Can Pop Culture Fandom Return to Victoria, BC with Island Fantasy Convention?

IFCon Preview - Unicorn logo

Island Fantasy Convention
Oct 31 to Nov 1, 2015
Pearkes Recreation Centre
3100 Tillicum Rd.

Tickets available
at Legends Comics, Incendiary Tattoos, Dragon Impact, Epic Games Style & Print or online through EventBrite

Weekend pass: $45
Saturday: $30, Sunday: $25

Over the past 25 or so years, the City of Victoria has seen pop culture conventions come and go. None of them were steady and one of my earliest memories was attending I-Con and sponsored shows, namely Star Trek, that had fans congregating inside the Royal Theatre for speeches. I haven’t been to all of them, but my introduction to this scene was in the late 80’s, when the Empress Hotel was used at the venue for the Big Brothers & Sisters comic book charity show. They brought talent from New York. Artists like Sergio Aragonés (Groo) and Howard Chaykin (The Shadow) were present. I met the editorial staff from Marvel, and I remember getting Jim Shooter and Archie Goodwin’s autograph. That was the grandest time of my life. Those were the good old days, and that was quite the show that made me a nerd for life. While I continued my love by leaving this city for the bigger shows in the late 90’s (there was nothing after I-Con died), I still yearned for a stable fandom event in the city that I call home.

The 21st century changed all that. In the past six years, new festivals — Gottacon, Cherry Bomb’s Ultimate Hobby & Toy Fair and TsukinoCon — popped up for locals to enjoy. They show that nerdom is not entirely dead in this garden city. Sadly, the organizers of Gottacon have decided their 2015 event is their last. They cite financial difficulties as one of the reasons it has to end. But before all the rise of any of these shows, past or still ongoing, there was an upstart show that looked to change the scene. I’m thankful that there are individuals in this city who are trying to give geeks an event to enjoy without having to leave the island.

Perhaps that’s why putting the “I” into a Victoria, BC event is important. Bill Code is one of the event organizers who are doing all they can to keep fandom alive. I had a chance to talk to him about the state of geekdom in this city since he’s been indoctrinated far longer than I was.

ES: Long time residents of Victoria may recall that you ran similar conventions in the past. It happened in 2001, 2002 and 2009 under different names. Why the change? Is this year’s show a reboot?

BC: I was a part of various teams of “partners” for each individual event. It seemed that none of us shared the same vision and the left hand never knew what the right hand was doing and it caused all sorts of issues. Sadly for me I was sort of the “front man” for the events. I took any heat based on any of the issues they might have had. So, yes, this is a reboot of sorts. I am running solo. If I am going to take heat, I might as well be responsible for it!

ES: What makes Island Fantasy Convention (IFCon in short) unique in the sea of pop culture conventions that’s out there?

BC: Well, I’m not sure it is unique. What it is, is a sincere effort to bring something epic to the culture that is fandom here to South Vancouver Island. We do, and not very many events in this genre do, is bring a larger variety of pop culture together. I want IFCon to try to cover all of the blanks in the fanfare industry here. We have artists of all wakes coming, movie industry professionals — no matter how big or small — attending, cosplayers showing off their works, a very eclectic variety of authors and much more.

Out of respect to the other “big two,” we are shying away from gaming and toys. GottaCon and the Cherry Bomb Toy Show have those tied up and do an epic job. It is not for IFCon to step on toes. That being said, we are massively heavy on celebrity appearances, and hope that we have something for everyone to enjoy!

All proceeds from this convention are going to this worthy cause.
All proceeds from this convention are going to this worthy cause.

Something to keep in mind is that this event is very much focusing on raising money for the BC Children’s Hospital. It is for certain a not for profit event in any means.

Is there sentimentality in wanting to rename this show? As some residents of Victoria, BC will recall, Island Fantasy is a comic book store that was very popular in the 80’s to early 90’s. What kind of memories do you have there? Are you looking to recreate some of that fondness from long ago with this event?

Yes. There is a huge sentimentality here. The fondest and most endearing part of my childhood, and the biggest influences on my life were what I consider the glory days, and inevitably the foundation of pop culture in Victoria.

I was 12 years old and my dear friend and someone who I consider my family – Dick DeRyk – that owned Island Fantasy Comics hired a reprobate 12-year-old kid to work part-time at his store on Fort Street and that changed my life. I worked at Island Fantasy from 1978 to 1984. There are no real words that I could say or how much fondness and gratitude I can exude that would come close to the love and admiration and thanks I have for Dick. So yes. This is an homage.

There are a few people that stand out in that crowd that I will never forget and cherish the fact I know them. There’s Dick of course, Scott and Mike Petersen, Dan Cawsey, Pattie Whitehouse — way too many to name. Outstanding people.

Every Zombie must come to IFCon (photo by James Shaw).
Every Zombie must come to IFCon (photo by James Robert Shaw).

What can people expect from this year’s show?

Well that is a hard call. Victoria is a finicky place. I am expecting a sell out. I have sold more tickets than expected this far out, and any promoter in this town will tell you we are a last-minute town for sales. The fact that I have HEAVILY packed this event with a huge amount of celebrity draws from a huge amount of genres helps. It’s safe to say that about 6-8,000 people would be within range. But who knows. Victoria is finicky. We have probably the most awesome silent auction for charity you can imagine. Hidden Gems galore!

How much integration will you have planned to get this show to mingle with all the other Halloween related events happening around town?

Not as much as I would have hoped. I have met with various other event promoters that are doing large-scale Halloween events, but nothing has been solidified as of yet. I guess the worse case scenario here is, “whomever promotes the event and give the populace the better value wins.”

I hope it does not come to that, as I would really like to work with the other promoters to make Halloween off the charts.

I understand IFCon has its own Halloween party. What do you have planned?

You can buy tickets at the convention. It’s $40. The bands performing are First Jason and Man the Wolf. There will be a costume contest and it’s catered. It’s held at the Royal Canadian Legion, Esquimalt Dockyard Branch 172 (622 Admirals Road).

Will there be any special trick or treating for the kids?

I’m trying hard to make this a super cool draw for the kids. We have a massive amount of kid-centric stuff going on at the convention. All kids 12 and under get in free. We are in negotiations with various corporations to donate gift bags to all kids in costume that say “trick or treat” when they check in.

We have an awesome kid’s costume contest planned. Heroes Inc., Victoria’s newest and easily the best Superhero Cosplay Group is doing a huge amount of kid stuff during the show. Kyle Klowns is giving away free Balloon animals and such. We have a 1989 Batmobile and a Batman that will be doing photo ops with the kids. There are just way too many things for kids to do to list here.

Organizer Bill Code with Richard Hatch
Organizer Bill Code with Richard Hatch

For the big celebrity names that you have coming, please tell me why some are returning guests like Lloyd Kaufman, Richard Hatch and Brinke Stevens while others are new?

Lloyd and Brinke are very much geared towards Halloween events and will be a HUGE asset. I am already getting droves of emails and such about them attending. Richard Hatch has and will always be my “go to guy” for events. Altogether, they’re just awesome; Victoria loves them.

As for the new draws. Well, I have already stated I think Victoria is finicky. So I made the decision some time ago to stack the event heavy with a massive amount of celebrities. Again, I want someone at my event that is a draw for pretty much anyone.

The Addams Family from the 60's are going to meet the generation from the 90's at IFCon!
The Addams Family from the 60’s are going to meet the generation from the 90’s at IFCon!

I have to congratulate you for managing a nearly complete Addams Family presence that spans two generations. With Felix Silla and Lisa Loring representing the original 60’s series and Glenn Taranto and Michael Roberds representing The New Addams Family, do you think you might be able to get Ellie Harvie (Morticia)?

Sadly I am so over booked it is criminal. There are, in all sincerity, at least a dozen celebrities contacting me on a weekly basis trying to attend. I just do not have the room. If I had a hall that was twice the size I would have sold out that as well by now.

What made you decide to have a heavy presence of performers from later seasons of Power Rangers (from Time Force to DinoThunder) instead of the original?

Fandom for the Power Rangers is seriously huge and the cult following is shocking. Never in my right mind would I have thought it but it is true. I have sold more VIP Passes and bulk group tickets to Power Rangers enthusiasts than all other groups combined so far. It is flabbergasting. I have actually formed quite a friendship with Tabatha Minchew of Minchew Entertainment who handles some of the Power Rangers and various other talent.

Was it difficult to convince the folks at Pearkes Recreation Centre to let you book several rooms at their venue space to run this convention?

No. They were pretty much excited about the extra real estate rentals. If they had more rooms, I would take them as well. I am so over booked. I am even using the Courtyard out back for events.

Will their Teen Activity Lounge “The Flipside” be integrated to the convention somehow for use?

It will be used for the guests and VIP ticket holders to escape the turmoil [of the exhibit arena]. It is fully sponsored by Thrifty Foods, Vancouver Island Brewery and Island TradeLink (Wine and Champagne). We’re going to have a big screen TV playing the cool classics. Hopefully, it’ll be Buck Rogers in the 25th Century most of the time — and a bar that is complimentary for the pass holders.

The Pearkes Recreation Center shows there’s plenty of space for fans to congregate to and get some exercise in at the same time!

How many more special events do you foresee happening in the future under the IFCon name? I hear you’re planning pop culture themed sea cruises. What’s the story there?

The Flight Centre is a sponsor of IFCon. Ed and Julie from the Centre here in town met with me about hosting celebrity cruises. It is a no-brainer.

I think pop culture fandom is bigger than it has ever been and people love exclusive recreational opportunities to be intimate with the icons of what they are passionate about. We’ve had a series of meetings about the direction, and it was decided to launch the IFCON/Minchew Entertainment Celebrity Cruises with the stars from the Power Rangers universe. We’ll announce more information in the future dependent on how the inaugural Cruise goes. As for other events… time will tell. I foresee a Zombie Cruise as the next Cruise event. We will see.

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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