Not long ago in a city not far away, everything ‘nerd’ returned to Manchester for a weekend of cosplay, gaming, and anime. Manchester’s Comic Con brought many from the Land of Ooo, the Kanto region, and from the Dagobah System to our very own Oxford road, as everywhere from the bus stop to Manchester Central, where the event was held, was crowded by those in intergalactic costume.
Due to the event’s success last year, this year’s conference extended over 2 days and for the weekend Manchester was taken over by all things comic book, fantasy, and anime. Even the raging storms on Saturday didn’t dissuade many from coming out in their full colours and costumes, although most people accessorised with umbrellas to prevent the ruin of their outfits.
Outside the venue, groups gathered watching advertisements for new games on a big screen from under the cover of their umbrellas before braving the huge queues for on the day tickets for this sold out event. The air was thick with a contagious excitement and a constant buzz of chatter.
After waiting in turn, and buying tickets, guests entered a hive of activity, banners hung from the ceiling and an inflatable shark advertising CeX loomed over the excited crowd. People hurried in, pointing to stands, and gasping when large jets of steam shot out of one corner of the room. A huddle of excited fans told me “It’s great to have all your interests under one roof”.
The hall was busy and busting. Fans walked from stall to stall, surrounded by the flashing of cameras as everyone wanted to capture the best costumes and merchandise.
When people weren’t in the Main Stage room seeing the cast of Red Dwarf, Warrick Davis, or Jeor Mormont and Ross Mullan from Game of Thrones, queues gathered outside of game demos provided by Borderlands, Evolve, and Runescape. Many rushed to CeX’s stall, conveniently marked by the floating shark and a tree covered with brightly coloured umbrellas. Here, they could purchase both second-hand and new games on every platform from the new PS4 to Gameboy advance. However, electronic games weren’t the only ones to get excited about, as an entire section of the hall was devoted to trying out new trading card games.
Many people adorned hats, belts, and T-shirts they had bought on the stalls that day as souvenirs. The stalls ranged from action figures and soft toys, to bags, hats, and even full outfits. One stall had a proud display of sparkly high-heels in the colours of DC’s heroes and villains, whilst a full length dress on another boasted a patchwork of Marvel characters.
Costumes, accessories and other cosplay items were sold on site, meaning guests could prepare next year’s costume: a Skyrim helmet, a Minecraft creeper head, or even a sword for added effect. If someone else was wearing the same costume as you it was custom that you must “battle”, or at least have a chat. Inside, a group of David Tennants, Matt Smiths, and TARDISes exchanged numbers. One excited cosplayer explained “It’s a great way to find friends with similar interests!”.
Battles were going on in one corner of the venue, however, as with another puff of steam everyone’s attention was turned to the Robots Live stadium: a boxing ring packed full of robots and surrounded by rows of seats. Everyone rushed to grab an available seat as a robot called Battleaxe (supposedly named after the commentator’s mother in law) showed off his motor skills by throwing a can around the ring. Once the unlikely crowd, consisting of a wizard, the mother of dragons, and a weeping angel to name a few, had taken their seats the battle began and the eager audience got stuck into the action, cheering on the winner of each round. A viewer remarked “I used to watch Robot Wars on TV as a child so I loved the show today”.
From Robot Wars to robot costumes, many cosplayers dressed up as the famous C3PO and R2D2, and even the TARDIS made several appearances. Those that descended in their tens of thousands in costumes at the weekend were a large part of what made the event’s success: as one enthusiastic guest explained “the atmosphere wouldn’t be at all as friendly if people didn’t cosplay, it’s a great talking point and a great way to make new friends”. The array of the most intricate costumes to the most basic are what makes the event so interesting. Many people go, not just for the stalls and celebrity appearances, but to see the best costumes which change every year. Below are a few of my favourites:
This weekend, Comic Con and its guests liberated Manchester from its ordinary grey and rainy streets to a haven for everything fantasy, with the sun eventually coming out on Sunday. Guests left the event donning new hats, helmets, swords and costumes, already excitedly wondering what next year’s would bring. Monday morning, and normality appeared to have been restored to the streets as the usual work rush began. But it wasn’t gone, not completely: an Iron Man paraded around town taking photographs with passing shoppers. Until next year, Comic Con! Live long and prosper.
This article was also published on the Humanities Hallows website, you can check it out here.