Ok, so: this IS (technically) an Examples of Crap I Waste My Money on post (because I’m too mentally lazy to write anything else at the moment) but be warned from the start that I am just using it as a vehicle for me to complain about a convention. You have been warned.
At one point, while waiting for the Docklands Light Railway to appear through the heat haze, I was so hot I thought I was going to suffocate, I can’t remember the last time England had heat that felt oppressive, it was thick heat, like Florida or, I dunno, the inside of my oven when I’m doing a roast.
Anyway this weekend was the first two conventions of the season for us Londoners, yes, two: Heroes & Villains Fan Fest in Olympia in Kensington and MCM Comic Con London at the ExCel Centre. The latter is a long-running convention held roughly twice a year and they’re the biggest cons of the calendar, the former is…not. I ended up spending a day in each.
Fuck doing that again.
Not because its knackering – though it is, MCM is exhausting by itself without tacking on another convention in front of it – but because Heroes and Villains is…pathetic, but we’ll get to that. Sticking to format, here’s my haul photo:
It may seem like I didn’t have a lot to show for 2 days of convention but that’s because my family had me do that thing they do where they give me money, tell me buy presents for my birthday, then take them and wrap them to give to me on my birthday. So all the nice, shiny new carded toys and posh DC and Marvel trades aren’t technically ‘mine’ yet to photograph and talk about online. Plus I’d decided to make myself spend a little more per item and get some things I really wanted – of course the only thing in that photo that cost over a score was the Sentinel and he’s three X-Men figures high - Even when I splash out I’m a tight bastard, ok?
Rolling Stones Stickers!
40p (53) for both
I’d like to amend my previous statement, it should have said ‘Plus I’d decided to make myself spend a little more per item and get some things I really wanted… and puffy stickers, because no one can resist puffy stickers can they? Can you? If you can you’re a better man (or woman, or non-binary sixth dimensional construct) than me. If you look around the pictures for this post you’ll see King Nolaf standing on a pile of Dick Tracy trading cards, that’s because some bloke had big crates of shitty trading cards at five for a pound (ish, they counted them in the vaguest of senses) and amongst them were these utterly horrendous, completely unofficial Rolling Stones puffy stickers. Ain’t they great? I now feel like I’ve always needed to have semi-amateur pictures of Mick Jagger mid-movement stuck to my ring binders. They’re from 1989 and look like the sort of thing you’d exchange your tickets for or find in one of those all-purpose cheap shops at the seaside. Gawd knows why they were with a pile of old trading cards, in fact god knows why they were but I’m glad they are.
Defenders of the Planets!
Roughly £10 ($13.31) each
If you’re sitting there thinking ‘I don’t remember these characters in He-Man, are they from Snake’s Revenge?’, nah don’t worry they’re from one of the myriad He-Man knock off lines, in this case they’re from Defenders of the Planets from Sparkle Toys. These are Zardoom or ‘what if Vincent Price played Darth Vader’, Strongarm of ‘what if Trap Jaw was a hero, and also tried to kill the Boys from the ‘Dwarf’, Canis Major or ‘ohmygodsocooool’ and Weaponsmaster or ‘what if someone had a better helmet than you’. These were just lying around in a box of regular (very regular, like Skeletor, He-Man and Ram Man regular) Masters of the Universe figures and I completely broke composure and got very excited and garbled enquires about prices and declarations of how much I want my own version of Weaponsmaster’s hat, the poor bastard who owned the stall was very confused and very scared, he was right too, it was one of my most socially inept moments this year. Technically they should have been between 10 and 15 quid each but he ended up letting me have the lot, plus all three of those Warrior Trolls, for £50, he transparently did this just to get rid of the scary bald man who was getting excited about figures he’d never seen before nor cared about in the slightest, he was right too.
The Dragon and the Newt
These two were the only things I bought at Heroes and Villains, that’s because Heroes & Villains is a bit pathetic, now if you leave a place with Ricky Steamboat it's hard to truly piss of that place but my first time at Heroes and Villains left me with some things to say:
*takes deep breath*
Now you might be asking (if you existed) “why would someone decide to put a new convention on the same week as another, long-established convention aimed at the same people, effectively trying to compete against the English version of NYCC or Wizard World Chicago back in it’s heyday?” My reply would beeeee “Fucked if I know”. Arrogance and/or stupidity are my only theories, there’s only so many nerds to go around. It just seems completely illogical, nerds love conventions, they’re always happy to go to one, even one as pathetically small as Heroes and Villains, on a weekend with no competition you could be enjoying a much better attendance just through the virtue of there being on when nothing else is. H&V was offering a buy 1 get 3 free deal for their tickets and yet I was there at lunchtime on Saturday and Olympia was decidedly empty feeling, it wasn’t quite dead but if was definitely on life support and if you can’t half-fill your hall by giving away that many free tickets then it’s time to
the championship off Diesel sit down and have a rethink. Actually that’s not
fully accurate; they couldn’t half-fill their hall even by offering that many
free tickets and promising the chance to
touch John Barrowman.
There were more people milling around outside at lunchtime at MCM on a Sunday than was at Heroes & Villains at peak time on Saturday:
Now H&V purports to offer a slightly different experience to MCM (they do, but not the way they want), an experience focusing on guests. This is a cool idea, MCM has never been packed with people signing and having a stellar line-up could and should draw away the autograph hunters BUT H&V guests are drawn almost entirely from the Arrowverse, Marvel Cinematic Universe and other DC & Marvel film and TV projects (like Gotham or whatever horrible things Fox is doing the X-Men at the moment, is Gifted still a thing?) which first limits the amount of people interested but leaves ME with questions to ask: 1) what happens when the Arrowverse ends and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is over or when both loose the huge popularity they’re currently enjoying, sure they’ll retain a fanbase and pop cultural relevance the way Buffy or Ghostbusters has but you can’t fill Olympia at the moment and 2) what happens when the guests realise they can make more money by being guests at the larger, better attended convention down the road? Now some of them might prefer the more relaxed atmosphere and smaller workload (fanload?) but given that the woman who plays Felicity Smoak was charging sixty sodding quid for a selfie with her - money is clearly of importance to some of them, and they could be making a lot more at MCM. Now if you were holding it on a different weekend then this wouldn’t be an issue, the greedy bastards could do both, but you’re not.
H&V's 'focus' also means that if you’re not that into autograph hunting, or just don’t want to fork out over £50 for supporting cast signatures there’s bugger all to do, my first thought upon entering (this was my first time at the con)? “You booked Olympia for this?”, there was a small amount of dealers stuffed into the far end of this big ol’ hall with this huge empty space in the middle that had in it only a bucking bronco in it and what looked like four toys from some kid’s back garden - you could have fit everything at Heroes & Villains into a bingo hall. Still, holding your con at Olympia probably looks better to both guests and fans, rent prices be damned (I have no idea how/if they made their money back…unless they were taking a cut of Felicity Smoak’s takings) but it was the convention equivalent of putting a small meal on a big plate and just as depressing.
Oh yeah, their site says they offer ‘immersive experiences like safe archery’, wanna know what that is? That’s a literal carnival sideshow that some chancer has called ‘Green Arrow Archery’, it’s just a wooden box with targets and superhero soft toys hung up around it! I mean yes it’s safe and it’s archery but it’s about as immersive as it is a driving lesson and it’s also a pound an arrow, that’s between two and four times more expensive than playing the same thing on Clacton Pier, and I bet Clacton Pier has frog bog, you don’t have frog bog Heroes & Villains, in fact that may be your biggest crime. You could paint them red and say they were Spider-Man; it’d be no less shady than Green Arrow Archery.
MCM isn’t the best convention of the year (that’s LFCC) but by contrast this year it offered two ExCel Centre halls, each half filled with dealers, half a hall of (admittedly less popular) guests signing, a food court, official stalls by major stores and companies like Funko, Bandai, Forbidden Planet, Build-A-Bear Workshop and DC Comics and filled what empty space it still had with awesome things like the Incredible Moving Cinema (a giant circus wagon containing a cinema) this:
This is (part of) their beanbag relaxation area, I sat there and ate Japanese food, it was superb. This is what Heroes & Villains is trying to directly compete against with a bucking bronco, a large tattoo stall (which WAS pretty damn neat), some ice cream vans, 25 dealers, a couple of carnival sideshows (I think there was a bungee thing there this year? I didn’t see it but it’s mentioned on their site) and the cast of Arrow. But I wouldn’t feel the need to compare them – sure Heroes & Villains would still be saddening and disappointing but I would be fully in the ‘tis unfair to compare a new, smaller scale con with the huge, long running cons’ camp if they didn’t put it on the same weekend as one and in the same building as another. Fan Fest clearly think that you should be going to their convention instead of MCM, that their con is as good if not better, they’re inviting comparisons they can’t hope to win in because either they don't know what to do or can't do what they need to.
The con’s site claims to be revolutionising the way conventions are done, I hate to break it to ya guys but shitty little cons with a few big name signings have been around since the sixties. The whole con felt like a kid trying really hard at something but lacking the everything necessary to pull it off, I felt bad for the convention.
Ok, ok I’m done, let’s talk about comics.
£15 ($19.96) for Necropolis, I forget how much Cyber Force was, about a fiver ($6.65)
MCM has a huge Artist’s Alley (or whatever they call it, Comic Zone or something) and Destiny Blue is one of the loveliest human beings on the planet. Destiny Blue didn’t draw these, she was just in Artists Alley also and I like taking ANY CHANCE to say nice things about her. There’s a lot of people there selling prints (like Destiny Blue, who’s lovely) or their own indie comics and I partake in them on occasion. Necropolis: The Unusual Death of Elliot Finch is great fun, it’s about a bloke who ends up in the underworld (which looks a bit like London) – imagine if Coco and Blade Runner were combined. I only really picked it up because I instantly fell in love with the character on the front of issue 2 (the one I put RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of that shot) but the art and writing are top notch for a small-time indie book and it’s got a good sense of humour to it. I read all three issues on the way home while sweating my cobs off on the Central Line; I’d like to thank TFL Rail for shutting down its train lines for ‘planned works’ on a bank holiday when two conventions were on – dicks.
As for Cyber Force? I have impulse control issues, you imaginary readers know this. There was a bloke with boxes and boxes of old out-of-print trade paperbacks, I got some really sweet ones for my birthday…and this one, which I couldn’t take money from anyone for - it reprints the original four issues or Cyber Force. While it wasn’t the worst of Image’s ‘launch titles’ (Youngblood, Spawn, Savage Dragon, ShadowHawk, WildC.A.T.S. and Cyber Force) it certainly wasn’t the best, 'cyborg X-Men' is a good summary, but I saw it, got all nostalgic and shit and at that moment needed to read about Velocity and Ripclaw more than anything else in the word so now I’m one of the three people who remember they own Cyber Force: The Tin Men of War.
I’m hot, I’m tried, I think I have heat rash and want to curl up and watch Star Wars with 10 fans on me and bottles of Fanta in each hands so I’m off now. Thanks for wasting time on this shit, you’re awesome.