It was a star-studded and cosplay-crowded weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Labour Day Weekend as fans and celebrities alike celebrated the 20th anniversary of Fan Expo Canada. Two decades ago, some 1,500 comic book fans joined to share comics and talk about their favourite superheroes at what would become the nation’s largest entertainment convention. From August 28 to 31, more than 100,000 fans stampeded their way through both buildings of the convention centre, hoping to either get their hands on a rare comic, get a picture of Nathan Fillion or Ian Somerholder, or just dress up before Halloween.
Every year, fans await the announcement of special guests appearing at the show. As it was the 20th anniversary of the event, the planners wanted to give back to the fans by bringing in as many celebrities as possible. The big names included Adam West (Batman, 1966), William Shatner (Star Trek, 1966), Patrick Stewart (X-Men, 1999), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead, 2010), Stephen Amell (Arrow, 2012), and Matt Smith (Doctor Who, 2010), not to mention multiple other talents.
Fan Expo Canada began as a simple comic convention in the mid-’90s, but has grown to be a convention for all things pop culture. The Space Channel-hosted event included multiple comic exhibitors, clever T-shirt vendors, entertainment franchises (like HMV, Warner Brothers Studios, and EB Games), as well as independent artists trying to be noticed by the head comic industries: Marvel and DC Comics. However, the two largest comic distributors were nowhere to be seen, like at last year’s event.
Besides the disappointment at Marvel and DC not being in attendance, some fans were also unhappy with the meet-and-greets. After a very short encounter with comic book legend Stan Lee, the nostalgia quickly wore off. The price had also increased since last year, when it cost $60 to meet Stan Lee. This year it was $80, and that wasn’t even the most expensive single meet-and-greet. The most expensive was the most recent doctor on Doctor Who, Matt Smith, at an astounding $110. The operation ran like an assembly line: walk up to the celebrity, smile for the camera, and run off so that the next customer can have a three-second moment that cost an entire shift (or two) at work. Regrettably, Stan Lee’s booth was not the only one like this; Stephen Amell of Arrow and Elijah Wood of The Lord of the Rings trilogy were similar.
There was also a lack of food options in the building and the prices were high. Too many fans were also allowed into the convention centre, and the hot August weekend made it a claustrophobic experience for newcomers to the expo.
But for all that, at the conclusion of Fan Expo Canada, a majority of the fans got what they wanted, no matter how stuffy or expensive it was. Comic lovers got to meet their favourite artists and writers. Whovians got to meet their idols from the show. Parents got to keep a close watch over their children as they played at the LEGO or Hasbro booths. All in all, the fans got to be, well, fans, dressed up in cosplay or not.