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.
SHATNER ON SUNDAY ONLY: This had to be one of the biggest let downs for me of the entire convention. The fact that William Shatner was only going to be in attendance for one day. That meant longer line-ups if I wanted to even contemplate meeting him for a picture or autograph. And since he wouldn’t be there until Day 3, nobody knew what sort of fees he would be charging (I later heard it was $80 for a picture or autograph – in the words of a great Totontonian? “Cha, right!!”). Another reason I chose to take a pass on Sunday.
ROGERS WIRELESS TICKETING: Full disclosure – it’s through being a Rogers employee that I pay my bills, but that fact has nothing to do with my kudos. As a subscriber, I decided to save the service charges and buy my Fan Expo ticket wirelessly (I also had an interest in this newfangled technology). Well, as it turns out, those of us who purchased tickets via Rogers Wireless wound up getting a phone call and email informing us that we could enter the convention via the Premium ticket holder line-up, thus saving me hours of waiting to get inside. This was a huge and totally unexpected bonus. If I attend next year’s show, this is my guaranteed method of ticket purchase.
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.