Category Archives: Toronto
Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival was a good one for yours truly, as I made the first of two trips to Midnight Madness for a screening of Seven Psychopaths, from writer/director Martin McDonagh and staring Colin Farell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. If you like your movies crazy, funny and full of some stellar violence, this one is definitely for you.
Find out more after the jump!
Fan Expo 2012 is about to hit Toronto and for the weekend of August 23-26th, nerds will rule. This marks the 18th year of Fan Expo and probably the 3 or 4th time I’ve attended… going to comics, sci fi, horror, anime, gaming conferences steels you against the extremes of fandom.
I expect this to be another crazy, cosplay filled, celebrity spotting type of conference; certainly nothing out of the ordinary for Fan Expo.
For a quick look at what’s in store and schedule hilights, read on.
Batman has hit Toronto with the recent Bat Tumbler Tour… and if you haven’t caught it yet, you still can today at Yonge & Dundas until 4pm. But did you know that Batman himself has been a Toronto sensation for some time? All thanks to the now locally famous Toronto Batman videos.
In fact, his fame has spread far enough to attract the attention of another fan-fictitious character of relative fame: Chad Vader. So much so, that Vader paid Toronto Batman a visit.
Check out the crazy video after the jump…
Butch Walker hosted a basement house party at the MOD Club in Toronto last night and unfortunately, only a handful of people got the invitation. Walker, an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/producer/performer, blamed the disappointing turnout on the monsoon-like rainstorm hittingToronto, but that didn’t stop him and his band The Black Widows from delivering a balls-to-the-wall set of rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s a shame to say that I had preconceived expectations of the negative kind heading over to Toronto’s Fan Expo this year. Last year’s convention of all things comic book, sci-fi and anime was messed up. Too many people made for too many lines and staff, under the pressures of overcrowding and (rightfully) demanding patrons, broke down and showed their worst, most uncooperative and unaccommodating sides. Read the rest of this entry
Let me take you back. Back to the spring of 1991, when I was a 14 year old kid (not yet pimply faced) who was well on his way to becoming immersed in the world of rock. I was listening to Zeppelin and The Beatles and The Doors and Neil Young. I was growing my hair long in the back (badly) and learning how to play bass guitar (not as badly). It was around this time that my good friend at the time, one Corey Diamond (a massive Rush fan who introduced me to the brilliance of one Neil Peart), called me on Monday night (it feels like it was a Monday), suggesting we go down to the Toronto Skydome and see the band Yes. I declined, he was persistent, and I declined again, even though the tickets were a cheap $10.70.
“Sorry, man,” I said. “My mom won’t let me go to concerts on a weeknight. Anyway, I only know ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’.”
“You don’t know ‘Roundabout’?” he responded with a degree of shock.
And so I skipped out on the Union tour, which featured 8 reunited members of the band that defines progressive rock. It is hands down my biggest concert regret of all time. Within weeks of the show I started buying up albums by Yes at a rapid pace. I hoped that the tour would make a second trip back to Toronto during the summer leg, but it wasn’t to be. And while I’ve seen Yes each time they’ve returned to the city ever since (arenas and amphitheaters and theaters), I never got to see Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe, Squire, White, Rabin and Kaye all together.
Now it’s 20 years later and after countless underground purchases and endless dreams, a live record of the Union Tour has finally been officially released in a gorgeous 2DVD/2 CD collection. It features that Shoreline show I’ve bought twice already. It’s got the bootleg Denver show, too. It also has the very first show of the Union tour (a bootleg performance, captured on shaky multi-cameras and hugely historical). We’re talking about nearly 7 hours of video material, along with a soundtrack to Shoreline concert. Throw in some backstage passes and a replica of the original tour program and you’ve pretty much got as good a package I’d ever hope for.
With a young family and a goal to curtail my spending on the non-essentials, you may wonder why I’d spend about $56 on material I mainly already had. Truth is, I’ve waited for something official from Yes’ Union tour all these years. It’s all well and good to find and buy bootlegs, but this is an official release. That means the band approved of it and they’ll get royalties. It seems worth the money. And the packaging really is well done.
I can’t believe it’s been 20 true summers since I fell in love Yes. It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting in a friends basement with my imitation Rickenbacker bass, playing ‘The Fish’ over and over. Now I’m sitting with my 7 month old daughter on my lap, singing along to ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’. But it’s the music that sticks with you that matters the most. Yes has stuck with me. And while I don’t think the Union Live collection is for everyone, if you’ve had an interest or you were there to see it all happen, this set is a keeper. If you’re interested, you can pick up this limited edition set here. With roughly 3000 reportedly sold already, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one waiting for this.
And to my old friend Corey, thanks for introducing me to the magic of prog rock. I blame you.
Well, it’s the end of August, which means that Fan Expo 2010 has come and gone. However, what’s been a yearly pilgrimage for myself and some other Biff Bam Poppers for some time wasn’t the clear cut success it has been in the past. Here’s a brief rundown on what worked and what didn’t at what has become one of the biggest conventions in North America.
LINING UP: First off – the lines to get into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s North Building on Fan Expo Day 1 were absolutely ridiculous and unwarranted. Deluxe pass holders were promised early admission (2pm) but the line that went around the building guaranteed that that wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t. Long line-ups may make for a great visual on the news and throughout the industry, but for those fans that ponied up their cash early, this was pure case of screwing the customer. Day 2 was apparently worse for those coming just for the day. With “record” crowds allegedly onhand, thousands were stuck outside the venue while movement between the floors was body to body, hot and uncomfortable, and a legitimate fire hazard. It’s to be expected that moving on the convention floor to the various booths is going to be a sticky situation with the gathered throngs, but getting into the venue needs to be revisited for next year. It was such an unpleasant experience that, combined with the next criticism, I made the decision to skip out on Day 3 of the show. Organizers did try to make up for things by extended yesterday’s show hours, but I’m not sure that would completely quell people’s frustrations.
WHERE WERE THE DEALS? This has nothing to do with the organizers and more to do with what you expect when you go to a convention like Fan Expo. Me, I’m looking for deals. I want to walk in and buy my books at an exceptional discount. This year, 20% and 30% off US cover just wasn’t going to cut it for me. Sadly, this meant I really didn’t come away with anything particularly exciting. It also meant I was going to come home and purchase the books I didn’t get off of Amazon.ca for the best price that’s out there. I’m all for supporting the industry, but as a guy with a family and a mortgage, I’m also into watching my wallet.
SAN DIEGO SPOILS IT FOR THE REST OF US: I don’t know about you, but with all of the hype that came out of this years San Diego geek gathering, this years Fan Expo left me pretty cold. Sure, there was a big Tron booth and the Alien pod display for the upcoming Blu-Ray release, but where was our Avengers panel? Where was Ryan Reynolds espousing the virtues of next year’s Green Lantern film? I know that Fan Expo has not been the place for those sorts of events in the past, but seeing as how much it’s grown over the last few years, and considering the emphasis put on San Diego just a few weeks ago, it’s hard not feeling as though this year’s show lacked real buzz.
THE STAN LEE VIP EXPERIENCE:For old school comic book fans, the biggest guest of the year was Marvel legend Stan Lee. And it was clear by the massive lines for every signing and photo-op that there were thousands of folks eager to meet the man who created Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The X-Men, Silver Surfer and so many more. Luckily, myself and my compatriots acted quick and early and purchased the expensive Stan Lee VIP Experience months ago. This meant no waiting in lines for pictures or autographs. Instead, out VIP pass brought us to the front of line for those events, saving us considerable time and angst. It also meant that we had some nice moments with the legend himself. Stan The Man told BBP contributor JP he was a great model during their picture together; he smiled and told me “I’m proud of you” when I mentioned I had Spidey tattooed on my shoulder; meanwhile our art contributor Denny co-ordinated a nice group shot of the three of us together with Stan at the VIP meet and greet reception that occurred on Friday night (with free food to boot). While there may have been some serious screw-ups for the everyday pass holders, the Fan Expo big wigs made sure that everyone who paid the big bucks to schmooze with Stan got their money’s worth.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Rather than trying to hustle for interviews, this year I attended Fan Expo as a fan. And as a fan, I walked away with the realization that I was no longer interested in long line-ups to meet celebs (not that I ever was much, but I have waited a while to meet certain creators and would have liked to shake Captain Kirk’s hand). Because I’m at least 4 or 5 months off of my comic reading because I like to wait for trades to come out, I wasn’t interested in attending panels that would either spoil stories or use a lot of hyperbole to generate interest in the next big events (Spider-Man’s world will never be the same?Where have I heard that before?). And because of budget and responsibility I was working with a “what do I need” mentality rather than a “what do I want” one, which took a bit of the thrill out of shopping. I guess that’s why it’s called growing up.
However, I did meet Stan Lee in the company of two of closest compadres, to which I say any disappointments do pale in comparison. And if my Fan Expo days are coming to a close as I’m left feeling as though they are, it’s nice to know that I at least got to meet the man who taught me that with great power comes great responsibility.
Every week this summer, we’ll be bringing you a new installment of a 12-part series of reviews of meaningful comics found in the collections of our writers. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
These reviews, then, are the tales of those collections: illuminating characters, artists, writers – even eras – in addition to the personalities of the very owners of those fine collections.
Crisis on Infinite Earths #1
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: George Perez and Dick Giordano
Those are the infamous words that harkened DC Comics’ earth-shattering, mythology busting, industry-changing, twelve-issue monthly “maxi-series” called Crisis on Infinite Earths, fist published in 1985.
I spotlight this particular title for a couple of reasons. First of all, this coming Saturday, July 24, 2010 is the first month anniversary of Toronto’s very own Crisis. Yep, my hometown hosted the most recent G20 Summit and, for a few hours, the downtown streets were filled with fire and brimstone and some kind of anarchic, matter-destroying plasma – under the guise, of course, of cowardly, mask-fitted hooligans. I know. It’s a stretch. But watching the events of this riot on live television brought Crisis on Infinite Earths to my head. Like Raymond Stantz famously said at the end of Ghostbusters: “It just popped in there.”
The illustration of real events I describe here actually has some close ties to both the visuals and the narrative of the comic book story, of which, I’ll get into in just a little bit.
One of the other reasons I bring the series up is that DC Comics is currently wrapping up their latest company-wide crossover, Blackest Night, with the aptly titled Brightest Day series. Marvel, on the other side of the fence, is leading up to their next big event series called The Heroic Age, a story that seems to be about legions of vampires versus earth’s resident mutants. It sounds interesting enough, no? Who wouldn’t want to see Wolverine as a member of the undead?
Crisis on Infinite Earths, you see, blazed the trail for the all-encompassing, comic book company crossover series. Written by industry veteran (and, at the time, beloved writer of The New Teen Titans) Marv Wolfman and illustrated in senses-smashing detail by fan favorite, George Perez, Crisis was, essentially, an editorial endeavour. It was a means to clean up various inconstancies, large and small, within DC Universe continuity.
I’m not going to get into those irregularities here since that could very well be a paper worthy of a doctorate degree, but an example for the layman would be: why is there a Superman (whom we all know and recognize in pop culture), an older Superman (with gray hair, seemingly on the verge of pension-collection) and a Superboy (from those bullied farm boy, Smallville days) all interacting and adventuring with one other at the same time if they are truly the same person at different points in a timeline that is that person’s life?
Heady stuff, no?
The quick answer is: when a company has been around for as long as DC had been (fifty years back in 1985), with as many creative writers and artists walking through office hallways, and as many extraordinary stories published as the comic book company had in that length of their existence, these things just tend to occur.
The longer, editorially provided answer (shortened, by me, due to size restrictions) is: there are an infinite number of universes, all with their own inherent version of a “Superman” character. Crisis on Infinite Earths was meant to tell an engaging story and reduce those infinite universes, boiling them down to only one.
And did it ever.
The narrative seeds of Crisis were planted in various comic books twelve months before the first series’ first issue was even published. Not only did it run for twelve issues, (three of which being double-sized), but the “Crisis” story ran in a gamut of DC’s regularly published, monthly titles as well during 1985 and 1986. In an unprecedented event, over fifty other issues were devoted to the end-of-worlds storyline, all bearing the tag line: Crisis Tie-In on their front covers.
The very first scene in the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths sets the stage for what readers would come to expect over the following months: as a chaotic energy wave of immense power rips one of the “multiple earths” apart, many heroes and villains, in an extraordinary maneuver, band together in the fruitless cause of saving the public and themselves from oblivion. Not all take this turn, however. Some, be they hero or villain, attempt to save only themselves. Others cower in fear while still others, hopeless, fly off into the maelstrom, committing suicide. If there’s one thing Marv Wolfman and George Perez did in this series, it was humanize the super-powered deities that we call our heroes.
Crisis on Infinite Earths spun off two other series for DC Comics over the last decade. Infinite Crisis, a seven-issue series published in 2005, sought to return the idea of the multiverse – this time in a finite amount. Fifty-two different universes emerged from the conclusion of that storyline. Final Crisis, another seven-part tale, published in 2008, served to bring a sense of order to those fifty-two universes. The after effects of that series are still being felt.
The original tale had been collected in various trade paperbacks as well as a more recent oversized (and gorgeous) Absolute edition, complete with a second book, a compendium of the editorial process and various sketches and scripts. It serves to remind comic book fans of the first, great cross-over series and sets itself as marker for where comic books had been during the middle and latter decades of our last century.
In my city’s very own crisis, there were those that looted and caused damage to property and person alike. There were also those that helped others and those that protested the G20 Summit peaceably. Actions by individuals employed by the various police forces operating in Toronto at the time have been called into questions. There are also many accounts of these organizations having honorable interactions with the public, employing a mandate of keeping the peace so that we might all live in a safe environment. In a span of three days, it seems, a crisis humanized all those in Toronto. It brought about a gamut of emotions and deeds, a base form of human endeavour, for good or for bad, regardless of age, occupation or affiliated organization.
But for a little while on Saturday evening, June 26, 2010, I thought I saw matter-destroying plasma make its way down Spadina Avenue and onto Yonge Street. I don’t know. Maybe it was just my cable on the fritz. Luckily for us all, the nihilistic energy wave was gone by Sunday, replaced instead by the city’s more normal, casual interest in all things Toronto.
In an alternate universe, who knows what might have happened.