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Five Reasons To Go To The Fan Expo And Five Reasons Not To

320x240.jpgThis weekend heralds the annual Fan Expo – the combination of the Canadian National Comic Book Expo, the Science Fiction Expo, the Festival of Fear, the Anime Expo and the Gaming Expo. It routinely drags in thousands upon thousands of nerds, geeks, fanboys, fangirls, people dressed up in Sailor Moon costumes, wannabe professionals, enthusiastic amateurs, real professionals, and bargain hunters.
If you fall into one of these categories (and I fall into at least four of them myself, although I don’t wear Sailor Moon costumes as a rule. Although I think, if necessary, I could pull off Tuxedo Mask), then no doubt you’ve at least considered whether or not you want to go to the Fan Expo. Here are five reasons to go to the Fan Expo, and five reasons to give it a pass.

1.) Nimoy and the Shat. This year’s guests of honor are Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. If you like Star Trek at all, you owe yourself the opportunity to see Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner at a convention at least once; they’re friendly, respectful, and tell more hilarious stories about the good old days of Trek and their various other misadventures in Hollywood than just about anybody else. These two are the grand old men of Hollywood sci-fi now (they’re both 75), and you’re not going to get many more chances to see them live like this.
2.) Mike Mignola. There’s a ton of major comics professionals attending the show, as always, and famous artist Jim Lee is probably the biggest draw. But I don’t like Jim Lee’s art even slightly, so for me the real star of the show is Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy. If you only saw the movie, you have maybe one-tenth of an idea of how cool Hellboy is, and by extension, how cool Mike Mignola is.
3.) “Video Games Live.” So it’s an orchestral performance of popular video game musical themes? Come on. That is ridiculously awesome. And, according to the press kit, the first time there has been a “video game concert” in Ontario.
4.) Carrie Fisher! Admit it – Princess Leia in the gold bikini was likely a defining moment for you when you were growing up, be that sexual attraction or hero worship when she choked Jabba the Hutt to death with her slave-chain. (Unless you’re too young for it to be a defining moment, in which case you have my pity.) That having been said, if it was the sexual attraction thing, I probably wouldn’t tell Ms. Fisher that. That would be kind of creepy. Instead, tell her how much you liked “Postcards From The Edge.”
5.) Screenings, screenings, screenings! Indie horror movies – the type that normally go straight to video – screen all weekend at the Expo. “New Voyages”, the indie TV series that retells the final two years of the original “Star Trek” after it was cancelled, screens at the Expo. Star Wars fan films – which steadily grow more and more elaborate, and often surpass the weaker official entries like The Phantom Menace in terms of quality – screen at the Expo. If you want to watch nerd culture until your eyes bleed, this is the place to do it.
5a.) “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. If I need to explain to you why getting to meet “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is a bucketful of cool, you have no soul.
1.) Hobbystar is a bad corporate citizen. Hobbystar, the company that runs the Fan Expo, has been extremely ruthless in its behavior towards Toronto’s other major conventions like Toronto Trek, Anime North, Ad Astra and the Toronto Comicon. Hobbystar has put parasitic “Fan Appreciation Days” right before Toronto’s other major cons, the only possible reason for which is to hurt their competitor’s attendance and thus profit margin; they’ve done their best to snipe guests from competing cons; and worst of all, this year it appears they’ve attempted to officially discourage comic book stores from attending other conventions. For more details on this, go to The Stop Hobbystar Blog.
2.) Money money money money money. You remember how awesome I said it would be to see Nimoy and Shatner? Well, it would be awesome. But seeing Nimoy and Shatner costs you one hundred and thirty dollars, minimum (and depending on what you’re willing to pay for extra perks, it can go as high as four hundred). That’s on top of the forty dollar deluxe weekend pass. The Video Games Live! concert costs forty or sixty dollars, again on top of the deluxe weekend pass. If you want to get an autograph from Alice Cooper, it’s twenty-five bucks a shot. Admittedly this year isn’t as gouge-a-riffic as last year, where James Marsters was charging something like two hundred bucks for a panel session (five hundred if you wanted to go to the super-exclusive private room and hear him sing while playing his guitar). But these side events cost some serious dosh.
3.) Shopping = not so great after you consider the entry fee. I like shopping, and last year I picked up some decent bargains, but the reason they were bargains is because I’d already factored in the cost of attending the convention for another event. Yes, there is a lot of cool stuff to buy at the Fan Expo. Yes, the prices are usually quite good. But when you’re paying twenty to forty bucks just to get in the door, that cancels a lot of the value. I can’t recommend attending this thing for the shopping alone, and you can usually do that for other conventions.
4.) Officious staff. I’ve never seen such self-important staffers as I have at the Fan Expo. Other cons have a sense of fun that communicates itself to the staff, who tend to be generous and polite. In two years of attending the Fan Expo, I’ve yet to have a good experience with the staff there; I’ve been snapped at, sneered at, dismissed and ignored. This is part of what happens when cons go corporate.
5.) The food sucks. I’m just saying. They’ve got no independent vendors inside, so there’s the Metro Convention Centre catering staff, which delivers extremely overpriced and very lousy food and does so quite slowly. There are chip wagons outside, sure, but to go get yourself some decent grub you get to go through the staff twice (on your way in and out), who treat a simple handstamp as if it’s the writ of God himself.
So there are the points in favour and opposing. Me, I’m probably giving this year a miss; I can’t afford Nimoy and Shatner or the concert, more’s the pity, and I don’t need more nerd stuff on my shelves right now (and if I go, I will inevitably buy more nerd stuff).


  • Zen Masta J

    I was planning on going, until I found out how ridiculously overpriced admission was.

  • KC

    I vowed never to go to this expo again from last year. Admission is way too much!

  • Tlönista

    Was going to go until I found out the Beguiling was boycotting it.

  • dyee276750

    Hey i agree with all your pro and cons esp with regard to the outrageous tix, but hey where are you going to see shat and spock together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek?? Not sure if they will be around for their 50th – especially in T-dot!
    And wot a great lineup, Princess Leia and Alice Cooper! If you were ever lived in the 60s and 70s than you will really understand the appeal of these iconic stars.

  • HarryDresden

    I’d like to correct a misconception in your piece about the prices charged for special guests at SFX last year.
    James Marsters did not charge $200 for a panel appearance last year. There were a number of ticket options at different price levels and they all included at least a photo with him as well as an autograph, in addition to the Q&A.The $200 ticket got you 2 Q&As, a concert, photo and 2 autographs.
    I’m not a fan of Hobbystar either, and there’s lots to critcise – just maybe not this particular issue.

  • good entry dude

    agreed and agreed. me, i’m just annoyed with the rue morgue assclowns. i’ve never seen such a pathetic excuse for a horror convention. a bunch of goth clothes and free anchor bay swag doth not a horror convention make. i’m just going to Horrorfind weekend from now on. enh. and god bless Toronto Trek

  • Lady Macbeth

    Wrong info on James Marster’s appearance, in both the article and HarryDresden’s comment. The different tickets went as follows :
    SILVER TICKET – $80.00 CDN (approx. $60.00 USD)
    1. One autograph (not personalized) on an item of your choice
    2. Special limited edition 4×6 autographed photo (Canadian Exclusive)
    3. Q& A session (60 minutes)
    GOLD TICKET – $200 CDN (approx. $150.00 USD)
    1. One autograph (not personalized) on an item of your choice
    2. Special limited edition 8×10 autographed photo (Canadian Exclusive)
    3. Q & A session (60 minutes)
    4. Ticket to the photo session with James Marsters (photo included)
    5. Acoustic musical set (45 – 60 minutes)
    VIP TICKET – $625 CDN (approx. $500.00 USD)
    1. A private cocktail party with James in attendance for including Q&A Session (90 minutes)
    2. A private acoustic musical set (45 minutes)
    3. One personalized autograph on an item of your choice
    4. Special limited edition 11×17 autographed photo (Canadian Exclusive)
    7. A free copy of his album
    8. Complimentary admission to the Canadian National Expo
    As indicated, the $200 ticket got you a concert, a photo ONE Q&A, and ONE autograph (not two).

  • Alex Curley

    Sadly I am exhibiting in the Game Expo this year with my World of Darkness LARP and the convention was horrible last year with the staff treating us like idiots and being generally unhelpful to us and almost everyone in the artist alley. I would love to know of other events at witch we could play.

  • Bjorn

    This is a well done article revealling what some people have been learning lately.The same show had a weapons bust a while back, not exactly the best track record.I’ve declined returning to their event when I found an article on google that someone from sfx was spamming and when asked to stop, the employee tried to bully the guy.And the anime kids annoy me.

  • Matthew

    Pro’s are dead on, but the cons;
    About the bad corporate citizen… its a dog eat dog world out there and comes down to money. So I wouldn’t expect them to be oh-so nice in the world we live in. Points #2 and 3 are quite correct, but then again everyone wants money. I myself find the staff to be alright, try talking to someone under the stress of managing the traffic of over 40,000 people… not an easy task. Point #5 is the only one I can truly agree on, I would prefer the convention on the other side because its close to a bazaar of foods etc…
    This is my view after going to Fan Expo 2006.
    PS: Its 45 dollars for THREE days. 15 dollars a day for autographs, massive retailers, shows AND promotions isn’t too bad. Considering entertainment isn’t cheap anymore.

  • Steven M. Bergson

    Not as many reasons to not attend the Ben Katchor / Stan Mack / Bernice Eisenstein panel at Harbourfront.

  • rcehoppe

    Greetings – My Name is Ronald Hoppe I am the Head Director of the Imaginary Theatre Association and I came across this posting by chance and with that in mind there is some information that I have to add here I don’t know why Alex had to say what he said (and just to recap)
    “Sadly I am exhibiting in the Game Expo this year with my World of Darkness LARP and the convention was horrible last year with the staff treating us like idiots and being generally unhelpful to us and almost everyone in the artist alley. I would love to know of other events at witch we could play..”
    Here is some points that I would like to bring up or add if you will, If Alex was being treated (or I for that matter) like crap – why in the hell would we go back for a 2nd or 3rd year? – the G-X staff did not treat us like “idiots” and I they were both helpful and understanding to and because of that we had a grate time with everything that was going on at the G-X con for 05 and 06. I hope there my dear reader(s) will you understand my anger with this kind of posting, it just piss me off to no end, and it’s really uncalled for. And if wasn’t for the understanding of Justin Mohareb in seeing that the ITA has to offer, we wouldn’t be were we are today.
    Now all with that being said, besides me being the Head Director of the Imaginary Theatre Association, I am also the Head Storyteller for the World of Darkness LARP that ran in 2005 and 2006 not Alex Curley. Alex Curley was one of our Narrators and players. But scents then Alex, has been let go from the ITA. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. And with that in mind Alex dose not speak for the ITA.
    2) We had a great time at G-X in 05 and 06, playing and running our games, meeting new people (and gamers) – AAANND oh how could I forget meeting all of the superstars that were there for those years, great fun was had by all, and i am just geeking out just talking about it.
    On the behalf of the ITA i do apologize if Alex posting has upset anyone, and on that note, if anyone would like to talk more about this OR G-X for that matter please feel free to email us and OR come to our posting group at we would be happy to talk more about this.
    Thank you for your time in this matter and in kind.
    Head Director of
    the Imaginary Theatre Association

  • Redisforever

    To be honest, in recent years (last 3), it’s gotten a lot better. I haven’t really had any staff problems, but money, yes. Bad food, oh yeah. Still, overall, excellent times.