This is sort of an unusual write-up for me. I didn’t attend the Fan Expo in Toronto, Canada, this past weekend (Oct. 22-25) officially as press, but rather because I was helping a friend, Nathan Nun, sell his cat related art/prints. I ran into Nathan at the post office and he told me that he was doing a table at Fan Expo for the first time and I volunteered to help.
It was a very different experience helping someone out at his table (in short, it’s more exhausting because you’re there for the duration of the whole show, though I did have liberal opportunities to walk around – the show ran for four days and we set up the night before the first day). The last time I did anything like this, I rented a table at a very small one day show in the mid nineties to sell off most of my comic collection to pay for rent. Things have obviously changed convention-wise since then. This was sort of my view from behind the table as a parade of cosplayers walked by.
In the above photo, you can see the rafters of the huge Metro Toronto Convention Centre where Fan Expo was held. Apparently, there were birds in there at some point pooping on people. A bird did sit in the rafters near our table for a little while but thankfully, we did not get pooped on – maybe the pictures of cats made them wary! Besides the parade of cosplay going in front of our table, there was the usual bounty of cosplay spectacle around. I didn’t take photos of cosplayers this year but these two fellows playing classic Spider-man villains The Hobgoblin and The Kingpin did catch my eye:
Here are some awesome comics people I ran into: famed inker and artist Scott Williams, Klaus Janson (with a re-creation of the cover to Daredevil 179 in front of him), Michael T. Gilbert, and Todd McFarlane! Money and success must do wonders for your looks because Todd McFarlane definitely looks better than me in the morning and he’s almost a generation older than me!
Todd McFarlane was on hand to promote Spawn hitting issue 300 which is a weird thing to think about. It doesn’t seem that long ago I remember buying Amazing Spider-man #300 which, when I was in high school, seemed to signal a title that had been around for decades. Now, that time period’s been more than doubled! Here are some photos of prints that the convention sold to celebrate this, plus Todd McFarlane meeting his fans – though I’m no longer a McFarlane collector or reader, I have heard that he can be very nice to fans and he was quite nice to me when I bumped into him in the lobby.
Someone who I’d planned on seeing was the impressive Gerhard. People know him as co-artist on Cerebus (with Dave Sim) but Cerebus ended a while ago and Ger’s been doing commissions. I think he was recently working on a Heavy Metal story with Grant Morrison. I’d interviewed Ger a couple of years ago and could see the fantastic work that he did. So when I bought a couple of loose sketches (the heads of Alan Moore and William Gull – from the work From Hell) by Eddie Campbell on eBay, I sent them to Ger (almost a year ago, although that’s not an unreasonable wait time for a commission nowadays) and asked if he’d draw a background and bodies around them. Though reluctant at first, he rose to the challenge and produced a really gorgeous piece and made it his own while still making it a homage to From Hell. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a commission like this before (the waiting and the uncertainty would be a little too nerve wracking for me) but this was well worth the wait and quite delightful. He also had dug up some old Cerebus pages for sale which you can see in one of the photos:
I got to wrestle Neal Adams – sort of! He said that his wife should take the photo quick or he’d crush me.
This is famous art dealer Albert Moy holding up an original page from Daredevil 184 – the classic first encounter between Daredevil and the Punisher, also known as the Child’s Play storyline. I (and most people) could not afford this page but I did buy some very affordable 80’s Daredevil art from Geof Isherwood who recently found a stack of his old art in his father-in-law’s basement. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture of Geof but here are pictures of the pages (the final three photos) that I bought – I love Daredevil from the 1980’s:
Usually, when I attend a show, I like to attend panels but given how many people there were at the show and how difficult it was to move around, and the fact that I had to relieve Nathan in terms of table duties from time to time, I didn’t really get to do that. I did get to attend most of one panel where industry professionals talked about writing for comics and part of another one where an academic talked about her research into the feminist politics around the show Sabrina:
Of course, there was the comics section but there were things drawing way bigger crowds and more people. One of them was the gaming area. Here, after the comics, we see a kid wearing a VR headset and experiencing some new simulation as Iron Man, soon to be released from Sony Playstation. The photos after that are of a Star Wars related exhibit that people could pose next to:
All of the signature and the photo opportunities were being held in another building of the convention centre. As the convention gradually drew more people, it was really difficult to get through the escalators and the skywalk that joined the two buildings. Here, we see a promotion for DC television shows in between some of the escalators. You could see the artist working on the display (done up to simulate comics pages) promoting new seasons of Swamp Thing, Batwoman, and Pennyworth. Walking through the skywalk, I ran into two of the regular cast from Kim’s Convenience and I was jazzed as it’s a very enjoyable local show that’s done really well, showcasing Toronto immigrant life. I tried to take photos from above of people signing but the photos aren’t very good because a volunteer said that I could take photos from the skywalk but only while moving, not standing still. There’s Sean Young (whom I identify with Blade Runner) and Peter Weller (whom I identify with Robocop) who just happened to be signing as I walked above:
Well, that’s it for a very packed show. These things are getting bigger and crazier all the time. What will a con look like ten years from now? Will there be laser strobe lights flashing all over the place? Will there be a kind of dance club area or mosh pit where people can dance/thrash around to release energy and aggression? What about a bar where people can socialize, form business connections, or just get drunk because it’s too exhausting to try and move around? Virtual reality pods where people can mentally check out for the majority of the day in some sort of synthesized shangri-la? Nathan, who never read comics, yet nevertheless had a satisfying time selling his cat art, was as much at home here as old grizzled comics collectors walking around looking for a slabbed issue of whichever comic in whatever condition.
After the show was finally over, and as we were all taking down our displays and packing up (which took a while), there was a very different feeling in the hall. Much of the auditory hubbub and the press of shuffling masses had vanished. The colour and the lights and the displays were being disassembled. The special guests had ducked out early to make trips back to wherever they came from. The vendors were tired and hungry and just wanted to pack up as quickly as possible and return home because except for showering, sleeping, and eating dinner, their waking days had been consumed by the convention. It was bittersweet and there was an exhausted feeling in the cavernous halls. It was enjoyable and we counted our blessings – at least we didn’t get pooped on!