The weekend of 28th/29th of September 2019 saw MCM Comic Con Scotland come round once again to the SEC in Glasgow, and I thought that being 9 was a good age to drag one of my kids along and be immersed in comics, cosplay, toys, and the breadth of geek culture. It was a broadly positive experience for us both, and it was really interesting hearing the different perspectives that guests, creators and exhibitors had on the show as a whole.
Practicalities, as a parent, were always at the forefront of my mind. The location at the SEC is a definite winner, and the additional accommodation that’s sprung up around Pacific Quay and Media City meant that there were folk from all over Scotland tramping across the river, as well as arriving from locally (pro-tip from a local (me): park at the Science Centre if you’re driving).
On the subject of practicalities, I was surprised – in this age of easy, phoned-based e-payments – how few traders, relatively, didn’t take cards. Now I had taken plenty of cash – apart from anything, foodstuffs were, as one attendee said to me, stupidly overpriced – and you might think I’m being ridiculous, but there were some very small traders and comic artists who were taking cards while larger stands (especially some of the toy vendors) were not.
The layout was slightly different this year – no more zone carpets! – and honestly, I’m still undecided. Speaking to the comic artists, many of them liked the Comic Village Zone (this is starting to sound like the Crystal Maze). Dave Cook, author of the mighty Killtopia (we’re big fans), said that he felt it gave them more exposure, which local hero Neil Slorance agreed with, though I couldn’t help be surprised by the fact that the legendary John Wagner (co-creator of a certain Judge Dredd) was rather unceremoniously here rather than amongst the signing guests. Then again, that’s my misconception, I suppose – I still think of it as a COMIC con, not a Pop Culture Con.
On the subject of the signings, I was equally surprised that it wasn’t terribly busy to meet the stars – no queue to see Q. This did mean I was able to grab a (very brief) word with John de Lancie, who said that it was actually quite nice to just have a steady, calm stream of fans rather than the horde you sometimes get at cons, especially fandom-specific ones (and having worked amongst other a couple of Trek cons in my misspent youth, I can attest to the rabidity of some fans). But I did feel that generally the range of stars was a bit lacklustre – Simon Pegg is doing MCM London, after all – and this was echoed by a number of attendees of all ages who I collared for some wee vox pops. I wondered if this was just me, but as one attendee Jodie (dressed as a very impressive Animated Black Canary) put it, “Too much anime, not enough DC”.
This was a sentiment I heard a number of times also from retailers and publishers, interestingly. Not necessarily negatively, but more out of surprise at the sheer volume of Japanimation related products on offer. Whilst I’m all for a broad church of geek, I wonder if the balance is a bit off, and some retailers seem to have been squeezed out. Certainly, there were fewer toy-type stalls there this year, and some retailers said they strongly disliked the premium pre-registration.
Equally, most retailers felt that the space and layout was generally better, and certainly there was room to breathe this year. However, as a parent with a geeky child, there wasn’t a huge amount to engage them (big props to the excellent Cult Empire Comics though, with their reliably awesome selection of minifigs). Notable exceptions also include local talent Settlers (Hamilton), Comic Crazy Café (Paisley) and The Last Outpost (Airdrie), who had a great range of stock on offer, as did Southrons Magic Madhouse, and manager Mike commented on how chilled out and friendly everyone was (unlike other events!)
I was lucky enough also to have a decent chat with, Gary Chudleigh (Plagued), John Ferguson (Saltire) and John Wagner (Judge Dredd) about a topic very close to my heart: comics and literacy, especially in teenage boys, and especially in our area. Now whilst we all agreed very much on the importance of using comics to make reading accessible, it was interesting – maybe not really surprising, I suppose – that what they all picked up on is the need for closed narratives. Aside from the trademark native wit, all 3 mentioned that readers need the sense of a complete story – there’s still a desire for something as fundamental as beginning, middle, end. On one level this flies in the face of extended story arcs and sprawling movie continuities, but then again how many of us were kind of glad that Endgame drew a line under things?
Back to the show itself. There were some really excellent touches. There was a fantastic showing from the UK Garrison of the 501st, the Star Wars reenactors, Asmodee had a great open board gaming area (Dobble!) and the light-up climbing wall was a perfect free activity for kids 5-12 to do. There was face painting also, but not really anything to occupy little ones.
But enough of my impressions. What did the real talent think of it? Let’s start with the heart of the Glasgow comic scene, BHP Comics’ Sha Nazir, and some views from writers and artists of the local scene:
Sha Nazir: “I thought from BHP’s perspective, it was a marketing success. We handed out of 1000 promo comics and books, we sold our highest number of books than any other event. The Saturday was busy but did suddenly die at 4.30pm. Sunday was turning slow to start, we didn’t sell oue first book until 1pm! I think overall, it’s improving, last year seemed better, and there’s certainly a high concentration of Anime than comics.”
Neil Slorance (Dungeon Fun, Dr Who Magazine, The National): “I’ve done MCM Scotland every year since it started here and by far this year was the best. There seems to be a much bigger focus on comics. The comics village is bigger, there seems to be a lot more comics guests as well as panels and workshops from comic artists (like myself).”
John Wagner (Judge Dredd, 2000AD, Rok of the Reds): “I enjoyed it and it went very well for me. Good footfall, public seemed to be having a good time. One small complaint would be the noise level around the area where we did the talk, but that would be my only minor quibble. From point of view of exhibitors to be able to park at the venue was a big plus. I didn’t see much else but the public moving past and sometimes stopping at my table. It was pleasing that all the visitors seemed to be in a good mood cos there was plenty going on and nobody was too cramped, loads of space. Also, admission didn’t seem too expensive.”
Dave Cook (Killtopia, Vessels): “It was my first MCM Scotland for three years as it used to clash with another show, so I was surprised to see it was still a fun, busy show with a great vibe. Comics village was in a great position this year and we had a lot of people coming by our tablet I say hi and pick up our books. I still think there’s room for improvement, especially in the trader section where there’s a lot of random crap that makes it feel a bit like a jumble sale. That aside, it’s still a fun show but MCM as a whole feel like it’s moving away from comics, and that’s more down to the shifting fan base than the show itself. I’m not sure what the solution is but I’ll still keep exhibiting there while it’s still fun.”
Overall, I did really enjoy MCM, as did the wee fella. Whilst I wouldn’t take the little one yet, I think next year we’ll be back, with big brother in tow.
So there you have it! Were you at MCM? Share your thoughts, experiences and pics below or on social media!