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.
I wasn’t expecting much better this year, even after the organizers moved the event back to the more spacious confines of the Metro Toronto Convention Center’s south building.
Boy was I taken aback.
There were lots of people – just as many as I remembered in the previous year – but no lines! Nope. There was nothing but crazy cosplay peeps, friendly faces and helpful advice from attendees, vendors, volunteers and security staff. It made my four-day sojourn through the aisles of comic books and toy vendors, artists and jewelry makers, video game companies and book publishers, writers and pop-culture personalities a thoroughly entertaining experience.
I didn’t buy many comics this year. I was looking for commissioned artwork instead. Still, there was the ongoing search for Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter #5 – the first appearance of Lady Shiva. A detailed exploration through numerous dusty longboxes yielded only issues 2, 3, 4 and 6 and so my three-year mission remains ongoing. Yes, I could probably find it on Ebay, but that’s not the point of these grail-like quests, is it? It’s about being surprised, being astounded by something impromptu.
For my two buddies, Denny and resident Biff Bam Pop! Editor-in-Chief, Andy Burns and I, that sense of surprise came the first night as we ran into legendary comic book writer, the just arrived, Chris Claremont. Over drinks and appetizers, we chatted about delayed flights out of La Guardia, the X-Men series of films and whether or not Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet could be seriously interpreted as a comedy. After a few Stella’s, I thought it could. Chris, the Coca-Cola drinker, looked dubious.
It’s moments like this, for me, that make Fan Expo the fun and exciting weekend event it always turns out to be, line-ups or not. But ultimately, it’s the time spent with good friends: Andy Burns, Denny and family, and Biff Bam Pop! contributor Jason Ward, walking the convention floor, searching for deals, joking and laughing, gabbing drinks, making the scene and planning for the days to come.
These are truly the prized possessions that Fan Expo offers every year.