Seven Things to Do at Fan Expo
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Seven Things to Do at Fan Expo

... that have nothing to do with this photo of a bunch of Japanese anime girl mousepads where the wrist protectors are their breasts

Not that these mousepads from a previous Fan Expo aren’t very, very special in their own way.

Fan Expo is back once more. The annual comic/sci-fi/horror/anime/game convention is now the largest nerd convention in Canada and is widely recognized as one of the most important conventions in North America.

This year it moves to the more expansive southern half of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre so lineups should not be as oppressive as last year’s debacle.

Fan Expo has hundreds of attractions every year, and although everybody knows that William Shatner is making his triumphant return to Fan Expo, there’s so much more to Fan Expo than waiting in line for your 90 seconds with the Shat and spending money at dealers’ booths. Here, then, are seven attractions we think are worth a looksee.

1 Learn how to make your own comic. Local comics artist Ty Templeton, now in his third decade of superhero comics work and also known for his own independent work, once again brings his “Make Your Own Damn Comic” workshop to Fan Expo (Thursday, 5 p.m.). Last year’s edition was entertaining and informative, as Templeton has a real knack for explaining the nuts and bolts of comic production in a way that neither talks down nor fails to enlighten. However, Templeton’s workshop is only one of two he’s doing at FanExpo this year, and only one of over twenty how-to-make-comics workshops: this year’s options range from Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Detective Comics) and Jason Aaron (Scalped, PunisherMAX) discussing the hows of writing crime comics (Saturday, 3 p.m.), to Jill Thompson (Sandman) giving pointers on using watercolour illustration in sequential art (Saturday, 6 p.m.), to the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz giving a “master class” in comics illustration (Saturday, 5 p.m.). And if all of that makes you think that you want to have a shot at making X-Men comics for real, Marvel Comics has a seminar on breaking into their ranks (Thursday, 5 p.m.).

2 Celebrate Canadian content in sci-fi and fantasy. One of the fun things about Fan Expo is that it’s slowly becoming the go-to convention for science fiction made in Canada. Consider the cast and creators of Lost Girl, Showcase’s series about a girl who is actually a heroic bisexual succubus fairy. (About to begin its third season!) Last year they made their first appearance and were mobbed; this year marks their triumphant return to Fan Expo, where they’ll sign autographs and generally mingle with fans of heroic bisexual succubus fairies. Support Canadian content!
3 Use tiny giant robots to shoot at your friends. BattleTech, as a franchise, has seen more popular days, but the original “giant walking robot tanks go to war” miniature game that inspired numerous popular computer games like MechWarrior, and even a (pretty awful) 1990s cartoon series, is still going strong, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. All weekend long, Fan Expo will be running a “Mech Grinder” competition, where you can jump in with your BattleMech miniature (which will be thoughtfully provided for those who don’t have the time to paint tiny miniatures) and shoot them at your friends. Roll a lot of dice, swear when someone lucks out by blowing up your cockpit with a lucky gauss rifle shot, then go again.

4 Watch anime fans compete on “game shows.” The annual “Anime Game Shows” events are among Fan Expo’s most popular and, unlike many of the anime events, are actually really entertaining to people who don’t know anything about anime, because watching contestants desperately try to guess what a given person is drawing (“Anime Win, Lose Or Draw,” Friday, 3 p.m.) or singing (“Anime Name That Tune,” Friday, 4 p.m.) is actually really fun even if you don’t know anything about the context. Often, it’s more fun to watch them freak out when you have absolutely no idea at all about the context. Alternately, there is the Five Minute Pitch competition (Sunday, 5 p.m.), wherein fans pitch their ideas for anime/manga series to a panel of judges in front of anybody. We guarantee there will be a lot of insanity at this. Possibly even some heroic bisexual succubus fairies.

5 Meet Sex Machine. We don’t see the need to pimp most of the heavily advertised “special guests,” but we’ll make an exception for Tom Savini, who is a horror film legend: he was chief makeup and FX artist for the original Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Friday the 13th. He has also become one of Robert Rodriguez’s casting regulars, having made appearances in From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror, and Machete—dying horrifically in all of them because that is what Tom Savini does best. Basically he is the most awesome person at the entire convention, more awesome than ten William Shatners combined, and his Q&A session (Friday, 2:30 p.m.) should be a treat.

6 Play Settlers of Catan to win. Did you know there’s a World Championship for Settlers of Catan, the enormously popular and successful German board game wherein the key to victory is putting together an efficient economic engine, using the robber wisely, and making the best jokes about how you will give “wood for sheep”? Well, there is: it’s going to be held in 2012, and competing at this year’s Settlers of Catan tournament will pre-seed you in next year’s Canadian qualifier to get into the World Championships. Our advice: go for the longest road, and don’t forget the importance of rock. Good old rock. Nothing beats rock.

7 Get your nerd groove on. In conjunction with Fan Expo, the Rivoli presents “Nerd-Approved Music,” an evening with YouTube nerd celebrities like Brentalfloss, Wordburglar, and More or Les. Five bucks off admission with your Fan Expo pass makes this a deal you can’t afford to miss. Unless you’re, like, cool or something. (And if you’re cool, what the hell are you doing with a Fan Expo pass anyways?)