Sunday, 28 October 2018

MCM Comic Con London Review - Day 3

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending MCM Comic Con London, the UK's largest pop culture event, which took place at the ExCel centre.
Having attended New York Comic Con back in 2013, this was my first major Comic Con since then and my first on home soil, so the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and unleash my inner geek for 72 hours was very exciting.

Here is a roundup of the events on Day 3, the final day of the Con (Sunday 28th October)

Day 3
  • Funko
  • Chris Claremont
  • The Dark Knight Retrospective panel
  • #SaveShadowHunters panel
  • Outlander season 4 preview
  • Critical Role
  • Into The Spider-Verse preview and panel
The final day began with the one activity I had wanted to partake in since I saw the frenzy on the opening day - visiting the Funko stand!
It was clear that this one probably the number one draw of the Con, outside of the Critical Role panels... but we'll get to that in a minute!
Simply by walking the floor at the ExCel, if you were not aware of the name of the event you were attending, you would not be surprised if it was called MCM Funko Con. Beyond the compact Comic Village area where all the artists and dealers were set up, the overwhelming majority of the independent stands were selling a wide variety of Funko POPs!
It was a real insight into the insane popularity of these toys which was the subject of the documentary Making Fun: The Story of Funko (available on Netflix) and a glimpse into the slightly murkier world of the second hand dealer market for these toys, particularly Con Exclusives, which the doc doesn't explore.
So armed with my trusty Starbucks (with the name Devos written on the side), I marked out my territory early at 8.30am to allow for a straight shot ahead to the Funko stand and landed in the first 10-20 people in the queue who were very excited about getting their one shot (is that a Hamilton reference?), yet I couldn't help but smile and stifle laughter at the rage and indignation shown when the crowds discovered that certain exclusives for Fantastic Beasts and a Ghost Rider Doctor Strange were not available having sold out on the Saturday. You have never seen so many grown adults with the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems on their foreheads shouting about how it was a "disgrace" and Funko should have had a certain amount of each one available for each day of the Con (a fair point to be honest) but as someone not particularly interested in FB, I must have ended up looking like Ryan Gosling when it was announced Moonlight had won the Oscar instead of La La Land.

(Full disclaimer: I have secured a Ghost Rider pop which is why I could afford to laugh because I could immediately visualise the dealers at the Con who had scooped up these Pops on the Fri/Sat frantically scoring out the prices and writing new inflated ones to capitalise on the demand!).

Heading over to the main stage, I had the time to pay a visit to a comic legend in the form of Chris Claremont (X-Men, Wolverine) who was kind enough to sign my copy of X-Men #1 from 1991.
This was the very first comic that I bought and it opened up a whole new world to me and I was fortunate enough to tell him this which he thanked me for but lamented that it was one of his final runs on the characters but I flipped it round and said that it introduced myself and many others to the X-Men and his work in his back catalogue which he found a comforting thought.

From one comic legend to another as I took my place in the Main Stage area for The Dark Knight panel by DC which featured, among others, Frank Miller the mind behind The Dark Knight Returns, Year One and Daredevil.
Moderated by DC editor Chris Conway, the panel hosted a staggering array of talent from Miller to Tim Sale, John Romita Jr, Brain Azzarello and Frank Quitely (who I hadn't realised was Scottish until he started speaking in thick Glaswegian accent!).
They talked about the legacy of the character; their first introduction to him (for the majority of the panel it was the Adam West TV show),

Here's where the fun begins...

By the end of the panel, the stage area was completely full. It was standing room only and even then it was at capacity.

Before Saturday, the Main Stage was simply that. The Main Stage. However following the chaos yesterday over the Critical Role panel (with hundreds of fans or “Critters” as they are known denied access due to the room being a capacity), today it had become London’s Hall H with fans camping out in the hall from 10.00am for a 2.15pm panel.
It made for an interesting situation. As per other conventions, the hall is not emptied after each panel. Therefore the only way to secure your place for a particular panel is too grab one early and stay there till the event. This means you are guaranteed to see the panel you want but it does mean that you could have people sitting in on panels they have no interest in and at the same time denying entry to others who want to see a panel on prior to Critical Role.
This led to a situation where in order to guarantee a seat at the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse panel on directly after the CR panel, I had to stay in the Main Stage for 6 hours! Hardcore! Good thing I didn't have anything to drink that morning besides coffee! However due to this unplanned encampment, I did miss out on the Chris Claremont spotlight and the Hasbro Marvel & Star Wars reveal panels which was a shame.
Instead I got a Save The Shadowhunters panel and the first episode of season 4 of Outlander (of which I have not watched a single episode prior to this). The episode certainly seemed to please the fans who made it into the hall but there is nothing more awkward than watching a sex scene projected onto a giant screen surrounded by thousands of people!
Finally at 2.15pm, it was main event time (for the overwhelming majority of fans) as the Critical Role team took to the stage to a reception that would have rivalled a One Direction concert!
(Again full disclaimer time: before this weekend I had not heard of Critical Role and had to speak with several fans in the queues in order to understand what it was and why it was so popular).
Standing among the fans, it was easy to see why this show, the actors and D&D has become so popular since Stranger Things brought it back into the mainstream. The kindness, humour and respect they showed the audience and people who asked questions was humbling to see. This was a San Diego Comic Con levels of a reaction.
Once the panel was over, it was time for my main event... the preview footage of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
Introduced by the directors and voice of Miles Morales, Shamiek Moore, the crowd got to see the first 30 minutes of the film and the immediate reaction was "WOW!"
This is unlike any Spider-Man you have seen before... and any animated film for that matter. Inspired by Miles Morales's background and love of graffiti, street art, the film looks like a moving street mural.
The footage begins with your traditional Spider-Man story but quickly becomes a meta take on the superhero genre with references to all the other Spidey films (including the dancing scene in Spider-Man 3). This looks like it has the potential to be the best big screen Spider-Man movie we have seen and as the footage concluded just after one of the film's big twists, it left us wanting more and counting down the days till the film is released in December.

This was the perfect way to end a fantastic convention and a huge shout out must go to the staff and volunteers who kept the whole con a fun, safe, enjoyable experience... even under very challenging circumstances on the main stage.

MCM Comic Con London: Mandy - Review

They say there is a fine line between genius and madness. If that is true then Nicolas Cage has been tightrope walking along that line his entire career. He more than often slips off it and takes a tumble but bless him, he just gets right back up on that line and continues moving forward. Kind of like a shark, he never stops moving forward. It is true that he had made his fair share of absolute stinkers in his time... but every now and then there comes a performance that is worthy of the talent that brought us Wild At Heart, Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Con Air and Kick Ass.
Thankfully Panos Cosmatos's Mandy is very much on the side of genius and showcases Cage at his very, very best.
It was rumoured that initially, Cosmatos offered Cage the role of cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) but he turned it down, preferring to play Red Miller instead. It is easy to see why Cosmatos went down this road intially. Watching the character of Sand, it would have allowed Cage to do his bug-eyed, wild ride shouting and screaming act he has done ad nauseum. Instead the character of Red taps into the quieter, more introspective Cage that he has channeled in Joe and Bringing Out The Dead.
A lumberjack who is handy with a chainsaw (this may prove handy later on similar to the way Ripley operated a Power Loader in Aliens), Red is completely in love with his girlfriend, the enigmatic artist Mandy (Andrea Risenborough) but tragedy ensues when she catches the eye of Sand's cult leading to them employing a crazed, demon biker gang to instigate a home invasion. Her abduction is what flicks the switch in Red and allows Cage to slowly dial up his performance all the way to 11 by the final reel.
The entire film is shot like an LSD-fuelled hallucination or fever dream and once it finishes, audiences may indeed question if what they watched had actually happened.
The cinematography is out-of-this-world, using all sorts of tricks, filters and exposures to create the effect that you are under the effect of a waking nightmare. Amplified by Johann Johansson's final score that is full of 80s synth and bass notes so loud they threaten to shake the speakers off the walls of the cinema auditorium.
Mandy is one hell of a trip and certainly not for everyone. At times, it is reminiscent of the work of Nicolas Winding Refn but if someone had taken the pristine sheen of his 35mm print and dragged it across concrete.
As Barry Manilow might have said:
"Oh Mandy, you came and you certainly ain't faking. Those images won't go away, oh Mandy.
Oh Mandy, Nic Cage's performance left us shaking. You need to watch this today oh Mandy"

4 stars

Friday, 26 October 2018

MCM Comic Con London Review - Day 1

At the end of October I had the pleasure of attending MCM Comic Con London, the UK's largest pop culture event, which took place at the ExCel centre.
Having attended New York Comic Con back in 2013, this was my first major Comic Con since then and my first on home soil, so the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and unleash my inner geek for 72 hours was very exciting.
What follows is a quick rundown of each day's activities:

Day 1
  • Hasbro
  • Horror Through The Generations panel
  • MCM Sing-A-Long: The Greatest Showman
As a huge Star Wars fan (especially since the sequels breathed new life into my wavering fandom), my immediate interest was drawn to the Han and Leia Black Series 2-pack that was available at the Hasbro booth, along with a few Transformers and Marvel Con Exclusives.

Having experienced the rushes and queues when I attended NYCC, as soon as the doors opened it was a mad dash to the front of the line to secure a wristband to purchase the exclusive of your choice at a certain time period. This guaranteed you the item you wanted but at a time that suited you, allowing you to explore and enjoy the Con and not be stuck in a line for hours...
Which is what you had to experience if you were after one of the Funko exclusives as their queue stretched in a complete loop right around the stand in the centre of the Con. It was a genuine surprise to see how busy the Funko stand was compared to the Hasbro one but I guess this is just what the collectable market is moving to.
Back at the Hasbro stand, the stunning exclusives were on display including a Marvel Defenders 6 pack of figures in custom subway train packaging (I did enjoy how Iron Fist is made to sit on his own to the side!)

and the chance to try your best Thanos impression inside a lifesize action figure box.

With my exclusive secured, along with a new worry of how I could take this home in my carry on luggage, it was time to explore the rest of the Con.

On the way to the main stage for an afternoon of panels, there was plenty time to admire some of the amazing cosplay on offer. From a quick tally, it would appear that the most popular options this weekend would be Spider-Man from Homecoming with yellow blazer and handy backpack, Deadpool and his arch-nemesis Hugh Jackman from The Greatest Showman!

The first panel of the day was Horror Through The Generations with Tony Todd (Candyman), Linnea Quigley (The Return Of The Living Dead), Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps), Ray Santiago (Ash vs Evil Dead) and Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th).

This was an entertaining panel that allowed the actors behind some of Horror's greatest icons to discuss the current state of the genre. A transcription of the talk can be found on The Nerd Party's Twitter account where we live tweeted the session.

The day ended with one of MCM Comic Con's traditions. A Sing-A-Long screening and this year it was the pop culture phenomenon that is The Greatest Showman.
Nearly one year on from its release in cinema's and this film still had the capacity crowd in the palm of its hand with everyone singing loud to every song. The compere even got some of the audience who had cosplayed as the characters to come up during "their" songs before it culminated with a entire stage full of P.T. Barnum's whipping the crowd into a frenzy as The Greatest Show came to an end, putting the perfect full stop on day one of the Con.