This weekend, we saw the great Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo. The Expo did a great job of hosting all the vendors, artists and entertainers. Despite crowds of thousands of nerds and geeks, it was nicely spread over several different halls. That provided room to walk between booths and allowed fans to take their time to get a thorough look at what was going on without being overwhelmed by people. We don’t have exact numbers but I’m sure it met or beat last year’s 47,000 attendees.
Among the artists and vendors, there were also a lot of interactive booths. A new laser tag company was promoting their opening by having a free laser tag arena and arcade at the expo. We also got to try the nerf shooting range and test some different board games in the tabletop area. There were lots of great deals on merchandise, especially near the end of the Expo if you could bargain. A lot of vendors are willing to cut their prices down simply so they don’t have to pack up as much stuff to take back to the shop.
It seems like every year the costumes get better and better. Not only the professional cosplayers, whose fan base seemed to be bigger than for some of the actors but the local enthusiasts in costume as well. We saw one fellow who had a nine-foot-tall grim reaper costume, with speakers built in, that towered over and amazed everyone even as it frightened them. But probably my favourite moment was the Sauron and Ring Wraith when they met Billy Boyd doing autographs – truly a hobbit-getting-caught moment.
Speaking with some of the volunteers who have done conventions before, this year was one of the best for having polite and orderly lines to see the actors. They felt things went very smoothly. This is especially good because people were able to slow down and talk to the people they were meeting. We had a great conversation with James Marsters about the depth of character and progression of Spike when he played him on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And there wasn’t any pressure to get in and get out as with some of the more hectic conventions. Many of the guests were friendly enough to offer handshakes, photos and even hugs as well.
The best thing was the two panels on Sunday for both Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with James Marsters, Amber Benson and Eliza Dushku, as well as the Doctor Who panel with Jenna Coleman. For the Buffy cast, it was the first time they’d ever been at the same convention together and the panel was a blast. There were great stories of fight scenes gone wrong, particularly with Marsters lighting his hand on fire and his half-asleep fight with a demon, which ended up canning the stuntman. With the Doctor Who panel, the references kept coming back to Jane Austin as a recurring joke drawn out of one of Coleman’s favourite episodes. I do wish that there could have been more time to spend on spotlight with the actors. Every year it comes down to wanting more and not wanting the event to end. But the good news is there will surely be another convention next year.