Fan Expo 2017

Dichotomy.

Juxtaposition.

Privilege.

Hope.

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One wouldn’t necessarily associate all of these words with a gathering of groups of people who are coming together to celebrate their fandoms. But as Toronto’s Fan Expo 2017 came to its conclusion, these are the words that leapt to mind unbidden.

Privilege springs to mind, because my co-host and I have been blessed to be able to cover the event for our blog, We get to see all fandoms, and all sides. We love and appreciate all of it, from the fan outfitted in the most rudimentary costume (I saw a young boy dressed as a young Jango Fett, the entire outfit made from cardboard and held together by tape, and he loved what he was doing!) to the most beautiful piece of art created for or by a fan (Artist Alley, the works of Drew Struzan (who was there!) and Jason Palmer).

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To be given the access that we are allowed, thanks to our hard work, and the relationships we’ve cultivated, we know we’re lucky, and we remind ourselves constantly not to take it for granted.

There are those who simply want the privilege to be on site and share their love of their fandoms with those who feel the same – dancing to anime theme songs, cosplaying, comic hunters.

And fans who are just happy to be in the same room as some of their favourite actors and artists.

We were lucky enough to be involved in a number of events over the weekend that make us realise how privileged we are. Disney Canada invited us down to get a preview of the costume exhibit from their upcoming Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok. We were permitted an incredible mount of access to them, able to examine them (but not touch, obviously) in infinite detail, posing with them, before stanchions were placed to keep the exhibit separate from the hordes of fans that would descend on them.

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This early entry allowed me invaluable time on the showroom floor to tour exhibits, to watch booths coming together, catch up with old friends and confer with exhibitors on what their expectations would be for the weekend ahead.

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Wandering the areas I realised, again, what a wonderful time we exist in when it comes to fandom. There’s a new Star Wars coming this year (and every year for the next foreseeable future), a new Star Trek series, what may be the scariest, and most anticipated Stephen King film ever (you’ll float too), fantastic genre television that continues to enthral – Travelers, Mr. Robot, Outlander, Supergirl, amongst countless others.

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This same privilege allowed me to catch up with friends at DK Books, as well as make a new friend in author Christian Blauvelt whose moderation of the Star Wars Rebels panel (featuring Dave Filoni, Vanessa Marshall and Taylor Gray) was fantastic, and whose book Star Wars Made Easy will find its way onto my reading pile in short order.

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That privilege continued as we enjoyed a panel featuring the kids from Stranger Things, Star Wars’ Anthony Daniels, and the panel for the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. All of them were brilliant, filled with great moments, and filled with people who recognise the passion of their fans.

Finally, privilege allowed us to meet with Nesta Cooper one of the stars of the critically acclaimed, and highly enjoyable series Travelers – stay tuned for that interview! Kind, funny, and a joy to chat with, she stands as a dichotomy to her tactician character, Carly.

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Dichotomy brought on by those selfish fans who feel that they are somehow entitled to more than what they are getting, what they paid for. Attempts to hijack panels – asking for things they were told not to, lamenting the wait times for an autograph but then doing their best to hold up the line while they pry and natter away at their celebrity of choice (happily, most Expo guests can handle this and deflect them nicely).

Watching fans complain about those with VIP passes who were able to skip waiting lines – yes, there are limited a number of VIP passes but they are available for everyone to purchase – and then hold up lines while they dropped several hundred dollars on signatures. I served as personal witness to this one, I waited to have Richard Dreyfuss to sign my copy of Jaws (telling him that this was the first movie I ever saw and at a young age – “You need therapy!” he proclaimed) while a rather tall burly man complained about having waited in line for three hours for signatures while those in the VIP line slipped ahead of him. Yet, when he finally was able to have his memorabilia signed, he pulled out close to 9 different items, and paid for each and every signature Dreyfuss put on them.

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While I recognise that everyone wants to have their ‘moment’ with their guest of choice, that doesn’t preclude the need for manners, common sense, and a measure of etiquette and decorum. I was bothered by the fact that before each and every panel the same litany of information had to be proclaimed – one question only, no asking for hugs, performing a scene or autographs. It’s as if people think they were entitled to more than they actually were; their perceived personal ownership of their fandom.

I prefer to think of it as shared, and behave accordingly.

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This juxtaposition is reflected everywhere throughout Expo, not in a bad way, just observable. There is the love of fandom, and there is the profit in it. Each year, Expo gets bigger and bigger, incredible guests, booths, panels – it’s all stunning, but you are forced over and over to make Sophie’s Choice – panels that complement each other are scheduled against one another, waiting in queues for signatures force a choice between activities and celebrity availability so that some attendees simply run from queue to queue growing increasingly frustrated with their whole con experience, which is incredibly unfortunate, because they are missing out on the real spiritual reason for the convention, the shared love of fandoms.

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The thing I lamented this year (there were a couple, but this is the big one) is that I didn’t have access to a really good camera to snap tons of pictures. Instead, I would snap a few with my iphone, and promise myself that next year I would strive to have a real camera.

I got to speak with a number of folks behind the scenes this weekend, and they get it, they see the love that people give their brands, their guests, and they do their best to honour it and more often than not, they share it – striving to give everyone their moment, their perfect con memory. More often than not, however, it is the fans themselves who ruin it for everybody – focusing on the one, instead of the many.

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But my biggest upset was the discovery of a true juxtaposition, a young girl who had been planning for Expo for weeks upon weeks, was denied the ability to go. She wanted to share her love of her fandom – she had her costume made, her family had their tickets, and then, she had to spend the entire weekend in a Sick Kids hospital.

That hurt my heart. This young girl wanted nothing more than to see and experience Expo, to show off her costume, have fun, and just be in the moment, one last celebration before she returned to school on Tuesday, and she couldn’t.

She was deserving of this weekend, because she gets it. She’s a fan. She wants her moment to shine as a fan, and she wants to share that moment with other fans. That is what these weekends are really about, not how many signatures you can get before the floor closes, not trying to get in one last photo op, or pushing someone out of the way so you can grab some collectable, or counting how many Deadpools or Harley Quinns you bump into (unless you’re playing convention bingo), it’s about sharing in the love of fandoms that is supposed to unite us.

Knowing she is going to the next convention, and the one after that, and that so many of the people working behind the scenes, and in a variety of the booths share her love and wonder for the fandoms they love gets me excited for conventions, and fans… why? Because she embodies her fandom and embraces hope.

Hope, wonder and love.

These things are not only the basis of great fandom, but of a great person. And that gets me very excited for fandoms, fans, and cons!

Come on convention season and Fan Expo 2018!

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