2012 has been a pretty good year for the MCM Expo.  Both this May's London Comic Con MCM Expo and July's Manchester Expo pulled in more people than every before, and now the group are hoping to end the year with a bang by breaking attendance records once again at this October's London Comic Con MCM Expo.

This latest Expo, which will once again be held in ExCel Centre in London's Docklands from the 26th to the 28th of October, promises to be the biggest ever.  For the first time day tickets will be available for the Friday, which has previously been a 'special entry' day for holders of a full weekend ticket.  The change this year seems largely to do with the brief appearance on the Friday only from Doctor Who star Matt Smith, who will be taking part in a panel discussion and an incredibly limited DVD signing.  The DVD signing is limited to the first 100 people to buy the DVD from the BBC Worldwide stall, which should make it the busiest place in the Expo hall for the first half hour or so!  The MCM Expo has been relatively light on the guest front in recent years, but not this time.  Smith is joined by stars from various US and Canadian TV series, including The Walking Dead, A Town Called Eureka, Haven, Once Upon A Time and Continuum, alongside stars from the British comedy-horror film Cockneys Vs. Zombies, ITV series Primeval: A New World and the forthcoming sci-fi comedy film Space Milkshake.  Amongst the big names on the guest list are Lord of the Rings star Billy Boyd (Friday only), author Peter F Hamilton (Sunday only), WWE star turned actor Adam Copeland (better known to most as The Edge, appearing Saturday and Sunday) and actor Bill Paxton (Saturday only), who will be promoting his graphic novel Seven Holes for Air.  That's not to mention the guests appearing as part of the Memorabilia show (including stars from Game of Thrones and designers from Star Wars) which is once again being held alongside the Expo (and for which Expo tickets are valid) and the game and anime voice actors who are appearing courtesy of Manga Entertainment and MyM Magazine!

 Regular visitors will largely know what to expect from the Expo.  It remains the biggest anime marketplace in the UK, with all of the major anime and manga distributors in attendance offering deals and the chance to buy some titles ahead of their official release.  As always there's a huge array of independent retailers selling everything from the latest imported manga and DVDs to clothing and Japanese merchandise, along with a number of independent artists and small press comics publishers.  Manga Entertainment will also have their clearance stall there once again, with DVDs selling for as little as 1, and the Expo will feature many areas familiar to regular

attendees.  As usual there will be the main stage, comic village stage, Totally Cosplay area, JapanEx zone, the aforementioned Memorabilia area and a large swathe of space given over to the various film studios and game publishers who are on hand to show off their latest titles.  Outside, the successful Expo Fringe returns with its huge array of cosplay meets, games and photoshoots (check out the listings on the Expo website for a schedule), and inside the main stage hosts plenty of panel discussions and presentations whilst various areas around the hall will hold everything from cosplay workshops to game competitions.  However, there are a few new things this time too.

For the first time one area of the hall will be devoted to web video and social media.  This Vidfest area will feature creators of popular webseries such as Simon's Cat and Eddsworld as well as panel discussions, demonstrations and workshops.  Elsewhere the popularity of the Japan Centre's bakery has brought in some more Japanese food stalls, including the dorayaki and ice-cream maker Wagashi, shaved ice company Nice Ice and Japanese deli natural natural.  From an anime point of view though the main draws remain largely unchanged - the anime industry panel, the voice actor guest signings and the EuroCosplay Final.  Although the exact date has not been confirmed at the time of writing, the anime industry panel normally takes place on the Saturday and is the place to be to pick up the latest license news from the UK's anime distributors.  We already know that Manga, Kaz and MVM all have announcements to make, but we'll have to wait until the panel to find out exactly what they are!  The voice actor signings this time are Liam O'Brien, who played Gaara in Naruto and Ukitake in Bleach and will be appearing on the Manga stall, and Courtenay Taylor and Ali Hillis, who are best known for game roles in Resident Evil and Final Fantasy XIII-2 respectively

and will be appearing on the MyM stall.  As usual the voice actor signing should be free, and the actors will also take place in various discussions throughout the weekend.  Each day should feature its own Cosplay Masquerade, where attendees can show off their costumes and potentially win prizes, but the big showpiece is once again the EuroCosplay Final on the Saturday afternoon.  EuroCosplay is possibly the world's biggest cosplay competition, featuring 44 competitors from 26 different nations fighting it out for a main prize of a holiday to Japan.  Each competitor has won their place at the final through preliminary competitions held in their own country, so the entrants really are the top cosplayers in Europe and if the previous finals are anything to go by this one is set to be spectacular!  We expect the event to be hugely popular and space is limited, so you'll need to pick up your tickets from the Totally Cosplay area as early as possible to be assured of a space.  It's free, but first come, first served - check out the EuroCosplay facebook page for shots of the qualifiers and more details!

As always the MCM Comic Con London Expo promises to be a great event which caters to both anime fans and a more mainstream audience.  From an anime point of view it's the biggest event of its type in the UK, bringing together more specialist retailers, distributors and cosplayers than anywhere else.  It's the only place where the whole of anime fandom can come together, and the sheer number of meets and fan-run events that make up the Expo Fringe are staggering.  It has the largest cosplay competition in the world - topping even Japan's World Cosplay Summit for number of finalists and countries involved - and is one of the best places to pick up cosplay tips, buy anime stuff or simply meet new people.  Some of the world's best known game studios will be there showing off forthcoming and new games, including Nintendo, Namco Bandai, Microsoft, Ubisoft, 2K Games, NIS, Tecmo Koei, Square Enix and Konami, and major titles such as Halo 4, Ni no Kuni, FarCry 3 and Metal Gear Rising are all due to be previewed.  The price remains the same as in May, which keeps it in a similar price range of dedicated anime conventions, but you don't have to register and there's no age limit, making it far more accessible than the convention circuit.  Yes, it can't rival actual anime conventions in terms of focus, and yes, it is mostly based around which is in effect a huge market hall, but the Expo has a pull and a scope that few other events in the UK can hope to rival.  In fact it's telling that one Toshio Maeda - creator of the notorious anime franchises Urotsukidoji (Legend of the Overfiend) and La Blue Girl - is attending not as a guest, but as a retailer.  He'll be lining up alongside home-grown talent in the artist alley, showing that the event has grown an international reputation that can even draw creatives from Japan and beyond. 

It's this gravity that ensures that the Expo continues to grow and expand, drawing more retailers, distributors, artists and fans year on year.  As always this one promises to be even better than the last, with a few new areas and additional guests and distributors ensuring it stays fresh.  The Expo is an event we highly recommend, and tickets and further information can be found on the Expo website - click here for details.  If you are going we also recommend planning your journey in advance as there are engineering works planned on the London Underground affecting the Circle, District, Bakerloo, Central, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines on the Saturday and Sunday of the Expo weekend, although the Dockland Light Railway appears to be running normally.  It looks like getting to the Expo on Saturday will be especially difficult with no tube access to Tower Hill station and only the Northern Line running to the DLR at Bank, although most lines re-open on the Sunday.  Check here for details.

The London Comic Con MCM Expo is held in the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands on the last weekend of October (Friday 26th - Sunday 28th).  Ticket prices start from 10 per day for adults and 5 for children, with children under 11 entering for free.  Early entry tickets are available at a flat rate of 16 per day regardless of age, or 29 for a weekend pass which includes exclusive early entry on the Saturday and Sunday.  For more information visit www.londonexpo.com