4 days of pop culture excellence.
The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo is an opportunity for fans from all over geek culture to join together and celebrate their passions. For some, this is a place to buy merchandise, wether it be comics, props, toys, or otherwise, from the hundreds of vendors. For others, this is a change to meet some of the many artists set up in “Artist Alley”. Some artists will sign books, some will sell prints, and if your lucky, and willing to part with a little more coin, you may be able to get an original piece. Some come to participate in the fantastic Cosplay experience. Whether that be in showing off the costumes they have spent hours if not days or weeks preparing, in stopping to take pictures with their favourite characters, or exchanging ideas and improving their crafts. Many come to see some of their favourite celebrities. Braving through crazy lines filled with others like them who have come to get autographs, take a photo op, or watch a panel, they show their love to that person who has brought joy into their lives. These are just some of the great experiences you can have if you too hold your head up high and call yourself “a geek”. And if you don’t… come anyways, you’ll have a blast!
This is my experience:
I worked an early shift on Tuesday (7-3:30 instead of 9-6) so that I could take a 4:30pm-5:30am bus from Saskatoon to Calgary. Well. Instead of taking 13 hours to get across provinces, the bus breaks down and I miss my Edmonton transfer, so I didn’t get into Calgary until 12:30.
20 hours. It took 20 hours on the bus to do what would take 7 hours to do normally. I had considered flying, I now wish that I had.
Anyways. That was the worst part of my trip, but once I get into Calgary, the fun begins. I immediately go to the Stampede grounds to help with some of the last minute set up. I ended up helping my friend Mike (who co-manages the Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo, and of whom I was partnered with for the weekend) set up an art gallery featuring several mementoes from over the past decade of conventions.
This was pretty cool. One wall consisted of newspaper clippings, advertisements, flyers, bag stuffers, posters, volunteer and attendee T-shirts, among a plethora of other memorabilia over the past 10 events. In display cases were a variety of swag and art pieces that the founder of the event and other staff had gathered including an original Bruce Timm piece (whom I will speak of later), and a tribute to the Pixar roles of John Ratzenberger made entirely out of Lego. The Pièce De Résistance were 3 replica eggs from the film Alien (a film I will be covering very soon) that had been signed by a large number of the cast when they reunited at the expo last year. It is only my 3rd time being at the show, but seeing where it came from shows the potential of what the show can do. It is very exciting.
The gallery took the better part of the Wednesday and after a night of spending time with some old friends we were back at it finishing on Thursday. We got it finished just as the VIP ticket holders were arriving.
Mike and I also had the responsibility of being Lead and Sub Lead, respectively, of “Special Events”. This was a blast. It meant we were busy for set up, and busy in the evenings when the show floor closed, but were free throughout the day to still take in the show.
The first event we did was called Beat the Banker. It was a team trivia game that eliminated teams as rounds progressed and they had to take on Alberta Treasury Branch’s biggest geeks for a chance at VIP passes. This was hosted by Garrett Wang (Harry Kim in Star Trek: Voyager), so earlier in the day on Thursday we got to hang out with Garret and the ATB guys. As a pretty big Star Trek fan, especially in Jr. High, this was definitely nerdvana for me. Garret was super nice and surprisingly funny. I look like a super awkward loser in the picture only because I was super awkward, and a loser.
The next day we did a Final Fantasy concert. Lead by a composer from Chicago, a small ensemble of what he called “chamber musicians” played several arrangements he had written based on the Final Fantasy music. I’m gonna be honest, not my thing. but it was 500 other peoples thing. And it was sold out so it is probably the thing of even more than that. Myself and Chris (Mike’s partner in crime at the Saskatoon Expo) were on CD selling duty for the concert. They had brought several albums of original music as well as a few imported official albums from the game. I did not think they would sell. I like to think it was our salesmanship that saved the day, but about 150 CD’s sold, so I guess the music must have been pretty good. Also I heard a lot of clapping from inside the hall.
The final day of work for us was the Saturday, and we participated in 2 events. The first was helping Mike’s friend Heath (who had helped us out the night before) at the costume contest. I did no work. Correction, I quickly ran on stage and removed fallen pieces twice. Otherwise, I just stood around while Heath and Mike did all the work and enjoyed the show. Which is surprising, because Cosplay is not usually my thing. But these costumes were good. Like, really good. I almost forgot that I was at a Cosplay event. And I wasn’t the only one enjoying it. It was held in the larger panel hall and there were A lot of people there. I don’t know how many exactly, but probably only a couple hundred less that the Stephen Amell panel I had attended earlier that day. The second was an event called The Weta Workshop. This was a costume make up workshop which featured Graham McTavish as a guest and discussed the make up of the Hobbit. I think. I don’t really know. I was outside watching a door the entire time. Again I heard lots of laughing from inside the room, and Graham stayed longer than needed because he was having a good time, so I can only assume everyone else was too. And in the end they gave me a free T-shirt from the booth, so everyone benefitted!
As I mentioned already, these events did not take up all my time at the convention. I had plenty of opportunity to walk up and down the show floor. I checked out the Constantine and Stephen Amell panels. I got a photo op with Jewel Staite. I obviously bought some comics, including a couple new issues from my buddy and Time Machine contributor James Zintel: Space Squatch and Shump #1. Unfortunatly, there were so many books and my pockets are only so deep, so I couldn’t afford everything I wanted. The hardest one to pass up was Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century. It was $200, and my heart sank when I saw it. I knew I A) couldn’t justify spending that much money on a single book knowing I still have another vacation to pay for, and you know, life to pay for, and b) I could never spend that much on a comic and ever open it. I buy comics to read, not to look at. With some exceptions. I’m looking at you Flash #40 North by Northwest Variant Cover
I also, for the first time, experienced the art side of things. I’ve bought posters before, and gotten a few free pieces, and even bought from local talent, but I have never really sought out art like I did this weekend. I got up early on Saturday morning to beat the rush of trying to get a Bruce Timm piece. I didn’t know if I would be able to, he only does 20 a day, so it was touch and go. But I was one of the lucky people to get a piece from him that day. He drew me a great O.M.A.C. unfortunately, it’s such a rush, that he didn’t stop and converse with us. We just wrote down what we wanted, then the next guy came along. I also got a stunning Deadman from Jae Lee. He’s not always my cup of tea, I usually have to be in the right mood, but I felt that his style and Deadman’s look would fit well. And they did. When I went by his table I was super lucky, no one was there, so I was able to stop and talk for a minute. He told me, to my surprise, that he had never drawn Deadman before. I tried to find an image he had drawn with the character and sure enough, couldn’t find any. So at least for now, I am the only person with a Jae Lee Deadman. I can’t find any Bruce Timm O.M.A.C.s either, so even if he has drawn one, they aren’t something you see everyday.
To top the weekend off, I spent a couple hours on the Sunday with a couple of the guys I stayed with at the show, and then hitched a ride back to Saskatoon with the other contributor to the blog Donny Sparrow. It’s great to be able to travel with someone you get along with super well. With Donny “You will believe time can fly”. Get it. Cuz the Superman thing. And he’s fun. Never mind. Thanks again for the ride, Donny.
To the volunteers I worked with over the weekend, great work! I hope to see you next year, or if your free come on up to Saskatoon for our Expo. You should be proud of the effort you put in.
Chris and Heath, I had a great time working alongside you guys, and I can’t wait till Saskatoon.
Mike, you were a great Lead/ Partner. I had a phenomenal time. Hopefully we can rock next years convention as well. Thanks for letting me tag along putting up with me for 50+ hours.
Calgary Expo Team. You guys are ridiculous. How you pulled this off… is beyond me. I know there were some struggles, but you handled them amazingly and it is because of you guys that myself along with 100,000 plus people from all over the the province and beyond are able to come to this oasis of awesome, and even if for just a few days, forget about the hum drum of life, and immerse themselves in the riches of nerddom.
This is my third time at the Calgary expo. The first time I was an attendee, the second time I was a vendor, and this time I was a volunteer. Each have brought unique experiences and been fun, but this year tops them off. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store.
Thanks for reading,