Fan Expo 2012 Final Thoughts

And so another Fan Expo has come and gone, and those of us who attended are left with fond memories, lighter pocketbooks, and sore, sore feet. Every year Fan Expo continues to grow, bringing more attendees, more exhibitors, and more complaints about crowds.

While I was mostly behind a retail booth for the majority of the convention, I was able to get around and check out the massive showroom floor. There truly is something for everybody, but I would encourage everyone to check out all that Fan Expo has to offer, even if you aren’t a fan of each sub-genre of nerdom.

Those who don’t travel down artist’s alley are missing out on one of the best parts of a convention. The alley has the dual benefit of allowing fans to speak with established stars of the industry and see new local talent beginning their craft. I got a chance to chat with J. Scott Campbell, Tony Daniel, Scott Chantler, Jimmy Palmiotti, Marcus ToRamón K Pérez,  Scott Hepburn, and Francis Manapul. I picked up a print from Kalman Andrasofszky, his cover of X-23 with The Thing (my favourite cover of his) ,  got Willow Dawson to sign my copy of her Hyena In Petticoats, bought an awesome Contra print from Ian Herring, and I grabbed a Spider-Man print from Michael Cho and talked about his upcoming gallery showing (see above). I also got a commission from Eric Vedder: a Ryu headshot that will fit nicely with my Zangief one from last year.

When I first started going to shows I remember how surprised I was at how accessible the creators were. All comic book artists and writers that I have ever spoken with care deeply about interacting with fans, providing advice on how to break into the business, the pedagogy of the craft, and thanking all of us for spending our hard earned money. If you have never been down artist’s alley make it a stop the next time you attend a con.

The Industry booths seem to get bigger each year, with mini-events, signings, and free swag throughout the week. I was pretty excited about meeting Dan Slott at the Marvel booth and we had a conversation about his writing methodology and work style (I also got him to sign my copy of ASM 692).

The Lego and Sony booths were showstoppers with a bunch of great Lego statues of superheros and demo games of the much anticipated God of War: Ascension and Playstation Battle games. Of course with all these big companies (Sony, Marvel, DC, Microsoft, Warner Bros) taking up so much real estate we also get to another topic, crowd size.

Again this year people were trapped outside or were forced to wait in line to buy tickets only to find out by the time they got to the booth that tickets had been sold out, for hours. The Toronto Star had an article on this and while the majority of attendees didn’t have a problem or understood that if they left they probably would not get back in that doesn’t help alleviate bad feelings on the part of those who were negatively impacted by the Fan Expo experience.

So people need to understand that the convention has grown. If you leave the building you might not get back in due to capacity issues. Popular dance clubs do this all the time, and ask anyone who has tried to get to the roof of the Thompson Hotel on a busy night: sometimes the Fire Marshall trumps all. Now, Hobbystar needs to address that some people waiting in lines for tickets that they could not purchase. This lack of communication hurts their brand.

With 80,000 plus attendees each year, Hobbystar also need to seriously consider getting the South and North buildings for the convention. The Canadian Auto Show uses both buildings for 300,000 attendees and while there are huge crowds the flow of people is much better. It really is the only possible option other than limiting tickets sales. This would solve some of the crowding problems but create a new group of angry fans who were not able to purchase a ticket at all.

I would also mention that if you only want to attend the convention to grab a couple of books then this isn’t the place for you. At $45 for a day pass you will not get your money’s worth. The convention offers so much that you need to really take advantage of it all to see value for your dollar. So attend a panel or two, talk with the stars, see what events are of interest, and buy some wares from the vendors. Just don’t think that you can pay $10 to get in, walk around for 2 hours and buy a bunch of $1 books. That isn’t this convention anymore. The convention has grown beyond that, and while some will lament the loss of being able to buy a bunch of comic books for 50 cents each, the majority of fans I talked with love the experience that Fan Expo provides.

Fan Expo is a great convention. You can still find deals, meet your favourite stars and artists, and have a unique and fun Canadian convention experience. If you have never been or have missed out on a couple of years I would encourage you to check it out, but maybe on the slower Thursday or Friday nights.

Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone

Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.

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11 years ago

Nice article. Pretty much reflects my experience – except a few things I’d like to add:

– Online tickets were cut off a week before the event. While I’m sure they had a good reason for this, it’s lost on me. I tried to buy a 4 day pass on the Sunday the week of only to find out I now had to buy tickets at the gate. Because of this, I only went Thursday and Friday when I was prepared to go all 4 days. Waiting in line was NOT fun.

– I was really disappointed in the Marvel and DC booth. After seeing what they do at other conventions, I had high hopes. I’m a sucker for swag and aside from a button or two and a Watchmen poster, I got nothing from them. I got the impression that they were only there just to make an appearance.

– On the other hand, I came across Richard Comely of Captain Canuck fame. Awesome experience! There’s a Captain Canuck animated film (or show?) coming out and Comely was signing posters for free. He autographed my Canuck trade and seemed pretty grateful that I carried it around all day.

– The amount of comic retailers at the Expo is still slowly on the decline, but that’s not to say that I didn’t find any deals. I found some great back issues at phenomenal prices. But with that said, there are STILL retailers who think they can get away with atrociously high priced comics.

“No mister comic seller, I have zero interest in buying a very damaged copy of Amazing Spider-man 230 for $50. Even if you give it to me at 50% off, it’s still overpriced. Oh, by the way did you ever sell that first appearance of Carnage for $80? You do know about e-Bay, right?” (If you went to Fan Expo, you know exactly who I’m talking about.)

– I was really hoping there would be a greater board game selection. There was some, but there were a ton of board games I was looking for that weren’t there.

– Talk sessions were great. My only complaint was that there were too many that I was interested in. If I went to them all I would of had little time for the actual Expo.

– What was up with the EB booth? Evey time I passed by it was jammed-packed.

– Fan costumes were awesome. Even the “bad” ones had effort put into them. Just one thing, when making costumes, please think about navigating narrow, crowded lanes. There were some crazy back pieces that must have made walking difficult.

– Some great deals on action figures but the variety could have been better.

– I’m a big guy. A lot of comic collectors are big guys. Think about that when selling t-shirts.

– Artist Alley always gets better.

– The Delorean was cool.

– WOW! I feel sorry for the people working the food concessions. I don’t think they had a seconds rest from the moment the Expo opened. The food area was packed! Next time I’ll remember to bring my own food.

I had fun this year. Can’t wait until the next Expo.