Dressed for the occasion: Midlands MCM Expo brings sci-fi to collectors

14 April 2011
imports_CCGB_dsc-0476_43943.jpg Dressed for the occasion: Midlands MCM Expo brings sci-fi to collectors
Ann Evans reports on something a little different: the Midlands MCM Expo where attendees were dressed in costumes of their favourite characters inspired by anime, computer games, manga, comics and films. ...
Dressed for the occasion: Midlands MCM Expo brings sci-fi to collectors Images

Visiting the The Midlands MCM Expo at the Telford International Centre on Saturday 19th February was the most amazing experience. The halls were packed full of collectors of the future. With the average age range of visitors being in the teens, the atmosphere and enthusiasm for their genre was an absolute joy to see.

While most sci-fi events have a cast of people dressing up in costume, this show saw the majority of the audience – which ran into thousands, dressed in costumes of their favourite character inspired by anime, computer games, manga, comics and films.

While most people know what a Storm Trooper or Darth Vader looks like, probably few readers will have heard of The Black Butler, Broshock and Steampunk. As the Gazette's team of Ann and Rob wandered around the huge packed hall – admittedly in a daze to begin with – it felt like being at a vast costume party where the guests were clearly loving the atmosphere and had made incredible efforts in creating their weird and wonderful costumes.

There were some familiar features at the show, such as Robots Live – the popular BBC2 series that provides action-packed family entertainment as the robots battle it out for the glory of being the last 'bot standing. And, among the special guests, were Anji Mohindra who plays Rani Chandra in the ‘Doctor Who’ children's spin-off series ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’. In the main, however, the stands, displays, and on-stage talks were for the fans of animi – Japanese style cartoons, manga comic strips, computer games and on-line cult followings.

There were lots of opportunities to try out all the latest computer games as well as sitting down at tables to play card games and strategy games such as World of Warcraft. The thing that appealed to many of the players was that they had only played these games by themselves before, but this event gave them the opportunity to play against a real opponent.

Chatting to many of the costumed visitors it was obvious that they were all wildly enthusiastic about their particular character whether it was from a comic, a cartoon, a film, a computer game or a secret internet story.

One amazing costumed visitor who caught our eye was Irvine Cartwright who we discovered was dressed as Sun Goku, an animi character from Dragon Ball Z which is now a popular video game. Irvine said: “Sun Goku was a cartoon originally dating from 1987. The series ended about six years ago but it's still very popular. I used to watch this on TV, it was on Cartoon Network. I used to run home from school because I didn't want to miss Dragon Ball Z. This is my dream character. I always wanted to wear this costume but I could never find the hair – until now.”

Another group of costumed visitors were aged just 15 and 16 and were dressed as characters from Black Butler which, they informed me is an anime and a game and can be viewed on the internet.
Chatting about the appeal of this particular story. Dena Vening said: “We like the artwork which is really impressive and the story is great. You get a chapter a month on the internet.”

While the label ‘steampunk’ was a new one on me, I understand it's been around since the 1980s, and we bumped into a number of visitors dressed in steampunk style. One young lady explained: “It's a futuristic take on Victorian times. It's a mix of science fiction, alternate history and speculative fiction.”

However, it wasn't purely for the under 25s we discovered when we spoke to bookstall owner, Rick Cowling who had a vast range of books and comics – Japanese style. Rick said: “This isn't just for teenagers, I'm a big fan of anime and manga and I'm 42 now. I've always liked comics, and these are quite visually different from Western comics. They aren't so much about superheroes or the slapstick you get in comics like the Beano. The Japanese write about other things like food and photography – everyday things.”

Talking about the many hundreds of manga books on his stall, he explained: “Lots of the books here have been translated from Japanese to English by the Americans, although some are translated here in this country. Manga means 'nonsense pictures'. Originally used by Japanese artists in the 18th century, now it means the Japanese comic industry.”

And, judging by the enthusiasm for the genre, these youngsters were certainly proving to be the collectors of the future.


PHOTOS: Rob Tysall

Content continues after advertisements