Convention Report: FanExpo 2014

Fair warning: I’ll start with some explanations, but I can’t explain every reference. This post will get geekier as it goes on…

What Is FanExpo?

Yes, that's a person in the Stormtrooper suit. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Yes, that’s a person in the Stormtrooper suit. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Labo(u)r Day weekend saw Toronto’s biggest fan convention — FanExpo. It’s a comic-con for people who like comics, anime, gaming, anything to do with science fiction and fantasy and horror (mostly TV and movies), and related activities such as steampunk and LARPing. Actors show up and sign autographs and do photo ops. (This year’s celebrity guests included Elijah Wood, several actors from Doctor Who, William Shatner, and Patrick Stewart.) Hundreds of thousands of people flood the convention centre. It’s crazy and geeky and overwhelming and exciting all at once.

This year I didn’t go to any of the panels or Q&As. My geekery tends to revolve around books, and although I do watch genre movies and TV, I’m not terribly interested in seeing the actors involved. (I tend to be disappointed when they’re less articulate than their characters — probably the fault of the sharp dialogue that’s in vogue these days. Plus you have to pay extra for autographs and photo ops, and it’s not cheap.) However…

The Cosplay

Star Wars cosplayers

Star Wars cosplayers. Photo by me.

One of the biggest parts of FanExpo is cosplay — people dressing up as their favourite characters. Part of the fun is watching the effort that people put into their costumes, either replicating the originals with as much attention to detail as they possibly can, or putting a twist on them (like genderswapping). For more on cosplay, see Kit Campbell’s Introductory Guide to Cosplay and my own post from last year’s FanExpo.

Many years ago, I used to cosplay as Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I haven’t done it in a long time. But this year, my two partners in FanExpo crime decided to dress up as two of the Doctors from Doctor Who. So I pulled together a last-minute Amy Pond costume (based on this outfit).

Me, Ninth Doctor, and Fifth Doctor. Photo by a kind Doctor Who Society of Canada volunteer.

Me (left) and my partners in crime, Ninth Doctor (kneeling) and Fifth Doctor. (Why yes, that is celery in his lapel.) Photo by a kind Doctor Who Society of Canada volunteer.

It wasn’t a total success — for one thing, my hair isn’t red enough to be noticeable anymore — but it was fun. I don’t think I’m going to be hooked into cosplaying again (I have too many hobbies already) but I did enjoy taking pictures with — and of — all the Doctor Who paraphernalia and the other Whovian cosplayers.

(And then I bought a T-shirt with some Game of Thrones snark, but I digress.)

Even more fun was drooling at all the other cosplay. I saw:

  • lots and lots of Doctors (mostly Eleven since Matt Smith was there — saw an excellent Ten and several Nines, and one of my companions went as Five, but no Twelves), Amy Ponds, and River Songs
  • also lots and lots of anime cosplay that went over my head (since that’s not my preferred style of geekery), and video game cosplay ditto
  • a fair number of superheroes and other comics characters, though fewer than last year (I guess because it’s been a few years since the last really major superhero movie)
  • lots of Stormtroopers (but not much else from Star Wars)
  • several great steampunk outfits
  • genderswapped Mal Reynolds and several Jayne hats (but not much else from Firefly)
  • one Ms. Marvel / Kamala Khan in hijab — didn’t get a picture, but more power to you, lady!

(Warning: more large photos after the jump.)

Anybody know who the guy in heels is meant to be? More power to him!

Anybody know who the awesome guy in heels is meant to be? Photo by Louise Kiner.

Rorschach from the comic book series Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Rorschach from the comic book series Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Photo by Louise Kiner.

But there was almost no Star Trek or Game of Thrones or LOTR/Hobbit cosplay, at least not on the day I went. Alas.

The Booths

Another big draw for my companions and me was the section for community booths. These were really showcases of fannish creativity, from the large display of Daleks (made by fans, and all set up to take a person inside for locomotion) to the Dalek voice emulator to the steampunk gadgets. Many of the booths were offering experiences in exchange for charity donations — you could shoot Nerf guns at Stormtrooper cosplayers, take your picture with the Daleks (as seen above), and so on.

Iron Man (I think? but he's wearing swords...) promoting the Toronto Gaymers, an LGBT*-friendly geek and gaming group

Iron Man (I think? but he’s wearing swords…) promoting the Toronto Gaymers, an LGBT*-friendly geek and gaming group. Photo by Louise Kiner.

I also paid a visit to Authors’ Alley, a long double-sided strip full of writers, and couldn’t resist buying a book from a local YA fantasy author, Lesley Livingston. Oops?

FanExpo 2014 - pulled pork parfait

Photo by me.

The food stalls were, of course, overpriced (because they can). But I did enjoy eating something called a “pulled-pork parfait” — pulled pork layered with mashed potatoes and topped with baked beans. It is exactly as glorious and horrible as you might imagine.

But the stalls also featured things like this:

FanExpo 2014 - tapestry jacket

Photo by me.

If I could have thought of any possible occasion to wear it, I would have bought it in a heartbeat, but alas, I am too practical.

Not the real Spock.

Not the real Spock. Photo by Louise Kiner.

Then again, maybe I’m not… (How many fandoms can you spot in that photo?)

For another take on the same event, and a behind-the-scenes look into putting together a cosplay outfit, see Louise Kiner’s post on Tumblr. Thanks for all the photos, Louise!

Your turn! Do you “get” the appeal of fandom? How do you explain it to people who don’t but are genuinely curious about it?



5 responses to “Convention Report: FanExpo 2014

  1. My kids have dabbled in cosplay (and when my daughter wakes up here in a minute I’ll ask her about the dude in heels in your photo) but I might be one generation too old. Looks like you had a great weekend!

  2. One of these years, I will attend. I may even dress up. I loved the look of the pulled pork parfait, and I think you should have bought the purple outfit. Interesting what you said about the actors not living up to the character. Of course! It is for this reason that I often skip the special features on the BluRay – I do NOT want to spoil the illusion. Sounds like this was a great time and it was a great write-up!

  3. Liv – When I started going to conventions in the ’90s, cosplay existed, but it was pretty much all either Star Trek or Star Wars. All this anime and superhero stuff is new (and to be clear, my opinion is the more the merrier!).

    Suzanne – Exactly. I’m not a special-feature watcher, either — I’ll stick with the illusion. And thanks!

  4. New term for me. Sounds like fun.

  5. Thanks, Janice — it was!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s