04th Dec2018

MCM Comic Con Birmingham: Nov 2018 – Convention Report

by Phil Wheat

It’s been quite some time since team Nerdly attended MCM Comic Con Birmingham, in fact its been 4 years – thanks to the terrible winter weather which put the kibosh on attending the Birmingham event back in March – since we were a part of the last NEC event. And in the intervening years a LOT has changed… For the better. The biggest change is the fact this event was back to being family-friendly again – with organisers ReedPOP putting a stop to “glamour area” which had become something of both a joke and an unwanted aspect, of MCM Birmingham in the early 2010′s.

The other big change, for us, was the layout. MCM Birmingham was, back in the day, split into two distinct areas, MCM and Memorabilia – which meant that guests and attendees were often divided across two halls of the NEC. Which was fine in terms of foot traffic (more floorspace = more freedom to move), but it sometimes meant that you didn’t get to see ALL of what the Comic Con had to offer.

This year – our first since 2014 – all of MCM Comic Con Birmingham took place in Hall 20 (with the “Memorabilia” portion of the event situated near the signing area at the very end of the hall). Hall 20 was a huge expansive area that was absolutely PACKED with guests, vendors, artists and, more importantly, attendees. In fact I think Hall 20 might not have been big enough for the sheer number of people in attendance this year – by the time mid-afternoon rolled around there was little room to walk the floor, the great British tradition of “excuse me, sorry, excuse me” becoming VERY prevelant between attendees!

The biggest draw, based on the amount of people in attendance, was the HUGE Splatoon tournament stage. Now I’m a huge Nintendo fan, and have been since the Xmas I got my first NES (with the Palcom TMNT game), but I’ve never got into Splatoon – however that didn’t matter in this case. The atmosphere and energy of the tournament – the hosts, the audience, and in particular those manning the area (shout out to all those hardworking crew members who made everyone, even those non-gaming mums and dads who were dragged to the Splatoon tournament stand by their kids, feel welcome and included) – was infectious and, tbh, you couldn’t really escape that MASSIVE screen!

The Splatoon stand wasn’t Nintendo’s only prescence, they also had a stand filled with Nintendo Switch’s loaded with a wide variety of Nintendo titles – including the new Pokemon game(s); of which we had a play.

The rest of MCM Birmingham, for Team Nerdly, was taken up with press conferences/interviews (posts on those will come soon) and getting some all-important autographs… Yes, we might attend some cons as press but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying them as fans and grabbing merch, autographs and the occasional photo! This time round we, well I say we but I mean I, scored three autographs from three different former Power Rangers: Jason Faunt, Red Time Force Ranger; Adam Tuominen, Ninja Storm Crimson Thunder Ranger; and Jorgito Vargas, Ninja Storm Navy Thunder Ranger. Why? Well that’s for another time and another blog post. For now, let’s just say I’m now on something of a Power Ranger quest.

The one thing I did notice about the myriad of merchandise stalls at MCM this November (especially the independent retailers) was the amount of sellers literally selling the same stuff. And not because they got them from the likes of Diamond or Funko… Nope because they’d all raided their local B&M and Home Bargains stores; and worst of all a LOT of vendors were all selling them with ridiculous mark-ups. As in 200% mark-ups in some cases! But that wasn’t the only issue with vendors. Whether it’s inflation, vendors trying to cover the cost of a table… but prices were really high for a lot of the merchandise I was interested in. Really high. For example, I remember hitting DVD and Blu-ray vendors at MCM Birmingham’s of the past and scoring some huge bargains. But not this year. In fact prices were HIGHER than import prices in some cases… And by import prices I mean getting discs off Amazon US and paying full retail AND the import fees and taxes up front. That was certainly not the case in years past.

The real issue, our main bugbear of November’s MCM, however wasn’t even down to the event organisers – it was down to the NEC itself. Four events on one weekend is not conducive to excellent transport links and that was very evident at Birmingham International, which fell apart under the sheer number of people AND slightly-delayed trains… But again, that was not an MCM issue just a location issue. Though perhaps better scheduling might help in future?

Overall our latest MCM Birmingham Comic Con experience was a good one. A very good one. If somewhat tiring. The HUGE hall and the vast amount of things to see and do really make this hard work for a one-day visit (we attended on the Saturday) and I’d really recommend you take your time and make this one a weekend affair. If the line-up is as stellar as this one we’ll be back next time – which is March 23rd & 24th 2019.

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