LSCC 2013 Convention Report (2 of 3)

This is our second post about London Super Comic Convention 2013.  You can read the first, which features JonMOMB and Ian Sharman sharing their very different perspectives on the show, here, as well as Stephen Lacey of the 20 Minute Longbox podcast and our own Substitute Monkeys writes for us here.

In this post, JamesMOMB will be telling you what it’s like to be JamesMOMB volunteering as JamesMOMB at a comic convention, in what we like to call:

What did LSCC look like from the inside? by JamesMOMB

JamesMOMB:

20130222_170502  The only expectation I had of London Super Comics Con was that I would have a nice time. The UK comic book scene is packed with particularly nice people, and the very best part of attending a con for me is the social scene around it. Just as well really, as my first convention experience for two years was from a different perspective than the one I’m used to.

Through Nick I met one of the organisers of the event, a pleasant and engaging chap called Imran. Like me, Imran drifted away from comic books in the nineties (we developed an allergy to foil holo covers) only to rediscover them with an evangelical zeal a few years ago. I started a podcast and blog with some buddies, whereas he co-created the biggest comics only convention in the UK. Imran has a passion for the medium, which was an insight into the thinking behind the convention that I hadn’t taken for granted.

Nick and I were going to be part of the yellow-shirted volunteer staff of the event – a gang brought together mostly out of either family/friend loyalty or a pure love of comics. It was nice to know the motivation behind the con was pretty pure.

It became clear early on that this wasn’t going to be a case of turning up for a few hours then swanning round the convention. Over the course of the weekend we spent very little time wandering the floor as civilians. Saturday saw Nick and I spend most of our day with my our to the action, positioned at the main entrance/exit to the con, checking passes and ensuring only genuine ticket holders were allowed back in. You’d be surprised how many punters from other shows in the Excel center tried to slip past our “ring of steel”. Normally I’d feel ambivalent in ensuring that “the man” had been paid, but when you realise that the entrance just about covers the cost of the convention, it’s easier to understand the point of it.

JamesMOMB moodcheck Saturday AM

JamesMOMB moodcheck Saturday AM

While in our spot by the door, I got to observe the satellite con – or “convention within a convention” – that was unfolding in the main thoroughfare outside the hall. While most of the attendees would pass through, from con floor to toilets and food, and back again,  the cosplayers were forming a disorganised encampment where they could catch up, trade poses and have their likenesses captured by the swarming photographers.

This was probably the most cosplayers I’ve seen in one place, and anecdotally it seems like this was a bumper crop for any comic con. They add colour and light to the proceedings and as the weekend unfolded it was genuinely lovely to see how kids in particular reacted to seeing their hero made real (Bleeding Cool has a particularly good series of posts of them). Hank McCoy was my own particular favourite , and I felt a stabbing sense of guilt making him crack open his costume to show me his pass. There was a smattering of Wolverines, a few Emma Frosts, a multitude of Spider-Men, and one very convincing Cheetara. I felt a great sense of admiration for the bravery that some of these individuals have shown to follow their hobby. What they add to the convention shouldn’t be underestimated, and I certainly didn’t see anyone dressed up who didn’t appear to be a “real” fan. Actually I’m not sure how much “realer” fandom gets?

The day passed slowly at times, and feet became increasingly sore. Conversations with the mind blowingly lovely Excel security staff working with us made the time pass in a very pleasing way, as did the occasional visit from a chum either visiting or exhibiting at the show. All the fans that passed us were polite, upbeat and friendly, once again exposing the lie that is the mainstream stereotype of the fanboy (or girl). There was a good mix of ages and genders too which was good to see. Clocking off time came just before my feet exploded at six, and I trudged back to the hotel with every intention of falling asleep and refusing to poke my head out until the next morning.

David Wynne, George Beedham, pub

David Wynne, George Beedham, pub

The lure of beer and good company proved too much and in the end I made it to the pub with a few of our old friends and a some very nice new ones. A few stories fell out of the night, but if you want to hear the story of the night with the unexpected rock star or the “fuck fairy” then you’ll just have to ask me in person. The Fox seems to have established itself as the defacto watering hole of the con, and there was a happy buzz in the bar as sales and hauls were discussed.

Luckily with no hangover my second 6:30 wakeup call of the weekend went well, although my roommate seemed a little the worse for wear. It’s amazing how quickly Nick picks up after a full English breakfast though. We made it to the hall in time to again control the queue of early bird starters. We’d done the same the day before, waiting behind the shutters, controlling the crowd as they rose. But Sunday saw a controlled stampede, and being in front of it was a deeply unpleasant experience. Over a hundred geeks rushing at you to make it to a signing table is not a happy experience, but one soon forgotten as we got started on our main task of day two.

Thanks to our excellent performance as door operatives, we were promoted to looking after the queue for Dan Slott. This had crowded vendors on the Saturday, so we were in charge of keeping the back half of it under control. What actually happened is that Nick and I acted like fools for most of the day. I could tell you that we did this to entertain the bravely waiting fans, but to be honest with you it was probably (definitely, almost certainly) for our own amusement. Dan was incredible, giving everyone as much time as he could and only breaking the signing to take his panel. The fans waiting in line were remarkably nice, and I had many pleasant conversations during the day. However, my absolute highlight was being grilled by a couple of kids as to how much they should expect their books to sell for on e-bay once Slott had signed them. I tried to encourage more wholesome behaviour; comparing notes later I learned that Nick had been more mischevious.

JamesMOMB moodcheck Sunday PM

JamesMOMB moodcheck Sunday PM

Sunday went faster, and five came all too quickly. Once the public were gone, the mad scramble to disassemble the hall was on. Despite some isolated fractious moments between staff and exhibitors, it was a good natured and satisfyingly physical affair. By half seven all traces of LSCC 2013 were gone, our passes and yellow tees confiscated for another year, and the exhibitors hall bare apart from a few individuals loading cars and vans (a surreal sight to see traffic in the room where hours before you were at a convention). I finished the day as tired as I’ve experienced since swapping the life of a manual worker for that of sedate office life, and at one point did have a mild panic about how I was to make it from Docklands all the way back to Southampton. Luckily good friends and tolerant company made that a breeze.

It was an eye opening weekend. I have a much greater appreciation for organisers of these events now; it takes some passion to put in the time and dedication that a venture like this dictates. The staff too, even though not all comic fans, were friendly and committed to making this the best event possible, and trying hard to make every guest feel welcome. I also had some eye opening moments observing the behaviour of fans and had a genuine epiphany about the positive and affirming aspects of cosplay, for those who indulge.

For me personally the highlight came while outside smoking a cigarette. A guy I had seen pushing his disabled brother around the floor all weekend stopped me and told me he was off. I thanked him for coming along, and that we hoped to see him next year. He said he would and then thanked me so earnestly for the weekend they had that the aching back and feet, long hours, and near-death stampede experience instantly felt worth it.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

(Author portrait taken by Nicolas Papaconstantinou. Additional photos by Michael Georgiou. Greeks love James.)