Last month, I fulfilled my dream of going to San Diego Comic Con for the first time ever. I know the true comic book fans are upset at the Hollywood-ization of SDCC, but it’s kinda one of the big reasons why I wanted to go. In comparison, Toronto’s Fan Expo, the third largest Con in North America, is much more comic-oriented but still has lots of room for the TV shows and celebrities.
I actually went to Fan Expo last year, not really knowing what to expect. This year, having survived the crazy awesomeness of SDCC, I decided that I would once again go to Fan Expo, though just for one day. I picked Sunday as my day to attend. Now, one of the biggest changes for Fan Expo this year was the inclusion of a Sports Fan Expo, which meant that the entire Metro Toronto Convention Centre was being used, not just the South building. I can’t tell you how great a decision that was. It might have been that I went on Sunday, so maybe it was less crowded than Saturday, but there was actually room to walk around the exhibit hall. There was no feeling like people were invading your personal space like at SDCC! Plus, the lines aren’t nearly as crazy as SDCC. I heard some people complaining about how long some of the lines were, and I thought to myself “This is nothing compared to Hall H & Ballroom 20!”
I’m not sure if this happens at other Cons that aren’t SDCC, but one of the cool things about Fan Expo is that because they have a limited number (but still a fair amount) of celebrities attending, the celebs have an area where they sign autographs while they are at the Expo. Between these autographs and photo-ops, it gives the fans a good opportunity to meet the stars they want to see. The downside to this is that, whereas at SDCC the stars are sponsored/brought in by the studios and networks, at Fan Expo the stars are essentially paid to take time out of their schedules and show up, so you have to pay for the autographs and photo-ops (which are taken by professionals).
Now I got to the Convention Centre pretty much as they opened, so after getting my wristband and heading in, I figured I’d check out the autograph area to see what times certain celebs were gonna be there signing. When I got there, Stephen Amell was already at his table! Awesome! I’m terrible at small talk, being the awkward introvert that I am, so I said a few quick words when it was my turn to see Stephen, got my autograph and was on my way. Of note, I paid $40 for his autograph, and for an extra $20 I could’ve gotten my picture taken with him, but I didn’t, and I kind of regretted it later (See, sometimes, the real Asian in me can cause me to be really cheap and not spend money. Idiot.) I figured since I’m there, let’s get in line to see Gina Torres! Gina does not usually do Cons so I HAD to make sure I went to see her. And sure, Gina is in town because Suits films in Toronto, but between me not actually living in Toronto, the bad luck I have at meeting celebs on set, and my general awkwardness, this was my only chance. What’s funny is that meeting Stephen, I was my usual awkward self, though he was really nice. With Gina, I was actually shaking a little bit, on top of being my awkward self. I might not have seen Firefly (a little blasphemous, I know) but I’ve admired this woman from her days on Alias (I will always remember her as Anna Espinosa), and of course now Suits. With getting these autographs, we can get the celebs to personalize them, and I’m already paying for it so why not? My name may be short but since kindergarten, everybody has had a hard time guessing how to pronounce my name until I tell them (it’s pronounced like the letter T). So I get very impressed by anyone who does it on the first try, which is what Gina Torres did. And man, did it feel nice to just get her acknowledgment like that. Yup, it’s the little things that can turn me into a dork.
I had intended on going to see Shawn and Aaron Ashmore’s panel, after getting my autographs, but in a case of not thinking straight, I had made my way to the South Building, instead of staying on the North side where the panel was. Needless to say, I missed it so I went roaming around the exhibit hall instead. I’m not one to buy a lot of things at Cons, unless something catches my eye, and honestly, I’m really all about the free swag. There actually wasn’t that much in swag but I ended up picking a couple posters from E1 and some Orphan Black (my newest obsession) buttons from the Space booth. Again, I know it’s terrible to go to these Cons and say I’m not really into comics, but I’m not. I made an exception though, picking up the early Fringe comic/graphic novel and one issue of Beyond the Fringe, the one that Joshua Jackson co-wrote.
The first of two panels I ended up seeing was Stephen Amell’s panel. I know I saw him as part of the Arrow panel at SDCC and that I got to meet him earlier that day, but I couldn’t miss the chance to see him again and just hear him talk about stuff. Besides being ridiculously handsome, if you’ve seen him do interviews, he comes off as a genuinely nice and cool guy, and it’s probably partially due to the fact that he’s Canadian. During his panel, there was obviously talk about season 2 of Arrow, which for the most part I had heard already at SDCC, but he added in some on-set/off-screen stories, which I as a TV fan always appreciate, as well as personal anecdotes. One of the highlights of the panel was when Stephen was asked about Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman, the possibility of a Justice League movie, and if the TV and film worlds of the DC universe would intertwine like how Marvel now has S.H.I.E.L.D on TV. I’ll tell you this, I was a little taken aback by how honest and candid he was with his answers. With regards to Affleck as Batman, he just stated that DC (or even Marvel for that matter) and producers don’t just hand out iconic roles like that, so we simply just have to have faith in Affleck’s portrayal of the caped crusader. With regards to possibly taking his Green Arrow/Oliver Queen to the big screen if a JLA movie does happen, he says he wants to just take things as they come but revealed that casting decisions (once again) don’t just get handed out and have to go through many levels of approval by DC and goes up so far as Christopher Nolan. It was that tidbit of information that surprised me. I knew Nolan was one of the producers of the latest Superman film, Man of Steel, but I didn’t realize the clout that Nolan has on the DC/Warner Brothers superhero universe, in essence making him the equivalent to Joss Whedon’s role in the Marvel film universe. The hour panel with Stephen went by quickly, and before we knew it, the moderators were saying that we needed to wrap it up and let Stephen go back to signing autographs. For proof of just how great a guy Stephen is, when asked if there was any final words he wanted to say to us fans, he said he wanted to answer 3 more questions and then he ended up answering 4. Like I said, cool guy.
Unlike at SDCC where you can camp out in a room all day, at Fan Expo they clear out after each panel. They also leave some time between panels so that if you happen to want to check out back-to-back panels in the same room, you can still get yourself in line for the next one. That’s exactly what ended up happening for me because after Stephen Amell was the Covert Affairs panel. Now funny story while I was waiting in line for Covert Affairs – Stephen Amell walked passed all of us in line. The girls in front of me who were talking and gushing about him, barely even noticed that he was walking past, and then there’s me who saw him and said “Hi” to him like it was no big deal. (I tell you, my awkwardness can act in a very weird ways.) Another thing that’s cool about Fan Expo is that for the shows that do get brought in from the networks (like Covert Affairs, in this case, being brought in by Showcase), there’s a lottery/raffle to get into the line for the free autograph session as you head into the panel. They put 2 different coloured raffle tickets into a bag, you pick one as you go inside, before the panel starts they tell you which colour gets the autograph. Simple, and no need to wait in an extra line.
I have to admit it was a little weird sitting in the panel hearing Piper Perabo, Kari Matchett, and Peter Gallagher talk about season 4 in a non-spoilery way because the new season hadn’t premiered in Canada yet, but I’ve been watching online so I know what’s been going on unless it’s later on in the season. As always, the real gems of all these panels are the behind-the-scenes stories. Hints/spoilers on what’s coming up are cool, anecdotes and random tangents are cooler (and funnier). Take for instance Piper recounting the time they were in Venice and they’re filming a scene where she’s in a foot chase because some guy stole from her. Now when they film on the street in Toronto, the area gets blocked off with security stopping people from entering a scene. When they’re filming abroad though, that doesn’t happen, so it’s sort of a free-for-all. So Piper’s filming this scene and these local guys don’t know/realize that there’s filming going on, so they would go after Piper and try to help her catch this thief; the crew kept on having to stop filming to let these locals know that it’s all fake and go back to whatever they were doing. Another fun moment was getting Peter Gallagher to sing, which for the record, didn’t take much work to convince him.
About that autograph lottery earlier, I was not one of the lucky people to get the “winning” raffle ticket. I will tell you this though, sometimes (and by that I mean VERY RARELY) it pays to be a fan of a less popular show. Not enough people drew the winning colour so Showcase still had spots for the autograph signing. After the panel, I quickly made my way to the Showcase booth and tried to see if I could get one of those spots and all I had to do when I got there was answer the question they posted on Twitter. Needless to say, I got into the autograph signing! Surprisingly, when I came up to Peter, I managed to say that I was a big fan of Center Stage and The O.C., which is infinitely more than I was able to say to either Stephen or Gina earlier, and he mentioned how he just had dinner a couple weeks ago with Melinda Clarke (who’s obviously been in town filming Nikita). My day was made.
After the autograph signing, I made another run through of the exhibit hall and then called it a day. I had a lot more fun at Fan Expo this year than last, that’s for sure. I know I keep comparing FE & SDCC, but they are two different beasts. The general feeling at both events are similar but very different at the same time. Obviously in terms of meeting celebs, I was way more successful in my one day at FE than I was the entire 4 days at SDCC, but I was afforded a lot more opportunity to make those meets happen. Will I be back to FE next year? As long as they continue to bring celebs/shows that I’m a fan of, most definitely.