August 28, 2007
On Saturday, Alex x 2, Andrew, Keith and I went down to the Metro Convention Centre for the annual Fan Expo. The Fan Expo is how do I put this mildly, a geek show. It was a comic/sci-fi/horror/gaming/anime convention all put into one; and I should also add that it should have been a Nintendo DS convention as well since it seemed like everyone there had one (I guess they knew they had to wait in line). This was my first time at one of these things, and it was an interesting look at this sub-culture, as well as a role-reversal since we would be the “cool kids” (i.e., jocks and the like) in the social hierarchy (or are we the losers since we didn’t dress up in costume?).
We showed up at 11 and started lining up with a lot of cosplay and NDS players. Alex was in a rush because the Tricia Helfer (of Battlestar Galactica and Canada’s Next Top Model fame) had her autograph session at noon. We finally were able to buy our $25 ticket at 12:30 and make it in. I have diverging thoughts about the price of the ticket. On the one hand, it’s a cheap ticket compared to other experience events (i.e., concerts), but OTOH it’s a hella expensive general convention ticket considering I thought $12 for the Auto Show was not really worth it. Although, before going in, I was tempted to get the $45 Deluxe pass which would have enabled me to go on Sunday as well, and to enter some of the premium events. But in the end, it wouldn’t have been worth it as I pretty much saw what I wanted to in one day.
Once we got our ticket, our plan was to hurry to the autograph booths, but of course we were delayed and sidetracked to take pictures of people in costumes. It’s like Hallowe’en for adults! Eventually we did get to the autograph session in time. The organizers had conveniently placed Six’s booth so that you couldn’t really get a good view of her unless you paid your extra money. This was tall Alex’s highlight of the show, so he paid his $10 for the photo, $2 for the photo protector and $25 for the autograph and got in line (and if you wanted a photo with her, it would cost you another $40!). Having different priorities; Alex, Andrew and I decided to get some lunch instead. We lined for Pizza Pizza, and ironically it turned out that the line was longer and we were served slower than Tricia Helfer! But the pizza was fresh and at only $20 wasn’t too much of a rip.
The cellphone service was horrible (i.e., non-existent; thank you 850MHz), so we had some difficulty meeting up with Keith. Eventually once we were all together we walked around the merchant area and display booths. There were a lot of people selling comics, figurines (i.e., toys) and other anime knicknacks. The horror section was basically filled with marketing campaigns for upcoming horror movie and DVDs. The gaming area was split into two halves, one featured competitions as part of the World Series of Video Games, and the other was a free area sponsored by Intel where you could play a variety of games. Surprisingly, there was little lineup in that area! Oh right, because everyone was playing their DSes.
The coolest area by far (well aside from all the cosplay) was the Artist Alley. Here, various well-known and not so well-known artists peddled their art. I bought a couple of limited prints by Peter Repovski of Daredevil, Spider-man and Batman, but there was a lot of other stuff that I wanted to buy (but where would I put them?). Another cool thing was that you could commission artists to draw someone for you, and it wasn’t too expensive. But in general, it was neat seeing how people would draw characters so that they were catchy and sellable (one way is nudity).
The most popular area was the autograph area. There were a couple of well-known people there: various Star Trek and Star Wars people, George Romeo, Malcolm McDowell and Adam West. The cool people to see for me were the Star Trek people. Robert Beltram, who played Commander Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager now had longer, shaggier hair. Dwight Schultz, who played Lt Barclay on Star Trek: TNG and Voyager looked much, much older. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: TNG looked a little older but much the same as he did in the movies. Andrew and Alex (he likes his autographs!) paid to get a sign picture with Frakes, and I was tempted to as well, but $25 doesn’t seem worth it. The last celebrity of note was Charisma Carpenter who appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Playboy. However, because I was taking pictures of Frakes I wasn’t able to be at her booth when she arrived and couldn’t get any good shots. By the time I arrived, they had placed a fat guy (must have been hard to find someone to fill that role at the convention) in the way to block the view.
On (short) Alex’s recommendation, we left the show area and headed to some sessions. Alex recommended the Sketch Offs where two artists are given a random artist to sketch while answering questions. At the end of the Sketch Off, each drawing was raffled off to a lucky audience member. The first one we saw was between Michael Turner and Oliver Coipel. I actually knew who Turner was because I collected Fathom way back when and apparently he’s been doing a lot of covers of comics that I follow. I don’t know Coipel at all, although he is drawing the current run of Thor (which I never started reading), and he had horrible answers to his questions. Although, I thought his drawing was better (maybe because he spent less time answering questions). The redeeming feature for him was that Andrew was the lucky winner of his Captain America sketch!
The next Sketch Off was not so great. It didn’t help that I didn’t know who any of the people were (nor what they drew). There were 3 anime artists from Japan (the guy who draws Trigun, the guy who draws Chrno Crusade, and someone else) and a local artist swapped and they drew each others’ characters. I suppose due to the difficulties of translating, instead of asking questions to the artists, the MC decided to kill time by selecting random people from the raffle and bringing them up to the front. You either had to say what you liked about the artists’ work (oops I knew no one), or otherwise entertain the audience for a minute or two. I thought this was a horrible idea because it made the audience part of the “show”. It was even worse when the artists weren’t finished on time so people kept getting called up. In the end, none of us got called up nor did we win in the raffle this time. The drawings themselves seemed better than the previous Sketch Off but I can’t really say because I don’t follow any of their shows.
And that was the end of a long but fun day, we went to East Side Mario’s for some dinner and then headed home.