Saturday September 27, 2014 was a big day for your ol’ pal Nickel. It was a day on which I threw caution to the wind, and opened myself to a frightening new experience. Nope, not a prostrate exam… I attended a comic-con (aka: comic expo).
Despite being an obsessed comic book collector and fan for some time now, this was my first “con” experience… And, while all the things that have kept me away from these things; long lines, inflated costs, and the huge slow moving crowds, were all still there, I don’t think I could have enjoyed it more (although it would have been nice if they sold beer). I think its pretty safe to say that The Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo is now on my yearly checklist of events that I intend to attend.
Ironically, I wasn’t even going to attend until it was brought to my attention that this was something I needed to do for the podcast. Who was I to kick sand in the face of the demands of the Graphic Novice Comic Book Podcast. The needs of the many, do indeed, outweigh the needs of the few, so I decided that I would attend… but I gave myself an out. I would attend on the condition that the good folks that ran the Edmonton Expo would issue Graphic Novice a Media Pass.
After I submitted my application, I started looking at hotel prices for a nice weekend getaway in the mountains, but to my surprise, I received the email that sealed my fate… Graphic Novice was going to be at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo (and my loving girlfriend was going to the mountains without me… sorry Jen). Not only did we get a press pass, but they gave one to my wingman for the day (Angry).
Its worth noting, that my very first con experience, other than parking, would be the “Costumes Do Not Equal Consent” sign. I had heard other people and podcasts talk about it, and here it was… the sign that welcomed me to my first con/expo. I groped the sign. It consented. Sort of.
After receiving our press passes and coming to the conclusion that there was really no way we could abuse them just yet, we headed over to the main hall to see the Spotlight on Alice Cooper panel. I was still tentative about joining the massive crowds in the vendor halls at this point, but I was pretty excited about sitting down and watching some of the panels. Alice Cooper was fantastic. I guess it was about what you would expect, but I was skeptical enough to doubt that I would be as entertained as I was. Stories of snakes crapping on stage, and clown-costumed roadies vomiting while attempting to clean up the mess was a highlight of sorts, but seeing a larger than life personality like Alice Cooper tell candid stories about life off the stage, kept the audience thoroughly engaged. I don’t remember seeing anyone in there get up to leave early, even when the panel went close to 40 minutes longer than it was originally scheduled for. A nice bonus to my first ever comic-con panel, we also got to see Game of Thrones’ Khal Drogo trip down the stairs… While I try not to make a habit of taking pleasure in the misfortune of others, watching the Lord of the Dothraki Kingdom clumsily fall victim to a set of stairs was pretty funny… even without alcohol.
With a little less than an hour before the next panel on my list of things to do, I thought it would be a good time to grab something to eat. Their seemed to be an abundance of places to get food, but there were line-ups everywhere. It appears everyone fasts before coming to these things… the entire conference seemed to be looking for a place to get food at the same time as me. An hour was not going to be enough, and even with a little more time, my wingman was only able to secure a bag of mini-donuts (which I’m told were delicious). Later in the day, the lines would die down and I would get my hands on a hamburger at the food trucks outside, but don’t try eating anywhere near lunch time unless you’ve got a lot of time to kill.
A little famished but determined still, I headed back inside for my most anticipated event of the day, the Image artists panel. I didn’t think about it right at the time, but the scheduling made it impossible to get to the Big Bang Theory panel in time afterwards, which may have explained the lower numbers in the room. I’m guessing there was less than 40 in attendance which forced me to give up my regular back corner seating for the front row. As a creature of comfort, I’m not big on giving up my routine, but the 3 guys up front, Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), Nat Jones (’68), and Vic Malhotra (Roche Limit, X-Files, Tiger Lawyer), were entertaining and engaging enough to make me forget that I was no longer sitting comfortably and anonymously in the back row. Zdarsky had some hilarious stories of working with Matt Fraction on Sex Criminals, and all three of them shared anecdotes of breaking into comics, and how they work with their respective writers. I don’t know how to describe the experience any further without sounding like a smitten fanboy, so I’ll just reiterate that it was my highlight event, and better than I expected. All three of the artists were great story-tellers that I would have gladly listened to for hours.
When the Image artists panel wrapped up, I decided to see what the Big Bang Theory panel looked like… Full, doors closed, hordes of disgruntled people still standing outside the door… pretty much what I expected. I went to the door, and the security lady standing beside it, and flashed my media pass. I took the chance to look confused and a little irritated when she told me that I should have already been informed that a media pass did not entitle me to go to the front of the line, or special access to events. Despite having known all along, I decided to play dumb. I still didn’t get in.
At this point, I rounded up Angry and we headed into the see of vendor booths, with wads of cash. I didn’t expect to find much, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to be ready to buy something if I did find a deal. I looked for the booths of the shops I already knew, and the prices there were what I expected, but to my surprise, there were some booths with deals on books. I’d go so far as to say, I could have done a lot more shopping there than I did. I think I dropped about $60.00 on books, which I thought was a pretty restrained day. I was blown away but the Northern Alberta Lego Users Group display, and thought it was pretty cool how approachable most of the people at the booths were. I definitely regret not getting a chance to talk to more of the artists and creators, but then again, I’m not all that talkative before I get a couple of beers in me, so it should surprise no one who knows me, that I spent most of my time looking through boxes of back-issue comics. I did however get to meet Chip Zdarsky, who is one hell of a charming dude.
The swarms of crowds can be rough, especially for those of us who get uncomfortable when we can’t move around freely. Most of the time we were there, however, the crowds were quite manageable, but I learned that I will probably pay more attention to avoiding peak hours next time.
The cosplayers were so impressive, that we decided to stay for the costume contest. There were some amazing costumes that weren’t in the contest, so either many of the costumed people don’t bother with the contest, or there are rules that keep a large portion of costumed attendees out of said contest. The contest experience wasn’t bad, but I didn’t think much of the host. There were some strange moments, like anytime the host made an attempt at humor or told a story, but that aside, I certainly applaud all the effort people put into their costumes.
You definitely don’t need to sit through the contest to see great costumes, but I thought it would be a good way to show some support, and it was a chance to sit down for those of us who are moderately to severely lazy.
After the costume contest, we walked through the vendor area one last time before heading out to grab the pint of beer that I thought I would have been drinking 8 hours earlier.
For anyone out there like me, who has purposely avoided these things, I would suggest taking the opportunity to check one out… particularly if you like comics, but even if you don’t, there really is something there for everyone.
See you in 2015 Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo.