How would I describe one of the best weekends of my life in three words?
Simple: Fan Expo Canada™.
If your first thought is imagining a comic book convention with thousands of fans, some even going as far as to dress up (also known as cosplay) their favourite fictional characters, then you’re right — partially. Fan Expo Canada, which was held in Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from September 3rd to September 6th, 2015, is more than just a comic book convention. It’s the largest Comics, Sci-Fi, Gaming, Horror, and Anime event in CANADA! Not only that, but the 3rd largest Pop Culture event in North America! Marvellous, isn’t it?
This year, the convention attracted well over a 100,000 guests, from Canada and around the world, and over a 1000 exhibitors spread across 750,000 square feat of the convention centre. Notable attractions from this year were The Hogwarts Reunion: An Evening with the Stars of Harry Potter, which featured the amazing Rupert Grint, the Phelps Twins, and Tom Felton, and An Evening with the Doctor’s Companions, featuring Karen Gillian and Jenna Coleman. A charity event, Breakfast with the Stars in Support of Sickids, was also held. (Who wouldn’t want to have breakfast surrounded by celebrities? Talk about star-lust!) Of course, if celebrating during the day wasn’t enough, Fan Expo Canada™ also offered numerous parties (one every night) for those who never want the incredible event to end! Starting with the Cosplay Kick-Off Party, the Official After Party, Horror Howl, and Retro Glow Party.
As for the event itself, Fan Expo Canada™ is filled with wondrous attractions which are sure to please everyone! Adults, teens, children, fangirls, or fanboys alike! There’s celebrity photo-sessions, celebrity autographs, panels/Q&A’s, a kids zone and family lounge, workshops and seminars, crafts, the exhibitor area, artist alley, Force Friday, and the list goes on! Three days wasn’t enough time to accomplish everything I would have liked to do, and I can suspect four wouldn’t be, either!
Ticket prices vary with the years, but passes are divided into categories: single day, deluxe, child, premium, VIP, and special event tickets. If you’re searching for more information about pricing and what every pass offers specifically, visit the official Fan Expo Canada™ website!
With the Ottawa Mommy Club, I had the pleasure of receiving a media pass for the event, which entitled me to numerous benefits throughout the event. Having access to the priority access line was definitely a privilege I was grateful to have! Skipping the regular entry lines AND getting to access the event earlier was something I put into good use Saturday and Sunday, the event’s busiest and simultaneously most overwhelming days.
Now, how to even beginning describing my weekend…
September 4th (Friday)
Quite frankly, I hadn’t heard about Fan Expo Canada™ until, one lucky day back in early May, I was browsing through Tumblr and heard Hayley Atwell was set to attend. After being unable to attend Ottawa Comic Con this year, you can imagine my interest skyrocketed from unexistant to a million in seconds! (Anyone who knows me, knows how much I admire Hayley Atwell, and Marvel generally. But we’ll get back to that shortly.) It was my first ever convention of this size, which can be a bit intimidating; however, I can guarantee I had the experience of a lifetime. And I would recommend it a billion times over no questions asked! Attending it with my best friend, and meeting up with some of my friends as well who were also in attendance, made this experience even more enjoyable!
Friday was the day I had originally set aside to accomplish all my fandom shopping. Being Friday, the attendance isn’t as incredulous as it is on the weekend, but still impressive nonetheless. I had time to familiarize with where everything was, take pictures, all whilst visiting the North and South buildings. Which took the entire day, in hindsight. There’s so much to do and so little time! I was able to purchase some Funko Vinyl Pops by Funko™ I had been looking for, alongside t-shirts, jewelry, art prints, and buttons! Every merchandise you could possibly imagine from your favorite TV shows or movies, you’ll most likely find throughout the 400,000 square feet of various exhibitors!
I recommend visiting, without a doubt, the Artist Alley and Gaming area of the convention. Getting to try out upcoming video games that weren’t yet released appealed to my screaming ten year old self, and getting to support artists by purchasing incredible prints of some of my favourite characters was definitely a feeling I couldn’t get enough of. (Queue the intense fangirling and how grateful they were to hear my kind words!) I absolutely adore fan art, and conventions are really the only place you’ll ever have the opportunity to be able to purchase this kind of art in person. Rejoice!
Last but not least, I even had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite comic book writers, Kathryn Immonen! Some of her works include Captain America and the First Thirteen, Operation S.I.N #1-5, and Agent Carter: S.H.I.E.L.D 50th Anniversary. (I recommend reading them ASAP if you’re as big a fan of Captain America and Peggy Carter as I am.) She’s an incredibly nice and sweet lady, and was well-worth the hour I waited in line for her autograph. (Patience is a virtue for this convention.)
(which I also dubbed as Satur-Ming Day)
Saturday was all about meeting one of my favorite celebrities from the hit TV show on ABC, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s lovely Ming-Na Wen! You might also recognize her as the voice behind Disney’s Mulan! Getting to meet both a federal agent AND Mulan in one day was almost too much to handle, I’ll admit! She’s such an absolute sweetheart!
What was also so special about Saturday was that it was my first time ever cosplaying at a convention. And who else would have I chosen other than Agent Peggy Carter herself from Captain America and Agent Carter? I braved the burning heat and wore a wool military uniform fit Saturday and Sunday, getting a good amount of admiration from attendees and cosplayers alike for not melting into a pile of limbs. Trust me, in 35 degree weather, the AC at the convention centre wasn’t enough!
I got in line around 9:50, after arriving earlier than doors opening “officially” at 10. Fortunately, I had a good place in line, so I was confident I’d have time for her autograph and make it in time for her Q&A panel at 12:30….and that never happened. Ming arrived (very) late around 11:40, which left her 40 minutes to sign autographs before panel. But, she made up for being late not only by taking a picture of the crowd, but taking a selfie with the entire crowd behind her!
Even so, I was one of those unlucky people who were cut right at the beginning of the line at 12:30. Talk about a bummer, after waiting for so long! But, instead of losing my spot to go to the panel, I remained where I was, and prayed she would come back for 30 minutes before her photo-ops at 2. (For those who aren’t familiar with conventions, photo-ops are a picture you can purchase before the show or during at a higher price to get a professional picture taken of you and one of your favourite celebrities.)
And the wait turned out to be well worth it! Ming-Na was extremely touched to find out we waited so long for her to come back (from 9:50 to about 1:40) and missed her Q&A for her autograph. So touched, in fact, she allowed me to ask her a question, since I missed her Q&A! Want more proof that she’s a total sweetheart? She even skipped her break so she could come back and keep signing autographs for us!
I was so excited I could barely get out any words. Especially after she complimented my Peggy Carter cosplay and told me she loved it! Squee! I did manage to tell her, once I could breathe again, that it would be so awesome if Agent Carter and Agent May could have a fight scene/crossover time travel episode together, and she was 100% up for it! Excellent! These two really would be a sight to see together on TV! (If you haven’t checked out Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or Marvel’s Agent Carter, it’s a must!) I also mentioned that I’d see her again shortly, since it was around 1:5o and her photo-ops were in 10 minutes. I thanked her and squeezed my way through the avid crowd to get the next area: photo-ops!
As for the photo, not only did I get to hug her twice because the first picture wasn’t good (she asked if I wanted to do a cool fighting pose, but I really just wanted to hug her!), she remembered me when I had my picture taken with her! How I came out alive afterwards, I have no idea.
September 6th (Sunday)
The day to end all days. I was so nervous I didn’t eat at all in the morning! Meeting one of your idols is a special moment I never thought I’d have the opportunity to experience until this very Sunday.
Originally, Hayley Atwell had been scheduled to appear Saturday and Sunday, but due to filming conflicts with the second season of Agent Carter, she needed to reschedule to Sunday only. Good lord, and the amount of people that came to see her was astounding! I really hadn’t expected such a large crowd! My best friend and I were so excited we had arrived even earlier than 9:30 and immediately lined up for her. We were one of the very first in line for her autographs, and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. As soon as the convention immediately opened, the line grew rapidly. Unlike Ming, Hayley arrived on time, and I’m 100% convinced I must have gone to heaven after I spoke to her in person for my autograph (and she smiled at me!). She is genuinely one of the most sweetest and kindest people you’ll ever meet, and I’m forever grateful to have had such a beautiful experience.
Did I mention I even got to hug her for my photo-op? Even the mere thought of it still nearly has me in tears! I could listen to her accent for hours. (And write paragraphs about how marvellous she is as an actress, advocate, and human being in general, but I digress and set aside my inner fangirl.)
Due to the incredulous amount of people that came to see her on Sunday, her panel was thus moved at 5PM to allow her as much time with the fans as possible, which I greatly appreciated. She’s truly brilliant to watch. The moderator for the panel asked fantastic questions, as did the fans, and I promise you I’ll never tire of her tales about flying miles and miles away just to snog Chris Evans for a Dubsmash video.
Hayley Atwell is certainly living a woman’s dream!
Interested in going to Fan Expo Canada™ this year?
Tickets are now on sale for this year’s Fan Expo Canada™, being held from September 1st to 4th, 2016 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre! There’s already an impressive list of upcoming guests, featuring Gillian Anderson, Hayley Atwell, Matthew Lewis, Billie Piper, Alex Kingston, Sigourney Weaver, John Barrowman, Christopher Lloyd, Michelle Gomez, Charlie Cox, Star Trek stars, and with many more to be added in the following months!
Fan Expo Canada™ is truly a fantastic and marvellous experience you won’t want to miss out on!