October has always been my favorite month of the year (that’s when my birthday is) and October 2018 was no exception. Mainly because I got to make my third-ever visit to MCM London Comic Con and I saw the cast of Critical Role live in the flesh and took part in the UK Critter takeover.
This year, after taking my infant son in 2017, I had to go alone and was unsure of what going to a convention solo would be like. I needn’t have worried. The thousands of friendly, excited Critical Role fans that were there too made me feel right at home. If a little overwhelmed at the same time.
My first trip to MCM London was nearly 10 years ago when the convention was in its infancy; there was no such thing as Critical Role and I was a long away way from being a GeekDad. I was certainly a geek, but the second part of the title was nowhere near my mind.
That year I was far more concerned with meeting Stan Lee and having him sign my Fantastic Four 65 (first appearance of Ronan the Accuser). Back then the con was still in the London Excel Centre, but was mostly focused around a few small stalls selling comics, alongside one or two panels on how to tell stories. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the early experience of a UK con, and this was my first taste of seeing cosplay in real life, but it was nowhere near the size, scale, and grandeur you get in London now. You may be thinking that, ten years ago, conventions were nothing new in the U.S., but here in dreary old England this phenomenon was only just taking off.
Last year I returned to the convention and was dumbstruck by the contrast between the two experiences. The most obvious difference was the sheer number of people involved. There were occasions when the convention floor was packed so tight you could only move with the flow of the tide. This is the main reason is why I made the decision to go alone. I just about got away with taking my one-year-old son last time, but this year Billy had to stay at home—he’s happier there; that’s where his trains are.
As I was attending the Saturday only, I was sad to miss out on a few panels. There was a Chris Claremont Spotlight on Sunday which, as a huge X-Men fan, I would have especially enjoyed. As well as a High Rollers live recording on Friday that I would love to have attended. Having caught High Rollers’ live D&D game last year, I know they put on a great show, but I just couldn’t get to the convention after work on Friday in time to make it.
Critical Role at MCM London
I was lucky enough to interview both Matthew Mercer and Liam O’Brien for GeekDad earlier in the year and was particularly keen to get to the Critical Role panel and get in as much contact with UK Critters as I could. As it turned out, this would be all I would do during the day. I’ll be honest, this is not the post I thought I was going to write. I had not expected MCM London to be so overrun with Critical Role fans. Judging by the response and some of the logistical issues encounters, no one had anticipated the sheer volume of UK and European Critters. It was amazing.
Critical Role started off a couple of years ago. A group of nerdy-ass voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons together, and in a very short time it has become a world-wide phenomenon. The opening game of their second series was viewed live on-line by over 100,000 people. Now, a year later, they finally make it to a convention outside of the U.S. They weren’t even playing a game here, but that didn’t stop the hordes of dedicated fans, cosplayers, and enthusiasts, myself included, from flooding into the London Excel Centre.
I had a feeling there were going to be a lot of UK Critters present when, on Friday evening, one of the stands I was hoping to visit announced on Twitter they had sold out of UK Critter pin badges. Geeky Clean create lots of amazing RPG-related personal products, from bath bombs with hidden D20s to beard oils and vegan soap tins featuring different D&D character classes. You should check them out; they’re awesome. Steph who runs and started Geeky Clean is a self-proclaimed Critter and, when I spoke with her, she too was amazed at the incredible turnout of UK and European fans.
The Main Event
After spending the morning meeting, photographing, and hanging out with all the wonderful cosplayers and Critters, it was time for the main event: the Critical Role panel on the MCM London main stage. Getting into the arena was no simple task.
I happened to walk past the main stage an hour and a half before the Critical Role panel and was surprised to see hundreds of Critters waiting in line. Judging by the response from the MCM marshals, I wasn’t the only one shocked by this. However, I joined the queue, and it’s lucky I did as ten minutes later they started turning people away. They had no choice; there was just no way we’d all get in the arena. There were simply too many Critters.
Once inside, the panel prior to Critical Role was for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s latest cinematic outing Slaughterhouse Rulez. They showed a seven-minute preview of the film, followed by a Q&A with the director Crispin Mills and stars Finn Cole and Hermione Colefield. Apparently, the film begins with a game of Dungeons & Dragons and the cheer that went up as 700 eager Critical Role fans roared excitedly must have echoed all around the convention halls.
The room was packed, there were as many people standing around the sides and back of the arena as there were sitting on chairs. And, when the cast of Critical Role bounded onto the stage, that deafening roar went up once more.
With Brian W. Foster on compare duty, Matthew Mercer, Marisha Ray, Liam O’Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, and Sam Riegel took questions from the fans and were humble, eloquent, and faultless, and clearly as surprised to see that many Critters here in the UK as the rest of us.
Once the questions were over, including, “When are you guys coming back to the UK to play a live game?” which received an ever bigger cheer than any previous question, the room began to empty.
For those unfortunate fans who missed the opportunity to see the show on Saturday, the Sunday panel was bumped up from the smaller live stage to Main Stage in an effort to ensure more people would get to see it. I have a feeling if Critical Role ever return to MCM London, the tickets will sell out in seconds.
Critical Role Cosplay
I met and befriended a whole host of fantastic Critter cosplayers, here are just a handful of my favorites.
The overall experience of this MCM London and the Critical Role community coming together was something I wasn’t really prepared for. Being there on the Saturday, it really did feel like a Critter takeover. Of course, there was a whole lot more to see and do at the convention and there were more than just a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors to see, but there can now be no denying the worldwide popularity of Dungeons & Dragons. It doesn’t just feel like a fringe hobby any more. Here’s hoping that other UK conventions and D&D groups get the idea and we start to see some more big international live games too.