As summer threatens to wind to a close (actually, did it ever really start?), and kids start shopping for back to school crap, my mind turns to what I fondly refer to as Nerd Christmas. Fan Expo Canada is on our doorstep again at last!
This year marks my 10th year in attendance at “Comicon North”, and I’m almost shocked at how much the little con that could has grown in the time since we met. Back in 2004, I was frustrated about how all the cool nerdy things seemed to happen in the US, and I started Googling things just to fuel my anger. That’s when I stumbled upon a convention in Toronto that I’d never heard of before, but that had amazing guests, including Peter Mayhew from Star Wars! It had also just ended.
I made a note to keep my eyes open for the following year, because this thing had already been going for quite awhile, and was getting bigger by the year, from the looks of things. Sure enough, it finally came time to buy tickets for Fan Expo 2005, and my wee nerd brain exploded when I saw the guest line-up: ELIJAH WOOD was coming!!! Between him and Star Wars’ lovable Kenny Baker, I was already over the moon with happiness.
I started trying to research online a little, to see if I could figure out what to expect, but no amount of pre-planning could have prepared me for the wonder of my very first comicon.
A friend walked me over to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s North Building that first day after work, and judging from the number of costumed folks about, we felt we were in the right place. She dropped me off, and I went inside to get in line and pick up my pass.
Naturally, I stood in the wrong line.
I eventually got sorted out, however, and headed up the escalators and onto the convention floor.
I remember just standing there a moment, staring at all the comics and toys and collectibles as far as the eyes could see. Was this Heaven?
I slowly made my way along each aisle, marveling at the sheer enormity of the experience, and the variety of things available. Elijah Wood would take up most of my Saturday, as he was a separate ticket that year, so I wandered through without any plans at all, just trying to take it all in. In no time I found myself in the celebrity autograph area, and there they all were…just sitting right there in front of me signing autographs and chatting with fans. I’d never seen anything like it.
I walked back and forth a couple of times, watching each of them with their fans, and trying to work up the courage to approach one of them.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to do much at all. I’d been watching one interaction intently, and when I turned around, Marina Sirtis had no one in her line for a moment, smiled at me, and said hello. My mom had raised me to be polite so I said hello back, and the next thing I knew I was getting an autograph and photo taken with a celebrity at my very first convention!
(I would later go on to tell her years later that she had been my first. She enjoyed that.)
The rest of that event is a bit of a blur, but some rather important-to-Future-Sue things came out of it. I cried after meeting Kenny Baker and thanking for being such a huge part of the majority of my life. I made two new friends in the Elijah Wood line-up, and we went to his TIFF film together a week or so later, where I discovered a love for Gogol Bordello, as well. One of those girls is still my friend to this day (see you in line, Erin!). I watched the cool/sexy/slightly intimidating horror folks roaming about being awesome and longed to be a part of them. I met a whack of celebrities and actually didn’t make too much of an ass out of myself.
And thanks to Adam Baldwin, I discovered Firefly and became a whole-hearted Browncoat, which would go on to change my life in ways I’m still just discovering.
I hadn’t seen Firefly, but knew he was there promoting the upcoming film, Serenity, which was based on that series. I knew him most recently from The Inside, which had also been cancelled by Fox, and on the final day of Fan Expo (after watching how wonderful he seemed to be with his fans), I decided to spend my last bit of cash on his autograph. It was like my small way of rewarding his wonderfulness, or something. He made me laugh, and smelled good, and I decided there and then that I would go see his movie when it came out the following month.
I marathoned Firefly, fell in love with it, saw the film 9 times in the theatre and would go on to meet the entire cast multiple times, go to conventions in the US, and even a Browncoat Cruise, where I met the love of my life (we’re not together, but still), and a whack of new friends.
All because of Fan Expo 2005 and Adam Baldwin’s presence.
Now, about to embark on year number 10 of the largest event of its kind in Canada, I seem to have come full circle, in a number of ways. I’m pretty much a con expert now, in terms of knowing what I need to do in order to be able to do what I WANT to do. The event itself has become immense, breaking its own attendance records with each passing year. It now encompasses both buildings of the MTCC and runs for 4 days instead of the three I’d been used to initially. Elijah Wood is coming back for another go, which is fitting, since he was the main reason I’d been brave enough to attend the first time.
And thanks to The Mind Reels (because Tim and I became friends/family at Fan Expo 2009), I get to go as press now, and interview some of those people I’d only been a giddy fan of not so long ago.
I’m still a giddy fan, of course, but I feel like I’ve been growing with the event, and am now getting to see conventions from a whole different perspective, which is pretty amazing.
I enjoy a variety of similar events, from toy shows to themed conventions, but Fan Expo will always be my first and therefore holds a special place in my heart. It’s there that my sort-of almost friendship with Morena Baccarin began in 2006, which was the same year I was able to meet the incredible Carrie Fisher for the first time (and cry again from being overwhelmed). I’ve somehow managed to be there every year (and now I buy my ticket in December of the year before), and have all new, amazing experiences each time, even when my heart has been broken, or my depression has been getting the better of me. Something incredible always happens when I am there, and it’s always something I never could have predicted nor expected.
So, happy anniversary, Fan Expo! I wonder what will happen this year?
Fan Expo Canada celebrates 20 years of geekery from August 28-31, 2014 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Come check out all things nerdy in the areas of Comics, Sci Fi, Horror, Gaming and Anime, and get your geek on!