Fan Expo 2013 by Alex Correa
The 2013 pilgrimage to Fan Expo Canada 2013 presented insightful suprises from pros, up-and-comers, as well as legends. But none have been as pleasing as the fact that, for the first time in recent memory, the premiere comic book convention in Canada suddenly feels Canadian.
That's not to say that wristbands have been infused with peameal bacon or that security politely greeted visitors as they entered (if the FanExpo Canada Facebook page is to be believed, it might have been the total opposite). In fact, Toronto's mayor Rob Ford handed the immortal Hulk Hogan his defeat at arm wrestling and that still didn't register on any level of patriotic pride (especially considering Ford's involvement).
For once, the focus wasn't on our neighbours to the south but on homegrown talents with Firefly star Nathan Fillion and media mogul Todd McFarlane leading the way. It all kicked off in spectacular fashion early on Friday with DC Comics writer Jeff Lemire's announcement that long-standing title "Justice League of America" would be renamed "Justice League of Canada". The confusing and controversial decision was met with applause and hopeful optimism from the largely Canadian audience during the DC panel. Lemire also added news of a new Canadian character who he promises will reflect "a real part of our cultural identity, who could be a real Canadian teenager."
True patriot love
The appeal of successful and off-beat Canadian shows like Trailer Park Boys and Kenny vs Spenny has been that they have remained true to being Canadian without having to play it too overtly. It's a fine line between a more subdued approach and parodies like Strange Brew or The Red Green Show. The creators of the new Captain Canuck webseries tread this line carefully with the modern day reimagining of the classic superhero.
Friday featured the debut of the second episode in the series, which remained true to its action packed roots and deep patriotic pride. The costume and the settings are familiar (as Torontonians who watched it will agree seeing City Hall in something outside of a zombie movie was quite appealing) but the tone is more distinct and a bit more grown up. A third episode is in the works as well as a comic book series, all thanks to a successful crowd-funding project that raised $52, 000.
Similarly, True Patriot features more Great White North superhero fare that was made possible through interested and excited potential readers via Indiegogo. With fan involvement at an all time high it's no wonder that Fan Expo reaches unprecedented attendance numbers that increase every year. Fans flood the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in record number not just to celebrate their national works of fiction, but to bask in the presence of homegrown creators.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise
Although, yes, Canadians are humble to a fault, praise and acclaim are given to those most deserving. And what better way to do so than through the Joe Schuster Awards, the Canuck response to the Eisner's, honouring the very best of the graphic novel industry. Among the list of winners is Marvel cover artist, long-time Fan Expo exhibitor and proud Torontonian, the very deserving Mike Del Mundo.
This year has seen him take his gorgeous work to the next level by creating covers for titles like Deadpool, X-Men: Legacy, Avengers Academy, Dexter and Wolverine; not satisfied with merely being the most visually stimulating and dynamic cover artist working for Marvel, Del Mundo approaches his craft in a non-traditional manner by going for a conceptualized take on the plot of the book. He combines the explosive creativity of legend Jack Kirby with the avant-garde approach of Vertigo great James Jean, leading the way for the stable of Schuster award winners.
What makes his story particularly of note is that his discovery happened right at his exhibition table in 2009. In a stroke of kismet, a Marvel agent took notice of his work, offered him a job, and now Del Mundo is one of the company's go-to guys. In a sense, it's a Cinderella story, but to anyone who's walked through artist's alley, not surprising in the least considering the potential available.
We stand on guard for thee
The nurturing and supporting of artists from across Canada comes as no big issue to most Canadians who beam with pride when a local excels and succeeds in their craft. Toronto is host to a wealth of talent from the Ontario College of Arts & Design to self taught prodigies to hopeful webcomic creators. They all sit packed together, uncomfortable close at times, behind rows of tables trying to sell books, prints, postcards, buttons, shirts, dolls, posters, sketches, and anything else that they decide to put their creative stamp on. The networking possibilities alone is worth the exhibitor's pass and that's not to mention having new people to showcase work to. Potential fans flooded artist's alley over the weekend to show their love for an eclectic mix of work.
Want proof? Take Danielle Storey, a Toronto-based artist who has been a staple at the Fan Expo for the past few years. Her work is one of the few to stand out in terms of both skill and work ethic. It's made with an intricacy and grace from various artistic movements that, when met with Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings characters and settings, create a vibrance and lushness not seen in film or television. The prints sold at Danielle's table are particularly popular with fans of the fantasy genre. However, the understated elegance of the pieces also resonate with most attendees of the Fan Expo. In fact, she says that this is the most successful she's been in terms of sales in the four years she has been at it.
This past weekend held another attention-grabbing event, this one happening south of us. The MTV Video Music Awards saw a celebration of excess and narcissism that provided North America with an anti-thesis to the Fan Expo Canada 2013. While one celebrated success, the other recognized talent. We remain humble, proud and earnest in this time, but most of all grateful to have had Miley Cyrus remain south of the border this weekend.