RECAP: FanExpo11

I miss Toronto…

Toronto Convention Center

Between earthquakes and hurricanes, I fled New York City this past weekend to spend time with friends at Canada’s largest comic convention. And it might have been my favorite con of the year. It could be because I’m coming off the heels of the juggernaut that is San Diego Comic-Con, or it could be the relaxed culture of the Great White North, but FanExpo Canada was the most laid back con I’ve been to.

FanExpo is a smaller but growing convention. You can tell everyone who’s there is there because they genuinely love comics… or gaming, or horror, or anime. Like C2E2, this convention doesn’t claim to focus solely on comics. It welcomes all corners of geek culture, giving fans a forum to love the things they love.

Since it’s still a smaller con, it’s pretty easy to find and approach creators, which is always insanely awkward for me so I don’t really do it. Artist Alley was one long strip across the back of the con floor. At most conventions, the Alley is a series of overly cramped aisles in no discernible order. The FanExpo layout was much easier to find the artists you were looking for and to just browse. I tagged along with a friend who was picking up a commission from Jeff Lemire and was able to chat with him for a little bit (well, I watched my friend chat with him). Seriously, we just walked up to critically acclaimed, rising comics superstar Jeff freaking Lemire at a convention! In his home country! For real! He had a few pages from Sweet Tooth with him that he was selling. I managed to ask if he had anything from Essex County. Since he didn’t have anything with him, he offered to draw me a quick sketch. Shortly after I left the table, there was much arm flailing and fervor over the small doodles of the LeBeouf Brothers from Ghost Stories.

Even the panels are more intimate. I sat in at a Q&A session on crime and noir comics with Brian Azzarello and Jason Aaron, and there were only about 75 people in the room. Even though we were shoed out a bit early, nearly everyone was able to ask their questions and have them answered. FanExpo also hosts a series of Sketch-Offs, in which two or three artists are given a character from the audience to draw in 45 minutes, all the while a moderator takes questions from the audience for the artists to answer. It’s really interesting and a lot of fun—a truly unique way to learn about a comic artist’s process. The Sketch-Off between David Finch and Francis Manapul was one of the best things I’ve seen at a con in a very long time, and I’m heartbroken I missed the Sketch-Off with Katie Cook and Jill Thompson on Friday.

The real surprise was how polite the Canadian fans were. I know it’s a bit of a stereotype, but on the whole, everyone I ran into was really nice. The DC Comics New 52 at FanExpo was a pleasantly Bizarro version of the SDCC panels. No one started a question with, “I don’t mean to sound antagonistic but…” And the questions were all good, constructive questions, not ranting non-questions about what’s upsetting them about the relaunch.


Toronto itself is an amazing city. It may stand in for New York in a lot of movies, but Toronto is very much its own city with it’s own unique personality. In 1939, Joe Schuster modeled the Metropolis skyline on that of Toronto, and the city feels very much like the City of Tomorrow. The downtown area is full of bright, shiny skyscrapers and spires built around the city’s more historical buildings. There’s an air of hope and progress to the city. And if you stuck a globe on top of the Canada Trust Tower, you’ve got yourself the Daily Planet building. I made sure to have Tim Horton’s for breakfast (which kicks Dunkin’ Donuts’ ass), poutine (which is pretty damn good), and a world-renowned hot dog (good, but sadly not as good as a Chicago hot dog). After only 72 hours, I was ready to pack up and move.

The best part of any convention for me is getting to (finally) hang out with my fellow iFanbase folks and various Twitter friends. Being in Toronto gave me the opportunity to see my friendly Neighbors to the North, who sometime can’t make it down to the States for cons. It’s always a pleasure meeting these friends face-to-face and sharing in the things we love most. It’s the reason I go to all these conventions in the first place. And if you’re looking for a fun, relaxed convention to go to, you really need to check out FanExpo.

Yeah… I miss Toronto.


  1. Hey… I recognize that hand and shirt!

  2. Lovely to have you here. I’m local and it was my first FanExpo but due to a great experience with the show in general and with Dale Eaglesham in particular, I’ll be back!

  3. Aw, I’m sorry I missed it this year. I was at the FanExpo a couple years back and met James Turner of Rex Libris Fame, and yes, a great low key event.

    And yes, Toronto is awesome. If I may….GO LEAFS GO!

  4. This year was my first Fan Expo despite having lived in the city for most of my life. I had an incredible time and can’t wait for next year. Almost everyone I spoke too seemed to be having a great time as well, both fans and pros.

    Like Ali I was struck by how easy it was to just go up and approach some of the biggest names in comics. I was able to talk at some length with several of my favourite creators. It really was a special experience.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the con and the city Ali. Hopefully we’ll see you and some more of the iFanboy team next year!

  5. This was my first year at fan expo as well like a few of the rest of you despite living in Toronto all my life… i wasnt aware that there was more ppl on these boards from here, hopefully we will bump into eachother next year!!

    Anyways although i agree with the fact that it was laid back i on the other hand although being able to just walk up to speak to creators i enjoy, felt nervous and didnt try to speak to them much in fear of bothering them or finding out they are jerks since ive heard that some writers or artists are when u meet them in person. I guess next time it will be a little easier for me it being my first con

  6. I wish I could go to my own country’s comic book convention. sadly work had me by the balls this year.

  7. This year’s Fan Expo was the best run year of the 3 years I’ve gone to it. Last year it was a debacle, when it was in the North building, we waited for hours in line every day to get in. This year, no such problems.

  8. Glad we were able to get the hotdog thing taken care of now.

    We’ll leave the pizza discussion for later…

    • I’m willing to give Chicago pizza another try but Gino’s East and (especially) Giordanos were both not great. I’m really not sure why Ali thought Toronto had noteworthy hot dogs though, it was just standard food court stuff.

    • Wait, standard Food Court Stuff? I assume Ali meant Street Meat, which depending on the specific stand you hit, can be an amazing way to feed yourself for two to three bucks.

      Green Olives! Bacon Bits! Pickles! Sour Kraut! Now that’s a Hot Dog.

  9. Showing a picture of poutine in Toronto is like showing a picture of pecan pie from New York. For real poutine you have to come to Montreal.


  10. As a born Torontonian I’ll say that this is totally true … except for that crap about the Habs.

  11. Ali doesn’t explain what poutine is. It’s french fries covered with cheese and gravy. All the the fast food places in Toronto and Montreal sell it. Poutine is delicious, but that banging sound you hear as you eat it is the sound of your arteries slamming shut! ; )

  12. I’m glad you had fun in Toronto! I’ve lived here for six years and gone to Fan Expo for every one of them. If you think the con feels smallish now, it was a lot smaller in those days, and it’s always been really accessible — and a good reminder of how strong the local comics scene is.

    I see you discovered Smoke’s. Pro tip: The next time you’re in town, try Poutini’s on Queen West. Smoke’s may be good, but Poutini’s is FANTASTIC.

  13. it was a great show! And i was able to get some great interviews with a bunch of people who were totally approachable. plus everybody dug my shirt.

  14. Ahh sweet and salty- sticky poutine-
    Can’t get enough.
    I’m a poutine hound.

  15. I’ve been to the fan expo 3 times now. I love that is it not just for gamers or comic fans, but every geek there is! I’m happy to get a bit of recognition here at iFanboy!!