Robin raps and wraps Fan Expo 2013 with hints for 2014 visitors

Sarah Valant as Death about to devour a cake,

Sarah Valant as Death about to devour a cake,

Robin Careless —


The Booker and Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite
Greg-Payne Photo

I arrived at Fan Expo to the expected long line and well -meaning but overwhelmed volunteers all being told various things by their respective supervisors. After my compatriot and I waited in line for an hour or so, we finally get into FanEx. And it felt off. Don’t get me wrong, each year’s Fan Expo has it’s own flavour, it’s own vibe, from the upbeat excitement that coursed through me my first year, to the terse concern of the year where they had more guests than the fire code would allow, and they were having to lock people outside, leading to a mob of well costumed angry fans clamouring at the glass doors of the Convention center like a genre specific disaster movie.

As someone who has been going for years, I knew to expect this new flavour, but where as most years the new vibe is excitement and wonderment, this year felt more hesitant, nervous and technical. People seemed to be having quieter fun than previous years, with the exception of the LARPers (Live Action Role Players) in the far end of the hall, proper battling with foam weaponry, steadfastly refusing any vibe affect their fun. And I respect that.


Bre Poisonne as Dragonborne from Skyrim

I had a hunch that the new hesitation in the air was in relation to FanEx’s newest feature addition, “Sports” which saw guests likes Bobby Orr and Hulk Hogan out, along with hopefully fans of such people who may not be overly interested with the regular geek salad of comics, video games, movies, and manga that Fan Expo generally serves. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to really become an issue. I personally haven’t heard any horror stories of this con, which is reassuring, and other than a lunch with a couple of guys who confessed that it wasn’t really their scene (but they like video games, and wanted to get Hulk Hogan’s autograph), I didn’t really find myself in uncomfortable conversations due to the addition of Sports.

The other thing that I feel probably contributed to the different vibe was the overall size of the con this year. Where in the past they have used one of the buildings of the convention center (usually the south building, as the only time they used the north building was when they were locking people out, which as you can imagine didn’t go over swimmingly) this year they had both buildings, which was both a blessing and a curse for both visitors and exhibitors alike. Dr Robert Smith? (not a question, it’s his name) and his writing partner Graeme Burk were at Fan Expo for the launch of their latest book, Who’s 50: The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die-An Unofficial Companion, and agreed to have a quick chat with me. “ Fan Expo seems to have doubled in size since last year.

They’ve extended into the north tower as well as the south tower, and the number of people just filled the space the same as last year, which is pretty wild” Says Smith? when asked about how Fan Expo has changed for them. “From the point of view of selling books, It’s harder.” Adds Burk, “We used to do work with our publisher, and with Doctor Who fan clubs. That was easy when they were down the hall from each other. Now that they’re in separate towers, it’s roughly a 20 minute walk between the two on a packed day, you might as well send a dog sled.” And he’s not wrong, with a wait time of almost 15 minutes just to get up the escalator on the Saturday.


Game of Thrones characters

It was surprisingly difficult to get between the two buildings, as one juggles events and panels. “While it’s bigger,” Burk continues “[Fan Expo]’s programming seems to not connect the popularity of shows with room capacities. We had a panel fabout Doctor Who and our book, and they had 200-plus people lined up outside. They only had a room for 75 people, and they didn’t allow standing room. It’s the only major discussion panel for the show, and the fans were clearly wanting that. Plus we were hoping to have a panel that would be a great launch pad for our book. But for the second year in a row they put it their only major discussion about Doctor Who under capacity room. I don’t feel like they’re thinking strategically about what are the hot shows. ”

Personally, it took me a bit to adjust to the new feel of Fan Expo. The large set pieces were more spread out this year, such as the Batmobile, and the large movie studios felt almost entirely absent, in contrast to years past where they had brought lavish displays of things like the Lightcycle from TRON: Legacy, or Abin Sur’s corpse from the Green Lantern film. And whilst LEGO stepped up in a big way to help fill this hole with an absolutely astounding amount of displays, such as a near life size Bag End from the Hobbit, the loss of the big studio pieces was felt in the room as well, making it feel oddly smaller, for the extended size of it all. That said, the guest list was extensive, and I personally got to have a wonderful conversation with Don Coscarelli ( Director of Bubba Ho-Tep and the Phantasm series) about his latest film John Dies at the End, which is absolutely excellent.

More than anything else, for me, Fan Expo is, was, and always will be about the costumes. I have cosplayed for years, and look forward to seeing the great costumes that people make. And this year was no disappointment. There were hordes of cosplayers, from troupes of Sailor Scouts to a truly impressive gang of Game of Thrones characters, including a custom built Hound helm. They were stunning. Personally, my girlfriend and I dressed up like Elizabeth Comstock and Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite, which was really well received, and was a surprisingly popular costume this year. The one thing I noticed this year was that there were few traditional superheroes, in lieu of more television and video game characters. Either that or there were the exact same amount of traditional superheroes and there was instead a surprising influx of fantastic video game and television cosplays. Regardless, they were stunning, and well worth the wait to see what everyone had put together.

Think Friday and Sunday, not Saturday, for 2014:

To put a bow on it, Fan Expo was, as always, definitely worth the trip out, if not for the guests and panels, then for the merch and the cosplays. That said, as it grows in size, it threatens closer and closer on the problems that cons like San Diego Comic Con suffer, like having to line up hours before a panel you want to see, and having to spend excessive amounts of money to meet the celebs you’re hoping for (those prices ballooned this year as well). If next year is anything like this year, my advice is to get a couple day passes, but skip Saturday. The lines will be killer and the likelihood of you actually seeing anything for the crowds is nigh improbable. Go Friday and Sunday for the events and the sales, and pat yourself on the back for being clever enough to avoid the 20 minute lines for the escalator. Wear comfortable shoes, and if you’re cosplaying, keep in mind that you’ll probably want to sit down at some point, as well as not die of the heat. Plan ahead, and the experience will definitely be worth it.