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Two Comic Cons, One Weekend

From Manchester, to London and back!

I’m obsessed with body language. The art of reading it is fascinating. Hence why I have read ‘What Every Body Is Saying’ by Ex-FBI profiler Joe Narvarro more than five times. I’ve learnt when and how to approach and talk to people, how to judge a situation and when it’s best to back out. With that in mind, this weekend gone was an eye opener. Watching people’s reaction change as soon as they discover you are ‘Press’, clambering to get away as soon as possible, just in case you find out any juicy secrets and leak it to some scumbag tabloid newspaper. I’m just there to have fun; casually chat to people about the odd stuff, what games they play (if any), what movies they are into, what they had for breakfast and if all goes well, get them to come on the show.

That was my mission for the weekend; a mission I was destined to fail.

It’s not all sour grapes though. The Saturday saw me travel 130 plus miles up to Manchester to attend MCM Comic Con. As it states on their site, “MCM’s odyssey began – appropriately enough – in 2001” and since then, they have grown exponentially with shows taking place all over the country, all year round.

For me, this was to be and exciting day. Not only was it my first time in Manchester, but I was going to meet one of my all-time gaming heroes, David Hayter. I arrived at the venue and was given my press badge by a very helpful attendant. She explained everything to me, gave me a rundown of what was going on and sent me on my merry way. Sadly, I had arrived late and didn’t manage to schedule any time with anyone I wanted to speak to, but the venue was still accommodating, offering to get me in where they could. I was press after all. The point I’m trying to make here is, they made an effort to look after me and didn’t treat me like an alien, not once. Being part of the press felt like an honour, and I would gladly spend the next two hours, walking the hall, looking at the stalls, snapping photos and taking in the atmosphere. The place was buzzing. What I took away from the event overall was how organised it was. Everyone knew what they were doing and seemed to be communicating to each other, making sure the guests were where they were supposed to be, managing the queues, and actually being helpful when attendees were asking questions. More importantly, they radiated a willingness to help and talked to people who were waiting in long queues, going the extra mile and making me feel welcome in the process. On my way out, as I was handing back my lanyard, I was asked if I would be coming back tomorrow. I told her that I was attending the London Film and Comic Con the next day so this would be impossible. The lady looked at me and said ‘You should come back here tomorrow instead, this is the best show’

And you know what? She wasn’t wrong…

I’ve been going to the London Film and Comic Con for years. Generally with money and an agenda to meet some of my favourite celebrities from my favourite TV shows and films. This year, I’d be going as press so to me, I felt I’d be welcomed with open arms as ‘one of the lads’… boy was I wrong!

Being press at LFCC is like being Garlic to Vampires and this fact would become more prominent as the day continued. I arrived there with a simple agenda; ‘Speak to as many people as I could’

I started by approaching runners (in blue t-shirts) who when I asked to speak to a celebrity, told me I needed to find someone with a red t-shirt because they made decisions. Sounds like a fair system. Despite a menagerie of varied answers, each ‘red shirts’ response leaned towards the ‘no you cannot speak to that person’ side of the spectrum. ‘Madz is not doing any press today’, ‘but what if I just wanted to say Hi’, ‘nope, no press’, pay for an autograph or leave!

I was bewildered. It seemed that I would have been better going as a fan. At least I then I could have freely spoken to celebrities without them fearing I might leak their juicy secrets.

My hopes were fading until I struck gold (or so I thought). One of the ‘red shirts’ told me ‘try your luck with ‘REDACTED’, you might get lucky’. I walked around the show floor to kill some time while ‘REDACTED’ was on break and the queue had diminished. Upon my return, they had left, two whole hours before LFCC was due to close. I was mortified.

‘He just got up and left sorry’

I didn’t know what to say and I just stood there mouth gaping trying not to be annoyed. At this point, I had written the day off. I made one last ditched attempt to salvage the day by speaking to ‘REDACTED’. She had an open queue with no one in site. I approached the autograph stand, explained that I had no cash but just wanted to say ‘Hey’. After some deliberation, I was allowed in. I approached her table and was immediately clocked by the runner sat next to me who said in a very loud voice ‘NO PRESS’. I calmly explained my situation but the damage had already been done. ‘REDACTEDs’ body language had already changed and was doing her very best not to engage with me. I tried asking how she was finding the UK but I was given very short answers and quick glances as she seemingly searched for a quick exit to get away from my prying mind. I felt alienated and with that decided to cut the conversation short. I started to notice more and more, that people would see the badge on my wrist and immediately adopt a closed and aggressive stance like I was the enemy. In the end, I’m still a fan. Just one who is passionate about the games I play and the films I watch. I left feeling quite dejected and that the day had been a waste of my time.

My takeaway here is that the MCM Comic Cons are much more thought out, organised and welcoming shows who treat attendees and press as valued parts of the process. LFCC however is badly organised, unfriendly and only cares if you have money to spend. A press pass should feel like a badge of honour and not a mark of shame, making people recoil in fear as you approach. I get that celebrities probably don’t want their private lives delved into and they probably get approached by the pap, a lot. But not everyone should be tarred with the same brush, especially when we press have been invited to an event to talk to our heroes.

The clear winner, is MCM. Well done guys!

You’ll notice that all the photos on this piece are from MCM Manchester (Credit to @jamiecooperMCM for all but one). I was in that much of a foul mood by the time I left LFCC, I didn’t feel like taking any pictures.
Nick Petrasiti
Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.

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