13th Jun2019

Milton Keynes Film & Comic Con – Event Report

by Ian Wells

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I heard about this convention back in January and had been counting the says with excitement since. It felt good to have a convention in my home town again since Collectormania, organised by Showmasters, initially stopped then relaunched in Birmingham. A comic convention a leisurely twenty minute walk from my house, yes please!

Now I wasn’t entirely telling the truth when I said I was counting the days with excitement. I tend to approach all cons with apprehension nowadays and I suppose the apprehension was doubled with this being an all new event. This is just a feeling that is unique to me though and it is not a dig at the hard work and organisation that goes into putting a convention on. One thing I would say worked agaisnt this convention is that they are only present on Facebook. I myself am not on Facebook so I didn’t have any updates prehand and therefore little to no expectation going in. Maybe if the con returns and expands a larger social media presence would be of benefit. Advanced tickets from the ticket website were £5 with only a 92 pence handling fee. Tickets on the door were £8. Very good prices into today’s convention market I feel. After I purchased my ticket online with about a week to go I recevied about three event updates which  I found helpful. I have never experienced this level of communication before. It will be interesting to see if the con does expand if they keep this personal touch. The first email was just the organisers saying how they used to attend and love Collectormania and how they hope this con can grow to that size one day. They mentioned how many vendors they had and roughly how many tickets they had sold. The second email was a floor plan and went onto explain how as it was the first time they weren’t sure how big the queue to enter would be at opening time and how long people buying tickets on the door had to wait. The final email was just a reminder of the previous two really, but still it was a nice touch when I imagine they would have been extremely busy.

On the day I timed my walk to perfection getting to the venue at two minutes to the opening time of eleven AM. There were already two decent side queues either side of the entrance. One for advanced tickets and one for on the door tickets. The advanced queue most of waited less than five minutes after the hour to enter and then the other queue immediately started moving too. Beforehand I was little skeptical of the venue. It was held in the local theatre in Central Milton Keynes, those who have attended musicals or comedy shows there will know the venue. I have never been there and even with the floor plan I received three days earlier I wasn’t sure what to expect. The easiest way to describe it is that the main space was the ground floor foyer. Then there were three more foyers I guess on each level where you would go up depending on where you were sitting for a show. Can you tell I’m not a theatre goer? In these spaces there must have been about twenty different vendors. When I say vendors I’m counting people selling things, demonstrations, artists and the rest just to keep terminology down. The space was sufficient enough for the inaugural con.  I couldn’t believe both queues outside were actually all in there at once. Foot traffic and bottle necking was never an issue. The only time it did cause a problem was when they had the cosplay contest. They had participants line up on the stairs and come down one at a time to the stage. This cut of access to the entrance/exit from one side. I should say all three upper floors were accessible by a lift. Also working in favour of the venue were immaculate toilets and the ground floor bar was open. Though I don’t know how much drinks were. But beer was available! Next time gotta get those Untappd badges everywhere I can after all. Being in the prime location it was in mean there were plenty of amenities near by. The theatre itself is in the ‘theatre district’ where there are plenty of places to eat. The Xscape venue is a five minute walk in one direction, again with plenty of places to eat and a cinema. Five minutes in the other direction is the Milton Keynes shopping mall if you wanted to make a day of it. The con itself ran from 11 till 4. I think with the amount of vendors you would have been hard pushed to stay the duration so making a day of it at one of these other venues would be a realistic option.

The twenty vendors were a diverse mixture going across a wide range of pop culture with a wide range of merchandise. There were a few minor guest appearances. Actors from Star Wars, it’s always background extras from Star Wars. There were maybe two or three independent artists selling prints and doing sketches. I myself got a Wolverine head sketch by Nomi Rana for £10. The local Oxfam branch also had a stall there and actually had a few hidden treasures. I was able to get a two disk version of Akira for just £1.99! There was a dealer who specialized in high end signed Star Wars merchandise, including Boba Fett’s blaster signed by Jeremy Bulloch if you had £600 to spare. Lego minifigs and Funko pops always have a strong presence at cons and this was no exception to that modern phenomenon. On the second level was a make up artist, her instagram is artisticflarestagemakeup. She had painted herself as Gamora complete with outfit and it was such a great job I actually had to do a double take and see if it was Zoe Saldana! There were only two stalls selling comics which on a personal level wasn’t good. If a con has ‘comic’ in the title I expect more, but as this was the first I went in expecting newer issues and maybe trades. This would have been a great con to a newcomer to comics. It was a little disappointing that Milton Keynes only comic shop had only decided to bring board games to the con. Heroes Unlimited was in attendance and they had a lot of newer back issues of the big two. So if you were coming to comics you would have been able to find something. Everything was rather well priced as well. This led to me going fown the variant covers route. I got two Mike Cho variants for £4 each! One of last years lenticular covers for Weapon X for £1! Some Marvel True Believers issues marking Jack Kirby’s one hundredth birthday for 99p. Apart from my print the most expensive item I brought was the Ed Piskor variant for All New X-Men #1 at just £3.75.

All in all the first Milton Keynes Film and Comic Con was a success. Small but mighty is the best way to describe yesterdays event. I have seen nothing but positive feedback on social media so hopefully all this is taken on board for next year. A good venue in a prime location added to the day. The variety in vendors definitely helped as there was only a few of them, it prolonged looking around time. I attended on my own and could have been done quicker if I was waiting for my sketch. If you were attending in  group I think you could have stayed for the duration. There was a board game room and a VR experience which would be more fun with other people. As yesterday was a good weather-wise plenty of people were taking down time outside and getting photo opportunities with the cosplayers.

On a personal level next year I would be hoping for my older comics. But as it is twenty minutes from my house, I know the area and is only £5 entry there is a high chance I will attend anyway. Here is to hoping it can expand and become bigger and better. Congratulations to all involved on putting on last weekend’s event.

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