who like dressing up as their favourite characters from all corners of popular culture.
What there wasn’t though was any evidence of a ‘Comic Con’. There were the usual small press stalwarts including Time Bomb, Dr Geof and Josh Clarke alongside Lee Townsend, Liam Shalloo and a good friend of Comic Conventions in Lee Bradley feverishly sketching away, but the size of the ‘Comic Con’ section wouldn’t have filled a single aisle at a real comic con like LSCC or Thought Bubble. The small press guys looked busy and I really hope for them that they get something out of the weekend, but for this event to justify calling itself a comic con, it really needs to attract some current or established artists and creators. The Exeter Comic Expo and Melksham Comic Con attract ten times the calibre of this event yet are probably one hundredth of the size. Wales Comic Con, although a similar event in terms of popular culture and autograph hunting, manage to attract a better list to the comic side of their venture. London Comic Convention imported Kevin Eastman last year and this year LFACC have the legendary Alan Davis already on board. If all the other events can attract such genuine ‘comic’ names as they have, why then does the (probably?) largest name in UK conventions fail to get anyone of interest on board to attend their ‘Comic Con’ in the second city? Even stalls selling comics were in the minority, dwarfed by those selling onesies and cutesy Japanese trinkets.
All the above sounds like a gripe, and in truth it probably is but there isn’t any evidence that they are paying any attention to the comic side of things. The fact of the matter is that the MCM events are great if:
- You like dressing up
- You really like movies and TV
- You like to meet the sports stars
- You like the Avengers/Thor/Iron Man/Dark Knight movies
- You’re not bothered about buying or reading comics or getting sketches or meeting writers from some of the bigger names in the comic industry
Will we see you next year? Probably not unless they invest in the ‘Comic Con’ side of the business. The now defunct BICS (Birmingham International Comics Show) was the last real comic convention that descended on the second city, which when you consider the convenient location smack bang in the middle of England is nothing short of a travesty. We can only hope someone realises the potential and brings back an event like BICS so we can have a true ‘Birmingham Comic Con’ again. Until then, it’s either the train or the car…