It has taken me a few days to get over the Calgary Expo and collect my thoughts into some sort of coherent form in order to share my experiences and thoughts on the hyped tenth anniversary of this local convention. From record breaking crowds, hanging out with some awesome people and even insane #GamerGate fools that made comic headlines as far as the UK, the Calgary Expo had it all. You know, if you’re in to that sort of thing.
There’s a lot to process, so I guess we should just dive right in. We (my wife, Kayla, and I) met a lot of great people this year and even reconnected with a few that had been absent from the show in recent years and it was an absolute highlight of the weekend. People like Mike and Erika Rooth, Conor McCreery, Tyler Jenkins, Ryan Ferrier, Jim Zub, Ben and Ashley Templesmith and all the great guys at the Valiant both (Dan, Pete, Atom and of course Robert Venditti) made this a special show, especially considering the fact that I wasn’t as excited for this year as I have been the last few years.
Before we get into that, I want to sincerely thank the above mentioned people and even the people I might have forgotten for making this convention what it was. From doing interviews with me, to simply chatting about things we love or just hanging out these folks made this year memorable. It was a hell of a lot of fun to have our producer Spencer Wallace involved so we could do half-decent interviews (at least sound quality-wise) and I can’t thank these folks enough for taking time out of spreading the word about their work at the show to talk to me. I also want to thank my wife Kayla for believing in me and supporting me, especially through some of the longer more grueling interview days at the convention. She’s the absolute best and I and we (All-Comic.com) would not be here without her.
On the flip side of that, I am disappointed. I am disappointed that mega, local talents like Fiona Staples and Riley Rossmo did not have a table—one probably due to work load and the other just not given enough time to make time to commit to the show and/or both—and that I didn’t have another chance to reconnect with them and even just chat at their table for a few moments. It bums me out that the Calgary Expo appears to have forgotten creators like these, especially, again, because they are local to Calgary and in my humble opinion should be front and center at the show as special guests right along with Ryan Ferrier and Tyler Jenkins, to name a few.
There are times when I wish I could connect with the people who set up this expo and provide advice, or help or anything that I can to point this out to them or to help them secure guests that they might overlook or forget about. There are certainly a lot of creators that should be coming to this show and obviously we can’t have them all nor can they all make it at one time, and I accept that. What I don’t accept is the feeling that the comic part of the “Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo” seems to be shrinking. We had high hopes this year, because the Expo was not on the same weekend as Chicago’s C2E2 again, that we’d be getting bigger and more guests, but that seemingly wasn’t to be. The ones that I spoke with and connected with I am absolutely impressed with, but there’s still a feeling, and not just from me, that comics might be getting lost.
Even something as simple organization of the comic section felt off. Valiant was way the hell on the other side of the room while, again, guys like Ryan Ferrier, Curt Pires and Tyler Jenkins were along an aisle instead of all being front and center on the “X” wall which, essentially, is the comic creator wall. Instead of putting some, or all, of these creators on that wall there were other people filling in spots. One that, if memory serves, took out almost five tables and I don’t believe it was even comic related—at least in the traditional comic book writer/artist/colorist sense. Easily those tables could have, and should have, gone to any of the people mentioned and the fact that they weren’t frustrates me.
I would have done it differently, I guess is the point, and for me, the way it was done overall, just didn’t work. The media guest side of things, while obviously an insane draw, just isn’t for me. I don’t care about Tara Reid (who cancelled, so dodged a bullet there, right?) or anything like that because I simply don’t understand the need to pay for a picture or pay for a quick signature and maybe a chat if you’re lucky. We did wait to meet Scott Wilson, though, and he signed a Walking Dead figure for my wife—we had Michael Rooker do the same last year—but overall it’s just not something I care about or actively seek out. If I happen to walk through and turn and see, for example, an aging Mick Foley, you know what? That’s good enough for me.
I understand that media guests are a big draw, probably the biggest, but to bring it all back together it simply would be nice to see the comic side of things get its due. The majority of the media guests wouldn’t even be big without the original comic books, and I think that a lot of the time that’s forgotten. While I still think their place is in the main two buildings, maybe moving all the comic creators into the Big Four (another building the expo as expanded to in recent years) might be a good way to organize it all together and if the media side continues to grow at least we have our own little spot. If not, than the back half and especially the “X” wall need to remain 100% comic creator focused, rather than having them shoved off to the side or in the middle. It can’t be so divided within the huge space, it just doesn’t work.
For the most part, from the comic guests that attended, it was great to hear how much they enjoyed the show. The vast majority of them were absolutely blown away with the dedication and care shown by the convention and the volunteers. Every time I turned around, there seemed to be a food and drink cart rolling by, like they were following us as we went along the aisles to interview creators. That’s fantastic to see and hear, just based on the amount of shows these people likely attend, so kudos to all the staff and volunteers for that. And to touch on it, without getting too into it, the way the Calgary Expo handled the Gamer Gate garbage was swift, warranted and spectacular. Tip of the hat to them for that, because certainly it wasn’t something that was easy to deal with thanks to the trolls.
I enjoyed seeing some of the same vendors as the years before, though there wasn’t a ton of time for that, and questioned some of the others. Longbox digging, even if you’re not really looking for anything particular will always be fun, even if I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted. Speaking of vendors from the last few years, that lemonade stand, man! The blue one was fantastic, it was a damn shame that the lines were always so huge that we couldn’t get near it until the end of the last day!
Something new for this year was the Valiant Comics panel we attended on Sunday. It was small, but it was fun and it was just great to see some more art work for books coming up, and here Atom and Robert Venditti discuss a bit more with the crowd who was largely, it seemed, new to the publisher and wanted to see what it was all about. Sure, I had heard it all before and seen the vast majority of the art, but it was just cool to be there supporting Valiant. It was also a bonus to be sitting down in a (relatively) quiet room for a bit and escape the crowds. Oh, and it was a double bonus that I ended up with my first Valiant Gold book so… there’s that.
My interactions with certain people made this show, possibly my favorite to date. But, if I may be so colorful, it felt like there was a tear that had grown from the year before. The comic side of things was lacking and for a tenth anniversary, overall, there just didn’t seem to be the same kind of fan fare and craziness that there has been the last two years. Maybe the last two years (ST:TNG reunion and Alien reunion) were just magical and everything aligned perfectly and this year there just wasn’t a huge reunion to do, and maybe people were taking a week break before C2E2, comic creator-wise, I don’t know.
Call me selfish, call me narrow-minded, call me whatever but it just didn’t feel like a big tenth anniversary and some of the organization of the floor and the perceived lack of comic focus were something that didn’t work for me, personally. I’m sure those that live and die by the media guests or other exhibitors enjoyed it, and there certainly was a lot of stuff to look at and buy. I know I did my share of sending people to certain creators and tables, hell, I even just pointed a few in the direction of the comics end, but I don’t know if that was enough. I wish comics were as big of a focus as the media side, but I get it. Regardless of that, I really did enjoy myself. I walked my feet raw; I yelled and laughed and shouted with the best of them, made some friends, killed that guy, recorded some fantastic interviews and definitely made some great memories.
So thanks to everybody that made the Expo weekend something special, and hopefully next year maybe stars align better and we get back to more of a comic focus for those of us that come for that and really enjoy that aspect of the convention. And, hey, if the Expo wants any more input you know where to find me. I am more than willing, for what it’s worth anyway.