Fan Expo boldly goes where no con have gone before: Regina
by Carl Johnson
Regina, you’re all grown up. After hosting the Juno Awards, the Western Canadian Music Awards and the Grey Cup all in the last year, I think we can finally say you’ve graduated from padawan apprentice to jedi knight.
Now you’re getting your first fan-nerd convention. With great power comes great responsibility…
The first-ever Regina Fan Expo is coming May 3 and 4 to Evraz Place. Earthlings will congregate to celebrate their love of comics, science fiction, horror, anime, manga and video games.
For the uninitiated muggles out there, Fan Expo is a convention involving celebrity guest speakers, round table panels, workshops, autograph signings and photo-ops, dealers hocking various genre-wares and a friendly environment to dress up in the likeness of your favorite alien, superhero, hobbit or Fremen. It’s a safe space to meet like-minded fans, share knowledge and yell things like “the force is strong with this one,” “Father, the sleeper has awakened,” and “hello, my name is Inigo Montoya,” without all of the usual confusion and disapproving looks that occur when said in conversation at (for example) one’s neighborhood pub.
“It’s all fan-related ” says event coordinator James Armstrong. “[The fans] are our tribe, and we really like the effect of all these folks who are strangers coming to Fan Expo and feeling like they immediately have something in common with everyone else in our room.
“That’s a special feeling — a live event feeling that makes the atmosphere much different,” he says. “It’s something that you can’t get through the Internet or any other means.
“You kind of have to be there in person to experience the whole thing.”
The modern fan convention began with the allfather of nerdom: Star Trek. In 1972, the first Star Trek convention took place in New York when a small group of fans calling themselves The Committee pooled their money, rented a ballroom and recruited Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, acclaimed series writer D.C. Fontana and science fiction novelist/futurist Isaac Asimov to speak and watch 16mm prints of episodes with them. Since then, conventions of these sorts have expanded to include pretty much everything in the fan multiverse, forming a circuit around the world for actors, artists and content creators to tour and collect another round of glory (and paychecks).
They’ve also become a platform for industry announcements. For instance, at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, the title of the upcoming Avengers movie sequel — Age Of Ultron — was announced in a teaser trailer presented by director and head Reaver-slayer Joss Whedon.
Fan Expo bills itself as Canada’s largest genre convention. It started out as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo in 1995 before assimilating various horror, anime and sci-fi cons into its collective. In 2006, gleaming like a Borg cube emerging from a transwarp conduit, a rebranded Fan Expo Canada was born. After expanding to Vancouver three years ago, it’s now making its way to Regina.
So why has it taken this long for the city that spawned Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany (and is even incorrectly rumoured to have been the home of James Tiberius Kirk for a time during his rowdy teens) to get its own Fan Expo?
“There have definitely been some challenges,” says Armstrong. “We don’t have the facility choices we’re used to in Toronto. There’s sort of only one location that can handle a show our size, which is Evraz Place — and that’s primarily due to our large exhibitor floor. We need a space to handle thousands of people and hundreds of vendors, artists and exhibitors. It takes up quite a lot of real estate.”
For many fans, the marquee attraction of an event like this is the chance to interact with the celebrities responsible for portraying and creating the characters they love (see sidebar for some of the featured names attending this year’s convention in Regina). Armstrong explains that the process of booking celebrity guests can take some finesse.
“It really comes down to availability,” he says. “These are busy, professional people that generally have a tight schedule. We don’t move the dates of the show around based on guest availability, so basically they have to have enough time available on their calendar to travel to whatever city. This isn’t unique to Regina — this is the same challenge for every city.
“If you start with a want list of 10 celebrity guests, nine of them cannot attend just based on their schedule. So that’s a challenge we’ve faced over the years, but fortunately we’ve had a happy ending to most of those stories. It took us six years to get [Evil Dead star and immortal superbeing] Bruce Campbell. Just this past weekend in Vancouver, we finally got Tom Felton from Harry Potter after three years of trying.”
The dates of the Regina convention are not unremarkable. The second day of the convention falls on May 4, the unofficial Star Wars Day — marked by fans around the world as a sacred date to honour the destruction of multiple Death Stars, badass flying bounty hunters and Han Solo’s chest hair. There’s an added bonus this year of fresh news on the cast of the new Star Wars movie, the as-yet untitled Episode VII — Andy Serkis, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and Max Von Sydow join Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and other stars of the original trilogy. So that’s something to talk about.
May the fourth be with you!
For more information on Fan Expo Regina, visit www.fanexporegina.com.
One of the highlights of any convention is the cavalcade of celebrities from beloved science fiction, fantasy, comic book, horror and cult films and TV shows. Fan Expo has such a cavalcade! Here are some (far from all) of the special guests. /Carl Johnson
TIA CARRERE CASSANDRA! CASSAAAAAN-DRAAA!!! The legendary star of Wayne’s World and True Lies was born not in Kowloon Bay but Hawaii, and she’s the acknowledged babe of an entire generation. Not just a babe, a robo-babe. In Latin, she would be called babia majora. If she were a president she’d be Baberham Lincoln. On an unrelated note, I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored.
MARINA SIRTIS Known for her role as Counsellor Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the later seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. There may be no greater thrill for many attendees of Fan Expo than to meet a Star Trek cast member in real life (IRL). Not a big Star Trek fan? No worries (you filthy p’tak). Chances are you’ll recognize her from her extensive appearances on TV and in movies over the years.
NICHOLAS BRENDON Ever heard of a little show called Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Brendon played Scooby Gang member Xander. His character dated Cordelia AND the demon Anya. That’s pretty cool.
WOLFCOP The creators of the Saskatchewan-made feature film are crashing the Regina Expo with a Q & A session on Sunday. Wolfcop is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of 2014 and this is your chance to ask them all about pentagrams and booze and fur and shit. Maybe they’ll show off the new trailer, too. Anything could happen!
RAY PARK The Scottish actor has played Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I, Toad in X-Men and Snake Eyes in the shitty G.I. Joe movies. Geek cred: fairly high.
THE GREY CUP AND THE SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDER CHEERLEADERS What is light without darkness? Rebels without an Empire? The Atreides without Harkonnens? The Federation without the Dominion? Bright Eyes without Dr. Zaius? Dave without HAL? Etc. etc. etc., ad Infinitum.