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Last month, I attended my seventh Toronto FanExpo, and after
four days of sensory overload and noisy late-night shindigs, I’m just now
finding the resolve to talk about it. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s like
this: I had the following week off (I spent the week before school started with
my son) and two weeks of catchup hell at work after that as a result of my
being away—but at last I can finally relate the events of my four-day adventure
This report should serve as a handy little guide for those
of you contemplating making the journey to FanExpo in the future (specifically Rue
Morgue’s Festival of Fear portion), and perhaps you’ll see a picture or two you
like. Hell, if you attended and were one of the four or five people at the
entire con dressed in horror-related attire, you might even be in one of them.
I just recently discovered that FanExpo had been taking
place for several years before the horror element was added the year before I
started going. (I’d have gone to that one too, had I been aware of it). It was
mainly sci-fi and comics before evolving to a quintet with gaming, anime and
the reason I’m writing: horror.
For my first two years I would check out the con floor,
sniffing around for freebies and getting a few autographed stills, until 2006,
when I figured my son was old enough to get a kick out of joining me. Old
enough to tolerate pushing through crowds of stormtroopers and Batmen to stand
in 45-minute lineups to get a STAR TREK alumnus’ autograph. At least, he had to
be old enough to allow a Gameboy to distract him while we shuffled inch by inch
toward the front of the lines while getting jabbed with plastic swords and guns
by jumpy cosplayers with no concept of personal space.
Yes, 45-minute lineups. Unlike any of the strictly
horror-themed cons I’ve attended or heard about, this pop-culture mashup draws
many tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans over the course of the weekend each
year, causing massive lineups at the guest tables, congested laneways and
packed restaurants after hours in the immediate vicinity.
It behooved FanExpo to introduce a couple of major changes
this year to address the glaring concerns raised by the last two, mainly the
overselling of the event to the point where thousands of ticket holders were
shut outside the doors for hours to comply with fire and safety codes. As the
fish had clearly grown too large for the tank, the party was moved back to the
south building this year and the weekend was expanded to include Thursday.
Security was noticeably improved, firm but polite with a very strict agenda for
crowd control. (There was no access to the skywalk unless you were a guest at
the adjoining hotel.)
It was still a busy weekend, Saturday being the major crush
as always, but the larger venue certainly did help and there was better
mobility for the most part.
My weekend began Thursday morning about noon, when I set out
for the FanExpo customer service offices to pick up my press creds. There, I
ran into my friend Jason Hooft of 3 Killa Bytes doing the same thing; he was
obviously here for the gaming portion of the con. Fango has never opted to
cover FanExpo in the past because of some perceived conflict of interest, due
to Rue Morgue hosting the Festival of Fear, but this year I said to hell with
it. I know several of those fellas anyway, and many of them are friends. By
sheer coincidence, three other Fango press passes were released that weekend as
well, though I didn’t run into any of those pass holders the entire time I was
So with a few hours to kill before the ribbon-cutting
ceremony, Jason and I went off for a quick lunch and returned to find a huge
throng waiting for the green light, a scene that always reminds me of the
zombies hanging off of the compound fence in Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Tattooed
and dreadlocked last-minute vendors were hustling in past the lineup as the
organizers sought the best place to set up the ribbon cutting. Guests Robert
Englund and Lance Henriksen were slated to perform the ceremony, but after
jostling and fighting for position with a group of aggressive and gossiping
photographers, Jason and I decided to forsake the soggy photo op (it was
raining on and off to boot) and head into the building. I must say, having a
press pass hanging around your neck does make for a far better con experience.
You’re given priority clearance, so there’s no waiting in lines, and people
actually seem happy to see you. It puts a warm feeling in your tummy.
When we hit the floor, Jason and I parted ways. We each had
our own interests to pursue, and mine began with locating a few friends I knew
would be manning tables in the horror section.
My first order of business was to locate Canadian
illustrator/author Richard A. Kirk somewhere in the artist alley. Richard is a
remarkably talented gentleman whose intricate dark fantasy illustrations so
impressed me when I met him a couple of years ago, he was the subject of my
first full-length article in Fango (#301). If you ever make it to a FanExpo and
don’t seek out this man’s work, you’ve robbed yourself. (He’s illustrated
several of Clive Barker’s works as well as Korn’s eighth album cover.) After a
visit with Richard and his family (I would go back and hang out with them for
much of the con), I wandered off to say hello to a few more people and take
pictures of the vendors before the crowds arrived, as my camera seems to be the
perfect target for elbows and shopping bags.
I wandered off to find the booth of Black Fawn Films, great
friends who make great Canadian indie movies (NEVERLOST, IF A TREE FALLS) to
see if they had any plans after the con. I found Chad Archibald and Philip
Carrer hiding behind a big stack of IF A TREE FALLS DVDs in a little wooden
house about three aisles down from the guest tables. There were indeed plans
for the evening: an Anchor Bay party at a bar close by. Excellent. Black Fawn
and Anchor Bay—it doesn’t get better than that.
From there I went directly across the lane to see Darryl
Magierowski at his Twisted T’s display. (Great obscure horror
T-shirts—excellent quality and nicely priced.) His wife Bounmy and pal Cannibal
Cam weren’t there at the time, but I’d catch up with them eventually. A couple
of doors down, Reese Eveneshen and co. were housed in the DEAD GENESIS
booth—which was mighty convenient, as I had intended on picking up that flick
for myself, which I did.
By this time, the floor was beginning to fill up—far more
people than I would have thought for a Thursday afternoon. I know that the
extra day was a cause for concern for “the little guys,” vendors who didn’t
know if they could afford to take an additional day off from their regular jobs
to be here (a complaint I’d been hearing since the fourth day was announced).
But by the looks of things, the attendees appeared ready to support the extra
day. It would be interesting to see if this was sustained throughout the entire
weekend. On the way to see my next victim, I was keeping an eye out for anyone
dressed in horror costumes to shoot (with the camera) but I couldn’t find any.
Plenty of superheroes and anime folks, but no horror. A noticeable increase in
steampunk costumes, though, which looked pretty cool.
After looking high and low, I finally found Greg Lamberson
at the Medallian Press booth. They had him in an odd spot, neither in the
horror nor the book section. They were in a con limbo of sorts. You’d find him
eventually if you were meticulously combing up and down the aisles, but he was
in a tough place to find if you were looking for him specifically. If you don’t
know the name, Greg is a bright and talented filmmaker/author, the man
responsible for the cult favorite SLIME CITY (and its recent sequel SLIME CITY
MASSACRE) as well as THE JAKE HELMAN FILES, a series of books that is a going
concern for me, as I’m writing a review on the third and latest entry, COSMIC
FORCES. I’ve gotten to know Greg through our interviews and Facebook
friendship, and was looking forward to chatting in person over the course of
After taking a shot of Greg’s annual FanExpo new shoe
purchase, I continued on to find the Troma booth to say hi to Ron and Cathy and
to scout out the Anchor Bay booth. (I love me some Anchor Bay.) Eventually I
worked my way back to Richard’s table, where I hung out when I wasn’t haunting
the aisles looking for horror folks and indie-film booths. It became painfully
obvious that there were very few in attendance this year. By this time in past
years I’d be hauling a big bag of indie DVDs, but this year—just one. And I’d
hardly taken any pictures. Disconcerting, considering I was there to report on
the horror goings-on.
Around 6 p.m., the guest tables were starting to fill up.
Englund and Lance Henriksen arrived about an hour after I first got inside,
Englund’s table already facing a huge lineup of audience seekers. Lance had no
one yet, but that seemed to be the trend for returning guests, and this was
Lance’s second year in a row. I’d interviewed Henriksen earlier in the year, so
I popped over to say hi and ended up helping him set up his signs and
paraphernalia while his assistant sat there doing not much of anything. Here I
made my second purchase, a signed copy of NOT BAD FOR A HUMAN, Lance’s popular
While walking by the Rue Morgue booth to see who I might
know, I felt a tap on my back and turned right into a vision of breathtaking
beauty in the form of Kat Von Pire, who was there volunteering for Rue Morgue
with her excellent man Steve Walsh, both good friends of mine. After chatting
for a bit, Kat accompanied me on a round of the floor, so that I could
introduce her to Lamberson and have an impromptu photo shoot with her standing
beside everything in the convention—including Victoria Price (Vincent’s
daughter!!) and the huge robots from REAL STEEL which were apparently in the
At this point, I have to admit, I was tired of walking
around, my feet were killing me and the camera was getting heavy, despite the
alarming lack of pictures inside.
I made several circuits of the floor, caught Justin
McConnell and his gang from THE COLLAPSED at the Anchor Bay booth and makeup FX
wiz Mitchell Stacey just after he converted DEAD GENESIS’ Erin Stuart into a
crispy corpse. I ran into the Nictophobia Films lads, Christopher Harrison and
Phil Pattison (super-nice guys), from whom I bought DVD #2 (VS. THE DEAD), as
well as Tim Sullivan right next door!
So I started getting a few photos—of the guests at least,
but nothing of the attendees, which is very unusual but no matter: the busiest
days were still coming.
This proved to be the longest day of the con, open until 9
p.m. I realized I’d forgotten to eat, but there was no time for that now. I had
to go to my room, register, clean up, then walk to the hotel where the Black
Fawn fellas were staying so we could all walk up to the Anchor Bay soirée
Which we did.
It was at the London Taphouse on Adelaide. Great rooftop
patio. They make the best Bloody Caesars ever. (Huge pickled green beans!!)
Here’s the thing: when you put the Foresight Features guys (John Geddes, Jesse
Cook, Matt Weile, Cody Calahan, Mark Gibson, Adam Seybold) together with the
Black Fawn group (Chad, Philip, Ryan Barrett, Emily Alatalo, Jennifer Polansky)
at a party hosted by Anchor Bay (Susan Curran, Rob Herholz), you’re going to
laugh your ass off and drink far more than you had planned. I have to say I had
a blast with these folks (despite, or maybe because of, Geddes trash-talking me
re: volleyball). A definite weekend highlight.
I also met and chatted with Dave Alexander of Rue Morgue for
the first time—nice fellow—as well as actor Jake Raymond, and I talked with a
girl who had a baby squirrel under her shirt. No, that isn’t code for anything
(it couldn’t be); she actually had a real live baby squirrel under her top that
she let me hold. I gave it back after it bit me about 23 times. Cute, though.
We were politely but forcibly removed from the bar sometime
after 2 a.m. My night ended here by choice, while many of the others continued
on to Sneaky Dee’s.
I was looking forward to seeing what kind of mewling messes
these guys would be the following morning, but that will have to wait until
part two. I’m off to bed.
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