Every year fans from all over the world flock to Toronto to celebrate Fan Expo Canada. Held inside of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Fan Expo Canada is Canada’s largest (North America’s third largest) annual celebration of comics, sci fi, fantasy, horror and video games. Fan Expo is renowned for its legions of cosplayers (passionate fans that attend the convention dressed in costumes based on their favorite cinematic and literary characters) as well as the celebrity appearances. Popoptiq.com sent me out to cover this year’s Fan Expo and I’ll be keeping a journal as I speak with organizers, vendors, and the fans.
Fan Expo Canada is home to over 1000 exhibitors and the act of shopping for that one special item can quickly become overwhelming. With so many vendors offering similar variants of t-shirts, toys, and comic book artwork, the tens of thousands of items available for purchase all start melding together into one confusing haze. Those with a proficiency for treasure hunting can track down rare loot ranging from vintage G.I. Joe action figures to limited edition comics and custom art work. As I made my way through the thick of the Fan Expo crowd, I had to constantly fight the urge to fork over my hard earned dollars to every booth sporting Adventure Time coffee mugs and Dalek key chains. Although I had moments where the soul-crushing amount of choices left me frozen with indecision, there were several booths unique enough to refresh my mental exhaustion and inspire me to keep pressing on across the packed Fan Expo floor.
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While many of the booths at Fan Expo focus on clothing and toys, Grendel Design features genre influenced pieces of furniture. Even at Fan Expo, one doesn’t anticipate coming across a coffee table emblazoned with Game of Throne’s sigils. Grendel Design bills itself as a young group of artists that specializes in recycling, prop making, costumes, illustration, painting and other forms of art. Grendel Design’s Vice-President (and artist) Patrick Vernier, took a few minutes out of his crazy day to answer my questions about his company.
Grendel Design creates unique artwork inspired by Marvel, D.C. and video games. Patrick said that the company found their artistic niche 2 years ago when one of the Grendel Design artists (who also happens to be a cosplayer) introduced the team to the world of “geek-culture.” I asked Patrick what sets his company apart from the all the competition out there fighting for the same comic book fan’s dollars? “We do a lot of customized work and our artwork is original pieces, we don’t have like prints,” Patrick said. “Our artwork is useable. It could be a tabletop, a door, a fridge. We do lamps, we do chairs. Our artwork is outside the box.”
Fan Expo is loaded with things that you don’t expect to see, and what I certainly did not expect to see was a police cruiser parked on a corner of the show room floor. I went over to explore the booth that housed the cruiser and was pleasantly surprised to find out about a relatively new program offered by the York Regional Police.
The York Regional Police commissioned the Fan Expo booth to promote their “United” program. The United program came to fruition after Officer Tony Cedrone and his partner worked together to develop a super hero character that they could roll into the United Kids and United Schools public safety and awareness campaigns. The United initiative looks to entertain kids and at the same time educate them about making positive choices and working within their communities.
I asked Officer Cedrone what inspired two York Region Police Officers to delve into the world of comics? “We work in schools a lot and we’re trying to do a better job of engaging kids,” Officer Cedrone said. “We’re a big believer in if you don’t have their attention you’re definitely not going to get your message across.”
Much like any successful modern-era superhero franchise, the United program’s universe has made the jump from the inked pages of comic books to the live action world of film. While the Marvel and D.C. movie’s super power is making money hand over fist, the fruits of the United film’s labour is truly heroic. Inspired by the successful launch of the United program, on November 14, 2014, the York Regional Police launched the first annual York Regional Police Youth Film Festival. The festival consisted of nine films created by the York Region’s young filmmakers.
In the final hour of Fan Expo’s fourth day, I took a moment to think about what my ultimate take away from this year’s event would be. When I look back on Fan Expo 2015, the one aspect that stands out above the rest will be the sheer volume of talent that I had the opportunity to meet. When people bring up Fan Expo, they usually discuss the celebrities, the cosplay, and the shopping — the role that Fan Expo plays in promoting young talent often flies under the radar. As I made my way from booth to booth, the amount of successful young Canadian talent on the showroom floor never ceased to amaze me. Interacting with Canada’s next wave of graphic designers, filmmakers and business owners reassured me that for years to come, Fan Expo will remain a place to showcase Canadian talent and not just another cacophonous platform to promote video games and super hero movies.
Now that Fan Expo Canada 2015 is all wrapped up, attendees can finally go home and sleep off their exhaustion. Over the past 96 hours fans had a chance to meet their celebrity crushes like Norman Reedus and Karen Gillan, attend moderated panels on Doctor Who, and complete their collections of Guardians of the Galaxy bobble heads. Many groups of fans kept busy taking part in organized meet ups outside of Fan Expo, and that’s not even including getting together for the incredible late night after parties at Toronto hotspots EFS and Brassaii. Fan Expo Canada 2015 will go down as a smashing success. While many attendees have already gone back home to revel in all of their newly acquired merch, for the next little while I’ll be more than happy to sit back and bask in the glow of my past four days worth of Fan Expo memories.