Fan Expo Canada is is the country’s biggest, the fastest growing and one of the largest events of its kind in the World encompassing comic books, anime, science fiction, horror and gaming. Today we have 2 intrepid cub reporters, Victoria Essex and Heather Bellingham here to share their experiences.
Victory Essex is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Toronto Romance Writers. Imperial Stormtroopers attended her wedding. And yes, Darth Vader is trimming decorative shrubbery on her T-shirt.
Where the Fans Come Out to Play
It’s my first thought as I spot a cosplayer headed for Toronto Fan Expo 2010 on the subway. Some of the other passengers snicker at the man’s anime-style getup, but he doesn’t care what they think. Besides, if he gets harassed there are at least a half dozen other people in that car who’ll back him up. I’m one of them. You can tell us apart by the T-shirts we wear proclaiming our various fandoms.
I reach my stop and hotfoot it to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The giant convention complex, which only a few months ago hosted the G20 summit, looks like it could use a barricade or two now: the lineup snakes down the block and around the corner. It takes me seven minutes to walk to the back of the line of ticket holders, where I wait for another two hours to get into the building.
“[San Diego] Comicon is like this…times five,” a seasoned con-goer informs me with the patience of a Jedi master. The costumed Trekkies ahead of me sigh, shrug and carry on their half-hearted game of “I Spy”.
My people, I think again with a smile. This is what fans will do for the things they love.
We finally get into the con. It’s a massive playing field choked with human bodies, both costumed and not. The arena pulsates with electric verve. People jam the aisles snaking through the place. The wild kaleidoscope of color and lights whips my attention hither and thither. Where to go first? What to see? What to buy? Who to meet?
My husband and I attack the con with practiced strategy: start on the far left aisle, head for the Artists’ Alley, then go up and down each aisle.
But then I see the celebrity signing area. And Tamoh Penikett.
Be still, my heart.
But I can’t bring myself to line up again…or to drag my hubby along to meet this paragon—I mean, guy who I’ve fantasized—I mean, drool over— I mean….
I walk on.
I note the other celebrities in attendance this year, and it reads like the VIP list in Nerd Heaven: legends like Stan Lee, William Shatner; Batman triple threat Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar; Leslie Nielsen, David Cronenberg, James Marsters, Ernest Borgnine… The list goes on and on.
You’d think these big names would outshine the other special guests, but this is Fan Expo: If you have a following, they’ll be here. I catch up with Nancy Kilpatrick, author and editor of Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead, talking with an enthusiastic reader. New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong has a table two seats away. And New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon is gathering her own flock in another celebrity signing area.
There’s never a dull moment at the con. There are workshops with artists and voice actors, panels and Q&As, autograph sessions, photo ops, movie marathons, gaming tournaments, even anime karaoke. Then there’s the Saturday night Masquerade, where contestants show off their costume creations. It’s at once an awe-inspiring and cringeworthy display, but you have to admire the people who subject themselves to audience criticism. Not that most contestants care what you think. They look awesome and they know it.
Fan Expo has grown immensely since the expo’s inception in 1995. Exhibitors this year include heavy hitters like Hasbro, Marvel, DC, Zellers, HMV, and an enormous exhibit from Disney showcasing the new Tron: Legacy movie. Despite the increasing focus on movies, TV shows and commercial merchandising—something San Diego Comicon goers have bemoaned and blamed for the explosion in attendance over the past few years—Fan Expo remains “nerdier that San Diego [Comicon],” according to one friend.
In fact, the nerdiness of the con is one of the greatest strengths of this event: it’s all about niche fandoms, and Fan Expo continues to separate the horror, sci-fi, anime, comic book and gaming areas to accommodate attendees’ broad spectrum of interests. At a certain saturation point, it all bleeds together…but the fans, my people, don’t seem to mind.
I could go on and on about the people I met, the costumes I saw, the camaraderie I witnessed among people with like interests. But I think the pictures probably speak for themselves.
Do yourself a favour next time you’re in Toronto at the end of August: get yourself a ticket and have your mind blown. Whether you’re a Twimom, fanboy, nerd, geek or jock, Fan Expo is a spectacle you don’t want to miss.
Heather Bellingham has an Advanced Diploma with Honors in Film and Television Production from the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning and is currently finishing her BA in English and Drama from the University of Toronto. She has worked in numerous creative fields, such as theater, radio, and film. She has written for websites such as Helium.com and Demand Studios.
I have attended Fan Expo Canada every year since 2004. I’ve seen it evolve and get bigger and bigger every year, and this year was the biggest yet (so much so that they had to extend the hours of the convention).
There are numerous things to do at conventions like this, catering to a wide variety of people. Some go to shop and look for hard-to-find comics, action figures or artwork. Some people go for the gaming, and participate in role-playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons or board game tournaments such as Munchkin, Catan or even Scrabble. Others go to see and be seen – I saw some of the most well-done and creative costumes I have ever laid eyes on, and on Saturday night the wearers got a chance to show off their style at a giant Masquerade.
This year saw a heavy focus on Steampunk (in co-operation with The Steampunk Society), so there were lots of artists in Artist’s Alley catering to the genre, as well as many people dressed in the Victorian dresses and goggles of the style.
There were numerous displays, such as the original 60s Batmobile, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, Darth Vader made entirely from Lego and a huge area promoting the upcoming Tron sequel.
One of the highlights of any convention is the celebrity guests. As soon as I had arrived at the convention, I jumped into the line to get a signature from Summer Glau of Firefly fame. She was polite, and a lot shorter than I expected her to be. Next came Michelle Forbes (of True Blood and Durham County, although I am a fan because of her role in Star Trek: The Next Generation), then Felicia Day and Amy Oduka of the web series The Guild and then finally for my photo op with Summer Glau. The photo opportunities are an excellent addition, as you don’t have to rely on the photography skills of the person behind you in line. I also had the wonderful opportunity to speak to Michael Dorn of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The Expo also featured guests such as Stan Lee (legendary creator of such characters as Spiderman), Adam West, Julie Newmar and Burt Ward of the original Batman series, director David Cronenberg, Peter Mayhew (also known as Chewbacca in Star Wars) and Ernest Borgnine, among many others.
Overall I enjoyed my experience at Fan Expo, which is no different from most years. Despite some long lines and longer waits immersing myself in the nerdy side of popular culture is always fun, and I intend to keep doing it year after year.
Thanks ladies for the terrific insight into the Toronto Fan Expo!
Bottom Line: I really need to get my passport.