Toronto Fan Expo is a thing to behold, at least it is for someone who’s never had the chance to go to San Diego CC. Fan Expo is billed as the third largest Fan/Comic con in North America; it hosts a variety of different guest, including stars from Horror, Sci-Fi and Comics. Each year the gathering grows larger as more attendees embrace their inner geek. Last year I attended and the overall experience was enjoyable, except for the fact that my traveling companion actually had the engine fall out of his car. That’s why this year I’m taking a trusty Greyhound bus. It’s far more affordable than a train but we’ll see if the comfort is the same. I at least hope that the engine won’t fall out as I might start to think I’m cursed.
This year I’m fortunate enough to be attending all four days of the expo. I’m staying at the Sheraton City Centre, a local hotel not too far away from Metro Toronto Convention Centre where the Fan Expo has been held since 1997. The Sheraton is just one of many hotels that the Fan Expo has set up a special discounted rate. It’s also one of the two available that are under the Starwood brand and thus ones I trust. The distance is about one kilometer, which isn’t bad. It’s actually a laughable distance when considering the amount of walking I have to do this weekend. This will be made considerably harder by the fact I am wearing a full knee brace due to my torn Meniscus and damaged ACL. These are minor obstacles in the way of my memorable weekend.
If there’s one thing Fan Expo does that I can complain about it’s that they seem unorganized when it comes to their communication about press happenings. So far I haven’t received any information about a press scrum which makes me nervous. Then again while I write for Comics Bulletin I am not by any means a big name writer which means I’m not a priority, especially when considering how many cancellations the Expo has had this year. Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy),and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) almost ruining a planned Hogwarts reunion by cancelling, but luckily Tom rebooked, and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) came in at the last second to save the day. Billie Piper of Dr. Who fame and Tyler Posey from the series Teen Wolf also cancelled. That’s not including the Artists from Comic Alley that couldn’t make it. Don’t get me wrong Fan Expo still has a great deal of celebrities to offer. Jason Mamoa of Game of Thrones and soon to be Aquaman fame is attending, as is the wonderful Hayley Atwell of Captain America, and Agent Carter fame. Those two alone are enough to make me want to go, but this year the Expo pulled out a winner: The Boondock Saints are coming.
For those readers that don’t know the Boondock Saints you are missing out on one of the best action B rated movies I’ve ever seen. Starring Norman Reedus (yes of Walking Dead fame) and Sean Patrick Flannery, as well as David Della Rocco, Willem Dafoe and Billy Connolly in one of the scariest turns I’ve ever seen a comedian make. Boondock Saints is funny, and in today’s day and age a needed take on vigilante justice. If you haven’t seen it, trust me and watch it.
Riding on the bus I feel my ass start to ache and I know it’s going to be a long ride. It’s only 20 minutes in and I’ve got a bad case of motion sickness. No worries, point taken, next year I take the train. Greyhound is great and affordable but my old body just can’t take the punishment it used to.
Traveling in Canada isn’t all that bad really, the general rule is that the 400 series highways are pretty comfortable and generally travel at a good speed. I’m amazed nowadays at how many people are in their own worlds. There are no conversations at all, everyone has headphones on or is looking at a cell or tablet of some sort. It might be why I like Fan Expo so much, thousands of people that all want to talk about their passions, about their love of characters, and yes whether Batman can beat Superman (my answer is No).
Arriving in Toronto I made the foolish decision to walk to my hotel, with it being around 30 degrees outside (editor’s note: 30 degrees Celsius is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, for you Americans) I became quite aware that not only am I sweating like crazy but I also need to start hitting the gym again. After the time it took for me to get into my hotel I walked to the Fan Expo. Thursday isn’t really the busiest day for the Expo as of course most people are still working. Lucky for me because I get the first chance to see everything, and there is a lot to see. There is also a huge amount of people already at the Expo. I pick up my press pass and ask about the possibility of a press scrum, no word yet, I’m a little concerned but hey I’m at Expo so who cares.
Walking through I see the layout and I’m worried. In the north building of the Metro Convention Centre they’ve laid out the Guests tables in a row along the longest wall, not really an issue except some of the “B” level celebs are in an area where they won’t get the most exposure. Danny Trejo will be here and he’s the very last table under a walk way. I start to worry that people forget he’s Machete and could probably kill most of us with a stare. After looking at my program to see how much each guests autograph will be in comparison to how much it will cost to get a photo with them, I discover something that I’m truly not impressed with; to get Danny Trejo’s autograph it’s $60 dollars, to get a photo with him is $65. That seems weird to me that an autograph is worth almost the same as a professional photo alongside your favorite knife wielding celeb. I figured it would be different for everyone, and I find out I’m wrong, Jason Mamoa is the same, Ming-Na Wen from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is the same as well. Mike Tyson is $100 for an autograph and for a picture. Something is off to me about this and I don’t know what. Maybe my lack of experience with cons is why I don’t know the standard protocol when it comes to ops, it’s something I have to look in to.
After walking through and speaking to several writers and booth runners I decide to leave the North Hall and take the long trek to the South Building. Of all the issues with Fan Expo this might be one of the hardest for attendees to deal with. While some booths are in the North building, the majority are held in the south, this includes Artists Alley, the PlayStation booths, Lego land, and the like. All the comic sales are held in the South building as well, and it’s a long trip. On Thursday it took me 20 minutes from start to finish, to go up one escalator through a walkway and down 5 more escalators before getting to the large hall that holds the majority of all purchasable items, not all just most of the purchases an attendee will make is done in this hall. It’s packed even on a Thursday. After picking up some swag from one of the sales booth I get my new Fan Expo Bag, lanyard, and Fan Expo T-Shirt for a reasonable $25 dollars. The bag is excellent for hauling around all the items I’m going to buy.
I try to make my way through the hall but there’s just so much to see, I also attempt to take photos, I’m not good at this and I miss my photographer (aka my wife). She is far better at this but we have two children so both of us can’t come the entire weekend. There are truly some amazing artists that come to Fan Expo, writers as well. I run into my favourite artist Mr. John Gallagher. If you haven’t seen his art he is amazing. He currently does the designs for the television series “The Flash” but he’s also done work on so much that it’s amazing he hasn’t been snatched up by the big comic companies to do an ongoing. Seriously check out his work at www.uncannyknack.com.
I also run into my friends at T Pub, again if you haven’t checked out the Twisted Dark series and you’re looking for something different from the normal superhero comics, take a look as long as you’re an adult, Twisted Dark is not for children. I would also let you know that you really need to keep an eye on the little details with Twisted Dark or any of T Pubs work, it’s so full of Easter Eggs that the bunny is pissed off about it.
After purchasing some great pieces of art as well as talking to a lot of different publishers I’ve picked up a few comics and actual books that I need to read and review ASAP.
After walking around until closing I made my way back to my hotel, where I make my way up to my room and basically pass out. I truly enjoyed my first day. I’ll let you know about my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th day soon. For now realize that you need to come to Fan Expo at least once. Even my old Editor Mr. Jason Sacks has come to Fan Expo and he was impressed, that’s saying a lot considering he gets to go to San Diego CC. So with aching legs and feet I’ll sign off. More to come soon.