Capital City Comic Con Recap & What’s Next in Victoria, BC

20 Mar

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

The reports are in – Capital City Comic Con in Victoria, BC is a resounding success! Many attendees, myself included, enjoyed the vibe which flowed throughout the three days and my biggest concern was in how well the lines of people are managed. Overall, it went very smoothly. Smaller events mean shorter waits, and during the times I visited the celebrity guest section, the crowds were never overwhelmingly big. Even the talents who attended appreciated the relaxed atmosphere. All of this positive attitude means this event will continue for years to come.

Patrick Warburton was outspoken about what he and fellow guests thought about this city and well managed this show was during his Q&A.

One detail I have to get off my chest is when I hear talk about (this) Comic-Con. I often jokingly say back “Which one?” I do know which event they are talking about, but when I am a seasoned veteran, this event needs its own code to distinguish it. 4C is the unofficial shorthand name (C4 is Winnipeg’s show). By default, Comic-Con is the San Diego, California event. They own the name, sad to say. and the fight over ownership was brutal.

This garden city event was a very relaxed one on Friday. Unlike the huge shows which have a lot to take in, I often have to pick one aspect to focus on and miss the rest. At ECCC, I do not have the time to diverge to play Magic the Gathering or enjoy any role-playing events. With four days, maybe I could. With 4C, in the short two and a half (sorry, but the mid-afternoon Friday and event shutting down 5pm the next two days do not count), I entered a model building contest, caught a bunch of pokemon (yes, I’m still playing that game) in a timed event, played a miniatures battle game (more on this later), talked to one of the guests at length (Mike Quinn is wonderful and multifaceted) and went to a handful of panels. I was not here to shop. When I do, I go to larger nerd celebrations to seek out the elusive than exclusive.

small IMG_7948Staples to the Victoria fandom scene includes the 501st Outer Region Garrison and VicLUG. Some groups are staples to many a local event and I never tire of seeing them. Their presence shows how well connected they are to the public eye instead of being huddled away. I hope for next year, other groups like The Vic 64 Club will have a presence. This group is over a year old and it has plenty of nostalgia to get people curious about and enter into the retro a go-go.

Out of all the celebrity events in the main hall, the Patrick Warburton and Chapterhouse Comics talk were the big draws on Saturday. The former was standing room only and I was lucky to get in. To listen to how Jay Baruchel got involved with this company and how he is championing Canadian works was very inspiring! I could have gone to James Marsters‘ Q&A and Graham McTavish, but I also needed some nap time. I was up all night and into the wee hours of the morning to finish my model for competition.

By the time I arrived, I had a tough call after dropping off the Super Deformed Gundam in the parking lot. Do I miss my friend’s Doctor Who panel and a look at Japan’s wide range of FX films (tokusatsu) in favour of the Q&A’s at the main theatre? Sadly, a lot of panels I wanted to see overlapped. I’m a nerd who loves the fact 4C is a pop culture celebration! I firmly believe “comic-con” has become a blanket term for a pop culture convention, so we will not necessarily have a comic book focus for any event that decides to label itself as such.

When considering the size of this convention centers, I’m not surprised most of these panels filled up fast. People had to start waiting in line at least an hour early if they wanted a seat. When all the panel rooms were put into one floor, it became very congested very fast. The good: two-thirds of the volunteers knew what to do to manage the lines. The bad: the air conditioning did not get turned on.

With Saturday being Saint Patrick’s Day, this event closed early (some tables wrapped up as early as 4:30pm instead of six). According to Biagio Woodward, chief organizer, the reason for no activity this night was because of the holiday and no outside venue (nightclub or otherwise) wanted to compete. The organizers have another date booked for next year’s event to avoid this conflict and I suspect the Costume Contest will change from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening. At least for those people who wanted to stay downtown at night, the appropriately named pub, The Sticky Wicket had geeky signage to say their pub was the place to stop by and Distrikt Nightclub had their own event — I’m fairly sure they were capitalizing on the geekery than be officially part of the event.

When the Downtown Victoria Business Association is one of the three organizers of this convention, I firmly believe their goal is to revitalize the city core than cater to the geek. They deserve props for trying, but the effects will not last since Victoria has more of that small town feel where people come and go; not everyone opts to stay. Even when it comes to feeding my nerd, half the stuff I purchase is through mail order than by supporting all the local businesses catering to the nerd. To find the latest in toy goods means going to the States than to stay in Canada. For example, I can not find any new 2017 How to Train Your Dragon merchandise at all and I know they exist.

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Photo from Capital City Comic Con’s Facebook page.

For a comic book show, only two dealers were present selling back issues. Publishers, namely, Chapterhouse Comics was very prominent. They are still working on getting their Captain Canuck movie off the ground and cannot promise any date; with Baruchel on board as Chief Creative Officer of this company, negotiations are back on the table.

Anyone looking hard enough will find the indies well represented in this show. 13 Flames Empire, Shen Comix, Awkward Yeti and Fowl Language decorated Artist Alley. With that thought, I like to see Burnaby, BC-based Arcana Comics for next year! They have a large catalogue of works which includes a very impressive line of movies produced for youths. The nearby Vic Theatre is rentable and perhaps an Arcana Film Fest can be considered.

After talking to artist Soo Lee (based out of New York City), we agreed there are just not that many big name Canadian publishers who are multi-faceted. Her work in Fantomah caught my attention. The supernatural theme is right up my alley! In this story, Paz, the heroine, had a persona similar to Eliza Maza from Disney’s Gargoyles. This character shows there’s more to her than meets the eye. When her younger sisters go missing and nobody is helping, she becomes a Ghost Rider / Lady Death-like figure. Her undead life is of a person borne for vengeance. This heroine first appeared in 1940 in Jungle Comics and to see this publishing house pick up this character as part of their new universe, I was hooked! This version shows plenty of promise and the fantastic covers by Djibril Morrisette is worth the price of the comic alone. Lee’s work is just as terrific. With the final issue of season two being delivered next month, the trade paperbacks will soon follow and I will have to grab them to read.

Outside of the venue, Medieval Chaos and the Society of Creative Anarchism showed the comic book convention scene is not about comic book heroes. Inside, tech sector had CodeName Entertainment as the representative. Their game Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is a fun diversion and it caters to many a D&D geek.

On the gaming side (board games and RPG), this event was a mini-convention in itself! It was run by the fun-loving staff of The Vorpal Gnome (props to Steve Saunders for keeping it sane in there), was self-sufficient and drop-in based. I kept on wandering back to see when the Call of Cthulhu game would happen. I missed the opportunity as I could not find the sign-up sheet/schedule. After talking to the GM, to learn there are players means I can find a regular group to play with instead of a one-time thing! I played Arena Rex, a miniatures battle game, instead. Curiously, no local retailer wants to or can distribute expansion products except for one (Dice Bag Games, from up island). Part of the problem lies in who is distributing it. This game recreates the Roman Gladiatorial sport and playing it was fun! The rules are simple and gameplay is fast.

I experienced minor inconveniences (mostly to do with their weird ticketing/wristband system) to which I’m told will get fixed for year two. First-time events never offer certainty. I have spoken to more than a dozen individuals who felt this way about 4C and I tried to alleviate some of their concerns because the organizers told me how they are handling the show. While some of the team are trying to make this event a friendly by fans for friends, a bit of corporate attitude did reveal itself with overpriced photo-op prices. I get the feeling they were adjusted due to the weak Canadian dollar. The autograph prices were not as high and were borderline reasonable.

Photo from Capital City Comic Con’s Facebook Page.

This show had more non-comic book related events and I was cool with it. Instead of copying from other mainland expos, I am glad this event is trying to be distinct. When this event had Canadian (most with dual citizenships) talents like Bret Hart (WWE), Tracey Moore (original voice actress of Sailor Moon) and Leah Cairns (Battlestar Galactica 2004) appearing, the niche to spotlight this country’s terrific pool of talent is made. To remind us of shows like Sliders, Forever Knight, Poltergeist the Legacy, Highlander the TV series, X-Files, Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica 2004 series is a great idea; perhaps that’s the reason why three celebrities from the BSG appeared than one. It’s best not to challenge Fan Expo Vancouver as they have become the place for performers from The CW’s many superhero shows to appear at.

By year five, when this event shows stability, I firmly believe more of the city will support this show. If it is to grow not only in size but also to accommodate many more people (15K or more), I believe the space in the Fairmont Hotel (formerly The Empress) will have to be considered. If this arrangement happens, it will bring my introduction to the convention scene full circle. This hotel was host to a huge comic book show in the late 80’s run by Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada which brought many great and top New York talent from Marvel Comics and DC to this city. I would love to see this line-up happen again.

When this event is not enough, the wait is not long for Camosun College’s Comic Arts Show (April 14, 2018) and Cherry Bomb’s Ultimate Toy Fair (April 28 & 29)! Both are smaller shows with different goals. The nerdery in this city does not have to end with this one event.

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