Fan Expo pop culture phenomenon returns to Metro Toronto Convention Centre

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Published August 22, 2023 at 9:00 am

Fan Expo, Canada’s largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming event, returns to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend with a programming lineup that celebrates all things fandom.

The four-day extravaganza, the third biggest pop culture event in North America, has events and content for fans of all ages and genres to enjoy including the Podcast Theatre, themed Pokémon and Barbie days, a 25th anniversary celebration of comic legend Frank Miller’s 300, the Masters of Cosplay Grand Prix and a lineup of superstar celebrity guests and panel discussions to awaken the fan in all of us.

Fan Expo, like most in-person events, was cancelled in 2020 and came back with a limited lineup in 2021 before returning with the full experience last year.

Fan Expo HQ VP Andrew Moyes said the time away gave organizers a chance to tweak their approach to the event and to its programming.

“It was a huge challenge and our approach was to take some time to rework and refine the experience we create,” Moyes told insauga.

The year off and the smaller scale show in 2021 also reminded them there is nothing like the real thing when it comes to pop culture events.

“Fans recognize that there’s no substitute for celebrity fandom in person,” he said. “And what we found out last year was there was a massive pent-up demand. And that has continued this year.”

Fan Expo has grown from a small comic book convention attracting 1,500 fans into a multi-faceted and multiple-day event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.  This year Moyne expects more than 125,000 fans to crowd the conventions centre over the four days.

“The curiosity from new audiences and the commitment from our core fans is really strong.”

This year’s event is set against the labour dispute that shut down movie and television production in May, with the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union joining the Writers Guild of America on the picket lines in July.

It’s the biggest labour non-COVID related interruption since the 153-day strike in 1988 and it has made for some delicate negotiations with many of the celebrity guests, who have certain limitations on what they can talk about at the always popular panel discussions.

“There’s a few nuances in how we promote the guests that have been carved out of the parameters of the labour dispute,” Moyes said. “Some of the celebrities may not be able to chit-chat about their characters but we’re finding it is opening up new conversations.”

The strike hasn’t stopped Moyes and his team from attracting top-notch celebrity guests to the show, with the likes of Charlie Cox (Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire, Treason), Christina Ricci (Wednesday, the Lizzie Borden Chronicles), Hayden Christensen (Star Wars, Shattered Glass), Neve Campbell (Scream, The Lincoln Lawyer), Danny Trejo (American Gods), Jon Bernthal (Punisher), Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse), Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil, as Kingpin) and Ralph Macchio (Karate Kid).

Dr. Strange, I presume? 

In addition to the always popular celebrity panels, autographs, photo ops, informative panels, demos, and workshops, eye-catching cosplays, competitions, and cosplay red carpets; and the over 400,000 sq ft of shopping madness, this year’s show includes special events including An Evening with Matthew Lillard, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich and Jamie KennedyAn Evening with Hayden Christensen; and the SuperPower 5K and 10K runs, among other experiences.

New this year is the Cosplay Craftsmanship Showcase, a display of cosplay outfits from past Masters of Cosplay Grand Prix winners;  the Barbie Bash, a day fans can spend celebrating the iconic character on the Pink Carpet with Barbie-themed sketch duels and photo ops, Barbie and Ken cosplay contests and the Barbie Ice Cream Social;  and new anime programming include screenings, the Itasha Car Exhibit showcasing the sub-culture of anime-decorated vehicles, and the Maid Café.

Returning to this year’s convention is Tattoo Alley, where fans can watch master artists at work and get nerd-inspired ink themselves; and the Horror Stage returns with a hair-raising line up of demos, panels, competitions, shopping, classic horror film screenings, and more.

Fans can also relax and play some video games at the Femme Gaming Free Play Lounge, then learn more about Femme Gaming at their Ladies Power Hour; the Bell Esports Challenge is also back with the live finals of the amateur Esports tournament series; and Bear Sailor Moon’s Lip Sync Extravaganza returns with fans getting the chance to cheer for the favourite sync-er or compete in a winner-takes-all lip sync battle.

Another attraction is the Dr. Who-themed escape rooms.

Oshawa-born artist Ramon Perez

Comic Creator guests include Frank Miller, Joe Quesada, Andy Kubert, Dan Slott, Donny Cates, Jason Fabok, Steve McNiven, Zeb Wells, Simone Di Meo, Jim Shooter, Ken Lashley and dozens more, with sketch duels and the always popular Artists Alley giving fans opportunities to chat with their favourite artist and add to their comic art collection.

“It’s a safe platform where guests can enjoy their fandom in a way that cannot be duplicated,” noted Moyes, who also cited the big brands Amazon Prime, anime distributor Crunchy Roll, Citizen Watches, Bell Mobility, Hasbro, Xbox, Wattpad, eBay and others in attendance.

“It’s a massive signature event. There’s so much to see and do you have to plan your day.”

For a complete list of programming, guests, info, and tickets, visit: https://fanexpohq.com/fanexpocanada/

Photo Glenn Hendry

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