FanExpo by Jordan Ferguson
Do me a favour, will you? I want you to imagine you just went to the prom. And this isn't just any prom, this isn't your prom, I'm talking about a Hollywood prom to surpass any and all expectations you might have had: your outfit was flawless, your dream date said yes, you hit every step in a spontaneous dance sequence DJ'd by Usher, an evening perfect in every regard.
Now imagine a month after this marquee event, the party to end all parties, you get an invitation to a semi-formal. Held at a Legion Hall. With a wedding band for entertainment. Some of your friends say they're going, but after the prom is it really worth the effort to drag yourself to it?
Welcome to FanExpo.
It can't be easy being Canada's largest pop culture exhibition. It doesn't matter if Joe Quesada, Jim Lee, and the collected casts of Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 show up, FanExpo will always nip at the heels of its colossal San Diegan sibling. By the time the Toronto shows up, the major publisher have already dropped their major announcements and laid out the shape of their coming years, leaving Toronto the scraps of a few more pieces of promo art to show during panels, a plot point here or there. That's if any of the creative teams involved even bother showing up. Ain't nobody going to FanExpo for breaking news.
I was fortunate enough to miss Conpocalypse 2010, when thousands of ticket holders got shut out from the convention centre and had to stand along Front Street in the sweltering August heat for hours, the result of apparent admission overselling. Still, even having dodged that particular bullet, I could tell things were headed to a breaking point. In 2009, the last year I attended, I couldn't deal. After hours of lines [indoors and air conditioned, at least], the chaos of the show floor was just too much. There was barely any space to move or breathe and a crippling flare up of social anxiety disorder just wasn't worth the admitted thrill of standing 45 feet from Jonathan Frakes. I've been to smaller cons like AnimeNorth in years past, I've experienced that feeling you can get from being surrounded by your geek brethren. I found none of that within the walls of the Metro Convention Centre. Ain't nobody going to FanExpo for the camaraderie.
So why do we go?
Well, I know why I'm not going this year. The crowds are a definite deterrent, though they'll hopefully be less of an issue this year, as the organizers have the entire centre booked, instead of just one of the two buildings. More discouraging perhaps is the simple fact that there's nothing there for me anymore. I will love comics for the rest of my life, but I don't have the finances, storage space or, frankly, desire to pursue them like I used to. Besides, I'm fortunate enough to live in Toronto, where anything I might get the old jones for, I can probably track down in an afternoon.
But....but. It wasn't so long ago that I was a kid stuck in the armpit of Southwestern Ontario with a pull list 20 titles deep. It wasn't that long ago I went on road trips with friends to comic shops all along the 401, from Windsor to Toronto, flipping through the longboxes of back issues, the flutter in my guts as the issue numbers ascended and I got ever closer to whatever white whale I had to have that month. It wasn't that long ago I felt the small triumph of finding the elusive single issue I needed to complete my run of Preacher, or Starman, or The Authority. It wasn't that long ago I rode four hours and slept in my buddy's stifling and humid Scarborough apartment, sweat soaking through my undershirt, just so I could make the hourlong trip on the TTC to the show and spend an obscene amount of money on things I didn't need. I still remember spotting the 10-inch die-cast metal Giant Robo figures at a Japanese toy booth, and screaming so loud I startled the woman working the booth.
That's why, pointless and redundant as it might seem, we need FanExpo. Because throughout that crowd that makes me want to stab myself in the neck, are people who saved their money for months and drove for hours just to make it to the show, for one weekend where they can feel like a part of something, where they can feel like they belong, even in a room full of strangers. I remember the feeling.
So have fun, friends. I might not step foot within 30 kilometers of that building this weekend, but I'll be thinking of you fondly. Say hi to Shatner for me.