Have you ever tried to write a review for an entire weekend? It’s not an easy task. Even if you can wrap everything up into one 3-day event there are still so many aspects to try to roll into one final, concise opinion. Last weekend I attended the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo, more commonly referred to as Edmonton Expo (or just Expo if you are already in Edmonton), and wanted to write a review for all of you fine fanboys & fangirls. I wanted to come out with one round number, a single figure out of 10, to represent the event as a whole…but found the task proved much more difficult than originally anticipated.
A funny thing about Comic Conventions is how fluid your review is. With each day your opinion can flip 180-degrees…and somehow this process starts before the show has even begun. On Day -100 (that’s a ball park figure; I don’t remember exactly when guest announcements began) you may feel on top of the world. They have posted the first actor who will be appearing and you love them! But on Day -2, as the weekend is fast approaching, you could be looking at a full listing of Guests and thinking “Well that’s a letdown.” To be honest, this happened to me. Not so much the Day -100 stuff, but more the Day -2 disappointment in this year’s talent.
It’s really Calgary Expo’s fault. I had never had high expectations (or any expectations really) as to who would make the trek up to the frozen north (Always frozen! Despite Alberta’s Cons happening in spring & autumn). I often feel like we are just a pair of small gatherings in the middle of nowhere. However Calgary Expo is the second biggest Comic Con in Canada and is among the Top 6 largest in North America. That kind of attendance can pull in big names, for example Matt Smith & Karen Gillan. That’s right, in April the Doctor himself made the trip to Calgary, and he brought along his plucky companion Amy Pond. As a major Whovian that announcement almost brought me to tears and I can now proudly say I have a photo with each other them hanging above my closet. Like any spoiled child I expected things to keep getting better. I kept waiting for Edmonton’s last minute announcement of the big star who would get those ‘feels’ going. But it never happened. I didn’t get a single photo or autograph the whole weekend.
That’s not to say that the guest were bad.
They were pleasant to talk to, humble & openhearted. I had a chance to briefly chat with Alice Cooper (which seemed like an odd person to have invited until I saw the glee on some fans faces and found out he cosplayed…he even took to the convention floor on Sunday afternoon in costume) and he was incredibly nice.
They put on excellent panels, full of humor & inside information. I personally laughed uproariously at the antics of Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar during the packed Big Bang Theory panel. Howard & Raj seem to be a humorous in real life as on screen…although way cooler. According to the actors, “That’s not hard.”
They have plenty of fantasy/sci-fi experience. J August Richards, Amy Acker & Summer Glau came together to do a “Whedon-verse” panel where they detailed their experiences working on various projects with the geek-god Joss Whedon. My first-time-con-attending roommate found it extremely interesting that Whedon had created his own army of stars that he is constantly reusing in his different projects.
I’d probably have been more excited if I’d seen more than one episode of Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen was in attendance) or if Doctor Carter hadn’t left ER a million years ago (Noah Wylie is still my favorite on-screen doctor…other than The Doctor of course). Basically I find the analysis of the Guest list too subjective to give an actual rating to it. Maybe I rate it a 5/10 but it featured all of your favorite actors.
So Media Guests is too personal, there are things more concrete things to judge an event on. Like physical layout. This was very well done. Last weekend Edmonton saw 47,000 fun-loving geeks pass through the doors of the Expo center. That’s a 75% jump in sales over last year, when they had crowd control issues. It was an equation for disaster:
Poor Lay-out + More People = Eeekk!!
But the use of an additional exhibit hall and the arena for the most popular panels opened up ample space. A few more food options would have been nice, but I do applaud the organizers on the creation of 3 separate food vendor areas. It helped disperse the crowds…although the majority of seating was at the food court with the least options. My main issue with placement was the single Weapons Check on the opposite end of the building from the main entrance. It led to long lines and many people being oddly escorted through the halls.
And on the subject of Weapons Check I will make my one major complain. I realize the people working there are volunteers but they need to establish consistency between what the different table workers say is approved and what the website guidelines say is acceptable. I had my bow taken away on Saturday, even after making sure it complied with the posted rules and checking with the Weapons Check staff on Friday to make sure my ideas were satisfactory. When I first approached the table two of the workers told me I was good to go. Awesome! But another very rude lady walked up and told me it was actually not good to go because it was “not homemade enough.” What? Apparently because she could tell some of my pieces were store-bought it was considered a dangerous weapon, even though it was completely incapable of firing a projectile. Ugh. But enough ranting…
I could give you a rating based on the Expo structure but that tells you nothing about the experience. Really you shouldn’t even notice if things are well set-up; it’s only when things are poorly laid-out that you notice it. What you remember is the experience, and for me that is all about the people & the costumes. I love cosplay! So much. I had a different costume for each day and relished in being asked to stop for photos. I was content to sit for hours watching the parade of crafty individuals flaunt through creations. One man had constructed a full Groot get-up. Some amazing parents had transformed their stroller into the Mystery Machine and themselves & their children into the full Scooby-Doo gang. One girl was dressed up as Game of Thrones author George RR Martin (oh wait, that was my roommate). You can’t put a number on that creativity, and even if you did it can’t really reflect on the Expo itself. I guess a better show brings out better people? I’m not sure I believe in that.
So in the end I have no final number for you. I will leave you with a piece of advice though: Go to a Comic Con! They are a truly excellent experience. And, if convenient…or even if it isn’t, come to Edmonton Expo. I had a magical time and see it going nowhere but up in the future.
Love & Luck,