We were the first to break the news of ReedPOP's acquisition of the MCM Comic Cons here in the UK. When the news broke, I had particular interest — after all, as well as writing for Bleeding Cool, I'm a comic creator in my own right and have been an exhibitor at MCM shows for a while, in particular the MCM London Comic Con.
In honesty, I'd been quietly hopeful for what it could mean for the future of the MCM shows here in the UK, having also attended NYCC, another ReedPOP show, a number of times over the years and being very impressed with that particular show. However, today has seen what is possibly the first visible sign of changes to the MCM shows since ReedPOP took over.
MCM announced the discontinuation of several of their shows, namely the Midlands show (held in Telford), Liverpool and Northern Ireland.
It got me thinking, as did my last show of my personal season, the MCM London Comic Con held at the end of October. It is unfortunate that the very first potential signs of changes is the removal of shows, especially the Northern Ireland show, which sees those fans in that region no longer served by MCM.
It would be wrong to say that I am now concerned for the future of MCM shows. I'd still have to argue being generally optimistic, but it is not to say that I don't have thoughts and concerns that I would hope are also in the minds of ReedPOP and MCM for the future. So I've decided to openly discuss some of the things I would hope to see in the future of MCM as ReedPOP makes its changes.
While I admit it is a shame to see these shows discontinued, it is worth noting I had not attended these particular ones. But from seeing online discussion after the announcement, it seems they were popular. Liverpool had only been a fairly recent addition, and it presented a good alternative for an MCM in the region, as the Manchester show clashes with another comic con — and again, the Northern Ireland show going means one less large-scale comic con in that region.
One has to assume this decision is to pour focus on the remaining London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Glasgow shows. Certainly, the venues of the London and Birmingham shows present the possibility of expansion of size, as the venues have a huge amount of remaining space that could be taken advantage of. Manchester's current venue is pretty much at capacity, however, but perhaps the hope is to find another venue in which to host larger shows.
This is all well and good — if the hope is to increase the size of the shows, it means the potential to offer more for fans, to have greater room for attendance, and in turn, potentially increase sales for vendors and those in the Comics Village. However, if there is one thing I really hope not to see more of in an increased sized event — please, god, don't let it be more Funko stands.
Now don't get me wrong: I don't dislike Funko or their incredibly popular Pop products. However, there is something deeply depressing about seeing so much of the convention floor taken up not by one, not two but almost dozens of stands filled with Funko Pops from bottom to top, nearly towering over the Comics Village where people are trying to sell their own hard work.
There is naturally time and place for both these things. Funko and their products naturally should be at the MCM shows; I am not denying that. I'm something of a fan of them. But there's no need for that many stands all selling the same thing — it creates a homogeneous experience on the show floor, and with so much out there for geek culture, why have so many vendors selling the exact same products anyway?
There's space for so much more now, and if the cons are getting bigger, and if the discontinued shows allow for more money to be put into taking advantage of the potential extra space or size, then let's see some unusual things. One of the things I love about NYCC is how I see so many stands selling things that I genuinely feel like I could never find anywhere else. There should be a lot more of that at the MCM shows.
Obviously I'd lean into bigger Comics Villages. Allow more people to show their comics at the shows, and allow fans the chance to discover more of the incredible talent here in the UK.
The presumption has been with ReedPOP's acquisition, it will see more comics guests invited to the shows, perhaps as part of a larger Comics Village, and that would certainly be welcome. More comic guests from the Big Two and more would attract more pop culture fans who have a specific focus and love for comics, and more attendees exploring the Comics Village is good for everyone there.
But what else? A bigger Comics Village, more comics guests, and more vendors with more diverse ranges of products for the show floor. I'm sure there are other things that I haven't even thought of or know about, too. And so far, all of these have focused mainly on the comics elements of pop cultural fandom that MCM and ReedPOP cater to. The shows also focus on games, cinema, TV, and even YouTube — and there is sure to be loads of new and exciting elements that can be brought in catering to all these areas.
Allow me to make what may seem an unusual suggestion, and one which maybe not even many of my colleagues in the Comics Village attendees had considered: invite Drag Queen guests.
Hear me out: Drag Culture has quickly risen to become a prominent and influential part of pop culture, a big part of this sudden rise to the mainstream coming thanks to the work of RuPaul's Drag Race. Add to this the popularity RuPaul's Drag Con in the US, which included Queens with large and sometimes geeky installations. Similarly, a number of the most famous and popular Queens from RuPaul's Drag Race are geeks themselves and love pop culture, from Dax Exclamationpoint, Phi Phi O'Hara, and Sasha Velour.
Moreover, there is a defined connection between drag and cosplay, and it's becoming a growing trend to see cosplayers attending conventions cosplaying as some of the stars of RPDR. It would be worthwhile to consider adding this new element of pop culture as an element catered to at future shows, and potentially adding a whole new market of attendees to the show.
As for the number of shows. I hope that if the focus may be on the MCM shows continuing, now that one day expanding to new regions and new shows may be possible. Hopefully ReedPOP might consider looking to expand in other regions like the South of England or my own home of Wales, as well as potential future returns to the shows now discontinued.
Of course, it is still early days, and this discontinuation is just the first sign of changes to the MCM lineup of shows in the UK. We will wait and see, some of us with bated breath and hopeful anticipation, for what the new MCM will bring in 2018 and beyond.