Fantasy for All!

March 19, 2012 at 1:45 am (Uncategorized)

Like a Nerd loves Sci-Fi

Last week I took my son to see John Carter, the movie adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novel. Not as terrible as the reviews suggested, but not as great as it could have been. One bright spot was a trailer for Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie. Only a few months now.

But it’s not just the Avengers this year. Coming soon is the third and final part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman, the Spider-man reboot, and then later in the year, it’s the Hobbit.

Ah, OK, I admit it, I love comic books, science fiction, fantasy and all that.  Last week, I also took my son to the Toronto Comic Con at the Convention Centre. Comic Con really marks the beginning of the convention season which culminates in August with the massive Fan Expo in Toronto.

Fan Expo has been staging events in Torono for 17 years and last year over 70,000 people attended. Once upon a time, comic books were the domain of nerds, but now, superheroes are big business and fantasy too. Vampires are big business. Hell, there’s money in them thar nerds!

And it’s not just movies. A cursory look over the TV schedule will confirm it too: Once Upon a Time, Grimm (2 network shows dedicated to the premise fairy tales are real), True Blood, Dr. Who, Being Human (UK and US versions), Sanctuary, and so on.

Gonig to a convention though is a bit different, and I’ll admit though that I hadn’t really expected it to be big. Last year, I went to the opening day of the Fan Expo convention. I arrived  at the Convention Centre with the kids about 15 minutes before the doors opened, but there were already hundreds of people ahead of us, many in costume. I wondered, just how early you have to arrive just to be first.

There are three basic components to any convention

1. The floor. Hundreds of retailers set up where you can find pretty much anything. T-shirts, comic books, action figures – you name it – I was unable to find a Hellboy coffee mug, but who is to say it wasn’t there. (Actually, I few weeks later I discovered said item at a local comic book store, but declided not to buy it as the Dark Horse web site admitted the decal on the cup was painted with lead based paints. Hmm).

Walking into the expo is a big overwhelming, and my first response was to panic: No I don’t want to be here, but quickly I got used to it. At Comic Con I was much more prepared. I even had a list of things I was looking for. The dealers were fewer and the crowd smaller, so things weren’t  quite so frantic. almost civilized.

2. Signings

One of the big attractions of any expo is a chance to meet your heroes, either movie or TV stars, or illustrators and writers. This is done in two ways. Either you line-up to have whatever you want signed, or you go to one of the numerous Q and A sessions, or you can pay to have your picture taken in a photo op. At the Fan Expo last year, I was caught off guard by this – I hadn’t really considered what to do, I didn’t bring anything to have signed so, my time was brief. Among those attending were Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Barbara Eden (Jeanie), Nichelle Nicholks (Lt. Uhura), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and many more. I briefly considered standing in a line, but when you have two children in tow, it doesn’t really work. Instead I walked up to Larry Hagman’s booth, where there was amazingly no line-up, and we fist-bumped.

This time I was a little more organized. I got an Angel box set signed by Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase), who in vain tried to engage my son in conversation. I also said hello to Robert Picardo who played the doctor on Star Trek Voyager, but I really liked him in a small role he played in the first season of Justifed,; a collector of Hitler’s art just so he could burn it. I briefly considered queuing for Tia Carerre’s autograph, but eventually decided against. I did however buy a Tom Strong print by co-creator Chris Sprouse.

3. Forums and meetings

Many of these consist of  “Fan Q and A’s”, but others focus on a particular aspect of fantasy. At Fan Expo, the Toronto Steam Punk Society for example had a costuming workshop.  Other include manga, horror or cosplay. You name it there’s an enthusiast.

And so it goes. Like any genre, you can dig as deep as you like. Take a show like The Big Bang Theory which celebrates nerds and fan boy culture. I’m astonished at how shallow the appreciation is. Sure, it’s comic books and sci-fi TV, but for the most part it’s Marvel and DC with the occasional Star Wars and Star Trek, but I don’t recall ever hearing a reference to William Gibson. Plenty of Stan Lee jokes, but nothing about Jack Kirby, Alan Moore or even Neil Gaiman (OK, Kirby’s dead, but that’s no real excuse)  I guess my point is that even though nerd culture is mass culture, there’s still plenty of undiscovered country.

See ya in August.



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