So here we are the first Spring MCM Comic Con since the pandemic started, after a slightly lower key Winter Con in 2021 everyone was hoping that this one would see a return to old for the UK's biggest Comic-Con.
And even though some issues are still making certain things difficult for these types of shows, like getting acts and stars to attend, mostly due to delayed projects from the pandemic which are only just now coming to fruition.
So yes the guest list was bare when the comic con announced its May return.
And even when we applied for our press passes we still did not who was going to turn up at the show.
This eventually came through in announcements of Dante Basco and Janet Varney ( Avatar the Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra) attending.
Another big announcement for Anime fans was the Voice cast for the hit series My Hero Academia attending also, as well as the British Wrestling Champions and the voice of Geralt from the Witcher Game series Doug Cockle.
So how was MCM Comic Con London?, Here's the lowdown on the show for the two days we attended.
Arriving at Excel it was evident that the crowds were out in force, I already knew that the Saturday and weekend tickets had sold out, And I was hearing that the queues for attendees were quite long and time-consuming, with people taking more than an hour to actually get into the venue.
But this is quite the norm when this show sells out, I remember years ago waiting in line some hour and a half before entry.
Luckily being Press our entry was easier and took us about a half-hour.
Also, there was only one exit and entry point once you had got your passes as there rebuilding the East Entrance of Excel with a new extension, yes the place is going to be even bigger soon.
Hopefully once that's done the event will be even bigger.
Our first was to do a quick recky and see where everything was. And then get down to the PoP Asia stage to witness the How to be a Ninja workshop for kids, hey it's Ninjas, we all like Ninjas.
Pleasantly at the Pop Asia stage there where a Dance Troupe by the name of Aziza who were getting the grooves on for the crowd with some impressive dance moves and choreography. The crowd was getting into it all and it was a good performance.
Once this ended we had a little wait till the Ninja Workshop. The young woman hosting the workshop managed to get quite a few volunteers to take part from young kids to teens.
I did wonder how many would last after she started them off with a workout that involved various punching and kicking techniques as well as press-ups and Squats with punches on the way up. I could see a couple fall out.
But was surprised how many stayed put. After the short but energetic workout, she gathered them to play some games involving Ninja skills.
This was a good workshop to keep the young'uns occupied and parents could chill out while the workshop was on. A good event I thought was varied.
So as I trekked from stage to stage for each of the events I wanted to cover we, of course, perused the halls and stalls and got some shots of some of the Cosplayers, which were out in force after the show is off for nearly two years.
One thing of notice was the queues for food were enormous stretching for yards and yards. And as well as the main food sellers in the foyers of the halls there were also countless in the halls offering a range of cuisine from around the world from Japan, Mexico, and others.
Rice Balls, Sushi, Fajitas, and Popcorn for all, and for all those Tea drinkers, yes you could get a cuppa, love a cuppa, and a munch.
Anyway, after getting some munch we scoured the stalls, always curious as to what goods are up for sale, all the usual contenders were there from T-shirt sellers, the Doki Doki Pottery stall, which people were queuing for in a big way. But they do sell some nice Japanese-made bowls, plates, and tea sets with great designs on. I have bought myself from them in the past.
The Crowds where out in force at the Spring Comic Con at Excel
The Empire must be near! , But why do all these people keep taking pictures of us?
AZIZA Dance troupe give it all they got, a good performance enjoyed by many.
This young Lady is a Ninja and she gave some younger visitors more than they bargained for. Come on what ten year old wants to do sit ups on a Saturday Morning?, Ninja ones of course.
Now we all need feeding and fluids when visiting these shows
These guys sang Pokemon songs, go figure, not what I expected
Next up I wanted to catch the Wutian Martial Art Institute who were due to perform at the Pop Asia stage. On the way back there the queues for the Genshin Impact store were like a wall cutting off the Pop Asia stage.
I knew the game was popular, but may not be as much as was evident. They had Cosplayers dressed as the characters from the game so visitors could get their pictures with them. Plus a store to buy T-shirts and other Genshin Impact-themed products.
Arriving at the Pop Asia stage a bit early we caught the end of an act centered around Pokemon. They had been playing games and singing. I caught their end act and they did look like they were slightly tired from their energetic performance.
After this ended we waited for the Wutian Martial Arts club to set up. Consists of younger members from Children too young adults.
What we were intrigued by was the Institute teaches a range of Martial Arts from different regions. With Kickboxing. Which can often be referred to as American Karate, Jiu-jitsu of the Japanese variety with which this site's founder Sertes Nake is familiar. Then they also teach the Chinese art of Wing Chun, of course first made famous by Bruce Lee and later by Donnie Yen as his portrayal of Ip Man in the series of films.
The demonstration was very good with a showcase of basic Punches and kicks which then went onto partner techniques showing various Jiu-jitsu techniques from Inner and Outer Hocks, Body drops, and even a nice demo of a Rice Bail which many clubs have taken out due to the dangers of the move if performed wrongly.
The speed of the techniques was very good and was geared up to get the crowd clapping. Maybe from a Martial arts point of view, I would have liked to see the moves done slower first to show the technique then sped up. But unlike other demos at other venues, I have attended, MCM doesn't really give enough time to each of these showcases.
Other performers said that they could do forty minutes or an hour but many were only allotted twenty minutes.
But saying that some of the techniques performed surprised us and the crowd was definitely impressed that a group of younger Martial artists could perform to this degree.
I would say the only other time I have seen youngsters perform with this much gusto in Martial arts is at the Japan Matsuri in London.
We hope to do a follow-up feature on Wutian Martial arts in the coming weeks, as we have been in touch with Jai Wutian about this.
So going back to the time allotted and these types of demonstrations being on the Pop Asia stage it would be better if MCM thinks about setting up a Culture stage in the future where more time could be given to each act.
So after a breathtaking event, it was time to venture around and thought let's get some photos of the various cosplayers, the best place for this was at the fringe area outside Excel as it was sunny and usually a lot of the cosplayers gather to take photos outside. They also had a stage outside where Music was being performed by Live bands and DJs.
And there were a lot of people outside, I don't think I have seen this many visitors at Comic-Con, outside was as busy as inside, but it was nice to get a breather.
And we got some nice shots of some cool cosplayers who are more than happy to oblige for a photo op when asked. I didn't take loads outside as many I recognised from previous Cons and had already had a photo of them, plus I knew the big Cosplay show was approaching to round out the day.
Back Inside we thought we would check out the live stage and were glad we did as the voice cast of the hit Anime series My Hero Academia was on stage and we took the opportunity to get an insight into the show from the stars of the show including Kyle Phillips, Kristen McGuire, and Justin Briner. Must admit it's one show that I have not seen myself but do know about its popularity.
Looks like I better now try and watch it.
The cast gave an interesting insight into the show and the process of voice acting, which sounds like a lonely process as each voice is captured solo in a sound booth and more often than not the various voice actors rarely cross paths during the process.
Which makes this gathering of five of the voice actors a fun insight, and I'm sure they all have a good time coming together for these types of events.
Voice Cast for My Hero Academia on the live stage
My Hero Academia Q&A gets under way
Well, the time was approaching for the end of the day, and the Cosplay Parade and Championships.
We headed to the Main stage where people were lining up to get into the auditorium to partake in some Cosplay shenanigans.
We got our seats in the Press area. And waited for the final of the day... First up were the guys back from Secret Cinema to give away another few tickets to a lucky few.
With that out of the way, it was time for the Cosparade to begin and there were some really good entries here, you often find that the cosplays tend to concentrate on a certain few IPs from Games, Film, and Anime. Basically, whatever is in vogue at the time usually outlines the Cosplays you will see on stage.
But you do often get an off-the-wall one that you never expected.
But yes if you're into Critical Role, My Hero Academia, Genshin Impact, League of Legends, or anything Marvel or DC-related then you be in your element.
Stand-out cosplays for us were Crystal Batman, this was a clever design and the crowd was wowed.
The Cosplay of Deloris out of Sister Act was a performance that was a very energetic minute or two, and once again the crowd loved this one.
Some novelties were AMY from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, I guess with the success of the films and the newly announced games Sonic is back in force.
And even the My Neighbour Totoro CATBUS cosplay was inventive, and it's one of this writer's favourite Anime films.
Halo and Five Nights at Freddy's also made an appearance with a couple of intricately put-together cosplays.
The end of the show was dedicated to cosplays for the Cosplay Championship UK Qualifier.
Once again these were more geared towards performance and showcased a good range of cosplays from Game of Thrones, Genshin Impact, Tangled, and more.
The day was over and we were bushed, to say the least, and still had a journey of around an hour and a half.
We would be returning the next day to showcase more from Comic-Con.
Back for Sunday, we arrived a tad earlier as the show closes earlier and wanted to make sure we saw what we wanted to.
Our main goals for Sunday were the panel with Janet Varney and Dante Basco and the end-of-day Cosparade.
So everything else for us was a bonus to cover and cover what we did.
After another browse around the halls which were much quieter than on Saturday and the fact I was there earlier before the General entry ticket holders arrived, I took the liberty to peruse, avoiding being exterminated by roaming Daleks as I dodged for cover, no really it was terrifying.
I managed to capture a couple of shots of Dante Basco at his Autograph table greeting fans.
I took a stroll down to the East end of the show where the Pop Asia stage was to see if anything was going on.
Now when I got there I saw something I totally missed the day before, probably due to the number of people queuing Genshin Impact and people standing around the Pop Asia Stage.
Now in the far corner of the hall beside POP Asia where Replay Events host their own shows across the country and have been to a few.
In quite a large area they had a vast range of consoles of old all set up for visitors to play.
Fancy a bit of Smash Brothers on Gamecube, take a seat, and have a blast.
Or Maybe some classic light gun games are your thing with Lethal Enforcers on Megadrive, Time Crisis on Playstation, or even the brilliant House of the Dead 2 on Dreamcast. All setup and ready to play.
But even more obscure consoles too, like the PC Engine, Neo Geo AES, and even an Atari Jaguar with Tempest 2000 running on it.
If PC gaming is more your thing then they even had rows of PCs set up for you to partake.
The winner had to go to the PS3 console which they seemed to have like twenty or thirty set up.
So being a gamer I was pleased with this aspect of the show as the big game companies were not really in attendance, and I think this is due to the ongoing crisis and delays of games in development, plus the chip shortage for the new consoles. Maybe the end-of-year show will see a return of some of the big software companies, even though Bandai Namco did have a storefront at the show, they did not showcase anything.
By now it was time for me to head back to the main stage to get set up for the Panel with Dante Basco and Janet Varney.
How I missed this area on Saturday baffles me, it must have been so busy with people.
DUCK HUNT on the NES
House of the Dead 2 on Sega's last home console, the DREAMCAST
Anyone for some Chu-Chu Rocket on Dreamcast?
Getting back I caught the Panel with the Voice cast from My Hero Academia, of which they had just showreeled one of the films of the series.
Even though I had caught them on the Live stage the day before it was good to see them once again, though only three members attended. But I got some cool shots.
Now once this had ended we saw the return of the Secret Cinema guys who once again gave a chance to a couple of lucky hopefuls to win a couple of tickets to one of the shows.
The Secret Cinema crew are back with more chances to win
Now we were ready for the panel with Janet Varney and Dante Basco of Avatar the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series by Nickelodeon.
For myself, this was one of the highlights of the weekend. Dante Basco, an actor I know quite well starred in a couple of Martial arts films in the 90s when he was young and had quite important roles in those films. Now here he was on stage talking about one of the most successful American Animation series, Avatar the Last Airbender, which has seen its following grow year by year as more and more people view it.
Written by Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko the series follows the exploits of Aang the Last Airbender who is discovered frozen in a lake a hundred years after his disappearance.
The series is based on the four elements from Greek philosophy, the series brings these all together in a Chinese Mythology tale incorporating Martial arts.
Dante Basco is the Voice actor for Prince Zuko, the antagonist to Aang. His role is equal in importance and size to the main protagonist.
Also, the fact that the first two seasons of the show had the character of Prince Zuko play of his uncle General Iroh, voiced by the late Mako, who Dante Basco had worked with in live-action and voice acting since the age of twelve.
For Janet Varney who is the voice actress for Korra in The Legend of Korra series also being on stage, it was a chance for fans of the series to get insight into the show.
But we had to start off with a gaming chair race across the stage between the two, of course, you do.
Yes, no one fell off the stage...
There's no doubt about these two series have given these two actors a lot of fame, the two explained the process of Voice acting and how different it is from doing a live-action piece.
How you have to basically try and envisage the story from the script you have been given, but for the most part you only see the lines for your character and have no feedback from other characters' lines. All this is done in a sound booth by your lonesome.
Janet explained that some may not get the message the writers were trying to tell within the story if they fail to get to the end of the series, and voiced her thoughts on how she was emotionally touched by the story of Prince Zuko and Iroh in the Avatar series. Even though her role in the sequel series started when with the main character of Aang being deceased at the start of her story.
After an insight into some of the show and a game where Dante and Janet had to name characters from blurred images, questions were answered from emails and the audience.
With questions from the type of chicken they like to what their favorite episode out of the series was.
One question put to them led to Dante Basco's relationship with Mako. He had worked with him for years and explained that Mako had passed away during Season two, though he had finished his lines. For season three, Uncle Iroh was voiced by Greg Baldwin.
Dante recalls that during a recording for season three of Avatar that he and the recording crew were all gathered and Greg Baldwin was about to record his first lines for Uncle Iroh, now many will know that Greg Baldwin had been a voice double for Mako. So when Greg did his recording Dante and the crew were listening in but of course, could not see him. So when he started his lines it all got quite emotional for them and they all ended up in tears as it was if Mako was in the next room.
It was a nice insight into the making of the series and how they all got through some tough times during the process of making the final series.
Dante and Janet also spoke of the podcasts they do, where they discuss episodes of both series and offer insights into the making of the series and offer alternative takes on the story.
Up to date, they have produced some fifty podcasts and all are free to listen to.
It was a fitting end to a great panel
I am in conjunction with this doing a series of reviews of Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, which I have only just finished watching all seasons.
So look out for those and I will post links to those just below.
The voice cast of MY HERO ACADEMIA on the Main stage
A audiance member asks a question of the My Hero Academia cast.
Janet Varney (KORRA) and Dante Basco (Prince Zuko) on the main stage for the Avatar Panel
Dante Basco as Prince Zuko as seen in Season 1 and 2, where his character took on a change of persona and look in the latter half of 2 and for Season 3.
After a great panel, we headed down to the Pop Asia stage to catch Dance group LVL19 performing a series of dances inspired by Kpop stars like Blackpink and such.
The dances were varied and they had a big troupe of dancers who swapped out for each number.
It was an enjoyable set.
We stuck around to see some traditional Japanese dance with MS KAYONA who did a workshop for those wanting to take part. Everyone taking part had to wear a traditional Kimono and was instructed in a small dance routine with Fan.
Very intricate movements and probably quite hard to pick up for the participants as detail in small movements are hard to grasp in short periods. It reminded me of Doing Tai Chi, where each movement is so precise that the instructor would come along and move your finger half a centimeter whilst standing in a stance.
This once again offered another foray into the Comic Con's various aspects.
Once getting some needed fluid and munch and a sit down we caught the class of the Silver Sabres Light Sabre Academy which was instructing individuals in the art of Light Sabre Fighting.
I was quite interested in seeing this as the techniques used were different, to say the least. And shared a lot with the swashbuckling films of old in the way techniques were shown.
Unusual in part in that Star Wars was always portrayed as a science fiction Samurai story between good and evil.
You only have to watch Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress know that.
I have done sword technique and even took a Samurai class with Kamui some years back. This was altogether different, but well done for effect and gave the participants something to contend with.
The Silver Sabres company runs full-blown classes to teach their art and you can go along and take part. Of course, for the time allotted at Comic-Con no one was going to get too much out of it in terms of form or combat but a novel nonetheless.
Also on hand was the 501st Legion UK Garrison of Storm Troopers for those wanting to have their picture taken with members of the Empire.
The end was nigh and all that was up to see was the final cosparade, so back to the main stage we went.
After a small wait and making sure the camera batteries were OK., I did remember to bring spares.
The cosplayers were up.
Highlights were a young girl who played The Predator, the costume was so good and unexpected choice for a youngster. There were also a couple of performances, one of which was a guy portraying Kiryu from the Yakuza Game series. He came on and portrayed a scene where Kiryu does the karaoke, Not only did he live to sing, but he did it in Japanese and had all the actions down pat.
We had a rendition of The Phantom of the Opera which the duo performing had pre-recorded their soundtrack so they could perform.
Link appeared from the game series the Legend of Zelda and A young girl who for the life of me can not remember the character but sang Diamonds are Forever.
I know there were more from Genshin Impact, it's popular you know, and Critical Role, the Online Dungeons, and Dragons web series.
So the end was nigh and MCM Comic Con Spring was a wrap.
It was time to head off and take in all that we had just seen the past couple of days.
This was a nice start to events returning back to some normality after the pandemic. I believe the content offered was varied and diverse for all visitors. If anyone says they couldn't find something at this May's Comic-Con that they enjoyed then their clearly not in the right place.
After the slightly restricted show of last October, this was fuller in terms of acts, stages, stalls, and a variety of things to see and take part in.
I know there's no way I could have covered everything here, there were talks on other stages that clashed and we probably would have needed another two days to cover the rest.
But as I could only manage to get here for two days.
The venue was clearly overwhelmed on Saturday, I can't remember it being this busy, But Saturday is always a tough one at Comic-Con as the Main Cosplay show is on, it attracts the most cosplayers on a Saturday and most people come for one day and Saturday is the ideal day to come as they have Sunday to recover.
For the most part, It all seemed to be smooth, I did hear of some security issues from other press members. But then I also heard praise for security and the MCM staff for helping people get to where they wanted and finding lost family members.
I did find security was tighter on Sunday, even though Sunday was actually a much quieter day. Not to the point it was empty but moving around was easier and as I mentioned I actually missed stages of the show on Saturday due to amount of people blocking my view of certain things.
So there's no doubt about it, It was a resounding success for MCM.
We thank The press office and Courtney for our press pass.
And look forward to seeing everyone back in October.