Words by Leo Graziani
Every year, I find it’s my nerdly duty to attend Fan Expo. I say “duty” lightly, though—despite any of the headaches that might accompany the event, it’s always a joy to attend it and indulge in all my geeky loves.
By and large, I’m there for the comics. I’m an old-school collector (24 years and counting); while many other readers have switched to only collecting graphic novels/trade paperback collections (“trades”) or digital downloads, I still love single issues. They take up more room and are a pain in the ass to lug around (I have about 26 long-boxes’ worth of singles—that’s close to 7,000 books (and trades)), but there’s something about cracking open a 30-year-old comic and smelling the newsprint as you read about Spider-Man getting his butt kicked by Juggernaut that I just love.
Some of it is the collector mentality, to have the actual first printed appearance of a character (technically, trades are considered reprints) wrapped in a bag and board. Some of it is escapism or nostalgia… but most of it is just about loving stories. And don’t let that Spider-Man reference fool you; he may be my favourite superhero, but my favourite comics are much darker, weirder and grown-up than that.
Right. I’ve defended myself enough. Back to nerding out.
I spent much of this year’s Fan Expo thumbing through back-issue bins, looking for comics to fill the gaps in my collection. Normally I go to see artists, but there weren’t many this year that I wanted to see; either that, or I’d already gotten books signed by them… OR, even more truthfully, their sketch/commission prices were just too expensive.
Artists’ Alley had many cool and interesting offerings. This is where all the comic-book talent gathers. They each have tables where they sign books, draw sketches/commissions, sell prints, and chat with their fans. There are also lots of local artists selling various items (plush figures, things made from beads, other crafts, games). For the comic-book lover, this is the best place to be… next to the vendors’ area.
The highlight of Artists’ Alley for me was meeting Bernie Wrightson, a legendary comic artist known for his horror work. He was humble—fan after fan came up to him gushing about his art, and he took it all in stride, thanking them politely. It never seemed as though he felt entitled, and that’s a problem you sometimes run into. Some artists/writers get all puffed-up in their own importance, and treat their fans like walking wallets. Wrightson wasn’t one of them. I asked him to sign Batman: The Cult #1–4 and I grabbed a print of Swamp Thing from him.
But no visit to the alley would be complete without seeing Big Sexy Comics—you may remember an interview with them earlier this year by yours truly. Writer “Fearless” Fred Kennedy has a new book out, The Fourth Planet, and artist Adam Gorham has his hands in many projects, including inking Kill Shakespeare and pencilling the upcoming issue #12 of Zero by Image Comics. Adam was also kind enough to grace the pages of my sketchbook with a headshot of Andres, the protagonist of Teuton, his book with Fred.
The rest of the convention was about looking at the many costumes on display, and then: the celebrity photo-ops. This is something I’ve been doing a little more in the last few years. It’s a fast process, which is unfortunate, but necessary. Fan Expo had an estimated 120,000 attendees (last I heard), and as much as I would like to talk to the celebrities a little more, well… so would everyone else. And then no one would ever get out of there. And if I’m being really honest—I’d likely get tongue-tied anyway. It happened when we met Matt Smith (a.k.a. The Doctor from Doctor Who). My friends and I thought we’d be cool, and we totally weren’t. You get star-struck; it can’t be helped. We went in there, said our hellos, fist-bumped Smith, took the photo, said our goodbyes and that was pretty much it.
I also got a photo with Bruce Campbell, of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness fame. He was wearing the loudest jacket this side of Don Cherry, and he was guiding people on how to pose. Some would point at the camera with him, some would just hug; for me, he said, “Back-to-back, like we’re in a movie poster!” As seen here:
It was awesome.
Another highlight was the Doctor Who Q&A with Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill (he played Rory Pond on the show). This was a separate ticketed event, and there were a lot of people there, and a lot of kids, too. Best moment: a kid who probably wasn’t in the double-digits in age asked Matt and Arthur to sing “Happy Birthday” to him—and they did, getting the rest of the room to join in. Pretty great.
I wish I’d taken more photos. Moving around on the convention floor on Saturday in particular proved difficult; much worse than usual. I didn’t have the time to stop and snap pics, and the traffic was such that you couldn’t interrupt the flow, even if you wanted to. Still, my friends took a lot this time around, so with their permission, I’ve swiped a bunch to use here. Enjoy!