Get Your Geek On
MCM Comic Con swings into action in Liverpool next month and it’s fully loaded with sci-fi stars, daring costumes and genius artists, all fuelled by fever-pitch fandom.
The London instalment has become the UK pop-culture event of the year, influencing every form of entertainment. But everybody loves a good spin-off and MCM’s first Liverpool comic-con has been generating incredible buzz.
“No two MCM Comic Cons are ever the same, each new iteration is a re-imagination…”
Our original Comic Con feature was one of our most successful posts of 2015, so, like the savviest studio executives, we’ve decided to cash in and bring you a sequel.
As Exhibition Centre Liverpool braces itself for an onslaught of comic capers, crazy cosplay, conniving villains and courageous heroes, It’s Liverpool spoke to Gary Burns, the man in charge of MCM Central’s PR and content development; to learn more about ‘the biggest pop culture event in Europe’ — and its first foray into Liverpool.
Luckily, Gary Burns is really into Comic Cons and *spoiler alert* he thinks Liverpool has a real battle on its hands.
So Gary, pitch MCM Comic Con to us.
“It’s a big deal, a global event. A good place to start would be our flagship, MCM London Comic Con. It sees more than 130,000 people attend across three days and there’s nothing else like it in the UK, in terms of reach or engagement. It’s the biggest event of its kind in Europe and the third largest comic con in the world. Demand increases consistently, year on year.
“The fans always want more, they want to be surprised, they want the big names and exclusive looks at the hottest properties and MCM delivers. But we want to reach more fans across the UK, that’s why we’re teaming up with Exhibition Centre Liverpool. Our regional events help us to keep up with the incredible demand.”
What’s different about your Comic Com?
“MCM’s not your standard edition trade show or collectors event. We’re not the kind of flat comic convention where you enter and leave in an hour or two with a few autographs, we’re much more dynamic than that.
“Our model is similar to well established cons across the pond — in particular San Diego and New York. They’re real celebrations of cult entertainment, and they feel like it. They feel like a party, a chance for true escapism and that’s what people want.”
Why do people attend?
“We present people with a chance to really embrace their fandom. Comics are fantasy and our events help people to step away from their everyday lives and just have fun.
“MCM Comic Con is a living, breathing, monster day out, that keeps people entertained for the full day. No two MCM Comic Cons are ever the same, each new iteration is a re-imagination. We’re also all super-fans ourselves, so we’re really close to our audience and we know what they want.
“Meeting your heroes, or their creators is a dream for a lot of people and MCM makes that happen. It’s just a great event for anyone with an interests in comics, the art or cult characters.”
What can we expect to see?
“Liverpool’s Comic Con should be a strong first outing. In terms of guests we have the original and best Bionic Woman, Lindsey Wagner. She was one of the first women to carry her own sci-fi show, bring science fiction to mass audiences and looked incredible doing it. She’s a true TV icon.
“For gamers we have Assassin’s Creed stars Paul Amos and Victoria Atkin. We’ve secured Murdoch Mysteries star, Thomas Craig and sci-fi legend Robert Llewellyn, who played Red Dwarf’s Kryten, everyone’s favourite mechanoid.
“We’re also creating a ‘Comic Village’ in Exhibition Centre Liverpool, featuring a selection of truly talented artists. These men and women create one-of-a-kind instant works of art for fans there and then, and I never tire of seeing them work.
“The dealers are also a big deal, people come to buy and swap DVDs, comics, trading cards and merchandise. For Liverpool, we’re also creating a Totally Cosplay area, which will host a Cosplay masquerade and competition.”
Why did you select Liverpool?
“People in Liverpool don’t like to be on the side-lines, they like to get involved. Our events are fantastic, but ultimately it’s the people attending, the fans, that make them what they are. MCM Comic Con thrives on passion and creativity and Liverpool has that in spades.”
Exhibition Centre Liverpool is a new venue for the city. What does the facility bring to an event like MCM Comic Con?
“The venue is perfect for us. It’s super-sized, super-modern, and super-accessible and it’s in the heart of Liverpool, so national and international travellers can come for the event but stay for city. It’s a place with a strong identity and that really helps us to sell the event to a wider audience.”
Comic characters seem to be taking over the world right now (pun intended).
“It’s true, the game has changed. You can’t really think of popular culture without thinking about these global money making machines. The merchandise, the games, the movies, the TV shows. They essentially all come from IP (intellectual property) that was once considered to be merely a past-time for kids growing up, the lowest of low-brow arts. That’s quite a transformation.”
What’s the most exciting thing happening in the comic industry at the moment?
“When I was at university we always talked about ‘convergence of media’, but back then it felt like a pipe-dream. Today it’s really happening. The internet has played a huge part in this, enabling media platforms to come together like never before, and the wonderful thing, for us, is that the entertainment industry is at the forefront of this.
“The really exciting part is that pop culture and comic worlds are so rich: with characters, plots and sub-plots intertwining across film, TV and video games. Its finally satisfying the demand, the thirst for those characters and stories. It constantly reinvents itself for new audiences.”
Why have comic properties become such a big deal?
“I think we’re in a golden age right now, where movies and TV properties are consistently raising the bar, creating stand-out films and shows that appeal to huge audiences and everybody is getting in on the act.
“The key buzzword in Hollywood right now is ‘pre-awareness’, when the audience already has an awareness and in most cases a relationship to a character or comic series. It makes properties bankable, the risks are less, the likelihood of franchises or a long-running series is greater and that’s working incredibly well for networks and studios.
“There’s something like 63 major studio comic book movies in development right now. Even smaller scale, former niche titles, like ‘Suicide Squad’ are becoming major summer blockbusters this year.
“Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’ are just some examples. Seeing that little DC or Marvel logo on the poster has almost become a quality standard in itself. People see it and they know that it’s part of a family and it reassures them.”
What is it about comics characters that gets people so fired up?
“They just have an appeal that’s universal. It’s good versus evil, but on a galactic scale. There’s also a bit of wish fulfilment going on. Everybody wants to be a hero, everybody is intrigued by a menacing villain. The material is so relatable that, when it’s good, it’s never impartial viewing. It tends to get a strong reaction.”
Let’s talk about the costumes. What’s the craziest costume you’ve seen at one of your events?
“Whatever your imagination is, whatever you’ve seen in the comics or films. Someone, somewhere is making their own superhero outfit that is even greater, trust me.
“We saw this one costume that… it was huge. I can’t even describe it. There must have been six people in there. At first I thought it was a dire-wolf, from Game of Thrones, but it was anime, a giant, anime white wolf. Three of us saw it at once, we all just stopped and stared, I mean complete silence, we were in awe.
“Another one I always remember was this family came as Transformers. Mum, Dad and three kids, including an 18 month old baby as Optimus Prime, that’s dedication. I also saw a Lego version of Batman that was jaw dropping.”
So Gary, another big question, who’s your favourite comic character and why?
“Probably Daredevil and Batman, I’m into super-heroes without superpowers. They’re natural ability and diligence set them apart, I respect that.”
Cliché, we know, but what would your chosen super-power be?
“I’m always busy, racing around, so it would be good to work at light speed and have super-endurance, like ‘The Flash’, that would be cool, not sure about the spandex though. I’d leave that to the cosplay crowd, they’d make it look good — I think my bum might look big in it.”
Kids under 10 go free. For more information on Liverpool’s Comic-Con sign-up here.
For more information on Exhibition Centre Liverpool visit exhibitioncentreliverpool.com and follow @YourECL