The growth of the MCM Comic Con in recent years has been quite staggering, in the last year alone the two flagship London shows have pulled in record attendances whilst offshoot shows in Telford, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow have proved big successes too.  In fact the MCM Group has already announced that the Manchester Comic Con will be expanded to a two-day event in 2014, and that a MCM Comic Con will also be held in Belfast.  However, it's the London event that remains the centrepiece of MCM's ever-expanding roster of shows, and this October's event is set to be bigger than ever before.

For the first time the MCM Group have hired out the entirety of the cavernous ExCel Exhibition Centre in London's Docklands, exponentially increasing the size of the event and making the various food outlets and coffee stands in the concourse area outside of the exhibition halls part of it.  Access to the building will be restricted to Comic Con attendees only, and although the logistics of how access to the building will be managed remains to be seen, this is a pretty ballsy move from the MCM Group.  Hiring the entire Exhibition Centre gives the MCM Comic Con the opportunity to more than double in size, and although they are unlikely to make use of all the additional space on this occasion it should no doubt help reduce some of the crowding that has affected past events.

 As before the MCM London Comic Con will be a three day event, kicking off on Friday 25th October and running through to Sunday 27th October, and there is plenty on offer to fill up the three days.  A number of guests have been announced, with the most important from an anime point of view being four visitors from Attack of Titan animators Studio WIT - producer George Wada; Katsuhiko Kitada (character designer on Hal, animation director for Attack On Titan); Tetsuya Nakatake (animation producer for Attack On Titan) and one of the studio's rising stars, Hal director Ryotaro Makihara.  There will also be a small

contingent of US voice actors in the form of Yuri Lowenthal (Naruto, Tiger & Bunny); Tara Platt (Naruto, Rozen Maiden: Träumend); Richard Epcar (Ghost in the Shell, Lupin III) and Ellyn Stern (Bleach, Vampire Princess Miyu).  Elsewhere Namco Bandai are backing up a bigger-than-ever presence by bringing four top Japanese game producers to the show, with the returning Hideo Baba (Tales of series) being joined by Hiroshi Matsuyama (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle), Kunio Hashimoto (Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z) and Ryo Mito (Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers).  Outside of anime and gaming there will be plenty of cult tv and film guests, with Ksenia Solo and Rachel Skarsten from fantasy-noir series Lost Girl, Kelly Hu, Eddie McClintock and Saul Rubinek from sci-fi Warehouse 13 and Warren Brown, Andrew-Lee Potts, Shelley Conn and Elliot Knight from the crime thriller By Any Means joining stars from TV series Haven, Primeval, Under the Dome, Stargate SG-1 and Young Dracula in taking part in panels and signing sessions across the weekend.

The anime guests will also be doing a series of panels and signings, and elsewhere there will be plenty for discerning anime fans to sink their teeth into.  There will be the obligatory Manga podcasts featuring representatives from all the major UK anime distributors doling out juicy morsels of license news and future plans, as well as additional panels and special presentations across the weekend.  Comic Con will also feature the first UK appearance for the on-demand anime service Animax and Anime Ltd's Wakanim anime download service, who will provide more details of their future plans and host competitions and giveaways.  Manga Entertainment, MVM, Anime Ltd and Kazé will all be on hand to promote their latest anime releases and sell older titles at bargain prices, as will leading manga publisher VIZ Media.  Elsewhere card game dealers Chimera will host a special gaming area focused on the Japanese company Bushiroad and their multi-anime card games Weiß Schwarz, Chaos and Victory Spark, and Konami will return with their Yu-Gi-Oh! card gaming area.  Konami will also be hosting a cosplay competition for anyone dressed as a character from one of their games, with the grand prize being a limited edition statue of Dracula's Throne from Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2.  As always the Comic Con will boast the UK's largest anime marketplace, with numerous retailers selling everything from Gundam model kits to clothing and plush toys, keep an eye open for Genki Gear who are once again producing the official show t-shirt, whilst the likes of United Publications and Neon Martian provide for all of your manga, anime and merchandise needs.

As with May the Japan:Ex Zone will return with its array of Japanese food stalls, import retailers and arts & craft stalls, as well as the Totally Cosplay area where you can meet cosplayers from around the world and make last-minute repairs to your own costume at the excellent cosplay helpdesk.  As before the big draw from a cosplay point of view remains the EuroCosplay Championship Finals, which take place on the Saturday afternoon and features the best cosplayers from over 40 European countries competing for the grand prize.  The level of costume on display is frequently staggering, and the finals are set to be the hot ticket of the weekend, make sure you pick up your free seating ticket at the Totally Cosplay area as early as possible to avoid missing out on watching!  The fun doesn't stop inside the hall cosplay-wise though, the MCM Comic Con also boasts the Comic Con Fringe, a series of fan meets, photoshoots, dance-offs, video shoots and various other activities taking place around the ExCel Centre itself.  The Comic Con Fringe is effectively fan-run, and usually boasts a big screen for film trailers and its own open-

air stage, it's erratic and anarchic but generally pretty interesting - check out the Comic Con Forum for more details about what's on.  Over recent years MCM London Comic Con has re-embraced anime after seemingly trying to reduce its influence on the show, but anime and manga are not all the event has.  Gaming is an increasingly large part of its appeal, and most of the big names in game publishing will be there, including Nintendo, Namco Bandai, Tecmo Koei, Square Enix and Konami.  As usual they will be hosting panels and have large booths featuring numerous gaming pods of their latest, and in many cases forthcoming, games for attendees to play.  Lined up this year are Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag, Arkham Origins and Lego Marvel Superheroes, but this is just the tip of the iceberg!

This isn't all, not be a long shot.  There are numerous freelance and professional artists and writers, numerous panels and talks with comic and TV industry figures and creators, cult TV merchandise and retro game retailers, TV and Film distributors, web artists and animators.  There are cosplay workshops, steampunk artists and designers (complete with a Zeppelin simulator made out of an old caravan), professional photoshoots, cosplay masquerades and gaming tournaments.  The MCM London Comic Con is where a large portion of UK anime fandom gets together in one place, and with attendance numbers creeping up towards the 90,000 mark there is no bigger event in the UK.  As always one of the show's biggest selling point as far as we're concerned is the fact you don't have to pre-register, you can pre-book tickets at a discount if you wish or you can just turn up on the day, pay and go in.  It's big downside has always been that no matter which way you do it you have to expect prodigious amounts of queuing, and the hotels in and around the London Docklands area are always full or hugely overpriced.  It remains to be seen how the queuing will be handled now the entire building is being used for the event (there doesn't seem to be enough space for outdoor queuing), but hopefully the increased space will reduce some of the crowding that has always dogged the Saturday of the show.  Generally speaking if you want a quieter day you're best off going on the Friday or Sunday, but if fan meets are your thing the Saturday is the best day to go. 

After a relatively stress-free event on May from a transport point of view, getting to and from the event on the Saturday and Sunday this year could be a bit of a headache.  Engineering work means there is no Docklands Light Railway connection to the ExCel Centre on both days, with replacement buses running from Canning Town.  With tens of thousands of people attending these buses will be extremely busy in the morning and evening, so make sure you factor this in if you have trains to catch.  Check here for more details on the replacement bus service.  As a contrast the Tube seems to be running relatively smoothly, with only the Waterloo and City line down and the far end of the Central and District lines out of action due to planned works.  As always we recommend keeping an eye on the Transport for London website for up to the minute service updates, check it out here.

The MCM London Comic Con is held in the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands on the last weekend of October (Friday 25th - Sunday 27th).  Ticket prices start from £10 per day for adults and £6 for children, with children under 11 entering for free.  Early entry day tickets for Saturday or Sunday are available in advance at a flat rate of £16.50 per day regardless of age, or £20 on the day.  Friday advance tickets are £12.  A full weekend pass which includes entry on the Friday costs £29.50 and is only available in advance.  For more information visit www.mcmcomiccon.com