Rebecca Kuntz explores Europe’s biggest celebration of nerd culture
Located on the industrial outskirts of East London is the ExCel Exhibition Centre where the MCM London Comic Con meets every May and October. Nearly an hour from Central London by Tube, this event draws costumed crowds by the thousands. Converging on the DLR line is a motley crew of elves with bows taller than adults, Marvel and DC spandex-clad superheroes, Disney princesses in themed lingerie, Imperial Storm troopers following Darth Vader, armoured League of Legends warriors, and assorted geeks decked out in clever graphic shirts.
The multicoloured multitude moves from densely packed carriages to the wide expanse of the exhibit hall. There, hundreds of booths offer a variety of items, from plush rainbow llamas to samurai swords, from branded pop culture memorabilia to artists selling their homemade geek-themed products. Manoeuvring through the hall is an exhausting feat, but the enthusiasm of the fans makes the experience totally worth it.
Geek culture overcomes societal boundaries, and that because of the Internet, fellow fans can form connections that are not limited by time or space – Felicia Day
On the scale of popular culture conventions, MCM London Comic Con is not the world’s largest gathering of fans – that honour belongs to San Diego Comic Con in California – but it is Britain’s premier venue for enthusiasts in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond. Over three days 122,000 visitors enjoy everything from movies and television to videogames and anime. In May, stars and Hollywood celebrities arrived for panels and conferences. Among the notables were The Guild’s Felicia Day, Gillian Anderson, promoting Robot Overlords, Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Ian de Caestecker and Nick Blood, and Fringe’s John Noble.
Having gained international fame for his turn as Denethor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, John Noble has recently taken up recurring roles in serialised television shows such as Fringe and Sleepy Hollow. He is set to play Sherlock Holmes’ father in the show Elementary. His discussion highlighted his time spent as Dr Walter Bishop on Fringe, where he played 14 versions of himself. Talking about the show’s appeal, he noted the combination of theoretical physics and the human factor that foregrounded family and science as the two major strengths of the cancelled series. Noble also mentioned that the show’s availability on Netflix had made it accessible to new audiences. In spite of its limited five-season run, Fringe succeeded in providing fully-fledged characters. Finally, when asked about his dream role, he said it would be King Lear, since he is drawn to characters of fierce stature and complexity.
The Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker, popularly known as Leo Fitz in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, arrived with his fellow cast mate Nick Blood, who plays Lance Hunter in the series. They recounted funny anecdotes of working on the fast-paced but intimate Marvel set. Their lively conversation revealed that they shoot an entire episode in a week – essentially half a movie in eight days. Discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, De Caestecker and Blood agreed that they do feel pressure to tie in with the films, even though they tend not to think too far ahead and simply live in the moment of the show. However, as this universe expands beyond its cinematic boundaries, the scale of the story increases and the TV show is used as a springboard for backstory and plot connections.
American actress, producer, singer, gamer, and writer Felicia Day, proclaimed “queen of the geeks,” was there to promote her memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), to be released mid-August. She discussed her career and how social media and the Internet have helped change the way relationships are formed. An advocate for YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and other forms of online creative expression, Day explained that the benefit of these websites is based in the ability to connect people with similar interests and enthusiasm for shared fandom. Acceptance online is based on mutual passion, she noted, adding that a positive aspect of nerd culture is that you can connect with a complete stranger because you have something in common: a favourite television show, book, movie, comic book character, video game, like comic conventions themselves. Day asserted that geek culture overcomes societal boundaries, and that because of the Internet, fellow fans can form connections that are not limited by time or space.
At the London Comic Con, the magic of geek fandom is at play: it creates a space for a community of like-minded individuals to gather and create something together, to live for a while in a place of enchantment that Tolkien himself, in his essay “On Fairy-Stories”, so eloquently described.
Featured image credit: Rebecca Kuntz