The 4th jewel in the Toronto comic convention scene was held this weekend (the top three being FanExpo, TCAF and Wizard World, in that order). Held in the Metro Convention Center South Building, this convention used to be called "Fan Appreciation" but in an attempt, I suspect, to directly challenge Wizard World's show in April it has been re-named "Toronto Comicon" (just like Wizard calls their show) and Hobbystar has upped the ante in terms of size and scope for this early-in-the-year show. Fan Appreciation used to be $10 per day with the second day buying you a voucher for $10 worth of goods bought from any dealer at the show (the dealer would return the voucher to Hobbystar to get their $10). This show was $20 for a day pass, $30 for a weekend with FanExpo 2011 VIP pass holders getting a 1 day pass for free.
Celebrity guests included Bruce Boxleitner, Tia Carrere, John DeLancie, Robert Picardo, Charisma Carpenter (who looks amazing) along the usual D listers like Edward Furlong (who looked about as happy to be there as somebody on death row) and standard con types like Peter Mayhew.
Artists with the biggest presence, in a very small artist alley, were George Perez (biggest line of anybody at the show, celebrities included) and Yannick Paquette who clearly is receiving a huge boost from Swamp Thing's success (Nice guy, sketch list always full but I have never seen more than two people at his table at one time…there were a dozen people in line when I wandered past) and Dale Keown (who only does this show, Wizard and FanExpo on his annual con calendar)
This con is a clear reflection of the direction conventions seems to be going. A large celebrity contingent selling autographs (i.e Boxleitner $30) and photos, a large retailer area and very small artist alley. It seemed, far more than ever before, that name artists (i.e Agnes Garbowska) were mixed in with the smaller vendors rather than having a very defined "big artists" and "everyone else" artist alley feel.
Interesting mix of ages. Far more children than I expected but also a very definite rise of the kind of creepy otaku merchandise (the pillows) and adult oriented anime that I think, personally, shouldn't be present at an all-ages convention. I am certainly far from a prude but I counted three or four places selling these pillows and these dealers were a much higher percentage of the retailer area than I've ever seen before and I am not sure it does the long term health of convention attendance any good to see pillows with pictures of women in chains on them for sale.
I can related that Stan Lee has been announced as a FanExpo guest for 2012's August show. With Patrick Stewart and Gillian Anderson already announced, the bar has been set pretty high for Toronto's year.
Richard Pace, working on "Ashes", thinks the book will be out in December and was very excited to be doing 50 pages for the project.
All in all, a very "standard" convention. Solid layout with very little in the way of big lines (once inside the show). One minute Charisma Carpenter might have thirty people in line, on a later pass an hour later she would have no line at all. The usual line management issues that tend to be at every convention (buying a ticket at the show was a massive line but having a ticket and arriving at 10:30 for an 11:00 open meant being 50th or so to get in.
Next up Wizard World's show on April 14-15…
If you'd like to tell Bleeding Cool about your comic convention experience, do get in touch…