By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The organizers of Fan Expo Vancouver have done one right thing for their third show and that’s to expand the hallway space to allow attendees to flow quickly from exhibit hall to panel room. As for back and forth, I have no complaints for the exercise everyone is getting since the path is like navigating the many one-way streets back in Seattle. It will no doubt get some people fuming, but I guess part of the reason is due to Fire Marshal regulations.
But on day one, this discovery does not mask one huge annoyance: the lack of knowledgable volunteers who can direct fans to where they should be standing in line to gain entry. I already made the leap in judgement when I studied the map, but as for whether it was known by anyone else, maybe I was far too nerdy than any of the volunteers. Only the senior staff could direct me and I followed their directions.
Yes, growing pains will no doubt continue after FEV’14, but it will not dissuade the most hardened of fans from returning. The meek, namely fellow co-writer, James Shaw, decided he shall not return. I, on the other hand will roll with it, finances and guest line-up depending. I have been to more shows than he has in guts and know when some problems faced should be taken at face value than an end-all be all for a still young show. Nothing can stop me from attending a convention where I can get my geek on.
And those who plan well in advance may find that they can do a lot in a day. I had a reasonable itinerary, to get autographs from the comic creators I highly respect — Bill Sienkiewicz and Tony Moore especially — but as for celeb spotting, there was plenty of diversity to make any fan happy.
Also, this year marked the return of Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear. It’s not as big as the Toronto show, but Rob McKenzie revealed that he is going to keep slowly but steadily grow it. The table space they reserved felt larger than in what I recall from last year’s layout, and the best cheerleaders — as Dave Alexander of the magazine once explained to me — for this show will always be with the Soska Sisters. Jen and Sylvie have a great rapport with the fans and they were the first celebrities I had to go see on day one.
To see them spread the love is simply heartwarming. They genuinely love communicating with the fans who stop by their table and pose for pictures. I wandered back a few times and saw them always chatting away. Along with actress, Tristan Risk, I suspect this group will be present for each new show to come and McKenzie confirmed my suspicions when I chatted with him Sunday.
But I’m jumping ahead. Friday’s attendance was quite light during the exclusive time reserved for attendees with three-day passes or VIP access. Fan Expo is essentially a mecca for nerd shopping opportunities and the time set aside for “us” proved it. We got the chance to hunt down those special exclusives (namely comics and posters at the Fan Expo Shop table) or hard to find collectables before anyone else. Both James and I hardly found anything unique.
With Toy Traders being the first extended table space to start browsing from, I did not find the sculpt by Gentle Giant that I’d gladly spill out my hard-earned cash on, an Animated (Clone Wars) Slave Leia Marquette. That alone would have made my shopping complete, but I had other items on my checklist that I could try seeking out. I have to say that my rarest find had to have come from Peter Beagle‘s (author of The Last Unicorn) table; a few surviving hardcover editions of The Phoenix and the Mirror were found at a warehouse recently, and they were available for sale at their listed price. I did not want to miss out on this bibliophile find and snapped that up without a thought! Meeting Mr. Beagle was a pleasure and he was kind to autograph the numerous items I brought since a few friends of mine could not make it to meet him themselves.
And his PR rep said the tour loves it here in the Pacific Northwest! They hope to return with more screenings of The Last Unicorn on Cineplex stages. To keep up with where it will play next can be found here.
When the doors officially opened, that’s when the big name guests sat down. If I had to choose which high-profile guest was the best, that’s Robert Englund aka Freddie Kruger. He’s the most fun and gentlest man you could ever meet. To hear him drop into character during the photo-op showed just how invested he is to being this dark killer seem real. To talk to him afterwards, when he returned to his autograph signing table, was just a pleasure. He even told me a fast and simple ghost story, to which his mother helped explain why it happened. As a paranormal enthusiast, everything he said rang true since he hit upon what’s commonly understood in what goes in a haunting.
The other celebs I had to meet includes the two Bruces. Campbell and Boxleitner were great, and I had my ultimate nerd moment with TRON himself when I pulled out the identity disc he signed for the photo-op. He even explained the nature of Hollywood and I should not be too hopeful for Tron 3 to happen right away. Since the last film and the cartoon’s limited success, the likelihood of a continuation looks slim even though development is still ongoing.
But on the other side of the fence, I had to ask Campbell if that slick outro from Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead was a tease. That is: will the two Ash characters meet? The look he gave me was precious also very telling. It made me wish videotaping our conversation was allowed at that moment. Security was tight about what fans can do around Campbell for good reason even though I’ve found a few fans have snuck in taking photos from afar during the autograph signing.
During this Expo, I did hit up celebrities that can be categorized as “B” since that is part of their name. But I should say they are “A” class all the way including a great chat with Steve Blum, a very talented voice actor. He’s the voice of Starscream from Transformers: Prime. He’s also Wolverine in Wolverine and the X-men. The list of his credits is too vast to continue. I highly respect him for all of the characters he has voiced over the years, but honestly, he is the definitive new voice for “Lord Starscream.” I’m sure that if this character was real, his spark is floating somewhere after being brutalized and scandalized by someone. According to Blum, he’s a survivor through and through.
Since I spent more time in lines waiting to talk to my favourite celebrities, I did not get to attend as many panels as I had hoped. I heard many people complaining about the route that’s allowed to go between the two floors. Those particular nerds are probably not the types who enjoy exercise. I had no problem with it whatsoever since the wait to get into those panel rooms is just as long. At least people had time to catch one’s breath while going between floors.
Even the walk between the two parties going on after the exhibit hall closed its doors was not too bad. Since the distance was negligible, the true weekend warrior could bounce between the two. I’m not sure how many celebs showed up for the official one, since James and I showed up nearly an hour late. Ray Park, Michael Rosenbaum and Giancarlo Esposito appeared an hour later, and chatting with two of the three on a casual basis was fun. Park said to me that he’s hopeful about the progress that G.I. Joe III is getting. I could have asked about Star Wars, but knowing Disney, absolutely nothing can be revealed due to the non disclosure agreements that were signed. If the animated Clone Wars is any indication and it gets recognized as canon, Darth Maul survived being bisected. He returned mechanized with a thirst for revenge against both Ben Kenobi and Darth Sidious.
The unofficial party that Rue Morgue Magazine and the Ghostbusters of BC hosted was wild. This one was better organized and it had focus. There were DJ’s, dancers, revelers and mongers too. The incident that occurred early on was alleged to have come from the adjoining night club than 560’s. Some folks left as a result, not pleased at being nearby where an assault took place. I asked a few organizers about it the following day, and they were not aware, since they did not arrive until well after the incident.
The final day was spent being an Olympian, dealing with how to transport a few items back home by running back and forth between the Vancouver Convention Centre and the Fed Ex office. It’s a shame Kevin Sorbo was not present, but that’s one actor whom I like to meet one day at a convention. I got back to the centre with three hours remaining and most of it was spent in line for Bruce Campbell’s panel. It was billed as a Q&A style event but instead, it felt like a game show with fans asking each other questions. That was a pleasent surprise and Campbell ran the show like a game-show host and even officiated a wedding!
I’m fairly certain that all the conventions Campbell is attending will follow this mold, and that’s terrific. There was a time where he did not appear in these shows as often, and I’ve noticed that he is touring a lot more for the remainder of this year and next. And his panel was a great way to cap off Fan Expo 2014. Now if I can only score an interview with him so I can ask him more about his lesser known products, like Goldrush: A Real Life Alaskan Adventure, I’ll be in nerdtopic heaven! (are you listening Bruce?).