Ottawa Comiccon 2014 – A Convention Review

ComicconMay 9 – 11, 2014, brought about the third annual Ottawa Comiccon, inviting geeks, nerds, fanboys and fangirls alike to come out and meet some of their biggest idols, shop for discounts they wouldn’t find elsewhere and to meet a whole lot of great and talented artists. As usual I picked up my weekend pass the moment they came on sale. This year I was accompanied by my usual crew which consists of my buddies Jason, Winston, Kert (and his small crew), including new comer Keith. Now usually when I attend cons I aim to do three things: get new artwork, buy a crap load of comics, and see as many Q&A’s as I can. I usually skip over the meeting and greeting of the celeb’s because they’re usually people I find talented, but no one that is ever on my MUST-MEET before I die list.

Armelim TMNTFriday, May 9, 2014, we all sauntered into the con at 1 PM and booked it to Artist Alley right away. A handful of artists had done limited release lithographs specifically for the con and we were excited to pick up a few. Breaking Lead artists Andrew Armelin did a killer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles litho and Rob Thibodeau did two awesome litho’s including a Leonard Nimoy Spock litho and a Freddy vs. Jason litho (which I managed to get both in the original Black & White and in Colour).

Campbell PrintThe Walking Dead co-creator Tony Moore did an exclusive litho as well of Bruce Campbell fighting zombies on Parliament Hill. We waited for an hour to be one of the firsts to grab this exclusive litho. His assistant got to keep Numbers 1 – 5, so that means our crew had to settle for 6 – 10. At this time we also visited Mike Roothe’s booth and picked up his Variant cover #1 of the gruesomely disturbing comic Nailbiter and a print of Rob Ford as a Marvel Watcher floating over the CN Tower, maybe not the most politically correct, but still horrendously funny.

Tony MooreThe Q&A’s for the day included Charisma Carpenter of Buffy/Angel fame and Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame. Carpenter was the only celeb all weekend who refused to allow anyone to take photos during her Q&A. I understand the whole “no flash” and “no video” requests, but it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth when the guests don’t even let you snap their photo as they come to and leave the stage. Turns out that was not the only thing about Carpenter’s Q&A that would leave a bad taste in my mouth… talk about the most uninterested and uninteresting person in the world. Her Q&A was by far one of the most boring Q&A’s in the world, and it was plagued by technical difficulties that the useless moderator didn’t even bother getting off his ass to address. After about 15 minutes of Carpenter ranting about how she wants to work with the likes of Stone, Scorsese and Tarrantino and giving what felt like looks of disdain at some of the questioners I had had enough and stopped paying attention.

Giancarlo EspositoGiancarlo Esposito’s Q&A was the exact opposite of Carpenters. He came out and talked to the audience more on an equal footing and came with a message to talk about. Esposito was all about getting in touch with humans as humans and creating space and learning to be able to live in silence and rest and peace. It was a little preachy at times but thoroughly engaging. He also walked us through his preparation steps for working on a film set and really delved into what it was like to play such an amazing villain on the set of one of the greatest shows on television. Keith also went up and had a great back and forth with Giancarlo during the Q&A time really delving into some of Esposito’s lesser known works.

LegoMay 10, 2014. I ran a little late this morning and didn’t get to the Centre until 9:15. It wasn’t long before we hopped into line to go to the Summer Glau Q&A. I’m a Firefly fan. I’m an Arrow fan. Glau is all over the place and I was very excited for this Q&A. It was alright. Status quo. Nothing too big to write home about. Nothing revealing other than that if Glau were a kitchen utensil it would be a ladle made out of olive wood.

Thibodeau Freddy and JasonWe skipped the Christopher Lloyd Q&A as we had been warned that he does horrible Q&A’s and is really boring. Instead I went back to artist alley met up with Rob Thibodeau (of Breaking Lead) again and bought a piece of artwork of The Hulk that he had done on a blank variant comic cover.  I also did a crap load of shopping on the Saturday picking up lots of different comics and graphic novels at ridiculously low costs.

Bruce Campbell and JasonI have never been a huge Bruce Campbell fan, but we hit up his Q&A and it turns out that Campbell is the king of deflection. Rather than doing a Q&A himself he brought people in the audience up on stage and allowed the audience to ask them questions instead. Jason got to go up and sit there for a while and not really say anything. At least he was entertaining in the way he handled his Q&A. Sean Astin is a phenomenal speaker and he thoroughly engaged himself with the audience taking all the questions, refusing to end when his time was up, and yet managed to remain charming, well-spoken and fully engaging the entire way. He did confirm that The Goonies 2 is happening which is exciting. The final Q&A we attended for the day was the Skype call with Leonard Nimoy, who is too old to travel nowadays, but was very excited to Skype in and chat with us, or at least he appeared to be. He’s very good natured and laughs a lot at his own jokes. He was a delight to watch, I only wish he could have been able to come himself.

Keith had an interesting run in with Charisma Carpenter on this day as well, but that’s his story to tell, not mine… maybe if he reads this he’ll share it in the comment section.

Summer GlauMay 11, 2014. Keith and I decided to meet Summer Glau and get our photo with her, it made us a little late for the Karl Urban Q&A, but she was just such a pleasantly happy person and it was great to meet her. Urban was funny. Highly engaging. He shared stories from set. He talked about how he would have refused to do Dredd if he had been asked to take the helmet off. He also implied that he was glad that Almost Human was cancelled. He followed up by saying he feels sorry to the fans, but is excited to be able to spend time with his family again.

Venom & CarnageRobert Englund, Freddy Kruger, came off pretty conceited at times, but he definitely didn’t disappoint as he went into Freddy mode a couple of times. He spent a lot of time talking about growing up and how long it took him to make it in Hollywood. He also name dropped a lot. The final Q&A of the con was Ray Park, Darth Maul, from Episode 1. Park was hilarious. High energy. Super ADD. He also did a lot of demonstrations which was awesome. He brought fans up on stage and taught them how to use a light saber and also taught the audience how to ninja run. So much fun.

AcadiaOn Sunday Keith and I popped over to the Heroes of the North booth and met up with some of the cast there and had good conversations all around. I also popped over and chatted with Tom Fowler, an amazing local artist who has worked on Quantum & Woody and Hulk Season 1. I bought one of his graphic novels and he sketched a character on the inside for me. He’s working on a children’s comic right now that has a lot of different science experiments and he seems really excited about it.

Sean AstinNear the end of the day Kert, Keith and I lined up next to Sean Astin’s autograph line and the moment he came out we started an extremely slow and loud RUUUUUUUUUUUUDDDYYYY chant with slow clap. As we accelerated in our chant Astin ran down the line waiting for his autograph high-fiving everyone and rounded the corner coming back towards us… we were ready for high-fives… he wanted us to carry him back to his booth in Rudy fashion. Didn’t exactly work… but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Kert has it on video, I believe.

Cosplayers - MarvelWe popped by the food court a few times throughout the weekend, because it’s in our human nature to eat, and one of the coolest things about this year’s food court was that The Clocktower Pub brewed a special Comiccon beer called Kapow. It was delicious. I’ve only recently started getting into more craft beers and it definitely comes across the palate as more of wheat ale/fruity taste to it, but regardless of whether I’m right or wrong on what kind of beer it is, it was delicious nonetheless.

Captain Canada & AmericaOverall it was a great weekend. Fun had by all. Sore feet, exhausted heads and empty wallets by the end for our crew. Now we just have to wait until November 2014 for Pop Expo.

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Ottawa Pop Expo – A Convention Review

Pop Expo 2Ottawa 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.

IMG_0905I 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.

The Panels

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.

IMG_0899The 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.

IMG_0919The 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.

IMG_0948The 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.

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The Vendors

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. IMG_0911I 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.

The Location

IMG_0885Because 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

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Artist Alley

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. IMG_0906They 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.

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Date

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.

Pop ExpoOverall 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.