This is the nth (4th? 5th?) time that we've been to the MCM Expo and I think a few of the patterns are becoming pretty well-established.
1) Be under 18. Were I still young and unselfconscious and a massive nerd (well, I've clung to one of three...), MCM would be nirvana. Pocky-noshing, squirrel-eared teens are everywhere - draping themselves on every possible surface, moving around the room in tightly-packed, chittering flocks, trailing hormones behind them.
The convention was simply packed to the gills with happy adolescents, all of whom were meeting their chatfacebookspace friends for the underage party to end all underage parties. Frankly, it looked like a lot of fun.
2) If you're not under 18, be over 21. That way, you can drink at the Fox. This pub (South entrance, by the taxi rank) is a little oasis of calm and the hiding place of many of the comic creators.
3) If you value your sanity, get advance tickets. There's a (completely inexplicable) thirty minute queue to enter MCM even if you have advance tickets. If you don't have advance tickets, your time in line will be more than doubled. I say "inexplicable" as the queue leads people to wind back and forth in a massive hall, only to then spit them back out exactly where they started in the ExCel Centre's food court. Fun.
If those are the universal truths, what's changed over the years?
1) Steampunk was big this year. Certainly not as big as the anime/manga crowd, but, amongst the older attendees, there was a definite sprinkling of the steampunk crowd. They've been doing some interesting speculation about Steampunk over at Abaddon lately. Personally, I was ready to give it up as having jumped the shark, but seeing its popularity at MCM will convince me to keep my mind open. There's clearly still a lot of growth happening in this trend.
2) The "Comics Village" (lord, I hate that name) is now a small Town. Although still less packed than the rest of the convention, the comics area was definitely harder to maneuver this year. This is also relative to other conventions. Imagine Ben Templesmith at BICS. Now imagine the three hour line to see him. This is why MCM is brilliant. Templesmith, Richard Starkings, Andy Diggle, Jock, Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen are essentially "free" all day. There were no queues to see any of them - granting generous access to some of the best in the field. Sketches, signings, chat, gossip are all there. Warren Ellis had a queue (although shorter than last year's, apparently), but then wandered around unmolested after the signing - and was being very generous with his time in the pub.
3) Indies! MCM has always been a good place to meet independent creators, although this year's crowds did make that a lot harder. Some of our favorite indies - Fetishman, for one - have really grown over the years. Others, I'm sad to say, weren't in attendance (dark rumors about MCM price increases were floating about).
And a few short notes on this year's experience:
1) Exceptional shopping, made better by the generosity of the creators with their time. Templesmith's Squidgirls is a deranged masterpiece, combining surreal vision with...er... naked girls & squid. Starkings was doodling in every copy of Elephantmen sold. Keen to take advantage of the artist access, I wound up with more sketches than usual: Jock drew me Jesus, McKelvie Elvis and Andy Diggle proved that writers can be artistic with a fantastic Daredevil that would make Frank Miller jealous.
2) Celine Choo is officially a Talent to Watch and was easily the best new discovery of the convention. We stocked up on her artwork, and couldn't be more delighted. Her hauntingly beautiful illustrations remind me of Charles Vess or P. Craig Russell. Very easy to imagine her work paired with a writer like Neil Gaiman. A publisher or writer should pounce quickly.
(Artwork at the top of the page is the property of Celine Choo, of course!)
3) I bought a drink for Warren Ellis and chatted with him at the bar. It was pretty awesome.