As with the UK, the comics events scene in Ireland has been expanding nicely in recent years. Last weekend the mighty MCM Expo experience arrived in Dublin’s fair city and luckily for us ace writer Maura McHugh was there and has been kind enough to send us a report and pics:
The comic book/cosplay/multi-media convention scene in Ireland has been slowly and steadily growing over the past five years, thanks to the efforts of a number of Irish conventions, such as 2D Comic Book Festival, AracadeCon, NomCon, and Eirtakon, as well as the legion of smaller events that have sprung up around the country in response to their activity.
Last year saw a significant tipping point in the country for these events, with an extra-large 2D Festival thanks to the City of Culture celebrations in Derry, the arrival of Dublin Comic Con, and the second successful year of D.I.C.E.
So it should have come as no surprise that the British-based MCM brand should view Ireland as a market ripe for its mixture of events geared at Cosplayers, video gamers, anime fans, and lovers of all things geek – with a side-order of comics. This year they have launched two events in the country: MCM Ireland Comic Con, which took place last weekend in Dublin, and MCM Belfast Comic Con.
I spent Saturday in the RDS in Dublin observing the spectacle and talking to a variety of people about their experiences at the con. There had been rumbles of concern among those who organise and enjoy these events that we were reaching a saturation point regarding the viability of all the cons in Ireland.
If anything MCM Ireland Comic Con has proved that the potential audience is bigger than previously realised. It’s not so much a case of ‘if you build it, they will come,’ as ‘if you let them know the event is going on, they will come.’ MCM had the media connections and marketing budget that many of the Irish conventions don’t possess, and even though it rolled out its poster campaign in Dublin a little late, it still collared the attention of a large audience impatient for this kind of event.
The bus I took down to the RDS was crammed with young people excited at the prospect of meeting their friends and getting their hands on the kinds of merchandise that most Irish fans have to travel outside of Ireland to buy. Younger people don’t have credit cards, so purchasing items online requires parental intervention, and perhaps lengthy explanations. For events like this they can save up and splurge on their focus of fandom.
There was also a decent line-up of guests from TV, anime, comic books, and feature films to tempt in some of the audience, but what MCM did well was choosing a good slot on the convention calendar, picking a great location in the capital city, and bringing the right spread of attractions and dealers to pull in the crowds.
So, not only were there guest signings and talks, but there was retro-gaming (if you could get a place in front of the screens), League of Legends battles on the big screen, Wrestling matches, Yu-Gi-Oh! card game tournaments, a Cosplay Masquerade, lots of freebies given out in the main hall, and enough space to accommodate the thousands of people who poured into the halls.
Just before the Masquerade the MC asked the crowd how many people had not been to an event like this before, and at least half the audience raised their hands. When asked if they would return in costume perhaps a third of the newbies pledged to do so.
Like most of these events I’ve attended the atmosphere was upbeat, friendly, and busy. On Saturday the venue hit critical mass for a few hours in the afternoon, but in the morning and later afternoon it eased off so there was more room get about and look at the wares on display.
The comic book creators – a good representation of the Irish scene – were boxed off in one section of the main hall in their ‘village’. Initially there was some grumbling about the location, but as the day wore on, and the attendees got the chance to wander around properly, the attitude of those selling comic book improved significantly. From talking to dealers and comic book creators the impression I got was that sales were strong over the course of the weekend.
Yet, it seems ironic for an event that uses the term ‘Comic Con’ in its title that there isn’t more attention to this vibrant industry. There were three super guests at the con, Glenn Fabry, Simon Bisley, and John McCrea, but I didn’t see much being made of their presence.
The quality of the Cosplays was very high, and Irish fans showed off a wide variety of comic book, manga, anime, and video game characters. As typical I found them all to be cheerful and in great humour – Cosplayers have to be some of the nicest people on the planet.
The organisation seemed slick – while the queues to enter were very long in the early afternoon, they also moved fast, so people were ushered into the halls at a brisk rate. Those in charge were polite, friendly, and did their job well.
MCM Ireland has succeeded in pulling new people into the scene, which is probably going to benefit all the other Irish conventions. The newcomers are going to want to go to an event like this again, and as long as the other Irish cons are able to communicate their existence to this latest group of converts, the majority of the events in the country are going to benefit from the higher profile.
Certainly MCM Ireland Comic Con has got off to a flying start: they have run a popular, enjoyable event, and after this trial run could be even bigger and better next year if they choose to do it again.
No doubt there will be a plateau in a few years’ time, but at the moment it appears as if the appetite in Ireland for comic book/multi-media events is significant and growing.