Ottawa Pop Expo, the little sister of Ottawa Comic Con, debuted this past weekend at the Ernst & Young Centre to a modest, but enthusiastic crowd of fan boys, cosplayers, and bargain hunters. Being a fan of the Ottawa Comic Con’s I picked up a ticket as quickly as they became available, regardless of the guests to show up. Over time the announcements rolled in: a slew from The Walking Dead (Sarah Wayne Callies, Scott Wilson, Lew Temple, and Norman Reedus), The Boondock Saints (already mentioned Norman Reedus, but attached to him was Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco), Ernie Hudson, Jason Momoa, Tom Felton, Sylvester McCoy and a handful of others.
I don’t typically go to the cons to meet the celebrities. I’m not really interested in paying money to get their autograph or a photograph with them, I’m more interested in hearing what they have to say – so I really love going to the panels. This con I did go up and meet Ernie Hudson with a buddy who was stoked at the chance to get his photo taken with him, but aside from that I typically steer clear from the autograph alley.
Pop Expo was a much smaller version of Comic Con. It didn’t attract the same number of vendors, artists, or fans, but it still had heart. I figure the best way to discuss the con in any form of effectiveness is to break it down into the aspects I took in.
I already said I typically go to these events for the panels. Because Pop Expo was quite small there were relatively few panels. There were days at Ottawa Comic Con where I would literally go from panel to panel to panel to panel all the way through the day. With the lack of panels at Pop Expo I didn’t get that privilege this time around. I actually only attended three panels.
The first was Ernie Hudson, who was actually quite boring. He had no real interesting stories to talk about; in fact he encouraged the audience to share gossip about what happened on the Ghostbusters set with him as he stayed as far away from it as possible. When I met with Ernie Hudson before the panel we talked about Ghostbusters 3 and Bill Murray’s reluctance. Hudson shared a fear that he’s afraid Murray’s going to take it away and reboot the series and drop him and everyone else involved. We then shared a laugh at Murray doing Garfield for next to nothing but refusing to do Ghostbusters 3. Hudson did share some thoughtful insights into The Basketball Diaries, one of the best movies he was ever involved with. He talked about how important of a movie it was in relation to drug use and drug addiction, but that America wasn’t ready for it when it came out.
The second panel I attended was The Boondock Saints featuring Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco. Rocco was mute almost the entire panel. Reedus was worshiped by fan girls and Flanery shot his mouth off about anything and everything for the entire time. He really dominated the panel, but it was fresh and funny. No real news came out of this panel as half of the questions were just directed at Reedus in regards to his role on The Walking Dead and the rest of the time was Flanery telling amusing anecdotes. At the end we were all invited to stand up with them and recite the iconic prayer from the film which was a great way to go out.
The final panel I attended was The Walking Dead panel featuring Sarah Wayne Callies, Lew Temple & Scott Wilson. I don’t want to give away spoilers for those who haven’t seen the past few episodes of The Walking Dead, so I won’t say much here, except to say it was fascinating to watch three characters from different evolutionary stages of the show talk about how important the role of family was amongst the cast and crew and how the love they have for each other plays out on screen to the fans who are allowed to join in with that family for an hour each week.
Overall the panels were refreshing, nothing too exciting, but a chance to humanize some of these iconic characters that we’ve grown to know and love on the big and little screen alike. Bruce Campbell has already been announced to be a guest at the 2014 Ottawa Comic Con and I am truly excited for his panel.
One of the other main draws for me to attend these cons are the vendors. I’m a comic geek. I love reading them and collecting them and discussing them, so I know I can always find decent deals at these cons. The past few cons I have been looking for a very specific Captain Canuck omnibus that I haven’t been able to find in shops, and I was able to snag it for $12 from a vendor. I thought the deals, for the most part, were on par with what you would find as a regular in a specific comic book shop, like a lot of “US cover prices” or “20% off the US cover price”. But part of the fun of these cons is the hunt for something rare for rather cheap. I devoted a few hours of both days to just digging through comic book boxes, and while I didn’t find anything mind-shattering, I did walk out of there with a lot of great deals at relatively low costs. While I may have had a good time at the vendors, this wasn’t necessarily the case for the vendors. Near the end of the day on Saturday I overheard two vendors talking. One was from Montreal and he said that he was planning on just cutting his losses and heading home that evening and wasn’t even going to bother coming in the next day because he was just hemorrhaging money at this con. He was frustrated that the con was (in his words): under attended, under promoted, in the middle of nowhere and overpriced for vendors. Another vendor I was talking to said he only sold $1000 worth of sales on the first day, which wasn’t going to be a significant profit for what he paid to have his table and the staff he paid to be there.
Because I mentioned location briefly in the vendors I should stop and chat about this right now. The Ernst and Young Centre is near the airport. It’s quite far from any sign of civilization, which prevents people from just being able to walk on in. It’s a lousy location to bus to, it’s a far location to drive to (for most people), and there is absolutely no foot traffic. However, it would be too pricey to host such an event at the Ottawa Convention Centre downtown, yet for something like Pop Expo to exist as a smaller version of Comic Con; this event really does need to be moved to a more centralized location. Leaving Ottawa Comic Con there isn’t going to hurt anyone as that regularly sees 30,000+ annually, while Pop Expo would have been lucky to break the 10,000 person mark
I think when all is said and done this was my favourite part of Pop Expo this year. I typically don’t go down artist alley that frequently because I don’t want to get sucked in and end up spending all my money on commissions, because there’s a good chance I would be a sucker for that, however, this con I did frequent it quite regularly. I met a lot of great artists, had some great chats and have left with a lot of great items, as well as contacts in the comic book and pop expo world. Some of the highlights include Andrew Armelim and Rob Thibodeau who were giving away free limited edition lithographs for the event. They were also a pleasure to chat with. Geof Isherwood, Marco Ruddy and Dan Parent were also in attendance and I got to chat with all of them, and have them sign some of their work. I have to say though that I was just blown away by how great of a guy Tom Fowler is. Tom is an Ottawa local who recently worked on Quantum & Woody and The Hulk Season 1. He was selling his graphic novels at his table, but for each graphic novel bought he would do a sketch inside of the book. He was also super down to earth and a pleasure to chat with. The last artists I spent time chatting with were authors from Northern Wales and this was their first time attending Ottawa. Sam Stone and her husband David J. Howe. Howe works for his own publishing company in The United Kingdom, if I remember correctly, and was a really down to earth guy. His wife Sam has written award winning novels including Zombies at Tiffany’s, Zombies in New York and a series called Vampire Gene. They were delightful to chat with, and I truly wish all the best for them and continued success in the future.
My biggest problem with Pop Expo was the time of year that it was held. 3 weeks before Christmas is a horrible time to hold a con. Sure, I could use the time to buy some Christmas presents, but I know that I’m not the only one with a lack of control when it comes to seeing something super cool and debating between the want and need to buy it. Move it closer to Halloween and I think you may have had a bigger attendance, and maybe a crowd more willing to spend money.
Overall Pop Expo worked, at least for me. The ticket was relatively cheap ($30 for the weekend pass), the company enjoyable and the deals half-decent. While there is a lot of room to improve on Pop Expo could definitely become a fixture for Ottawa.