This May will mark my 5 year anniversary and 10th time attending the London MCM Expo, and as much as I always say ‘I want to attend more conventions!’ it never seems to happen. Cost is the main thing, with travel and hotels and often outrageous entry fees. There was also uni and exams or just plain forgetting.
Even after finding out about it, I couldn’t attend the Bristol Comic Expo for years since it always coincided with when I was bogged down with coursework deadlines. And last year I just plumb forgot.
But this year, I finally got to go! For someone who’s only ever attended one big giant super con, I wasn’t sure what to expect at a small local con.
The morning didn’t start well. In fact, it didn’t start at all. Both me and my tagalong boyfriend had been up late on the internet as usual, so we both slept in. It was only close to half eleven when I finally dragged him out of bed and over an hour later until we were in Bristol.
Thankfully the con was right smack dab next to the train station, which is about a hundred times more convenient than trudging all the way to the Excel centre in the Docklands. Walking in and buying our tickets wasn’t the massive ordeal I’m used to in London. It was just a few small groups of people talking and some posters displaying what was on.
After managing to attach the wristband with only one hand, we walked in to the familiar sight of crowded booths loaded with STUFF. As per usual, it only took a few seconds for my boyfriend to disappear into the crowd.
Not much for me to do but look around. As someone who is still very, very new to the comic book fandom, it was an altogether new atmosphere. Not because it was small, but because it was full of comic nerds rifling through stacks of bargain comics, instead of crazy fan girls squeeing their heads off at every little thing. I felt a little out of place compared to how I usually feel in London, as I wasn’t fully a part of this community yet. But I rifled through the bins anyway, hunting for a few comics I had heard of from various places. It wasn’t long before I had bought my first comic ever – The Muppet Show volume 2 for £1.50. Ok, so it’s not about superheroes in spandex but it’s a comic I liked so I was happy.
Afterwards, I turned around to look at some more booths and almost right behind me, I saw the artist of the comic I had just bought! Yes, Roger Langridge was right there! I was wandering if I should talk to him or ask him for a sketch. But I’d only seen his art online and I hadn’t even read the comic I’d just bought. Was this really a time to go all fangirly?
This has happened so many times, I become a big fan or follower of someone’s work right after they appear at something I was attending. And then I’m kicking myself forever. I did watch him sketch for another girl though, and I said to him ‘I just want to say I love your art style.’ He said ‘Thank you’ and looked well chuffed. At least I hope so.
I wandered around some more, looking at some booths and wandering which comics to buy. I knew I should’ve been talking to people more and networking, but I was still a little thrown in the deep end. Plus I hadn’t planned on spending a tonne of money so I was paranoid about people using high pressure sales tactics on me.
From looking around, I did like what I saw. Some friendly indie comic makers, steampunk aficionados and to my surprise, lots of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic artwork! I decided to splurge (well, not so much splurge as they were only £3) on some cutie mark badges to adorn my backpack.
One thing I was looking forward to was the Maid Café advertised on the flyer. I imagined it was like the ones in Japan that you often see in manga – cute girls in maid uniforms serving you tea all elegant like. Well, it wasn’t quite like that. It was more like a tuck shop with a bunch of girls who just happened to own maid costumes volunteering dragged in to volunteer. They didn’t seem to have much experience making drinks, and the girl serving me accidentally tipped way too much sugar into my tea. In a way, that was the moeness I had come to expect! But their costumes were all really cute and I was happy to see them wearing shorts underneath! Now at least I can say I’ve been served tea by a cute maid.
But then was the bad part of our trip – The Masquerade. Me and my boyfriend had both circulated the stalls at that point but I wanted to see the cosplay masquerade, as it’s often my favourite part of London Expo. We headed across the road to a hotel where the panels and signings were taking place. When we asked the lady at the counter where it was, she just said ‘I’ve seen a bunch of cosplayers go over there.’ All we found was the waiting room for the people competing in the masquerade. There were a fair bunch of other people with cameras obviously looking for the same place as us but all just as lost. Eventually the cosplayers were all lined up and marched back across the road to the convention hall. Admittedly it was very cool seeing how people on the street reacted to a whole band of people with in spandex and overcoats carrying staffs and crossbows. Me and my add-on headed over to the seating area where we thought the masquerade was going to take place, only to see them all marching right past again. The last we saw of them they were all lining up to go back to the hotel again so we said ‘sod it’ and went to Pizza hut instead.
For a convention that’s supposedly been going on for a long time, that was really poorly organised. Maybe it is just because we were first timers, but surely they still should have made it clear for us too. Say what you want about London Expo, they are bloody well organised.
All in all, I wouldn’t say it was a grand day out (Wallace and Gromit reference. Bristol. Geddit?) and I wish I’d asked Roger Langridge for a sketch of my favourite muppet, but it was a good introduction to the comic fandom and the wider convention circuit. Maybe this time next year I’ll have more money to spend on comics and the guts to actually talk to strangers.
So I think I’ll be going back next year. I want to see what Bristol thinks of my sailor fuku…