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Report On: FanExpo 2015

FanExpo is a behemoth of a convention, stomping into the city like a four-day rampage sucking energy and money from everybody who can explain to you the difference between the Avengers and Guardians Of The Galaxy. FanExpo 2015 lasted from September 3rd to the 6th, at the Metro  Toronto Convention Centre and continues to be the closest Canada has to the mythic San Diego Comic-Con.

Every staple of FanExpo was there. All level of guests, cosplayers, vendors selling everything, artists both professional and “breaking in”, more sexy cosplayers, big companies like Nintendo flaunting their purchasing power. In past years one of Fanexpo’s issues was allotting too much space to companies with money to burn but this year the area was better distributed, and people can see just how feverish Splatoon fans can be. Marvel and DC didn’t have displays, but fans of those companies were directed to Hayley Atwell and Robin Lord Taylor.

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Aside from Tyson, there wasn’t really any designated area for sports fans, because having that section at FanExpo is not a mistake which will be repeated. “Horror” also ended up with a limited display space compared to gaming and television, so fans of spooky stuff should be sure to look into Horror-Rama.

One surprising change is that the exhibitors hallway (on the lower floor under the escalators) was no longer in use. So a few C-list guests were relocated and a few self-published authors had to cancel their appearances and there was just more breathing space for cosplayers. The reason the section were removed is speculated to simply be building code which was not enforced in years past. In the artists alley, a lot of the regular Toronto professionals share a new “RAID” graphic on their banners to flaunt their affiliation with the Royal Academy of Illustration & Design.

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There was a booth co-operated by Toys-Я-Us and Hasbro where fans had the chance to get Exclusive Star Wars and Transformers figures. That’s a nice treat, but they had the idea to save on both space by selling the toys from the both and then having attendees pick them up from a separate room. So consequently there was a very slow single line for all the exclusives being staffed by people who didn’t know what was being sold, for how much, or what was still in stock. But at least I eventually got my Combiner Hunters three-pack.

Cosplayers came out in expected hordes. A large visible sign displayed “Cosplay is not consent” reminding people how to behave in company – it’s an incredibly easy rule to make and in a better world it wouldn’t be needed, but the reality is that a lot of cosplayers in provocative clothing appreciate the reminder for people to keep their hands-off. So all the people who wanted to get creepy can instead just line up for a J Scott Campbell autograph.

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Jason Mamoa get fans riled up for his role as Aquaman, encouraging people to believe a merman can be bad-ass. Mike Tyson socked out people who doubted his dedicated to solving mysteries. Phil Guerrero kept it real. Mads Mikkelson is actually a real human being. But fans most hyped up to see their icons were the Harry Potter fans looking for the chance to fawn over actors who helped made the fantasy real.

With a better use of space, FanExpo gave enough to fill at least two days full of exciting things to do, and then two more days full of reasonable fun since you bought a weekend pass. and once every inch of the convention has been combed, you can hang out with all the cool friends at the convention or surrounding piggy-backing events. And the most excellent event was, of course, Nerd Noise Night.

fanexpo14-19On Friday night and Saturday night, fans of the best Nerd Rock gathered in the legendary Horseshoe Tavern for a number of acts, including Wordburglar, the best fifth of the Kirby Krackle, Hervana, and other imported performances who sang about nerd life – not just how cool Spider-man but the lifestyle of a shared global experience of admiring Spider-man. Not saying, “Look at my life.” but instead “Look at ours.” Of course the major acts were The Blast Processors who continue to refine their sound and forge the perfect Golden Axe, and the Cybertronic Spree (right) who did all their usual tunes before teaming up with the black Weird Al the world has always wanted. Hopefully in the near future the two bands will play the same night at that double-stage bar from Scott Pilgrim.

While the absence of the exhibitors hall was a very strange decrease in area size, FanExpo continues to refine a convention experience that can easily be overwhelming to people trying to do everything. It’s one of the two Toronto fandom conventions which can make an undisputed claim to existing on an international level. Some people will never give FanExpo a chance, but they mostly have grown tired of whining about it. With the rather high admission fee (note to Informa: two-day passes would be a nice option), nobody will blame anyone for skipping it, but the adventurous people inside can get their money’s worth.

Michael Ryan, September 5th 2015

And I barely had to wait in line to pick up my ticket on Friday.

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