Toronto Fan Expo: An Experience
Toronto’s Fan Expo is essentially the younger brother of the San Diego Comic Con. From Thursday August 22 to Sunday August 25, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is abuzz with people all across Ontario looking to be welcomed among fellow fans. It doesn’t have nearly the hype, exposure or media-frenzying news of the famous convention; which reminds participants of events past. Fan Expo is more about absorbing yourself in nerd culture than being the first to catch a glimpse of a big movie or television show.
In true convention fashion, there’s A-list to obscure actors signing autographs (all for a fee, of course), overly expensive subpar food, hordes of people in costumes you will never understand and rare items you probably thought you would never see in person. Featuring anime, comics, horror, videogames and even sports; it had something for just about anyone. If you have any sort of dedication to a “nerd” hobby, you will have an enjoyable and memorable time.
This year marked the introduction of a sports section at Fan Expo. When you think about it, it’s sort of its own variety of nerd culture: memorizing games and stats, collecting memorabilia and having favourite players to “geek” out over. Though not personally a fan of sports it was interesting to see its fan culture. It was reminiscent of the comic book culture to see fans sift through boxes in hopes to find the necessary rare card they wanted framed on their wall. The appearance of the legendary Hulk Hogan garnered a large crowd with many donning “Hulkamania” shirts.
Comics are the nucleus of Fan Expo. With so many long boxes and rare gems protected behind glass for enthusiasts to behold. It was a pleasant surprise to have so many high profile creators waiting for fans to visit and chat or grab an autograph. It’s a treat to be able to walk up to favourites like Jeff Lemire or Lee Bermejo to shake hands and just say hello. It was an experience in itself to see Stan Lee in person. He was the main attraction of the convention. At 10, there was an absurdly long line for signings that started at 3, which was announced over the speakers to cheers, and a crowd came just to glimpse the man in person.
The other three facets of the expo (videogames, anime and horror) had much smaller presences. The anime portion had some voice actors signing autographs, tables of manga and imported Japanese products from soda to erotic mouse pads. There was a sailor moon reunion panel for the American voice cast, but the attendance was surprisingly small. The horror section being by far the smallest, consisted mostly of gothic apparel, special effects booths and signings by cult favourites, like Jeffrey Coombs (lead actor of Re-Animator) and Don Coscarelli (director of the Phantasm series). While the videogame part of the convention also featured a few voice actors and only a handful of tables selling rare games. The biggest presence at the convention for videogames was Microsoft and Sony advertising the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The other segments of the convention aren’t as big as the marketing leads you to believe. You may not be satisfied by your particular niche, but there so many other interesting things from the other mediums that you will be entertained.
One of the main reasons to attend any comic convention is for the cosplayers. It’s impressive to see all the meticulous work put into costumes. It’s amazing to see how your favourite characters would look in real life. The half-assed costumes are also amusing when the lack of commitment is obvious: a cardboard Iron Man inspired some chuckles. The creativity of people is always astounding: a hip hop Storm Trooper with appropriate Star Wars bling and a customized boom box was a huge hit among attendees. While the absurd is always interesting as well, like a “sexy” Sonic the Hedgehog or a male Princess Peach. Taking pictures with your favourite characters is a necessary part of the con experience.
One of the best parts of the expo is discovering things you never knew you wanted. There’s an immeasurable amount of unique things, like homemade Pokemon plush toys, Death Note headphones or a Maximum Carnage Mighty Muggs set. Everything is generally pretty pricey, but it’s fun just to see what odd and interesting things you can find.
Conventions are definitely an experience I think everyone of nerd culture should attend. Everything may be a bit expensive (including attendance), but it’s enjoyable just to peruse the aisles and spot some celebrities. It gives the ability to discover different nerd cultures and maybe pick up a new hobby you wouldn’t think you would be interested in. The expanding crowd has proven that this convention formula works, as people keep coming back for more year after year.