I almost walk straight into Chewbacca getting his photo taken with a teenager in jeans and a Star Wars t-shirt. I turn the corner and a Storm Trouper, some sort of alien (I should probably know who this is, but my knowledge of sci fi is limited) and a guy in black with a gun (again, no idea who he is supposed to be) are chatting together. A group of giggling teenage girls run by me looking like dolls, with big pastel-coloured dresses, curly wigs with bows on top (a Japanese fashion trend I now know is called Lolita and is somehow connected to anime). And this is all in the hallway outside of the Expo!
Yesterday I entered a world of comic books, anime, sci fi, video gaming, and horror at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Fan Expo, celebrating its 17th year, is a weekend-long celebration of these five genres through: meeting celebrities and getting photos and autographs (you have to pay extra for those); shopping through the sixteen aisles of retailers; checking out and purchasing art from Artist Alley; trying new video games; listening to celebrities speak; wearing costumes (although using a Austin Powers costume as an excuse to perve on all the girls is a little unacceptable); taking workshops on Special FX, among other things; meeting fellow ‘geeks’ (and I say that word in the nicest way possible); and taking lots and lots of photos (everyone had a camera).
I spoke to two high school girls who were in bright pink costumes with funny ear-things (again, no idea) sitting on the floor in the hall and kept being interrupted with people asking to take their photo. They have been there all weekend. Do they get bored of being the subject of flashing cameras? “We spent a long time on these costumes, so it’s nice to see our hard work has paid off. You don’t go to this much trouble and expect not to be hounded. Although there have been times when I’m eating that people will want to take photos. I’ll tell them they can, but I’m not stopping eating!” They seemed pretty tired after a long weekend of being underground (the Expo is a few escalators down, with no natural light), eating fast food from the food court, and chatting with strangers.
My favourite part of my day can be said in two words: William Shatner. Yes, I was in the presence of the legend that is William Shatner. Although I wouldn’t even dream of spending $80 for a photo with him or an autograph of his, I did see him from afar as he was signing away and making a fortune off of the hundred people or so waiting in line to have a moment (and yes, he literally signed and moved on to the next one – no chatting) with Captain Kirk.
There was a wide variety of people at Fan Expo. Everyone from parents and their young kids, to classic comic book geeks, to people in their street clothes curious of what was going on. I definitely felt a little out of place not knowing much about the five genres (although I am a horror movie fan, I used to read Archie comics as a kid, and I did grow up watching Star Trek). But people were fairly friendly and helped me out when I asked questions about who people were – although not without a little condescending look of how could I not know who Tom Felton is (Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter, for those of you as uninformed as I am).
I’m not sure the world of comic books, anime and gaming is one I want to get too heavily involved in. But I admire the commitment of the hard-core fans there. It’s not every day you see people so passionate about their hobby or career. And it was definitely a lot of fun to see how much work went in to the costumes people were wearing. I was mesmerized.
I dedicate this post to my friends Anthony and Chris, who are comic book geeks and proud of it!