What a difference two years make!! I wasn’t able to attend last year due to food poisoning the night before. I opted to only go two days of the three (Saturday & Sunday). I joined friends for ramen noodles on the Friday night for dinner. The place in question, which shall remain nameless, only affected me with their product. I digress!! The web of life spreads in different directions. I was slated to work at Gotham Central Comics & Collectibles’ booth giving the proud proprietor a much-needed assistance for the third consecutive year. How ‘funny’ that two weeks later, I met the editor of this very site and got the gig as a reviewer/writer. That all came together when Steve-O (as I affectionately call my boss) asked Carlos Camara (the owner of GC) if he knew of anyone who could contribute to more content for the burgeoning online mag. The rest is…silence history!!
I am not dismissing Toronto ComiCON but it is half the size of the annual FANeXpo. As unfair as it is to compare, it is a cold-hard fact. Events take place solely in the South building of the MTCC (Metro Toronto Convention Centre). Dates have changed over the years but this time around and the previous one, it is at the tail-end of the March Break. I know this because I’m a high school teacher in my real daytime career. If I’m not mistaken, the other two years (2013-2014) they were at the beginning. I was firmly entrenched with GC by then.
Well, a semi-slice of the whole pie is better than none!! One can frown upon the lack of ‘big names’ for this annual geek fest. There will always be enough celebs spread out over three of the five domains: comics, sci-fi, and animé. Video games and horror don’t make the cut on this occasion. HHHUUUMMM, who were the top dogs?? I’m a comic book junkie through and through. I’ll answer that question shortly. Even though I had no chance in hell of interviewing these larger-than-life individuals (despite the Press pass), realistically I could not waste time nor money in line to get a quick pic and/or autograph. Here they be:
- Jonathan Frakes – Cmdr. Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation; has also done voice acting for Gargoyles; for two decades has been on the other side of the camera as a TV director.
- Robbie Amell – rising star in his own right! Toronto boy, to boot!! Big breakthrough was The Tomorrow People. Fans were fond of his Firestorm performance on The Flash. Has the famous familial connection to cousin Stephen. Need I say more?!?
- Will Friedle – precocious youth from Boy Meets World; the voice of Batman Beyond; other works include Blue Beetle on Batman: the Brave and the Bold, Deadpool on Ulimate Spider-Man and Star-Lord on all the other current Marvel animated series.
- Jason Isaacs – the malevolent Lucius Malfoy in six of the eight Harry Potter films; speaks as The Inquisitor on Star Wars: Rebels.
- Tovah Feldshuh – Deanna Monroe on the red-hot The Walking Dead.
- Casper Van Dien – Starship Troopers is his greatest claim to fame.
- Dina Meyer – I never saw Starship Troopers. I’ll always remember her as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl from TV’s Birds of Prey ^_^
- John O’Hurley – the suave, sophisticated J. Peterman from Seinfeld!!!
- Ernie Hudson – one of the original Ghostbusters: Winston Zeddemore!!
- Karen Allen – feisty heroine Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
- Dark Matter – Canadian sci-fi TV series. Four of the six main cast members were present: Jodelle Ferland, Anthony Lemke, Alex Mallari Jr., Melissa O’Neil as well as guest actress Melanie Liburd.
- The Killjoys – Another Canadian show. Three faces: Aaron Ashmore, Hannah John-Kamen, and Luke MacFarlane.
- InnerSPACE a.k.a. The Circuit – program run by Space, the ultimate Canadian sci-fi network. Ajay Fry, Morgan Hoffman, and Teddy Wilson are the hosts.
- Slasher – Steve Byers, Patrick Garrow, Christopher Jacot, Mayko Nguyen are cast-mates in this Canadian-American joint TV production.
- Kris Holden-Reid – the mouthpiece of the hero from the Captain Canuck animated webseries. He’s been known to sport the real-life costume for publicity and events.
Here’s a play-by-play:
Day 1 – Friday, March 18th, 2016
I was officially on assignment. Aside from that, the fanboy in me wants to cover all the bases in an extremely short amount of time. Part of me wants to fly solo, part of me wants to be with friends and collectively experience pure awesomeness. The last part of me wants to hit the big time!!!
As I was about to burst through those giant doors, Kevin A. Boyd and Shane Kirshenblatt were working the table issuing the extra special passes to the artists. Kevin is the Comic Expo Coordinator for Fan Expo HQ; Shane is a writer-artist producing various amounts of work.
I’m extremely appreciative of being part of the Comix Asylum team. As a result, I’ve become far more attentive and genuinely receptive to all the little people out there: the countless self-publishers, the writers and artists who perpetually pour their passion, the persevering aspirers. I was able to do three video interviews with four people.
• Jason Loo – creator/writer/artist of The Pitiful Human-Lizard. This young man has definitely achieved success!! What was a Kickstarter campaign has exploded into a bona fide phenomenon. His five-issue indie series was picked up by ChapterHouse Comics late last year. The infant publisher has re-printed those books under their banner. Issue six was released last month. PHL is a bi-monthly series. Super-successful Mr. Loo was a major article on Twitter, interviewed by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and has his books for sale on Amazon as well as Midtown Comics. Amical, approachable, humble, modest, witty. This guy’s got it all.
• Miko Maciaszek – Polish-born, Canadian-raised artist. Collaborator with Fred Kennedy on the upcoming The Fourth Planet comic to be published by Chapterhouse. I had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy of the first issue and pre/reviewing it J He spoke clearly and with determination. He was a bit overwhelmed with my praise 😉
• Vince Sunico and Nicholas R. Lukic – Two mighty Mississaugans who will be releasing their own comic next month: Loathe!! Vince is the illustrator; Nick the wordsmith. This is both their brainchild. Vince confirms that the antithetical character is a cross between Batman and Spawn. The visual alone is ultra wicked [no pun intended!]
Off-camera, I made the rounds along the ChapterHouse table. I spoke to Richard Comely, CEO and creator of Captain Canuck. Snapped some shots of the Canadian guardian.
I also met Anthony Ruttgaizer and Danny Zabal. Anthony has written two mini-series of The F1rst Hero, a comic published under Action Lab Entertainment. In fact, he and Danny were a team for the second mini-series Fight for Your Life. He will be penning a back-up story for Captain Canuck the near future. Danny is the triple threat with Life, Death, and Sorcery, one of various new offerings from the ten-month-old publisher. Gratz to both.
Fred Kennedy was very gracious. He personally thanked me for writing the (p)review. He faved it and retweeted it once I had posted it. I wanted a pic of him solo but alas, no such chance. Another individual came into the shot and I didn’t want to be rude.
Ty Templeton is a constant presence. It’s a no-brainer that he attend given his almost three decade stint in the industry. At this point, I know his family quite well. I was waiting to do an official vid convo but a lady new to the whole scene took up ten minutes of his time. His wife Kieren reminded him of a panel he had to do.
The rest of the five hours was spent wandering in and out of those aisles in such a frenzy. I wanted to scope the entire venue and make mental notes of who and what were located where.
Day 2 – Saturday, March 19th, 2016
Nine gnarly hours to run amok!! I was off duty. Hence, freedom rang loudly.
My focus shifted to the cosplayers. That was my main mission for the early part of the day. I simply happened to come across characters from the Big Two. There were plenty of Amazing Arachnids running around but the ultimate was this fellow:
Spider-Man Unlimited [remember him from FOX animated?]
two diametrically opposed love interests
all-new, all-different, all-confident Ms. Marvel
Peter Parkour, Toronto’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
and the most unexpected pairing of all: Phantom Stranger and Enemy Ace. The older man was flattered and thrilled upon my immediate name recognition.
I paraded around for hours. I chatted with a lot more locals. I decided to give exposure to A Shay Hahn, Vinny Thompson and Alfonso Espinós.
A Shay Hahn and I crossed paths last year when he invited me to the first annual Pints & Pages. Being the organizer, I gave him the most attention. I purchased his three works: Homeless G-Men, Battle Rally, and Crypto-Zombic. I’m rooting for him as much as I can. He dressed very sharply, eerily akin to his comic book counterpart.
Vinny Thompson is under the auspices of Studiocomix Press run by Alfonso Espinós. He was proudly displaying his series Vinny and Bud as well as multiple prints of his own artistic talent. Extremely personable and an excellent seller. He had quite a few people buy his work while I was chatting with him.
Alfonso and I met at Burlington Toy Fair three years ago. He is the creator of The Night Spike as well as co-author for 2010, Dark Blood, The Guy with the Crystal Skull, The Victory and the overseer of 6 Faces of a Dice. We are kindred spirits since we both hail from Kitchener. The only difference is that he remains a resident whereas I moved on almost two decades ago.
Half a decade was instantly erased when I reconnected with good friends Kevin Tam and his wife Dina Fish. I had forgotten that she was an artist and completely oblivious to settling in Artists’ Alley this time around as well as FANeXpo. How could I have been so blind?!? They both delivered some happy surprising news (key word is delivered).
The rest of the afternoon was spent at three panels. It was easy to kill the time.
ChapterHouse was having the History of Canadian Comic Books. All the major players were present: Richard Comely (EIC), Fadi Hakim (Publisher), James Waley (founder of Orb Magazine and creator of Canadian super-hero The Northern Light), Gerhard (long-time artist on Cerberus by Dave Sim), and Kevin A. Boyd (Co-founder and Director of the Joe Shuster Awards for Canadian Comic Book Creators). It was extra special since this year marks the 75th anniversary of comics published in our home and native land. Main speaker Ivan Kocmarek gave an extensive but concise overview of the cultural landscape via a PowerPoint presentation.
The second best panel featured none other than Robbie Amell. *squeal* The boy-next-door was incredibly genuine. WYSISWG. He was with his fiancée Italia Ricci (Siobhan Smythe/Silver Banshee on Supergirl). The man was an open book. He was quite frank with how he fell into acting and how he didn’t seem to have the knack for it. His anecdote about reconnecting with cousin Stephen was touching and hilarious when they discovered they both entered the industry without the other knowing. Robbie gushed over his betrothed and vice-versa since the Q&A led towards her as well. Refreshing & enjoyable!!
The last panel was the pinnacle!! The controversial, criticized, contemptible Rob Liefeld — the man responsible for bringing to life the annoying loveable, presumably Canadian, motormouthed merc: Deadpool!!! I had never before seen this man in the flesh. He mentioned it was his second visit to the True North. He spoke the full 60 minutes. Before we knew it, he was signaled to stop. So much for audience interaction. That didn’t matter! I was so enrapt in the re-telling of his origins as well as affirming and embracing his fiery nature. He kept calling himself a scrapper. I had forgotten his humble beginnings: the 1988 HAWK & DOVE mini-series before he moved on to Marvel where he brought about Cable to galvanize the NEW MUTANTS. That same series saw DP poke his head two issues before cancellation. The man started at the ripe young age of 18 and has had an almost three decade feather in his cap. So engaging and entertaining!! His appearance topped the cake for me.
Day 3 – Sunday, March 20th, 2016
The circle could not have been more complete!! The last day began with how the preceding one ended — coming across Rob Liefeld!!! It was pure happenstance that I quickly went to his table, cut ahead of everyone else in line, bought an exclusive variant of SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL #1, had him autograph it and got a free photo out of it all. Epic.
Just before all that, Will Friedle had approached the man and uttered his admiration. They posed for a photo. How neat is that??? An established actor singing the praises of a veteran creator.
I had to pay my dues to two locals: Stephany Lien and Kevin Briones. I made Stephany’s acquaintance last September at MCX (Mississauga Comic Expo). We chatted extensively and discovered our mutual love for the one-and-only Amazing Amazon: Wonder Woman. In the months that have passed, she has attended two events at Gotham Central Comics & Collectibles. When I saw her in January, I complimented her on a specific print of our woman Wondy. She told me it would be mine at ComiCON. BAM!! Deal sealed. She gave me an ashcan of the upcoming self-published series Strays.
Mr. Briones and I go back to the onset of GC – a little over four years. A few days prior to this convention he had posted his own book NEON BLACK. I was floored considering I knew nothing leading up to this. I privately messaged him on Facebook and he began to unravel things for me. He sent me a PDF copy of the comic (which I still have to review, natch!) I wanted three special numbered editions but lost out of the earlier ones (#4). He obliged my request for two others (#22, #71, figure out why ;-P). He acknowledged Paul Limgenco with lettering. Both gentleman provided their special signatures. Kevin was generous enough to give me two full-size prints. Warm fuzzies all around ^_^
I returned to Vince Sunico and Nick Lukic. We bandied back and forth. If memory serves me correctly, I tweeted on their behalf. They generously offered the LOATHE Sketchbook.
Cosplayers once again alternated between the major companies. I guess I was subconsciously targeting these individuals.
Deadpool and Spidey
Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter)/Arachne and Spider-Man.
This one had Cap’s shield. Blasphemy :0
Joker – top-notch
Harley Quinn – so authentic!!
Green Lantern of Sector 2814.6 – this guy should be in the actual comics!! Didn’t catch his name but I laughed at how he dissed Simon Baz and designated himself the sixth GL of Earth.
How fortuitous for me to come across not one, but two versions of my favourite lady
This one is dazzling as the current LEGEND of WONDER WOMAN look:
Standing ovation for this fully covered DC You Wonder Woman based on David Finch’s design.
Another Deadpool was hamming up the silliness. My last photo is of him attempting to moon the goers. An excellent way to finalize it.
If ever you make your way to Mississauga, drop by my number one store: