chrisdvanne speaking: I really enjoyed Cory's coverage of Edmonton Expo on Twitter and I thought it would be a good idea to have his impressions in a blog post. When we started discussing the opportunity to do it, Cory told me this was not really something he has done done before and that it might be small. Well...
This past weekend, September 26-28 2014, I attended the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. This was the third year for the Expo and it has grown each year. The attendance grew from last year's 25,000 people over the weekend to 47,000 according to Edmonton Expo's tweet on September 28. I have attended all three years and it's great to see it picking up such momentum. I have also attended Calgary's Expo since 2011 and I can say it's a great set of conventions to go to as the Staff and Volunteers always do a fantastic job with them.
The Expo in Calgary and Edmonton always draws a wide variety of guests to suit many different tastes, and this year was no exception. There was represenation from the origial A-Team with Dirk Bennedict and Dwight Schultz, Superman Dean Cain, rock legend Alice Cooper, cosplayer Jessica Nigri, sci-fi stars from Falling Skies - Noah Wyle (who made his first con appearance) and character actor Doug Jones. Also present was Mads Mikkelsen, star of Hannibal, and one of the personal favourites of the Expo's own miss Emily Expo. We even got a one-day appearance from two of the stars of the popular comedy series The Big Bang Theory, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar (Howard and Raj).
Many conventions are also blessed to get representation from actors who have appeared within the Whedonverse; the Expo this year garnered a whopping three of them. The first two starred in Joss Whedon's Angel, Amy Acker and J. August Richards, also known as Fred & Gunn; and, also on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, to name a couple. Of course the third appearance was by a Whedonverse veteran - Summer Glau.
I was fortunate to be able to meet Summer at the 2011 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (see picture to the right), and when she was announced as a guest on September 17 (two days after my birthday, talk about a great belated present), I'm pretty sure my heart skipped a few beats and I held my breath while I re-read the Expo's twitter announcement a couple of times. At that time I was anxiously waiting for the Expo to arrive, but with the announcement of Summer it couldn't come fast enough.
The first day of the expo was Friday the 26th. It was considered more of a preview day so there is a little less going on, it was also added this year as last year only had Saturday and Sunday. It gives people a chance to wander about, check out the multitudes of vendors and artists all showcasing their products and art. It's also a great time to grab autographs and photo-ops from the guests that are there that day, as there are less people in line. This first day also gives the convention staff an opportunity to find things they can improve on, often by getting feedback from the convention-goers, for the next day.
To start off the con I got myself a couple of photo-ops with a "Superman" - Dean Cain; and one from Torchwood and Pacific Rim's Burn Gorman. Dean was very energetic; and, talk about a firm handshake. Burn was awesome to get a photo with because I got a Torchwood team up photo at Calgary's 2013 Expo with John Barrowman, Garreth David-Lloyd and Eve Myles; so, another notch in the Torchwood belt. I was also able to stop by both tables for Amy Acker and J. August Richards to get their autographs, they are great people to talk to and yes, Amy does have that huge smile all the time and is so sweet and friendly. This is also a good time to walk around all the areas and try and get your bearings, because you'll need them on the weekend. It's also a good time to visit some of your favourite vendors and artists to pick up limited edition pieces or just items before they are sold out. A few of my personal favourites are to visit Redd Skull Comics, Matt Stevens over at Nerd Adjacent and Jason Palmer and his wife Yelena. Matt makes Geekographs, metal etched artwork, and of course Firefly pieces are what I seek and he came out with his newest featuring River on the front, and I scored #1 of 250. Jason didn't end up being there until Saturday due to finishing off the expo print and also having some flight issues, but Yelena always holds down the fort.
To end off my convention opening Friday, I attended the Alberta Browncoats screening of Serenity. The donations received totalled $2012 for charity. A number of people won some great firefly/serenity door prizes (a donation equalled a ticket for the draws); but, unfortunately I was not one of the winners. My closest ticket was 10 numbers off. Oh well, maybe next year.
Saturday there is a lot going on. It's the main day of the Expo, the most people will be walking around (or standing in lines), and if you attended on Friday you know it's going to be a great day because you've already had a taste. For me the first thing was jumping into the autograph/photo-op line for Summer. While in line you get to chat with the people around you; many are Firefly fans but of course all are Summer fans (and how could you not be). When Summer finally made her appearance at her table, a little past the scheduled start time (but hey, we'll wait all day for her I'm sure), she looked as beautiful as ever. One couldn't help but notice her sporting a nice baby bump. I thought back to watching her ALS Ice Bucket video challenge and thought perhaps there may be something starting there, but it is definitely clear now. I got an autograph, a Serenity picture with River sporting her sword and axe combo, and of course a photo-op. They were taken at her booth again this year (instead of in the photo-op area with the fancy photography studio setups), the same as back in 2011 in Calgary. Summer's fiancé Val did the picture taking (you had to bring your own camera), and I looked at the photo along with Summer to make sure it turned out alright.
The next couple of photo-ops I had were with Amy Acker and then J. August Richards. I was pretty happy when it was my turn to get a photo with Amy as she recognized me and said "oh yay! you wore it.", referring to my t-shirt "I'm a fan of that Whedon show", as I had mentioned it to her on Friday that I was going to wear it (what better could a day be than three photos with three people who have been in Whedon shows). Of course there were other autographs and photo-ops throughout the day including a team up photo with Simon and Kunal from The Big Bang Theory. But when you visit a convention, you have to watch some of the panels. I caught the end of Alice Cooper's panel and when it was over made my way to find a good seat for the Whedonverse panel. Being a VIP ticket holder (VIP gives you the perks of early entrance, front of the line access for autographs and photo-ops, and front rows of panels), I managed to score a front row center seat. While waiting for the panel to begin, you get to chat with some of the people around you and it's nice to be able to chat about things you have in common, such as the guests about to appear and the shows they are on. The panel was great and all sorts of questions were asked to all three of the guests and since I didn't have a digital audio recording device, I guess I can't put a transcript here. :) The Big Bang Theory panel followed so I kept my seat and watched that, having many laughs along with all of the other people there. Those guys are just funny; especially Simon. Simon even did his Nicolas Cage impression and, true to comedy form, used elements from the panel and people asking the questions to bring extra laughter to the routine. Before leaving for the day I managed to swing by Jason Palmer's booth to get my expo print, I got #9 of 65; success (Read more about Edmonton Expo's exclusive Jason Palmer print )! I also got a team up photo-op with Lost Girl cast members Richard Howland and Rachel Skarsten.
Sunday is the last day. Your feet might be starting to get a little sore but it doesn't matter because there is still a lot on the agenda. Don't even stop to think that tomorrow you are back at work, because when you are at a Con, experience it to the fullest. :) So what do you do first thing in the morning? Well, you head back to Summer Glau's line to get another photo (see picture to the right), because she came all the way here so how can you pass it up. I was first in line because there was no messing around, I went straight there, I had a mission. The original timeslot of 10am had been pushed back to 11am, but to everyone's delight Summer showed up early, around 10:25am or so. As I walked up she smiled at me and she recognized me from Saturday, and that is defnitely a nice feeling.
I went through both autograph lines for Noah Wyle and Doug Jones, as I've recently watching a huge chunk of the Falling Skies seasons. Noah was friendly, I think he was enjoying his experience as it was his first convention. Doug was really great and was nice to talk to. I said I was looking forward to their panel following the autograph sessions, and he said he was glad to hear I was going because he thought maybe no one would show up. Doug is definitely a little different than most of the guests there, it seems after every autograph he walks around the table and gives his fan a big hug. Afterwards I headed to the set of rooms that the Falling Skies panel was in, and let's just say Doug had nothing to worry about because the room was definitely filling up. They gave a great panel, answered a lot of questions about Falling Skies and even about other areas of their career such as Doug's work with Guillermo del Toro and Noah back in his E.R. days, and even a fair bit about his movies The Librarian and the upcoming TNT series. Following this was a team up photo-op with the two of them.
The rest of the day went to some additional signings, more shopping, and photo-ops with the likes of Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (The Walking Dead), Alice Cooper, Mads Mikkelsen, and cosplayer Jessica Nigri. Winding down the expo is great by just walking around the vendors and artists and admiring the work they do, and maybe even looking for thoughts on what you can get for next year. And as quick as the Expo had started, it was then over, and there is the 3+ hour drive back to Calgary. I was very happy with the event the staff and volunteers put on and I'm super excited for next year. The program guide gave the first guest announcement for Calgary Expo 2015, Ming-Na Wen from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., who will be appearing on the Saturday. I'm very excited for that as I love the show, as do quite a few other people I talked with over the weekend, and hey, more Whedonverse. :)
Well if you're still with me this far, hopefully I've been able to give a little insight into the world of an Expo or Convention or Comic Con or whatever you want to call it. It's a whole lot of fun, you get to hang out with a lot of people who are just as into it (or more) than you, and you get to meet a lot of great guests. If you haven't been to one before and are maybe considering going to one, allow me to share a few things I've learned from attending Calgary and Edmonton (and Saskatoon a couple weeks ago as a volunteer) since 2011. Wear comfortable shoes, because you will be doing a lot of standing in lines and walking around the floors. Some places might have carpet, but there's also a lot of cement. Always have water on you and keep yourself hydrated. Don't forget to eat, depending on what items you have lined up (photos, autographs, panels) you might eat at staggered times, so it's a good idea to carry granola bars and the like with you. Make sure you bring cash, ATM's onsite can break down or run out of money or just have really long lines, and you'll undoubtedly want to buy some great merchandise there. Don't forget you probably have to pay for parking at the event too, so you'll need money for that. And finally, it always seems to come down to money, but a lot of the guests do in fact charge fees for autographs and photo-ops, so definitely plan for it and consider putting money aside throughout the year in anticipation for the next event.
If you'll be in Alberta next year, perhaps I'll see you at either the Calgary or Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. Make sure to say hi if you recognize me. I'll most likely be the guy in a Firefly/Serenity t-shirt (my shirt of choice for the convention).
Photos courtesy of Cory.
Watch more photos of Summer Glau at Edmonton Expo in the Gallery.
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