Over a period of four days from September 1-4, costumed heroes, Trekkies and families felt right at home at the latest edition of Fan Expo Toronto.
The fans were the real heroes of what was a supercharged weekend full of celebrities, Q & A sessions, photo-ops, merchandise booths and various activities. Despite its numerous celebrity guests, Fan Expo is all about the fans, communities and people who unite them.
Fan Expo Toronto is Canada’s answer to the American Comic-Con. Although Comic-Con Toronto exists, it has yet to reach the magnitude of Fan Expo. The comic-con scene is a phenomenon that has seen its stock rise in the last decade. It is no longer solely about comic books and instead expands to celebrity guests, movies, video games and offers an incredible outlet for exposure and product placement.
Once subject to mockery and ridicule, such conventions now play host to thousands of fans every year. Attendees dress up as their favourite characters from colourful universes and established franchises dear to the hearts. Some call it dressing up, others know it as cosplay.
Fan Expo Toronto has grown to exponential proportions since it’s debut in 1995 as a humble comic book convention. The Metro Convention Centre has hosted the event since 1997 when it reached an estimated figures of 3800. Forward to 2016 where its attendance was projected to be over a hundred thousand [source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_Expo_Canada%5D. It’s a place where comic books, video games and anime juxtapose, and one where celebrities and fan meet.
Volunteers kept a vigilant eye on the merchandise
The main attractions of the weekend included comic book giant Stan Lee—Lee was a popular guest with previous announcements that the 2016 edition of Fan Expo Canada would be his last— Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame and Star Trek Enterprise Captain William Shatner among a plethora of other guests.
Here’s just a few things that happened at Fan Expo:
•93-year-old Stan Lee’s last ever Canadian appearance.
•Sony displayed its new virtual reality headset.
•Eb Games held a Q & A and autograph session with former WWE/WCW Goldberg.
•Various panels were held with celebrity guests such as Mark Hamill and cast of Star Trek.
•Gamers got a taste of upcoming video games before their release in specific booths.
•Artists performed sketches and sold art for a fee.
•An abundance of merchants sold everything from comic books to character-themed weapons, Pokemon plush, mangas and much more.
•People in attendance could touch a rock that had been on the moon at the Royal Ontario Museum booth.
•Justin Trudeau was immortalized as a comic book character.
•Countless pictures were taken with various cosplayers, a vintage Batmobile and a giant Pikachu.
The festivities weren’t limited to what happening in the Convention Center, however. The Fan Expo also held events outside the venue such as a retro 90s after-party at the Orchid Nightclub and a Pokemon Go Lure party near the south building main entrance.
The event didn’t quite go without flaws, however. Maybe, just maybe, Fan Expo Toronto wasn’t prepared to host this many fans. Delays and confusion were a recurring theme at the Metro Convention Centre leading to criticism throughout the four day-long event. Attendees turned to social media to voice discontent over last-minute detail changes, scheduling conflicts and cuts.
The Stan Lee merchandise table, for instance, was a classic example disorganization and lack of communication. The booth was swamped with autograph-seekers who were met with apprehension from Fan Expo volunteers as they had the daunting task of maintaining order and safety. Some patient fans were turned away and told to come back the next day. Others were asked, less than kindly, to buy tickets elsewhere and move away from the fire safety zone. To its credit, the Fan Expo twitter account was very active and did its best to solve problems.
Fan Expo Toronto 2016 put forth a celebration of fandom that spread across thousands of smiles, young and old, seasoned fans and newbies. The event is truly an enduring testimony of pop-culture’s long and ever lasting appeal.
We can’t wait to see what the 2017 edition will bring.