Bigger and Better Than Ever – Andy Burns on the Good and Bad of Fan Expo 2011

Another year of Fan Expo, the Great White North’s version of the San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone, and by all accounts it was a huge success; certainly better than the disaster the 2010 version was. If you weren’t there, you missed long lines, tight spaces and few helpful people. The mass of complaints certainly made it to the ears of the organizers, since the 2011 edition was the exact opposite. This year, line-ups were quick moving and well-organized, while the entire south building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was taken over, allowing for crowded but never unbearable or unreasonable aisles. It’s always easy to come down on an organization when things don’t go well, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to give kudos when an experience is done right, which is what Hobby Star and Fan Expo managed to achieve this year.

I was on hand for three out of the four days (Thursday, Friday and Sunday) and thoroughly enjoyed my time, for a few reasons. Discovering your holy grails is a big part of attending these conventions – trying to track down that elusive part of your collection can be both frustrating and elating, depending on the end result. A two-year search for an Angel from X-Men heroclix that I’ve been hoping would be made ended with the discovery that the figure had indeed finally come into existence sometime in the last four months. I don’t play the game, but the figure will go nicely with the rest of his original uniform clad teammates.

I also finally got my hands on four trade paperbacks that compile the late 90’s Cliffhanger vampire series Crimson, featuring the art work of now superstar but then new guy on the scene Humberto Ramos. The trades have been out of print for years, and I’ve searched high and low trying to track them down, from Amazon to ebay. This just happened to be my year, and I also managed to haggle a bit with the dealer to get the series for a reasonable price. Haggling on a Friday? That’s virtually unheard of, but it worked in my favour.

Along with my purchases, I also talked to some friendly creators and comic book folks, including artist Cameron Stewart, Charles Soute, the writer of Image Comics 27 (brilliant series, review to come) and Marvel SVP C.B. Cebulski,. I’ve known C.B. for a few years now, but I’ve never seen him in action as a talent scout until now. I was standing at the Marvel Comics booth Friday afternoon, waiting to say hello to him, when I watched as a man and his girlfriend or wife approach C.B.. The two men seemed to know one another, while the woman smiled and didn’t really talk. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but I could tell the man was asking if C.B. would look at some of the woman’s work. C.B. was enthusiastic, and the woman shyly pulled out a small sketch book. I don’t know what more was said, but I could tell that, at the very least,  he was smiling and encouraging as he flipped through her work. It put a grin on her face while reminding me that this was what these conventions are really about – creators connecting and encouraging others.

From my perspective, as both a fan attending and a writer looking for a story, I can tell you I experienced only one real disappointing moment. When you attend these sorts of shows, you know that the majority of movie and tv stars there are going to charge people for autographs or photos ($80 for a William Shatner signature!). I understand that this has become a source of income for many, especially in the ebay age when a celeb can sign something and 10 minutes later it’s being hocked online. However, there was time not so many years ago, when you could walk up to a table without the intention of making a purchase and simply say hello, say a few kind words and shake a hand. Those days may be long gone. Case in point – Larry Hagman, of Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie fame, was attending Fan Expo. On Thursday night, there happened to be a lull in the line to meet him so I thought I’d go up and simply say thanks for J.R. Ewing, one of my favourite characters of all time. I didn’t want a photo or a signature – just a moment to give kudos to someone who I grew up with. However, when I asked the Fan Expo volunteer minding the line if that would be ok, he said he wasn’t sure and he’d have to ask. Fair enough. One of Hagman’s people came over, who said that, no, I couldn’t go say hello. When she confirmed that she was indeed serious, I shrugged my shoulders and walked off, more aghast than anything else. No dinner at Southfork for me this year.

Really, that was just one bum moment in an overall enjoyable few days. I didn’t anticipate enjoying Fan Expo as much as I did, so it was nice to be pleasantly surprised by the experience. A huge step up from last year, I’ve got admit I’m actually eager to see what and who 2012 will bring.

The countdown starts now.

One Reply to “Bigger and Better Than Ever – Andy Burns on the Good and Bad of Fan Expo 2011”

  1. Much like your Hagman experience, I had a bizarre encounter with Tom Felton’s folks. I had a press pass and was shooting photos. Most of the actors didn’t mind, including Hayden Panattiere and Elisha Dushku, but FanExpo crew in the vicinity of Drako were on me like a quidditch player on a broom. When I said I was snapping photos for a paper, they replied in earnest, “No”. So, being a journalist I smiled took ten steps away and snapped a shot, much to the complaints of the not-even-rent-a-cops.

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