If you don’t know about FanExpo you should – it’s one of the biggest shows in North America, about the size of New York Comic Con but with less stress! I had a very pleasant experience earlier in the year at Toronto Comicon and was fortunate to be included as a pro guest this year.
3:30 pm Flew in on the uber hip and efficient Porter Airlines which lands at the tiny Billy Bishop Airport instead of Pearson, the main Toronto airport. It proved to be a good move — I sailed through immigration/customs and then got in line for the very short but scenic ferry ride from the airport island to the mainland. Fortunately, the free shuttle bus was waiting there as soon as the ferry landed and dropped all the passengers off about a block from the convention center and my hotel. What was that – half an hour tops from deplaning to hotel check-in? Feeling quite smug.
4 pm There’s a line to check-in at the Intercontinental. It’s obvious they’re Fan Expo attendees – half are in costume. Front desk staff are nonplussed. Dropped my suitcase off. Made the mistake of trying to cut through the Sports Expo in the North Building to get to the South Building which ended up being a longer route than going outside. Almost run over by a guy pushing a full size but non working Dalek off the floor (malfunction! malfunction!).
4:30 pm I setup my area between Mark Brooks and Craig Yeung who are already busy on commissions. I find out that the floor actually opened at 2 pm for VIPs – doh! Make two sales almost immediately.
7 ish Getting peckish. Fortunately some adorable kids come by with water and snacks courtesy of the convention. Nice! (Other convention organizers, take note- water & a couple bags of chips makes for happy artist alley guests.)
8:30 pm The floor closes at 9 but we’re all too tired and hungry. a lot of us close up shop so we can grab dinner.
10:30 pm Full of curry, noodles and rice, we head back to the bar at the Renaissance hotel. Just about everyone on the comics guest list is there. Agnes Garbowska was talking with two friendly guys. Wait- it’s Jason Priestley and Luke Perry and they’re actually quite nice! Luke Perry grew up with comics- said he and stacks and stacks of them but hasn’t kept up. We talked about their kids and how they loved Adventure Time.Clay Mann, Adrian Alphona and Craig Yeung proceed to hilariously photobomb us.
9 am Breakfast with some of the women I’m going to be on a panel with later, Marvel assistant editor Ellie Pyle, and writer/artist Erica Schultz. $6 for coffee – wha? Ellie’s excited to wear some new shoes a Marvel fan sent her.
10 am floor opens. Huge lines to get in so I’m thankful I have a guest badge…
Cosplay, cosplay everywhere. It may be my first Fan Expo, but it’s Mark Brooks’ father’s first convention and he’s helping out at the table. We have fun taking pictures of all the inventive costumes. It’s a young and diverse crowd. The costumes are creative and fun.
Sales slow down from yesterday. We’re guessing hard core comics and comic art fans drove all the initial business the day before. I take a couple spins around the huge show floor. The Lego booth had some great Hobbit figures – a much calmer scene than at San Diego Comic Con where adults were knocking over kids to get exclusives.
6 pm Since I’m on the Women in Comics panel I head upstairs to the panel room level – OMG there’s a line outside room 715 and it’s pretty sizeable. Whoa.
6:15 pm I meet the impressive women on the panel – Louise Simonson, Kathryn Immonen, Sara Richard, Becky Cloonan, Ellie, and Erica and we proceed to have an hour of fun talking with the audience about the importance of encouraging women in comics. A joke by Sara about Starfire’s lack of clothes and #SweatersforStarfire is born.
8:30 pm Artists Tony Daniel, Yanick Paquette, Clay Mann, Agnes, Peter and Craig and me as the sole writer head over for dinner at pricey but delicious steakhouse Jacobs & Co. Dinner goes for almost four hours as we talk about Wonder Woman and the artists started comparing their interpretations (Craig Yeung’s version on his phone).
It’s after midnight and we decide to walk back, but stop to check out a huge crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside a nightclub. Several of our party suddenly disappear into the crowd and return triumphant with pictures – it’s David Hasselhof!
A few of us decide to swing by the swanky members only Soho House for the RAID Studio party. It was so late some of the crowd had already cleared but hosts Marcus To and Francis Manapul were still there along with many of the show’s comic guests. I’m not normally a big beer drinker but after trying Canadian beers Alexander Keith IPA, Muskoka Brewery Dark Ale I’m warming up to the idea.
10 am I can see the line from my hotel window which wraps around the park outside the convention center. I’m in surprisingly decent shape after the previous night, nothing a cup of coffee won’t fix. It’s already feeling like Sunday.
2 pm I make a coffee run to the Second Cup, Canada’s version of Starbucks but better. A few enterprising food trucks are parked outside offering hot dogs and fries for $4.50, a much better deal than the $7 pizza inside.
Several con goers, men and women, stop by to say nice things about last night’s panel. One woman in particular said it motivated her to pursue her dream of writing in comics. Yay! The lights are starting to give some of the artists headaches (#protip for next time- pack some Aleve or Advil) Meanwhile, Mark Brooks is signing like crazy and doing brisk business in selling posters.
8 pm I meet up at the Renaissance hotel and take a short cab ride with the father and son Brooks to Spadina Garden, a Szechuan place recommended by Marcus To. The beef is a hit- we order two. We decide to work off dinner by walking back to the Renaissance hotel and run into Tom Brevoort enjoying the balmy weather outside on the patio outside the hotel. Somehow we get into a discussion about the Iron Man movies and collecting and customizing action figures.
Since there are no drinks allowed outside we finally go inside. I end up talking with Mike Mignola and his wife Christine. Mike is sharing tales about his early days in New York as a young man breaking into the business. I ended up having a fairly deep discussion with a very nice guy who turns out to be Steve McNiven about creative process. A great way to wrap up the evening!
11 am Last day of Fan Expo and people are even slower to set up this morning with a few artists are noticeably absent. Craig is uncharacteristically late. It turns out to be a flat tire.
The only book I buy at the show is the handsome looking Canadian comics anthology True Patriot that got its start through Indiegogo. Some engaging stories by Canadian talent J. Torres, Adrian Alphona, Agnes, Andy Belanger, Jack Briglio, Faith Erin Hicks and more. I especially liked Hicks superheroine story. Go buy it!
5 pm the traditional cheer goes up as the floor closes. A bunch of us head over to the nearby Loose Moose pub, which claims the largest draught beer selection downtown, and convenient located across the street from the Porter Airlines shuttle stop. Gives me ample time to try some watermelon wheat beer with sweet potato fries and bacon donuts.
So in a nutshell, here is what I took away from my first Fan Expo:
Canadian fans are nicer
Cosplaying with friends and family is fun!
Toronto is a terrific city, easy to get around, and great eats
Lots of fans thinks Starfire could use a sweater.