[Publisher’s note: This year, SFcrowsnest decided to send young reporter Isabel (along with her college friends) to MCM London Comic-con, as in a previous year our intrepid team managed to quadruple the average age of every hall at the con we walked into! As a student, she is, after all, their audience].
Feeling professional and journalistic, I left my friends queuing with hundreds of others in the sweltering heat of the massive hall and went off to find the press entrance. There were no signs, but the staff were friendly and sent me in the right direction. With no queue or search procedures, once I claimed my press pass I was free to enter, which made a welcome change.
The next half hour was spent watching my friends slowly progress through the queue at a crawl, but it gave me the chance to take in all the costumes. Having only had a few days to put together a costume, I felt like a fraud among all the real cosplayers. I managed to piece together a costume from old world book day outfits last minute and was going as an unspecified elf/general fantasy person.
No one was going to ask me for a photograph, but the outfit was passable; especially since fantasy is such a wide genre, people probably just assumed I was an obscure character they didn’t know. Attack on Titan remained an overwhelmingly popular costume choice for teenagers, while Black Panther and Star Wars also enjoyed strong representation.
London Comic-con 2017.
Photos by Leo Vizner, staff photographer (c) SFcrowsnest 2018.
Someone well versed in anime could probably pick up on the subtleties of the anime cosplayers, but for me, the majority of anime characters all began to merge into the same teenage girl with a bright wig, coloured lenses, and a sailor/school girl outfit. Besides them, there were countless costumes I didn’t recognise but admired nevertheless. The plethora of furries was a little off-putting, but as an Undertale fan, I know a minority of sexually frustrated freaks on DeviantArt don’t define an entire fandom.
One of the first things we did upon arriving was book a slot for an escape room, run by a company called Breakout. It’s lucky we did because the schedule filled up in no time. I’ve been to escape room experiences before, so I had a good idea what I was getting myself into. This one was a condensed experience; it was only 30mins and involved being locked in a sparsely decorated ‘room’ formed by four dividers.
It was different to the escape rooms I’m used to, which normally involve a series of rooms, hidden doors and flashy effects, but given the limited space available they did a good job, and for only £10 compared to the average £30 for a real escape room, it was worth the price. We lost track of the plot pretty early on- it involved bringing down an evil corporation conspicuously named ‘evilcorp’, and this was somehow linked to finding keys and working out combinations to a series of locked boxes all neatly lined up on a table, with the goal of discovering a code before our time ran out.
It was very linear, with each box leading to a new clue, but for those new to escape rooms it’s a good way to introduce the concept. We managed to work out the code within the first minute; by examining the notebook left on the table for us to write down the clues, I could make out the imprints left by the last group to use the room writing on the previous, now missing, page.
Since there was no leaderboard and we had paid £10 each, we continued to the room as we were supposed to and reached the same code the long way. It was a quite underwhelming compared to normal escape rooms, but still a fun experience.
The Nintendo Switch zone was good in that it made me feel less despondent about not having a switch. Even the man supervising us sounded apologetic as he demonstrated how the two characterless characters, a blue cube and a yellow sphere, could work together to activate rising platforms and progress to the next, almost identical room.
The concept was essentially Fireboy and Watergirl, only with better graphics and a £300 price tag. Three rooms and no plot development later we were still in the dark about the actual point of the game, so with no end in sight, we gave up and moved on. It seemed an odd choice of game to promote the switch, but perhaps the fact we made a beeline straight for the game with the shortest queue explains it.
The mystery box stalls were still as popular as I remember. Having bought a mystery box last year, I knew that given my narrowly specific geek interests, I would likely be setting myself up for disappointment. The contents of my box last comicon went home with a friendly stranger who seemed more likely to enjoy a Family Guy t-shirt several sizes too large and a South Park fridge magnet than me.
My friend, however, was optimistic enough to fork over £15 for a small box (the prices varied from £15 to upwards of £40). In the photos, you can see the transition from excitement to disenchantment as she realises she ended up with two shirts she’ll never wear and a Gogglebox mug (is Gogglebox even relevant to comicon?) for the price of one nice shirt. The concept of mystery boxes is fun, but unless you’re a super geek who isn’t fussy about fandoms, the chance of getting something worth the money that you’ll actually really appreciate is small.
Once you get over that though, the anticipation and mystery as you open the box almost makes the inevitable disappointment worth it.