I have been fortunate enough to attend the Toronto Fan Expo twice. This year has been the first year I have had the honor of going with my Comics Bulletin press pass. Originally my entire goal for the Expo was to finally meet an idol of mine in Mr. Stan Lee; everything else would have been considered extra compared with that. Unfortunately for me the weekend didn’t work out the way I had planned.
For those readers who have never attended the Toronto Fan Expo, it is something to behold. Held normally on the last weekend before Labor Day the Expo lasts four days in total. There have been 90,000+ attendees each year and it seems to be getting larger annually. It may not be as big as the San Diego Comic Con, but it’s quickly growing. The Fan Expo specializes in 5 different categories of entertainment: Comics, Sci Fi, Horror, Anime and Gaming, with celebrities from each genre attending.
My Press pass was good for 2 days, Thursday and Friday. Unfortunately many of the big stars do not attend Thursday night, wile the ones that do attend for the entire weekends are true stars in my eyes. Due to circumstances beyond my control the car that I was travelling in didn’t make it all the way to the Expo; in fact, two city blocks from the Toronto Convention Centre my friend and driver lost all ability to steer as the front end of his car fell out and landed on the concrete. It was only due to luck and his skill as a driver that we didn’t run into anyone else. This caused us to not be able to get to the Expo until 3.5 hours after it started, leaving me exhausted and frustrated.
After finally arriving I was able to chat with a friend of mine named Andrew Murray, who happens to not only own but actually built the 1966 replica Batmobile. This car is amazing and any chance a true fan gets to see the Batmobile they should; in fact, any time ANYBODY gets to see the car they should. It is truly a work of art.
Since few guests are at the Expo on Thursday, it is a great opportunity to check out the vendors as well as some of the artists who are there to get exposure or to sell their product. By far the major issue with layout at the Expo is the distance between the Celebrity floor and the vendor floor. To travel from the area that most of the celebrities are to the vendor floor you have to travel up one escalator then down another four, travelling about half a kilometer through very congested areas. This is a minor issue but one that can cause delays during Fan Expo’s busiest days. That being said I made it to the vendor area and was actually able to make contact with groups of artists I had never been exposed to before. Groups like Tpub, a team that was willing to donate a TPB of their first book known as Twisted Dark.Twisted Dark was a fantastic read. I was also fortunate enough to be exposed to another wonderful artist named Katie Sweet. Her artwork drew me in and forced me to purchase a print for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately by the time I found her the overhead announcements were informing everyone that it was time for the show to close. Strangely Thursday is the only night that the Expo stays open until 9 pm. Luckily for my cowriter and I had a room booked at the hotel within the Convention Centre. We spent the rest of the night comically using a rip off of Pete Holmes’ Batman voice to act out asking celebrities about their lives and if in their journeys they might have had an engine fall out of their car on a busy street.
Saturday morning started early but apparently not early enough. Due to the tow truck parking our broken-down vehicle in an illegal spot, we spent a significant amount of time making arrangements to have the vehicle towed. We missed the press scrum and I lost my chance to meet several actors and stars I would have really liked to meet. I had written up several questions I felt would allow me the chance to actually get to know stars I like. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get to meet Trish Stratus and Amy “Lita” Dumas again, among other celebs of course.
Rushing down to hall 105 I got the first true taste of my press pass. No lines just straight in, to an already full hall. Turns out we were running a little further behind than we thought. Here we were lucky enough to be allowed to sit in open VIP seats which gave us a good view at the Fan Expo’s biggest name this year. By biggest name I honestly mean “person charging the most for an autograph”. Matt Smith was enjoyable to watch. He answered questions very well and seemed perfectly polished for his role as a “big star”. Most of the questions posed to Mr. Smith were about his role as the Doctor, something I have never been interested in, other than the theme song. I know I just lost any geek cred but I honestly don’t get the big deal. The first time I felt Matt was being genuine was when a young man asked his girlfriend to marry him; Matt seemed excited and alive for this but was immediately whisked away afterwards. Time will tell whether Matt will become the big star that I’m being told he is already.
After we left, my companion and I made it to the food court; the lines were immense so really we were deciding whether or not to eat now or later. It turned out that Edward James Olmos made the decision for us. There on the outskirts of the food court was a man I barely recognized as the teacher from Stand and Deliver. I know that he was a main character on Battlestar Galactica, but again taking away from my geek cred I have never watched that show. Also Mr. Olmos looks nothing like his promotional photo that the Fan Expo used.
We followed Mr. Olmos to his Q&A session; in fact we rode in the same elevator as him. While attending his Q&A I was drawn in by his love for his character, the show, and life in general. Mr. Olmos informed everyone that they need not spend money to get his autograph; rather, they could simply come and visit. Mr. Olmos spoke of his beliefs in politics preaching non-violent demonstration. He joked about my and several other attendees’ bravery for not having finished the series. Luckily he never asked if anyone had never started it. In short Edward James Olmos is the kind of celebrity that other celebrities should try to be.
Speaking further on this I heard of his kindness to a fan in a wheelchair. The fan waited in line for a short time as Edward waved him past all the other people waiting in line. Edward then spoke to the young man, asking about whether he like BSG; the fan answered yes so Edward autographed a photo, Edward then asked if the fan liked Blade Runner; the man answered yes again, Edward signed another photo, then Edward asked if the fan liked Miami Vice; this time the fan answered that he wasn’t old enough to watch it but his mother was and she liked it, Edward then signed a photo of his Miami Vice character for the fan’s mother. According to the website each autograph should have cost the fan $60. I was fortunate to hear this story from the young man and his mother while we were waiting for Stan Lee later in the day. The mother was so pleased and proud that she showed me all three photos while telling the story. Not only did Mr. Olmos sign the photos he wrote kind words as well. Again I am certain that I need to watch this man in BSG and everything else he does for the rest of his life.
After Olmos’s Q&A was finished I raced to hall 105 again in order to see Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez, both from Napoleon Dynamite fame. I was on time but the stars were not. After waiting a little bit they showed up. It was an interesting Q&A filled with the two actors falling constantly back into their old characters. I cant say I was overly enthused to see them but I can say I enjoyed the opportunity.
I left the hall and went to get back into line; however, his time I was rejected and sent to the back of the line because they told me my press pass didn’t give me any extras. I slowly walked to the end of the line when another official told me that Press get to wait in the VIP line. It was a strange situation but I took it, after all I was really looking forward the the next Q&A with none other than the original Dynamic Duo, Burt Ward & Adam West. When we were let in I was able to get a really nice seat. It turns out that the dynamic duo were running behind by a bit but when the eventually arrived Burt Ward sprung onto stage with the energy of a much smaller man. He was followed by the Mayor of Quohog himself, Adam West. The Q&A was humorous. Most questions went to either Adam West or to both actors. They did a quick advertisement for the new DVD release of the original 1966 Batman series due out November 11th. Truthfully the one thing that seemed quite evident was that the stars came from a time period where they werent paid as much as stars are now, this became clear by Adam’s almost constant references to money. Still it was quite humorous and we were all informed that Burt and Adam would be available for photos with the Batmobile.
Finally after running between Q&A’s all day I was able to eat some lunch and make my way back to the Exhibitors area. After all while I’ve discovered I’m not a huge Sci Fi buff I am a huge comic fan. I am always amazed at the amount of vendors there are at shows like this. After making a few selections for my collection including a very nicely priced Justice League TPB I was again drawn to Artists Alley. I have always been a fan of extremely detailed artwork as well as new takes on older costumes, this is why I was drawn to John Gallaghers table. John is an entertainment illustrator and from what I can tell a very good one. His renditions of classic characters (including– a favorite of mine — Nova) are amazing. John was willing to discuss his work on the soon to be released CW TV series The Flash as well as his love of the classic character Rocket Robin Hood. I highly recommend taking a look at his site www.uncannyknack.com if you want to see some very cool renditions of some classic characters.
After Artist Alley it was time to race back to the conference hall. By race I mean slowly travel through thousands of fans taking photos of as many cool cosplays as I can, I wish they had all turned out because some were amazing.
It took almost an hour to get back to hall 105 for what was to be the happiest moment of my weekend. This moment of joy was shut down as I walked to the VIP area where Press and VIPs were going to wait in line. I was immediately shut down and sent to the very back of the line several hundred people back. As I was preparing to sit down again I asked one of the officials if this was the policy for Press. Lucky for me I asked since two minutes later I and every other Press member were shunted to the front of the line. I was thanked by many of them since they too were lead to believe that they wouldn’t have to wait. It’s not the matter of waiting, it’s a matter of planning, and I too would have waited three hours to see the next guest.
After that little incident I was let into the hall along with my fellow writers and several hundred VIPs. I sat as close as possible because I’ve been waiting for this speaker for most of my life. I was fortunate to speak to the young man in the wheelchair I mentioned earlier. His mother was very proud to bring her son to the Fan Expo every year. As we waited we spoke of our weekends and how happy we were to see the next speaker. 10 minutes turned into 30 minutes as we waited, turns out planes were running poorly and our hero was running late. After another 20 minutes it was announced that the one and only Stan Lee had arrived, and I watched a man climb to the stage with energy that most 91 year olds would only dream of having. His voice is unmistakable to any true fan. He answered many questions in his too short of time there, such as his favorite character and his favorite cameo. Spider-Man and the original Iron Man were the answers. For about 33 minutes I was in the presence of the most important comic creator of all time and it felt too short. I hope next year I have the chance to see him again, this time I hope I have the time to speak to him. I’d pay almost any price; to me Stan Lee was the big draw.
As we leave the hall I am happier than I’ve been all weekend. My weekend is over for this year but I got to see the one person I wanted to see. Toronto Fan Expo is an amazing weekend, if you have the chance to go I highly recommend it, they have a large selection of celebrities that I know I wish I could have seen. Each year is bigger and better, maybe next year I’ll go for all four days just so I can truly enjoy it. Next time I’m taking the train just to be safe.