Opinion Piece

Adventures At MCM Scotland’s Glasgow Comic-Con – Either These People Are Cosplaying, Or Glasgow Is Just Like This Normally

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Polite note: this article contains utterly terrible photography. Sorry about that.

Having attended just one small, local Comic-Con in the gloomy city of Aberdeen, which you can read about here, I wanted to check out a bigger event but couldn’t afford to simply jet off and go to the biggest Comic-Con in the world held in San Diego. Instead with a press invite from MCM clutched in my hand I headed to Glasgow for the weekend of September 26th-27th, wondering what I’d find there and who I would meet.

Thousands upon thousands of people pressed together in a mosh pit of geekiness is arguably the best and simplest way of describing most of my first day at Glasgow 2015 Comic-Con event held at the SECC on the edge of the river Clyde. Over the two days that Comic-Con was held a shade less than 30,000 people descended upon the SECC to have some serious fun, buy some cool stuff, chat to some awesome people and dress up in some outstanding costumes. Priority ticket holders were granted early entry and crowded into the two spacious halls that held a variety of stalls selling cos-play items, comics, board games, toys and plenty of artists and writers waiting to sell their beautiful prints and fantastic comics. Even in this first hour the Con was busy, the swell of people becoming almost stifling. And then the general entry ticket holders came swarming in, too,  and suddenly it was actually a little difficult to enjoy the experience. On the one hand it was great to see so many people with a passion for the same things that I love, and on the other the sheer amount of human beings crammed into the building meant that it was hard to move. Visiting a stall became an ordeal as you had to break free of the currents and then hover around a table, waiting for one person to leave the large cluster in the hopes that you’d be quick enough to occupy the gap and actually get a look at the wares. As people stop to take pictures of outstanding costumes the mayhem becomes even worse. It’s chaotic. It’s hot. It’s hard to move. It’s hard to think.

And it’s very, very special.

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It’s incredibly difficult to describe just how special it feels to stand in the middle of a massive crowd of people who are all there for the same reason that you are; a love of all things geeky, be it comics, sci-fi, anime or TV shows or sacrificing people to elder Gods, although that last one is dying out pretty fast. This shared love makes almost everyone more than willing to stop and chat, but even if you’re not a very social person it’s still an intense feeling to be part of something so big and fun. Best of all the free hugs movement was out in force with barely a few minutes going by without seeing someone holding a sign proclaiming “Free Hugs!”. It’s not a good day until you’ve been hugged by Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Deathstroke and a dude wearing a horse’s head. I’ve always had a degree of social anxiety that seems to enjoy striking without warning, and thus large crowds are often a bit daunting because of that, but in the middle of the human whirlpool that was Comic-Con any anxiety faded away quickly because I knew that these people wouldn’t judge me. How could they? They, like me, loved things that have been traditionally mocked.

Eventually the crowd thinned enough to allow easier movement and access to all the cool stalls that lined the halls, letting me catch glimpses of so many cool things, from the mass-produced Pop! Vinyls to hand-crafted bits of jewelry, beautiful masks, replica weapons made out of real metal, replica weapons made out of considerably less dangerous materials, custom pillows, loads of bargain comics, board games, candy from Japan, loads of Pokemon stuff and piles of t-shirts. Better yet the prices were pretty good as stalls sought to use the good mood to their advantage. It’s a shame I didn’t have more spare cash to pick up some of the awesome items; I’d have loved to grab the psycho mask from Borderlands, or Captain America’s shield. There were etched glass panels with Firefly on them that lit up, and of course many great looking comics from independents. Just like the people wandering the floor the stall holders were almost always willing to stop and chat when they could, although the massive crowds meant that they were often too busy to, which is obviously good news for them. As one seller confided in me, though, it’s nice when the crowds settle a little later in the day and they can stop and chat properly with the customers. I can’t tell you how many awesome conversations I had with patient stall owners or comic creators. Such nice folk, one and all.

Guests included the likes of Robert Picardo whose probably best known for his seven-year stint as The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. He also appeared numerous times as a character by the name of Woolsey in both Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis.  He delivered a great panel on the Saturday, including a brilliant little story where he revealed that while shooting Gremlins 2, rather than using a prop smeared with some lipstick to create the effect of kisses on his leg a actual female member of the prop team had to put on lipstick and do the effect…eh, practically. Other guests included the voice of Naruto Maile Flanagan, and of Game of Thrones stars Ian Beattie and Ian McElhinney who hosted a dual panel on the Saturday, before Ian Beattie then took to the stage for the Sunday. Robert Lewynn, known for playing Kryten on Red Dwarf, was also signing autographs and meeting fans most of the Sunday. Other guests included Karl Yune, Kotomi Deai and Hiroshi Shimizu. Youtuber Tomska was also at the Con and he took to the stage as well to deliver a panel. The folks behind web series Caledonia and the crew behind Cops and Monsters held panels on the Sunday to discuss their home-grown series, too, both of which were a treat. These days with the ease people can access powerful cameras and editing tools literally anyone can start making movies or episodic content.

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The Glasgow Con was also the perfect place to witness the strange melting pot of the old meeting the new. Being a geek or a nerd or whatever you want to call it or not call it has somehow become strangely cool, the exact opposite of what it was when I was growing up, and with that comes a new wave of people whose geek credentials come from The Big Bang Theory, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the likes of Daredevil, The Flash, Arrow and Gotham on TV. Compared to the more traditional geek they have a very surface level knowledge of comic-book characters or anime, and behaved a little different, generally being a bit rowdier in comparison. While we come from a time where being a geek was something bad in terms of how we were viewed and treated, these new guys and gals have no such inhibitions. It was amusing to see the occasional little clash as the two groups came together, not that there was ever any arguments or raised voices or harsh words. I found myself in conversations with the noobs (hehe, sorry!) where I was struck by how they understood various geeky references, but didn’t get many others. Make a joke about how Darth Vader breaths and they get it, but talk about anything more obscure within the films and they don’t, revealing that they’ve never actually watched the trilogy. Or maybe we’d chat about Iron Man and I’d realise that outside of the movies they had no idea about the character.  Truth be told, some elitist part of me almost screams that these people aren’t really geeks. Not truly. Their knowledge of all things geeky is incredibly shallow, limited purely to Marvel’s cinematic universe and the pop culture references they’ve picked up from the Internet. They are aware that Iron Man has some sort of history prior to the movies and Robert Downey Junior, but only a vague way. And I’m ashamed of that thought, because shallow or not Marvel’s movies and The Big Bang Theory have created perfect gateways for people to learn more about sci-fi and comics and anime. Through these mainstream things they’ll come to Cons and learn, and grow, and become even more awesome than they already are. For every conversation where I was a jerk for having some small part of my brain thinking these were inferior geeks there was half-a-dozen conversations where I encountered people who had begun reading comics because of Marvel’s Avengers movie, and were now into doing cosplay, checking out various anime that folk had recommended and were visiting the Con to check out smaller, independent comics. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, elitist part of me! God, that sounded so bad.

It’s fascinating to watch the diverse range of people who arrive, from the costumed to the entirely ordinary looking. There are teenagers who perfectly fit the stereotypical image that the media loves so much of comic-book fans, little kids who love anime, young boys and girls out with their confused parents, cosplaying parents out with their confused children, entire families dressed up as the cast of Firefly or as Star Wars characters,, bemused grandparents being lead around with a smile on their face that suggests while they are a little baffled by the entire thing they’re having a good time, middle-aged men and women who look like they’ve just come straight from work and enjoy a good comic and every other type of human in-between. There’s no one type that personifies Comic-con, and that’s wonderful. The men, women, boys and girls of Comic-con are a diverse and entirely accepting bunch. There may have been one or two quiet jabs at anime fans, or a couple of snide remarks about people who love Pokemon, but those came from the very few people who clearly only came to make fun, and even then they seemed to quieten down quickly. No, Comic-con is dominated by the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, always willing to stop and talk or get a picture taken. They respect each others chosen hobbies. They are what the human race damn well should be after so much evolution; accepting of other humans.

But I do have to briefly push aside my delight to address one potential negative for anyone looking to head down the next years event, namely that as big as Comic-con felt after one day you may feel like you’ve seen and done it all. If I hadn’t been covering the event I’d have probably been happy enough to attend on Saturday. For Glasgow the guest line-up was largely the same on the Sunday as it was the Saturday, and while the same guest can deliver a quite different panel from day-to-day only you will know if that’s worth coming back for. Likewise as awesome as the stalls are you’ll probably get around them in a few hours, although boxes of comics might be enough to bring you back since raiding them can take some considerable time.

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Really, the big reason to go for two days is probably to see the many brilliant cosplayers, or even to show of your own costume. The stalls may not change and the guest line up may be the same, but there’s always cool new cosplays ambling around that you’ve just got to see, from simple offerings made by dedicated fans to truly impressive constructions that must have taken hours upon hours of time and considerable amounts of money to create. To my shame I missed the cosplay masquerade on Saturday as I was busy setting up an interview with a comic creator and lost track of time. When I arrived at the stage area the seats were filled and the staff seemed unsure whether as a member of the press I was actually allowed in to hunker down in a corner and grab some snaps. I did manage to make it to the Sunday show, though, this time by damn well getting there early and refusing to budge. The pictures you see here aren’t great as my photography skills are practically non-existent and my camera isn’t exactly great, but hopefully you’ll get an idea of why cosplay can be so cool. Of course a special shout-out must be given to every single cosplayer due to their incredible patience in stopping every five feet so that someone can grab a picture. In short if you enjoy seeing other people’s cosplay or enjoy cosplaying yourself then that’s ample reason to attend Glasgow’s Con for two days.

Or you could go for the entire weekend just because of the weird shit that happens all the time. Ambling around I was witness to a truly epic conga line that formed and proceeded to bounce around the SECC for ages, and to Harley Quinn getting ready to smack Deadpool in the face. There was a dancing man wearing a horse’s head and holding a sign that promised free hugs, an entire group of people cosplaying as a Mortal Kombat roster, and there was a small child that became terrified of a hulking Warhammer 40k Space Marine (the exact name of the character eludes me. I want to say he was a chaplin?) which resulted in the child’s father, dressed as Hawkeye, whipping out his bow and threatening to take the Space Marine out. There were Spartans from Halo executing folk, and outside the building the classic music from the Mortal Kombat movies was providing a brilliant backdrop to random fights between various characters while onlookers screamed, “FINISH HIM!” at the top of their lungs. There were epic sword fights, lightsaber battles and dance offs. There was a Dalek terrifying people by coming up behind them and loudly proclaiming, “EXTERMINATE!”. Seriously, even if you aren’t a big comic fan or sci-fi fan or anime fan it’s worth going just to people watch, to sit and relax and watch the insane antics that occur. I challenge you not to find Johnny Cage shadow uppercutting Sub-Zero to the sound of the classic Mortal Kombat movie theme tune amusing, even if you don’t know who those people are. Having said that, this is a videogame site primarily so if you don’t know who Sub-Zero is why are you even here!?

Words really don’t do it justice. Compared to something like Comic-Con in San Diego Glasgow’s event is small fries, but to this videogame geek it was epic, a complete pleasure to attend. It was a weekend of amazingly friendly people, awesome comics, stunning costumes that would put professional movie productions to shame and Deadpools freakin’ everywhere. By time I was sitting on the late train home on Sunday I was exhausted, and elated. And still slightly hungover from the Friday night, but that’s not important. But thanks for a great night, Nice and Sleazy. Awesome bar.

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It has often been said geeks will inherit the Earth, and with the rise of technology that’s never been truer. But now we’re taking over the culture, too. We’ve never been more accepted, and while some part of me mourns the loss that comes with acceptance, the slight sense that we aren’t the same band of die-hards that have to stick together for fear of ridicule anymore – bedraggled but proud creatures huddled together in the trenches awaiting the latest onslaught from the media or the school bully – the much larger part of me basks in how new people are discovering my beloved hobbies and ashamed of that little errant thought. The days of being a geek constantly battling against a society that does nothing but mock comics, science fiction, anime and videogames is, for the most part, over. And that makes me smile.

Comic-Con, be it a small one or a huge one, is an amazing experience. The various special guests that attend to hold panels and the myriad of merchandise are both great reasons to visit an event, but really everything comes back down to the people; the friendly, loving, accepting folk that bring incredible passion to every Con and make it a unique thing. They truly are amazing, and despite my own petty little thoughts, the kind that deserve to be pushed back into the darkest recesses of my mind, I’m incredibly proud to be counted amongst them. I’m proud to be a geek. I’m proud to have been at Comic-Con and met so many people who embody what it is to be passionate about something.

The geeks aren’t rising. They’ve already risen.

P.S. This article will also be followed up by four comic book reviews; Saltire, an incredibly promising book about a Scottish warrior; Skies of Fire, which has a interesting world where airships are used and an eternal storm rages called the void; Twisted Dark, a collection of short horror stories, and the first issue of Standard. There will also be some interviews with several creators.

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