Every year, we spent 363 days forgetting the vastness that is MCM Expo. And then two days realizing it anew. MCM Expo is big. Very, very big. Elbow room was already at a premium by 11 am on Saturday morning - an hour before it officially even opened. And who could blame the fifty thousand or so impassioned geeks that crowded every square inch of real estate - the Expo promises something for everyone.
In fact, experience has shown that the key to maneuvering the Expo is to hit your comfort zone early (and not often). Go early and make a beeline for the stuff you really care about - be it the Steampunk corner, the Comics Village, the games demos, the sneak previews, etc. etc. etc. As the day wears on and the convention gets more crowded, it becomes harder to have a more in-depth experience with anything. So get your autographs and your sampling done before the sun's over the yardarm, then spend the afternoon doing some shameless gawking.
And there's a lot of gawking to be done. We followed this strategy by making a beeline for the Comics Village upon arrival, and I'm glad we did. The ever-popular Gary Erskine was multi-tasking - greeting, inking and drumming up more commissions in front of our very eyes. Rob Davis, fresh off of celebrating the completion of Don Quixote, had an array of his Doctor Who goodies (the poster pile decreased substantially even over the course of our ten minute chat). Between Don Quixote and Nelson, Mr. Davis may be involved in two of the year's most anticipated comics. We looted SelfMadeHero (Kiki!), stocked up on the joyous work of Jess Bradley (Cthulhu!), caught up on Cinebook (Crusade!) and Anne bought a stuffed squid that looks a bit like an upside-down giraffe. Pfew.
Outside of our pen n' ink comfort zone, we did manage to spend a few minutes in the company of the screenwriters for X-Men: First Class. The two gentlemen were very chatty - we learned that planning mutant battles is a bit like picking a D&D party ("You need a fighter in the front, someone in the air and someone that shoots energy...") and that, like Fight Club, nobody ever, ever talks about X-3.
On the shameless fandom front, we queued for Frank Quitely, Becky Cloonan and later, for the Internet Jesus himself, Warren Ellis. As always, MCM is by far the best opportunity to get signatures from some of the biggest names in comics. Unlike more focused events like BICS, there are no massive queues - we spent about forty minutes lining up in total for these three A-listers. (All of which were spent re-reading the Gravel trades).
The other hotspot for MCM - and I think I recommend this every year - is the Fox. This 21's-and-up pub lurks right outside the main gates and is therefore largely free from the swarming chaos of 48,000 teenage cosplayers. I'm almost positive that the pub sneaks its prices up every year, but, that said, there are plenty of tables for cold beer, good company and a lot of not-so-subtle stargazing. At long last, we got a chance to interview the un-sinister Doctor Geof, creator of Fetishman (outcome to be shared later) and to bond with the amazing Deadly Knitshade, the creator of Plarchie.
The thing is about MCM is that it is a completely democratic mess, with Magic: The Gathering players rubbing shoulders with underclothed, underaged squirrel people. Comic book fans shuffle along next to steampunkers who leer at the movie nuts who elbow the gamers who are eavesdropping on the television geeks. It is the world's largest food court of fandom, serving copious portions of tasty, MSG-laced, tray-filling goo.
MCM is a great place to stuff yourself with what you already love, but it also makes for an excellent opportunity to try something new. If you want to try a new game or preview a new show or chat with a comics professional, it is hard to find an enviroment that is more likely to have them all under one roof. The convention isn't perfect - it is a hurricane of noise and color - but it is a lot of fun. Just pack your Nurofen, go early and keep an open mind.
A (brief) photo gallery of our MCM adventures is up on our Facebook page. If you're curious to see what happens when Paul Mau'dib meets a fuzzy squid, this is your chance. All images are copyright their creators - Fetishman, Rob Davis, Deadly Knitshade.