Fan Expo Vancouver 2017 : Getting There (Again)
written by Mackensie Baker
This year, fans attended Fan Expo Vancouver with more than a grain of salt - they went with enough money to buy their weight in salt. Why? Well, the weekend pass is nearing the triple digits for the West Coast's expo. But does the steadily increasing price outweigh the experience of attending? The truth is, it depends who you are and why you are going in the first place.
First, I would like to address all that Fan Expo did right this time around. I can't help but focus on the way they provide big opportunites for beginner cosplay artists, writers, visual artists, and BC geeks. Content creators can find a niche within Fan Expo, whether they belong to the steampunk community, the world of comics, the realm of indie publishing, or so on. There were a number of cosplay groups this year who got their own panels, Q&A's, booths in the vendor's hall, and more. There may not have been a cosplay contest, unfortunately, but even the amateur cosplayers were having a good time showcasing their latest works and being surrounded by photographers at meet-ups. We saw stunning cosplays for Overwatch, Cuphead, Stranger Things, and - the usual suspects - Marvel and DC. The 501st Legion was in attendance again, offering the chance to shoot stormtroopers with Nerf Guns, with the proceeds going to charity. We also had the Ghostbusters of BC, who always brighten up the typically rainy November days.
Although Remembrance Day weekend may not have been the best choice for the event, seeing as the weather was miserable and the traffic was worse, a lot of people were able to come out for at least one or two days. The main issues that people were havinng though were - yes, you guessed it - the scheduling. Once again, there simply wasn't quite enough for people to do. Making room for niche fandoms is all well and good, but Fan Expo really needs to start fleshing out the more generally-appreciated items. There were a couple really great and unique events,
such as the Sketch Duels between comic book artists. Watching The Walking Dead's creator Tony Moore face off against Spidey artist Nick Bradshaw was one such treat. Not only did two lucky audience members win the final drawings, but we got to hear about the ups and downs of working in the comics industry (for instance, how Tony Moore turned a 'girls gone wild' commision request into something a little more literal: Wonder Woman eating a gazelle). Another truly fantastic bit of comedy gold on the agenda was the Twisted Toonz rendition of The Princess Bride, where they got together a team of well-known voice actors to read for the various parts in the 1980's classic in very . . . unlikely voices, let's say. Troy Baker reading for Wesley while doing a spot-on Jeff Goldblum impression was an absolute delight, as was hearing Pooh Bear say Vizzini's line - "he's obviously seen us with the princess and must therefore die." I would highly recommend looking into more of Twisted Toonz' work. It is these types of events that make Fan Expo stand apart from the other local conventions, and if they would only do more of this kind of thing each year, there would be no more grumbling from the attendees, and no one would be tempted to leave before the day is out.
One of the continually wonderful things about Fan Expo is the celebrities they get. This year, most of the core cast of the locally-filmed hit iZombie was there, as well as most of The Flash as well. They had their panels on separate days, too, which was good thinking on the administrator's part. There were also aisles of famous artists, must of whom you commission art from, and voice actors selling prints and doing voice recordings and things too. But the autographs, prints, photo ops, and so on were so expensive that some felt they were paying to get in just so they could spend even more money. The vendor's hall was somewhat lacking this year, too, and it felt like once you had been in for about an hour, you had seen it all. I don't blame people for not wanting to pay for the whole weekend, seeing as everyone had to get creative to fill up the time between main events.
Luckily, the smaller rooms that were used for the voice actors like Veronica Taylor (Ash Ketchum from Pokémon) and Charlet Chung (Overwatch's D.Va) were still spacious enough to accommodate everyone. Listening to the voices of our childhoods or our favourite online games as the people behind the voices talked about persistence in pursuing your dreams or tips on how to get into the field is really something else. This was also the case with blue and red Power Rangers David Yost and Austin St John in their panel on Friday. It is impossible to mess up Q&A's, especially when there are so many incredible people in the weekend's lineup. Meeting the real heroes behind the beloved fictional ones cannot be topped.
Overall, Fan Expo 2017 was an improvement to their 2016 show. I am only hopeful that they will continue to listen to their fan's concerns and iron out the wrinkles. All Fan Expo really has to do is flesh out their events - perhaps with more panels and Q&A's of the 'niche' variety - and maybe learn to turn down the thermostat to make up for the hundreds of people in one long hallway. It could very well become the exemplary Vancouver convention with just a little push.