My autumn has two big high points: there's the TIFF season, obviously, which in addition to the ten days of holiday and cinematic bliss surrounding my birthday stretches back to late July and the first dribblings of program leaks and the filmgasm that is Program Book Day. And then the cherry on top of August is the weekend before Labour Day, when the Convention Centre is taken over by thousands upon thousands of nerds, geeks, dweebs, genre TV stars, B-movie headliners, local shot-on-DV horror film producers, women with a pound of metal in their face who sell baby clothes with severed-head logo patterns, the really hot eighteen-year-olds who somehow didn't exist when I was in high school who love nothing better than to walk around the hall painted green or in a form-fitting black spandex catsuit for three days, burlesque dancers, promotions/marketing folk who were blessed by gypsies as children and now get to flog slasher flicks and hold screaming contests and indulge their movie night party jones...basically everyone in the eastern half of Canada and the nor'eastern States who lives for the freaky and fun and heroic and spooky and the chance to leave behind real life's sadness to immerse themselves in fantasy and creativity and shared joy of nostalgia and dreams about what the future holds.
My people, in other words.
I've been going to FanExpo regularly since 2003, and cliches be damned, it does seem to get bigger and better every year. Last year is a bit of a haze for some reason...I remember taking a few hundred photos and I cosplayed as Captain Marvel, but I don't have any solid memories to grasp. Maybe it's because 2008 was the year I gave up on autographs from the stars. $20 was a rubicon I couldn't cross. I was fine with that...a sawbuck for an 8X10 glossy, a personalized sig, 120 seconds of conversation and a quick photo isn't too exorbitant, the memory and photo and thrill last. But like the American movie ticket price of $10 or the trillion $ for the new health care bill, there came a wall, and I hit it. From the white t-shirted volunteers who would chase you down and demand that you not take any shots of Adam West from across the aisle without coughing up the green to the separation of sig and pic into two distinct and accumulating fees and lines, the Special Guest portion of the weekend has been priced out of the range of all but the hardiest and most obsessive completists. I'd considered limiting myself to one this year, and had settled on Emma Caulfield, but I got to the front of the line, saw that a sig and no pic would cost me most of my grocery budget for the week and I realized there was no way I could justify such an expense to myself, no matter how much I adored Anya and longed to bask in the two-degrees-away-from-Whedon glow. So I snapped a quick pic and skedaddled.
Didn't do much shopping this year...got a couple of TPBs (Preacher vol. 4 and Essential X-Men vol. 7), one independent DVD of a webseries set at a comic book shop from a bunch of quite cool folks to whom I gave a copy of my own short superhero film the following day, a trio of books from Burning Effigy Press, and a Harleen Quinzell-as-The Baroness signed headshot from the stunning ladies at NerdGirlPinups.com. With the England trip coming up in two and a half months, I'm not splurging on as much stuff as I would have in previous years.
And then there was the cosplay. Really, the reason I go every year. It's comic book characters made flesh...it's as close as one can get to immersion in the world of comic books, a world which is, let's not forget, infinitely more interesting than the one we're stuck with. I went totally mainstream this year: old-school Spider-Man. The result was my favorite Halloween-for-grownups experience of all time. The photos started minutes after I got in line on Saturday morning, as I posed with a Rogue and Wolverine in the next swoop of the line's S. I got pulled off the floor by Marvel's marketing head (I think) Arune Singh, who insisted on taking photos of me posing with Captain America's shield. I was shot with one arm around (purple) Catwoman and (comic) Silk Spectre 1. A pair of Kevin Smith lookalike brothers from the east coast sandwiched me for another photo to the delight of the lobby. And the kids...seriously, the best part. One four year old literally ran up and leapt into my arms to pose for shots. I'm just some anonymous schmuck, but that kid is going to kindergarten tomorrow morning and when asked "What did you do this summer, Matt?" is going to be able to stand tall and with eyes wide proclaim "I met Spider-Man!" and there won't be a dry seat in the room. I still don't know if I want kids of my own, but even I have to admit that's pretty cool.
Anyway, I only lasted about four hours in the suit before the dehydration, pressure on the sides of my head and the creeping headache that always results from going without my glasses for extended periods of time (oh, astigmatism, thou art a bitch) made me cave, so I stripped out, and immediately ran into an adorable blonde dressed like the Black Cat. Grrrrr...... Other faves: a couple of unrelated Cassandra Cain Batgirls absolutely rocked the house. Ashley and her Steampunk X-Men group that would go on to win Best in Show Overall at that night's Masquerade. The Orion Slave Girl; an awesome Captain Jack Harkness making Ianto jokes; a six-foot-tall Emma Frost; the 501st Legion and their virtual army of Lucasfilm-quality costumes, props and droids; a half-dozen Harley Quinns ranging from classic flavour to punked out and gender-fucked; the Buddy Christ (actually a high school bud of mine in for the weekend); plenty of Catwomen in all purrmutations; more than a few Dr. Horribles; a female Indiana Jones...this year's costumes were as stellar as they come. San Diego...try on Toronto for size, suckers.
Before you know it, though...the crash. You know the drill: it's Sunday afternoon, you've once again paid over five dollars for a muffin and a soft drink just to keep some energy going, you've seen every booth twice and not turned up a single piece of Godzilla merch in the whole stinkin' hall, you're starting to take photos of the same people over again, some of the booksellers are looking a bit sparse and Artist's Alley is starting to pack it in. You want to weep. Another fifty-two freakin' weeks until you get to have this much fun again.
Thanks to everyone who made this year so amazing: Tina, Ashley, Monica, Liisa, Susan, Willow, the guys at The Comic Book Store: The Series, the ladies at NerdGirlPinups, all the folks at HardcoreNerdity, everyone in the Steampunk X-Men, the Kevin Smith twins, that three year old who astonished his parents by hugging Spider-Man with the joy of a hundred dreams in his eyes, Emma Caulfield for those cheekbones, that Austin Powers dude who knew when to break character, and everyone who squeezed into a zentai suit or painted themselves green or just, you know, showed up to be a big nerd all weekend (gabba gabba one of us...). I'll see you next year.