By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Out of the many conventions I have attended over the years, some leave me wanting for more and others make me wish it could go on forever. With small events, the choices of what to do can leave me realizing I can take on most of the show in under a few hours and enjoy the sites from the city/town that’s hosting. Van Isle Con successfully compressed down what felt like a weekend event to one day and left me wishing for more.
Well, that’s if you are not like certain buddies of mine who will remain nameless. One had a long work day the night before, and the other was here to work (sort of) but he does not understand these geek shows as well as I do. Although I did not get much sleep, as I’m a night owl by nature, I did not crash n’ burn or find myself mentally exhausted when I took a long bus ride to and fro to get to this show.
I did need time to write (and edit) to describe all that I have experienced:
I loved the variety of exhibitors found in show. From your usual comic book dealers which lined the walls, there were also plenty of arts and crafts to be found front and center. The Artist’s Alley stretched along one long line in the space. I really appreciated the fact that a proper auditorium space is used instead of a gym (i.e. Pearkes Recreation Center). Video games were represented with a free play area and there’s another VR lounge in town! (Infusion Entertainment).
Given how medium-sized the venue is, I truly enjoyed the fact everything else (food court and the panel rooms) was a stone’s throw away to get at. That’s the problem with big events like Emerald City Comic con and even Fan Expo Vancouver. The panels are put a floor apart, and to get to either is not easy! (and you want to be in line at least half an hour before to get a good seat). For that reason alone, I love the smaller events, where you do not have to wait in line to enter the doors.
In the downtime (after doing three laps in the show room), I also went to the Sidney Museum to look at their History of Comic Books exhibit. mostly spotlighting the history of Marvel and DC comics. They dominated the North American scene. At the end of the route was a section revealing the history of Canadian comic book heroes, and this bit of information is rarely relayed. Given this year is Canada150, this add is perfect!
Had this exhibit included the beginnings with comic strips, then there are a few titles (Famous Funnies marking the start of the book form) which needed mention before Superman graced the cover of Action Comics #1. The information learned from this show is an A+ essay to tell visitors what were the most popular titles of each era, and in light of Wonder Woman blasting through theaters right now, she got her own special display! I’m told there are plans to expand the exhibit when it returns. The history of comics from Europe was purposely missed.
While I missed the cosplay contest back at show because I needed to check this exhibit out (I’ve seen half the participants before, which was my reason), I had no regrets.
I returned to see Chris Williams’ presentation, talking about the Disney movies he worked in when he arrived at the studio during the tail end of the Renaissance era. His first job was with Mulan and I recall him saying he’s the reason that Captain Li was shirtless during his introduction. During his panel, he revealed his love for storytelling, and how important it is to give the characters a multi-dimensional quality. He talked about how important a core theme within a film needs to be established and how every subplot has to reflect that. He even got teary eyed a few times, and ended the presentation with a viewing of his work, Glago’s Guest.
This first year show had no hiccups I could notice, and that alone has me excited in wanting to see it return next year. Unlike the past comic book pop culture shows (not the swap meet) that took place in Southern Vancouver Island, which was random in when it took place, Van Isle Con looks like it will be an annual event. As for how it can grow depends on whether an extra day can be added or if space at the nearby hotel is required (for more vendors or other events to be held). Hopefully the comic book swap meet back in Victoria can change its future dates so all the comic book sellers can be united in one roof.
Although I did not partake in all the events around Sidney, BC for Comic Book Month, I’m not disappointed. Transportation was an issue for me. The night before, Big Hero 6 was screened at an outdoor venue, leading up to the show itself. Maybe next year, this town’s own theater, Star Cinema, can participate. Future plans will no doubt include the Sidney Museum as I’m told they want to bring back their exhibit, and perhaps expand to explore the European scene.