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Report On: FanExpo 2014

The winter con was a modest but fun experience. The March convention was a fun experience too. But Informa would be foolish to think they were prepared for an event the scale of Fan Expo. Always a mixed bag, a lot of great experiences, interactions, deals, and the fear that at any moment something can go tragic. August 28th to 31st at the Toronto Convention Center.

For taggable versions of all photos seen in this article and hundreds more, check out This Week In Geek’s Facebook Gallery for the event.

Fanexpo’s focus is marketed as: Comics, Anime, Sci-Fi, Horror, and Gaming. As the convention grew it became host to anything nerd that fit between those genres, like upcoming films. Last year Sports was added on but this year it was removed, all sports fans would rather be at the Jay’s games that weekend anyway. Because the north building was no longer just Sports Filler To See On Your Way To The South Building, it was very easy for attendees to have a good time on one side of the convention and entirely miss out on the other side of the con. There were tons of secret displays and hidden novelties to explore, but thankfully deluxe ticket holders have four days to search for gems like the NES Cartridge Flask Bottles from Ink Whiskey or unexpected exhibitors like the Canadian Royal Mint showing off their hot new line of Superhero collector coins.

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EB Games had a colossal store in the convention’s South Building. None of the major comic publishers had floor space, although their brands were represented by a giant “Arkham Knight” Batmobile and Marvel characters for Disney’s Infinity. Valiant and Archie comics were missed. The League Of Legends stage always had activity drawing a massive crowd of fans eager to get a free lanyard or poster or “I love/hate Teemo” bracelet. And this Ocoulus Rift technology does actually seem very cool.

Media Corporations attempted to tightly grip the convention, but thankfully there was still designated space for the people. Self-published authors like Geoff Isaac (“It Came From The Kitchen”), professional freelance artists, comic professionals (Tony Moore without a line-up!) and craft and print vendors galore.

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Higher profile celebrities signed autographs to those willing to wait in line and fork out dough. “Walking Dead” star Norman Reedus was friendly as we could hope for, while “Vampire Diaries” actor Ian Holm was less down-to-Earth which is good because I did not want to be endeared to any aspect of a Twilight derivative. At the pinacle of the food chain were William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, and Stan “The Man” Lee, and Hulk Hogan. They derive potent immortality from graciously catering to their fanbase. But the merely mortal Cosplay Icon Jessica Nigri embarrassed herself by taking Sunday off and not telling anybody, leaving the people who bought into her hype seeking a refund. Don’t spend your time in line for the girl who dressed as your favourite comic characters when the people who actually make your favourite comic characters are keeping it real in the artist’s alley.

An easier way to see great cosplay than fawning over Jessica Nigri is to look in any corner of the convention where there’s hundreds of cute anime girls, Deadpools, Lokis, and X-Men all over. Nothing as gigantic as some of the Anime North outfits – since Fan Expo traffic bottle-necks as the escalators. In the modern era, more and more people looking to keep track of themselves have a cosplay pages on Facebook to be tagged in a manner without directly linking to their person account. Now Fan Expo can just have official listings for cosplay meet-ups, it would be a step in the right direction.

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Fanexpo has problems, but nothing that would ruin the weekend for the majority of attendees. The prices have gone up and if you’re going to bundle a T-shirt in with the deluxe pass, the Canadian hero on it should at least be Captain Canuck (since his new Web Series is far, far better than it has any right to be.)

Oh, and of course there’s plenty of events to do in the evening. If you’re one of the coolest, you were either at the Nerd Noise Night event, or Videogames Unplugged, because local nerdcore is awesome

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In previous years, Fan Expo has become notorious for poorly coordinated volunteers. The left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing and the feet are tripping over each other. This year “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” there were still volunteers unfamiliar with the basic layout. Not that they didn’t try to assist when they could, but it’s clear that a lot of them were making things up as they went along and there was a lot less orientation than there should have been.

With so much stuff at Fanexpo, it feels like the “niche appeal” aspect of the convention has been washed away in a sea of cross-marketting. Unless you have a huge interest in Videogames, Cosplay, Upcoming Films, you can really absorb most of the south building’s offerings in one day, and the north building’s offerings in another, and still have time for some panels or autographs. And it’s not a murderous marathon of the convention if you’re able to skip it on suffocating Saturdays. But it’s still Canada’s closest thing to San Diego Comic-Con, and most of the complaints people have about it are just from people who haven’t attended in the past five years or have a poor grasp that high prices are a way of regulating demand.

-Michael S. Ryan

September 2nd 2014

Cosplayers are hot, you guys.

 

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