Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fan Expo Adventures and Misadventures

This weekend was the Fan Expo, an all-in-one science fiction, comic, anime, horror, and gaming convention held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and one of the highlights of my summer experience. I went with a single similarly geek-minded friend, who in the interests of anonymity to the public will be referred to in this post as Sydney (a referrence to Jennifer Garner's character Sydney Bristow in the popular television show Alias, which amusingly I have never watched but my friend has).

Day 1 - Friday, August 22, 2008

Sydney and I arrived at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre at about 5:00 PM. Fan Expo had only been open for about an hour (3 hours to those with a VIP pass). My weekend highlight guest, Brent Spiner, was already there. For the uninitiated and geek-less among you, Brent Spiner played the android Data in the immensely popular science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every North American, male or female, has watched at least some of this show in their lifetime, and if they say they have not they are either a liar or spent several years of their lives living in a box. Friday is considered to be a good day to get autographs because the majority of attendees will not show up until Saturday (since most celebrity Q&A sessions and other events of interest don't occur until at least then). This is true unless your celebrity of interest also does not show up until Saturday (e.g. last year's Tricia Helfer). Luckily Brent "Data" Spiner was already there... and sadly, already had a huge line.

After waiting two hours in a line that was so long that it snaked (bent) around itself at least twice, I finally got to meet Brent Spiner. Unfortunately, I didn't really get to say that much to him since I was at first busy trying to figure out if the photos that he was signing costed money. He is really nice (and funny), and unlike Tricia Helfer last year actually took the time to exchange a few words with me (and each of his fans) instead of just signing my item and shoving me off. At first he took a bit of time explaining about an audio drama that he had put together with a singer named Maude Maggart and Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hammill. I didn't buy the CD though (although he was right, I regret it now). I instead got him to autograph an awesome picture of Lt. Commander Data from the movie Star Trek: First Contact. He was even kind enough to personalize it (To Andrew), although after seeing Sydney's Renee O'Connor autograph (see Saturday), I was a bit jealous that he didn't write any extra banter between his name and mine. As our time together was winding down, Brent cleverly said, "Well Andrew, it has been worth my time waiting all day to meet you." Then he turned to my friend and added, "Good luck with your life." Finally, I shook his hand (though I wish Sydney had managed to catch that on camera). I shook Brent Spiner's hand! That was awesome. And yes, of course I still washed my hand later that day. I'm a fanboy, not a crazy.


One more event of interest occured on Friday. While I was in line to see Brent Spiner, Sydney had actually snuck off to see Renee O'Connor (Gabrielle from Xena)'s Q&A session. Turns out the session was cancelled, but Syd took the opportunity to duck out to the loo. On her way there she was stopped by a completely unknown Asian guy. He said hey, and she said hi. Then he continued, "You are just so cute, I had to say hi." Gutsy. He furthermore asked her for her number, which, for some reason she gave (romance potential?... well she kind of spent much of the next few days avoiding him). Then he asked her to go out with him on Monday, but obviously, she has to work on Monday. His area code is 519, so he's obviously not from around here, and is very probably still a student. In any case, she didn't really know whether to be flattered or creeped out. I told her, probably a little bit of both was appropriate.

In addition to Mr. Spiner's autograph, I also picked up two comic books: Civil War: Captain America and Civil War: Peter Parker, Spider-Man. I got them both at the outrageously good price of 30% off the US face value (and no tax).

We stayed until the Fan Expo closed at 9 PM.

Day 2 - Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday, we arrived again at the MTCC at about 10:30 AM (30 minutes past opening). There was this horrific snaking line just to get into the exhibition area. After we got in, we lined up for Renee O'Connor (Gabrielle from Xena), who was not actually scheduled to arrive until 12 noon. The line by the time she arrived was huge! After waiting around two hours, my friend finally got to talk to Renee O'Connor. Sydney actually had quite an animated conversation with Renee, and Renee gave her a nice personalized autograph with a little bit of encouragement thrown into it. All the while, I was snapping pictured with Sydney's camera. In the end Renee was nice enough to lean out a bit and face the camera so that we could get a picture with both her and my friend's faces in it.

After that, we shopped around for a bit, and then lined up for the Q&A session with Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager's Kathrine Janeway). Kate was actually very funny! There was one point where a strange little fan actually got up to the mic and asked her to say to him, "Good job, ensign." It was very awkward. But she was funny and lively through the whole thing. She was a very nice person, and even remembered some of her fans' names (who she had met during the autograph session). She was quite different from what I expected though. While we were waiting in line to see her, Sydney and I tried out some fun photos. We had picked up these Sylar (from Heroes) masks earlier in the day...


Our second and final Q&A session for Saturday was with Laura Vandervoort and Michael Rosenbaum from the hit TV series Smallville (the story of Superman's youth). They played Supergirl and Lex Luthor, respectively. This was also a very animated Q&A, dominated by the witty Rosenbaum. While it was quite funny, we did find it a bit chaotic and Rosenbaum was a bit overbearing. The Q&A session was cut short for an auction of official Smallville paraphernaelia as a fundraiser for North York General Hospital where Laura Vandervoort was born (and apparently had her life saved from a childhood infection). One guy, dressed only in pointy ears, a speedo, and winged boots (as Namor, the Submariner) bought Clark Kent's actual jacket, signed by both Vandervoort and Rosembaum (as well as Tom Welling) for $2000.


After these two Q&A sessions, we were tired. We hadn't eaten lunch, so we ran out to Harvey's in Union Station and picked up some burgers. It was just what we needed, despite the disappointments of there being no onion rings, poutine, or ice in the cola machine. We returned to the Expo and shopped around a bit before closing time at 6 PM.

Then we lined up for an hour for the Masquerade, a costume slash drama competition for fanboys (mostly of anime). I was lucky enough to catch a photo with this amazing version of G.I. Joe's Baroness before she changed out. I was not lucky enough to catch a photo with the absolutely jaw dropping fan-made costume of Yuna from Final Fantasy X I had seen earlier in the day, however. Nor with Lara Croft who was there promoting the upcoming Tomb Raider: Underworld.


The Masquerade started out with a WoW costume competition. After that was done and over with, judging occured. While the judges were deliberating, they pulled out a Princess Leia professional belly dancer (golden bikini and all). It was quite a show.


Then came the rest of the costume competition. It was overall well done, and I was very impressed with the acts (although I didn't understand all of them). There was a little bit too much geek banter (even for me), particularly coming out of the crowd from the high proportion of obsese, sweaty nerd boys, but I will admit it was actually quite a bit more tolerable than last year. A highlight was definitely the Pokemon costumes featuring two pairs of Team Rocket, Meowth, and police officer Jenny. Well done!


We managed to leave around 10 PM and get home at around 11 PM.

Day 3 - Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another early start had us arriving at the opening time of 11 AM. There was already a line forming for Brent Spiner's 1 PM Q&A session. We waited for two hours and got front row seats! Brent Spiner did not disappoint, both in answering questions and being very amusing.

Before we knew what was what, the session was over. I rushed to the back of the line to catch Edward James Olmos' 2 PM Q&A session in the same room, while Sydney split up to line up for Sean Astin's 3 PM Q&A session. I did make it in for Edward James Olmos' (Admiral Bill Adama from Battlestar Galactica) session but I was very far back. He was a very sincere and nice guy, but his session was actually quite boring (he was far too serious). The highlight, however, was the unexpected guest of Aaron Douglas (Chief Galen Tyrol). Two celebrities for the price of one!

The funniest story came at the end when Douglas talked about his first time on the show. There was a particlar conversation between him and Olmos in the show that required the two to be inches away from each other's faces. They shot the scene from Olmos' side and then broke for lunch. Coming back, they had to shoot the scene again from Douglas' side. Edward James Olmos had eaten the most disgusting sardine, sewage, tar... something burger that smelled of murder most foul. Douglas struggled to make it through the shot. When the scene was over and he turned away, Olmos grinned and said in a devilish manner, "Welcome to the show."


I got out of the Q&A session and rejoined Syd in the line for Sean Astin (Sam, the hobbit from Lord of the Rings). We again scored front row seats. Sean Astin was an amusing fellow, but again he took the Q&A session too seriously. Furthermore, he went on and on (I mean, this guy loves to talk). He also attempted a preemptive strike to head off potential questions at the beginning and told us all about his life, his kids, the movies he worked on, the movies he is working on, etc. etc. etc. He was a tad boring. Brent Spiner was definitely the highlight of the day.

By the time we got out of Sean Astin's session, Brent Spiner was gone from the Expo. That was kind of sad because I was hoping to talk to him at greater length and buy his CD (Dreamland). Instead we shopped around for some last minute deals. I picked up another two comic books (Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man and What If?: Civil War) at 15% less than US face price. I also bought some posters from my friend and professional artist Peter Chan (http://www.peterchanart.com/) and met Shilin, an artist whose deviantArt I watch, in person (http://ashen-ray.com/). The Shilin meeting was a bit awkward (since I'm a complete stranger), but I am happy I got to shake the hand of someone whose art I admire so often (I bought a bookmark of L from Death Note from her).

As a final act before Fan Expo's 6 PM closing, we took advantage of a display that was set up in the foyer. Star Wars action figures have a very characteristic box. In the foyer was a giant board set up to look like a Star Wars action figure box. Inside, you could pose and pretend you are an action figure! We saw it on Friday, and for the last day (Sunday) I brought some props. We make an awesome action figure set!


And with this final, desperate act of geek-ness, Fan Expo was over. The coming out party of Canada's geeks, freaks, and (a shocking number of the) obese was laid to rest for another year. We ate a quick supper at Baton Rouge and packed it up for home.

Final Tally - Fan Expo Hits and Misses

Hits
  • Got Brent Spiner's autograph
  • Shook Brent Spiner's hand
  • Took a photo with the Baroness
  • Pretended to be a Star Wars Action Figure
  • Bought discount comic books
  • Met web-artist Shilin in person
Misses
  • Didn't say anything of consequence to Brent Spiner (brain freeze)
  • Didn't get a picture shaking Brent's hand (or with both of our faces)
  • Missed photo op with Yuna
  • Missed photo op with Lara Croft
The whole weekend was a complete blur... jumping from shopping, to Q&A session, to autograph session... constantly in lines. Then rushing home, sleeping, and waking up early in the morning to do it again. It's hard to believe my summer is really over, and that in five hours I will have to wake up for orientation week at my new school. School is starting, summer is over. How did this happen? But if summer really had to end, I can't think of any greater party than Fan Expo 2008.

2 comments:

Peter Hong Chan said...

hey andy, thanks for coming by at fanexpo. didn't knoe=w you keep a blog.
Thanks for the link and mention!

Anonymous said...

so detailed! feels like i am there myself!

Mei