By: Adam Harrison (@AdamRHarrison) –
Superheroes, wizards and villains flooded downtown Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre once again for this year’s Toronto ComiCon.
The convention spanned three days and two floors of the convention centre. One floor featured seminars and celebrity Q&A sessions and the other was the massive galleria of artists, vendors and autograph booths. Dozens of vendors from all over North America and beyond packed the galleria to capacity. They offered anything from comic books, t-shirts, DVDs, and toys to more unique collectibles, including guitars, and even the opportunity to shoot a Storm Trooper with a Nerf gun. No matter what your poison, if you were at ComiCon, you froze in awe of everything this year’s festival had to offer.
One favourable vendor booth belonged to the local collectible shop, Mindzai. Run by a hard-working couple, this small house-looking store just off Richmond and Spadina has embraced the vinyl art phenomenon. Selling apparel and collectibles from brands like Kidrobot and Bearbrick, which are hard to attain in Canada. If you’ve checked out Pharrell’s “This is not a Toy Exhibit” at the Design Exchange, you’ll know exactly what this is all about.
The artist alley was a cool zone where you can meet some of your favourite comic book artists. It was a great place to discover some new gems and even purchase some customized art. There was so much art on display; it’s almost overwhelming and difficult to decide where to look first.
Tony Moore’s booth, fit with a giant display of his beautifully gruesome horror and science fiction art, instantly caught the eye. Moore has worked on such comics as Fear Agent, The Exterminators and most famously the first six issues of The Walking Dead. He has also contributed covers to The Armory Wars, a comic series created by Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria and Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International.
The local talent was excellent too. Sanya Anwar stood out with her powerfully feminine art. Be sure to check out her piece titled “The Outcry”, which spells cool, cultural, hip and sexy. Another man was known as That Joker Guy who has a unique style of caricatures. He draws a lot of pop culture mostly influenced by; you guessed it, The Joker. Even his business cards look like the joker in a playing deck.
There were some great celebrity guests at this year’s convention. All of which did Q&A sessions which gave you a chance to get to know the real characters and take an inside peak at their set experience. They all had some great stories to tell which had every fanatic eating every last word.
Denise Crosby of Star Trek: The Next Generation shared a funny story about stealing food from the set of Cheers as they always had the best platter at the studio. When asked if she’ll be in the new Star Trek movies, she told us of the time she met JJ Abrams at their kids’ little league game, but never heard from him despite his excitement to meet her.
Allison Mack of Smallville explained how mostly the people she worked with made her experience with the show special. She told us she was never even a fan of comics and that her sister is actually the comic buff in the family. When asked what she thought of Man of Steel, she simply replied, “I haven’t seen it.”
Sean Astin and Billy Boyd, best known for their roles as the hobbits, Samwise Gamgee and Pippin Took, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, reminisced over their experiences and described how they both got involved with the films. Boyd received his role through an open audition whereas Astin had caught attention from his leading role in Rudy as well as a connection through his father, who played Gomez in the original Addams Family. Both men had never read the books before being cast. Boyd even worked for a publisher who printed them. He told us he once brought the book on holiday but then dropped it in the pool. They described the cast became like family, so much so they all decided to get a tattoo to remember their experience. Astin jokes about how he was so surprised that not only did experienced stage actor Sir Ian McKellen join them, but also that he went first.
The most touching story came when a fan asked Astin about his one and only speech on top the volcano with Frodo Baggins. He described how nervous he was for the speech and the amount of times he went over the lines. He explained the rigorous trek to get up the volcano with so much equipment, leaving them little time to actually shoot the scene. But in the end it turned out so well, even Peter Jackson had tears in his eyes. On a lighter side, when asked about his emotional song “Edge of the Night,” Boyd explained the idea originally came from a night of karaoke. In a concluding question of what their favourite karaoke song is, Boyd went with “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers, while Astin picked “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel.
A little surprisingly, the most interesting Q&A was with Breaking Bad star Giancarlo Esposito, or as you know him, Gustavo Fring. A man who played a character so deviously hidden and quiet was incredibly moving and human. He was very outspoken and answered questions clearly and confidently. If you didn’t know who he was, you might think he was a motivational speaker. He’s a spiritual man who emphasized many times that everyone should use what they do to make the world a better place and to always be in service.
Esposito can now be seen in a new science fiction series about post-apocalyptic America called Revolution. When describing the show, he spoke for several minutes and became very passionate about taking a stand to fight global warming. When asked how he got involved with Breaking Bad, he explained he originally turned down the role, but he became motivated by a story he read about a boy destroyed by methamphetamine. He felt strongly about the subject and wanted to help expose America’s drug problem, even if it was through a villain. His inspiration for the character of Gus came from a single term – hiding in plain site.
Esposito also had a great sense of humour. He joked about how he knew he was going to die in the show, compared to some roles where you find out the episode before or when you’re reading it in the script. When asked what role he’d like to play in the future, he responded that he’d love to portray the President of the United States or Martin Luther King.
Finally, perhaps the most backbone element to ComiCon was the fans that were just ecstatic to be there among their peers and heroes. There are some who put hours of work into their costumes to get every detail right. At ComiCon, you never know who you might run into. Anyone from Darth Vader, Batman, Spider-man to Street fighter characters, Spartans or Ghostbusters could be just around the corner. To many, it’s about more than dressing up. Some partake in Cosplay, a mix of costume role-play, and even hand out professional business cards.
A few favourite costumes at this year’s ComiCon included an insanely accurate Saruman, the white wizard from the Lord of the Rings, a giant robot costume of Iron Monger from Iron Man, a group of Batman characters including Harley Quinn, Scarecrow and Batman himself, a sexy Deadpool and a great ‘90s reference to Captain Hook and Rufio from the epic Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman rendition of the Peter Pan story, Hook.
Similar to the affects of a music festival, ComiCon brings everyone together. Those in costume want to pose for photos for you. They want their photo with other costumes. It’s their time to stand out and be recognized. The amount of effort and passion they show is simply admirable. ComiCon has proved to be more than just a gathering of geeks… It’s a brotherhood.