Finding fandom – J.W. Ward’s Geek Guide to summer conventions

Once a year, all geek eyes turn towards southern California. 
Just twenty miles north of Mexico, there’s a place called San Diego, where fans of comic books, anime, movies and television gather to celebrate all that they love. 
To those in the know, it is the geek Mecca; a bucket list mainstay for those that haven’t yet made it but still love aliens, robots and dragons just a little bit more than everybody else.
Once upon a time, it was simply the biggest event on the geek calendar; a place to meet your favourite genre star or comic book artist and buy a lot of books, posters and other collectibles.  Over the last few years however, Comic-Con has become mainstream as the stars and studios of Hollywood take advantage of the event to build hype for their comics, books, films and television shows. 
This year, expect big announcements about the forthcoming relaunch of DC Comics as well as Marvel’s big plans come Fall and into 2012, in addition to news about shows like Castle and Community, and films like The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to the 2009 hit movie from director Guy Ritchie.
That’s if you can make it.
If San Diego is too far away but you’d still like a taste of the action, Toronto has two local options to help you get your geek on this season:

When: July 15-17, 2011
Where: Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel
Cost: $70 for Terra Pass (all weekend), $30-$40 for Neptune Pass (one-day), at the door
Formerly Toronto Trek, Polaris is celebrating 25 years of bringing TV-centric science fiction conventions to Hogtown.  Managed by a fan-run not-for-profit organization, Polaris boasts that it offers more social events (dances, masquerades, panels, meet & greets) than its corporately-managed competition.

“This is a community of people who discover, share and celebrate all that this genre has to offer in imagination and wonder,” said Kris Webb, Head of Media Relations for Polaris 25 via e-mail. “We celebrate our shows and actors and books and authors and all the creators who bring imagination into a vision, but also celebrate in each other and the joys this community brings when we get together.”

This year’s convention will feature the 5th annual Constellation Awards for excellence in science fiction film and television, in addition to such celebrity guests as Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate: SG-1), Jewel Staite & Adam Baldwin (Firefly), Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and author Charlaine Harris, the woman behind the books that inspired HBO’s True Blood.  On top of a free-to-the-public dealer’s room called the Polaris Marketplace, the convention will also feature events that include “Klingon Karaoke,” Friday and Saturday night dances, and the annual Z’aarx Charity Auction in support of Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto.


When: August 25-28, 2011
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Cost: $79 for Deluxe Pass, $25-$40 for One-Day Pass, presale on here.

Taking a page from the Comic-Con playbook, this year’s Fan Expo will take place over four days for the first time in its 17-year history.  Made up of five smaller conventions focusing on comic books, science fiction, horror, anime and gaming, it is Canada’s largest convention and the third-largest in North America. 
Fan Expo guests this year are too numerous to mention, but highlights include Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Robert Englund (Freddy from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man) and Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tru Calling, Dollhouse).
Been to a convention before?  What’s your best (or worst) convention-going story?
JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at www.jasonward.ca and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop! 
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