MCM Scotland 2016 was something of an eye opener for this reviewer. And I don’t say that because of the parade of movie version Harley Quinn cosplayers either.

Once upon a time this con was called Collectormania, and a modest, unexciting thing it was. It was held in a smallish hall in Glasgow’s Braehead Shopping Centre and even at a fiver admission felt a bit of a rip-off. So a few years back I stopped going, contenting myself with bigger cons in London and the real “comic cons” in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

This year the hosts had the good taste to invite comic legend Bob Layton, Mr Iron Man – or, for a few days, Mr Irn Bru Man. Layton needs no introduction, or at least he shouldn’t, with his characters in comics and on the silver screen, and so I rolled up, eager to get another sketch from him.

That’s how MCM Scotland was able to sneak up behind me.

The little con was now big enough to fill two cavernous halls of the SECC. It is now on a scale comparable to one of the biggest London cons, which really surprised me. Saturday was sold out, and Sunday a near-sellout, and it was certainly busy inside the halls, although generally not so much that you couldn’t move around easily.

There was an amazing array of products: art prints, autographs, replica film scripts, props, comics, clothing, toys and pretty much anything that could amuse a geek of any stripe. Fans of manga, anime and all things Nihonjin were particularly well catered for. There was also a comic village with rows of small press wares. I especially enjoyed Lundy/Sepulveda/Ibenk’s Wired, Robertson/Fisher/Giles’ Old World Order and Lennox & Devlin’s Vietnam Zombie Holocaust. Add into the mix areas for card playing and gaming, and plenty of food stalls, and your day was sorted. In fact, such was the depth of choice I was often disoriented and couldn’t figure out which where I was.

The guest list, I have to confess, was mostly a list of strangers to me. However, that statement, while true for me, was not true for many, as long queues were permanently attached to the tables of the likes of the YouTube celebrities from The Hillywood Show. The population of that queue was very young and clearly there’s a dedicated audience the organisers know more about than I.

I did see a few familiar faces at the signing tables. Chris Barrie and Hattie Hayridge – Rimmer and Holly, respectively, from long-running cult hit comedy Red Dwarf – were in attendance, neatly dovetailing with the launch of series 11. The well-attended panel with both cast members on Saturday was enormous fun. Barrie is sharp and droll, and Hayridge is adorably batty.

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Bob with young fan, Ben.

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Birthday celebrations with Bob!

The only fly in the ointment was not the fault of MCM: British Airways managed to misplace Bob Layton’s portfolio. All his original art, his prints, even his paper and pens, was lost. It was suspected it was going round in circles on a carousel at Gatwick, although that theory has not been confirmed. With The Search for Layton’s Luggage being acted out in London, no one was able to ask him to draw Iron Man, either with or without a bottle of Jack Daniels. Bob, to give him his due, was philosophical about the whole affair and his annoyance level was much lower than it could or should have been. It was only after he tweeted that the FAA and Homeland Security should look into BA’s post-911 airline security that the airline unearthed the location of said items! Even then, alas, it did not appear before the close of play on Sunday.

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The venerable Bob Layton

All in, MCM 2016 was a pleasant shock to the system. Suggestions for the future? More high profile comicbook guests of the calibre of Layton. Preferably with artist’s tools.

And lastly, bring the wonderful Hattie Hayridge up here regularly. Every second week will do. I’m not unreasonable.

Robert Menzies