*Sorry for the delay on this one, folks. Colum and Kendra’s coverage will be coming up in the next few days. (mostly Kendra’s, though. Colum is super lazy these days.)For those of you living under a rock or who are… you know… not Canadian, FanExpo is the great white North’s answer to New York Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and all the rest of them. Picture the standard cosplay, panels, and celebrities, but with an extra dash of people saying “Excuse me” while drinking a double-double. While not the only Canadian con, it is most definitely the largest, and this was by far its biggest year yet.
FanExpo began as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo way back in 1994 by Hobby Star Marketing Inc., but has since grown to become the 4-day event that it is now. No longer just comics and sci-fi/fantasy, you can now find sections dedicated to anime, gaming, horror, and, new this year, sports, all clustered around a ton of vendors designed to joyfully take all your money while you try to figure out why exactly you thought you needed a $500 Death Star throw rug.
Colum and I were on hand for 3 of the 4 days and, in true back-to-school spirit, I put together a guide of what I learned while standing in lines and eating $8 hot-dogs that tasted like cardboard.
Day 1 – Thursday:
While traditionally the least-attended day of FanExpo, Thursday is actually my favourite day of the event, and the ideal night to bring any kiddies without fear of losing them in a crowd of Deadpools and Harley Quinns. Plus it gives you a chance to scope out all the vendors, and to get your bearings (i.e. find all the bathrooms and food courts to avoid ridiculous lines for the rest of the weekend).
Lesson #1 – You can meet really cool people
The chance to walk around without the insane crush of people that happens the rest of the weekend, especially *shudder* Saturday, gives you the opportunity to meet some of the folks in Artist Alley and other booths. Colum finally got to meet the object of his Twitter affection, and his long-standing comic-crush, Steve Niles. Niles is probably best known for his contributions to horror comics, including 30 Days of Night, its sequel Dark Days, and Criminal Macabre. A pretty chill guy, he spoke with us about his latest offering from Dark Horse Comics, Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, and signed ALL of Colum’s extensive collection of his works. Niles even gave Colum a poster, which is no doubt already hanging above his bed.
Over at the Avatar Press booth, we got the chance to meet artist Jacen Burrows (Transmetropolitan, 303, Crossed, Neonomicon), and writer Garth Ennis (Hellblazer, Preacher, Hitman, 303, Crossed). Both cheerfully signed our stuff, and chatted about upcoming projects. Ennis even apologized, in his dreamy Irish accent, after I told him that he completely broke my heart with the ending of The Boys, one of my absolute favourite comics series. Thankfully, we got to the Avatar booth before the guy with 2 bags chock-full of comics to be signed. Seriously, dude had a backpack and one of those reusable grocery bags overflowing with stuff, and just piled it all on the table to be signed. See? Everybody takes advantage of Thursday being less busy!
Lesson #2 – You will want to buy EVERYTHING
Even though Thursday means a lot of the celebrities aren’t in town yet, and there are less panels to choose from, the vendors are rarin’ to go, ready to take all of your money. And you will want to give it to them. I learned that I desperately need a mounted, bronzed, foot-high statue of Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And a frock coat, complete with pewter buttons and tails! A latex Freddy Krueger mask! Books, movies, and clothes, oh my! The sheer amount of stuff for sale is mind-boggling. By the end of the day, I was out of cash, the result of terrible planning on my part. Granted, the majority of the dough was spent on books or comics, so there were no worthless purchases to regret. Shut up, those TMNT playing cards were completely necessary.
Lesson #3 – You can find new things to potentially obsess over
In my opinion, the best part of FanExpo (you know, besides buying things, or panels, or meeting authors, or gawking at celebs and cosplayers…) is wandering the publisher’s booths and the tables in Artist Alley, finding new things that I’ve never heard of before. Colum picked up a little comics compilation, Horror in the West, from author/artist Sam Agro, and I snagged volume one of M3, a graphic novel by Erica Schultz and artist Vicente Alcázar. The lovely Ms. Schultz was also one of the coolest people I met all weekend, thanks to her fun stories, her knowledge of the genre, and our common tendency to swear like truckers. She is also the only person who got the inspiration behind my “Babe with the Power” t-shirt. Basically, she is one awesome motherfucker.
Lesson #4 – You can snag brand-new stuff and sneak peeks at upcoming releases
One of the plus sides of FanExpo getting bigger is that authors, publishers, and companies are starting to see the advantages of having something shiny and new to offer the rabid nerd horde. At the Burning Effigy Press table, Colum grabbed Tobin Elliott’s new novella, The Wrong. One glance at the cover, and he just had to have his very own copy of this incredible story. Seriously, he LOVES the cover. I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it in his upcoming review. Over at the ECW booth, author Liisa Ladouceur was on hand to sign copies of her brand new book, How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction. This handy guide on how to destroy the undead wasn’t even officially released until September 1st, but FanExpo goers were able to snag it a week early. Other publishers were offering sneak peeks at some of their upcoming offerings, like Avatar Press’s excerpt from Crossed #50, which marks creator Garth Ennis’s return to the series. The guy working the Archie Comics booth spilled the beans on the upcoming Afterlife with Archie, being released on October 9th, in which Jughead’s beloved dog dies, and he goes to teenage witch Sabrina for help. Zombies ensue. Over the course of the weekend, there were also some advance screenings of upcoming shows and movies, like J.J. Abrams’ new show Almost Human. Over in the gaming section, you had the chance to try your hand at upcoming releases for PS3, X-Box and whatever else there is now, including Batman: Arkham Origins, and, my personal favourite, Lego Marvel Superheroes, both coming out in October.
Lesson #5 – You can find something for everyone
Speaking of the gaming section, I should point out that there’s much more to this nerdfest than the expected comics, books and movies. This year, FanExpo took over both the North and South buildings of the Metro Convention Centre for the first time, and used the extra space to bring in a Sports section, with some big-name athletes and some extra vendors (because, clearly, they needed more people selling stuff). As board and card games get more and more popular, you can see it with booths, panels and even tournaments dedicated to various types of gamers. The amazing Snakes & Lattes, a game-filled café in Toronto, had its own booth, chock-full of games to try and buy. Colum picked up a quick and easy little game, Card of the Dead, while I finally got my hands on Cards Against Humanity, a hilarious, politically incorrect party game that will make you feel terribly ashamed of yourself, while laughing your ass off. Seriously, the tagline is “A party game for horrible people.” The creators were even on hand to talk about the game’s humble Kickstarter beginnings and play a few rounds with unsuspecting gamers. For the younger crowd, there was a huge Lego section, where you could build and play, check out the giant Lego sculptures, or wander through a Lego version of Bilbo Baggins’s house.
One of the coolest-looking booths was for Evil Dead: The Musical and Night of the Living Dead Live, both of which are coming back to Toronto in October. Also for those who can’t read, there were a whole bunch of booths and areas dedicated to movies and TV. Space channel was doing live broadcasts on some weird couch set, while Showcase had a huge section with a photo booth and screenings. EOne Films was running non-stop trailers in a set-up that had some actual props used in the The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, including some sort of creature that had a face that kinda looked vagina dentata. Not that I have any idea what that would look like. *awkward silence*
So, that sums up Day 1. As you can tell, it pretty much consisted of walking around and buying shit, which meant that I wouldn’t be eating for the rest of the weekend. Totally worth it.