This year local Toronto fan and photographer, Stephanie Austin, attended FanExpo with me and documented our time at the con — her first ever! — in photos.
Steph and I met up outside the con, had a quick coffee and then headed in with hardly any game plan — we knew that we wanted to document the vibe of the event, talk to exhibitors, and meet some cool cosplayers. Beyond that, we figured we’d wander, see what caught our eyes, and let Steph have a genuine con experience even while working. Our entrance was held up by a group of cosplaying Spider-folk, arguing with con volunteers about their wristband policy, but we snuck past this conflagration and were soon on the show floor proper. Cosplay photoshoots! Celebs signing pictures and merchandise! Stuff!
Fan Expo, which draws tens of thousands of fans each year, could easily be overwhelming but this year it was organized, efficient, and easy to navigate. FanExpo secured both the north and south buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and used all the space wisely. The north building featured horror, video game, and television exhibitors, while the south building featured comics, anime, and table top exhibitors, artist’s alley, game rooms, and space for LARPing and group photoshoots. Programming was split between both buildings.
Eden was the first cosplayer we stopped and photographed. Her Danaerys costume was so detailed and textured that Steph and I were both in ecstasies. That caaaape. Princesses (and villains) were everywhere in Fan Expo. The con was replete with Ariels, Elsas, and even a few Cinderellas.
Thursday, which tends to be a browsing day for vendors, was a great day to walk the floor. The crowds were thin and vendors were fresh, not yet the burnt-out-husks they’d become by Sunday night. Like most big cons, Fan Expo hosts a combination of celebrity guests, media reps, merchandise vendors, comic stores, creators, crafters, and fan artists.
But soon it was time to grab a bite. or a couple of bites. A whole pizza’s worth of bites. We headed over the south building’s food court to order a pizza and were annoyed to discover that food vendors are still cash-only. Guys. Come on guys. But food time also meant more cosplayers, including this sweet, multi-fandom family. Emma Frost spent about an hour on those bejeweled lips — which looked great — but the downside is an all-smoothie diet.
One of the most impressive parts of the con floor was the horror section. In addition to reps from publishers and writer’s groups, the horror section had makeup artists, burlesque and freak show performers, mask makers, prop makers, housewares, and even food. Melissa Christie of It’s Alive Designs, who retails exclusively online, sells hand-made horror-themed aprons, pillows, curtains, and other housewares. She told me a couple kitted out their living room with her zombie hand and tentacle pillows and throws.
On the opposite side of the north building, gaming and television booths had props, interactive photo ops, previews of upcoming shows and films, games, games, games and also, Dad Christian Slater, who was doing press for for his show, Mr. Robot. In addition to demoing games and handing out awful temporary tattoos, PlayStation, at least, had something fun: a big blackboard running along the back wall of the gaming area, where gamers could leave messages, both polite and not so polite. According to a PS staffer, the wall fans collaborated on last year ended up in their Canadian corporate office and this one too was likely to be displayed.
I wouldn’t play Just Dance with Steph. Nor would I sit on President Snow’s throne or any of the props set up by the 501st legion. I am the worst person for a photographer to attend a con with. The worst. But even though I was a terrible disappointment, the con wasn’t. Steph had a great time buying buttons, ogling art, and talking technique with cosplayers.
Fan Expo Canada is a con that’s less and less appealing to me as a veteran congoer, but seeing it again through new eyes with Steph made it fun again. Will we go back next year? Absolutely.