By George Biggs
I was thrust into the vibrant world of comics, cosplay and nerds when I visited MCM Comic Con in Birmingham. The NEC venue was brimming with shops, stages, activities and fans. There was so much to see and do! Here’s just a few things that were memorable.
MCM Comic Con has always been an opportunity for fans to dress up as their favourite characters and at Birmingham this was no different. The variety in costumes was astounding and hilarious, as fans dressed up as everything from a giant inflatable dinosaurs to the dark, subtle Spider-Man Noir. As a massive Star Wars fan, I was delighted to see so many costumes from that universe: Stormtroopers, Ewoks, Chewbacca, Rey and Kylo Ren made an appearance just to name a few. Some fans dressed up as obscure anime characters, others wore intricate prosthetics to imitate the undead.
-2- Sean Astin
This legendary actor, who’s starred in fantastic blockbusters like The Goonies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, graced the Main Stage in the afternoon. He pulled the biggest crowd of the day and looked back on his greatest roles opposite a host (who never introduced herself, which is a shame because she was great!). Astin was charming and witty; he thoughtfully engaged with fans and their questions.
He recalled his time as a child actor on The Goonies set, a part of which he revisited by coincidence decades later as a guest star on The Big Bang Theory. Astin expressed a controversial opinion about sequels: he loves them and enjoys revisiting well-loved characters even if their stories seem to have ended (he also added, in half-jest, that he likes getting more work!). He mentioned that the Star Wars franchise is his favourite of all time, because he clearly has great taste. A bulk of his time was dedicated to his typecast as ‘everyman’ characters with hearts of gold, such as Sam Gamgee (from Lord of the Rings), Rudy (from Rudy) and Bob Newby (from Stranger Things). He seemed to swell with pride when talking about them, and he described how it’s easy to play those characters because they’re not too far from himself: he wants to please and do well, he wants to love and be loved.
-3- Anthony Daniels
Another great Main Stage appearance was Star Wars’ C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels. He had the first slot of the day and used it to talk about his career and plug his book I am C-3PO: The Inside Story (and, boy, he plugged it: “I actually mentioned this in my book,” he’d smirk, “I have I told you I’ve written a book, haven’t I?”). Without a host to guide him, Daniels took to pacing the crowd, wielding his microphone, taking and asking questions from fans young and old. He mocked himself and his celebrity (“Excuse me, star coming through!”) as he traversed the rows of seats. He boldly asserted that all of Star Wars was simply about the adventures of his golden robot.
He had many great anecdotes, including how George Lucas planned to use someone else’s voice for C-3PO but early screen tests for A New Hope preferred Daniel’s interpretation. He also revealed some of the practicalities of playing C-3PO, such as how he struggled to act opposite the silent R2-D2 model (the sounds were added in post-production), so he asked for Lucas to make the noises for him – apparently he did a bad job! He also mentioned how when he does voiceover work as C-3PO, he still must stand and act like the golden robot for him to sound convincing. Daniels loved switching into his C-3PO voice which was probably the best thing ever because, if you couldn’t tell, I love Star Wars.
-4- Lightsaber Battles
Lightsabers aren’t real and they weren’t really battles – but they were really cool. A troop of ‘fighters’, geared up in custom costumes and lightsabers, engaged in capoeira-style routines and sparring. Their lightsabers looked awesome, far removed from the cheap ones I used to get when I was little. The troop sparred with each other and engaged in larger, choreographed meditation-style routines. They had an allocated area and a crowd gathered to watch their performance and take in their awesome costumes. Stormtroopers and Darth Vader himself loomed in the background, ever watching.
The majority of Comic Con’s floorspace was stalls. There’s just so much stuff! A lot of it was cheap and unnecessary, some of it is really cool. Rows and rows of talented indie artists and graphic novelists sold their work. There were shops that sold toys, some retro, some knockoffs and some strange. And of course, comics were everywhere. Retro and modern comics from all sorts of franchises were sold at really good prices. There wasn’t much order to these arrangements, so you could stand and hunt for a diamond-in-the-rough story about your favourite superhero.
There were a couple stands that sold LEGO figures; others sold trading cards from Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! (and dozens of others I didn’t recognize), packaged single cards if they were rare, or custom-made packs. At only £1 I couldn’t stop myself getting one for old times’ sake. And no. Devastatingly, I didn’t get any shiny cards.
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