This past weekend, I made a quick trip up to Toronto for the HobbyStar Fan Expo, my first convention in two years. I made a quick appearance at the New York Comicon in February of 2007, but was too excited at the prospect of being in New York for the first time to spend more than Friday afternoon there! I’ve been sort of cooling off on the whole convention tip lately—two San Diego trips will do that to you—but for whatever reason, I felt like throwing myself back into the game for one last score. Well, probably not last, but whatever. Turns out there were a lot of Canadian artists whose work I dig attending the show this year, guys like Cameron Stewart, Francis Manapul, and the Immonens, Kathryn and Stuart. The comic stuff is a draw, obviously, but the show’s horror component, the Festival of Fear, caught my attention—this year promised both Roger Corman and Tom Savini! Exciting stuff, and yes, I’m a giant nerd. Anyway, the good folks at Porter Air got me there safe and on time, with free beer on the flight to boot, and it was game time.

Friday morning brought swift disappointment, however, as I learned of Tom Savini’s last-minute cancellation. I brought my four-disc Dawn of the Dead DVD set for nothing! So it goes, I guess. The doors opened Friday afternoon and the craziness began. I had no idea how big this convention had gotten—it looked like it had tripled or quadrupled in size since the last Fan Expo I attended, which I think would have been 2002. I heard overall attendance was up by 23% this year. In any event, the joint was packed with vendors, exhibitors, artists, and celebrities. Like the guy who played the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, for some reason! I may mock, but dude always had somebody at his table. People went all out with the costumes this year, too. I got a taste of it on Friday, but Saturday would really kick it into high gear. Other than a few t-shirts, the only stuff I bought the first day was from Montreal-based artist Cameron Stewart (Seaguy, Apocalypstix). I couldn’t pass up the gorgeous art book he was selling (available at his website for a mere $20—a steal!), especially not when, for an extra $20, he’d do a sketch in it. Hence this radical Seaguy head shot:

We chatted a bit while he drew, mostly about legendary Mad cartoonist Mort Drucker and a very exciting, top-secret project he’s doing that should be announced any day now. Since Tiina was minding my cat Jones for me, I also grabbed a dope Catwoman print as a thank-you gift.

I also got my first taste of the costume craziness that the next day would bring.

C'mon, Black Bolt! Kudos for picking an obscure costume, but you gotta sell that shit! Get into character!

Deadpool was a favourite costume at this show. Not quite as many of them as there were Rorschachs and Heath Ledger Jokers, but pretty close.

Saturday at the show was bonkers. Some of the show’s organizational problems became apparent, as the lobby of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was jammed up with a huge lineup of people who had no idea where they were going or what they were doing. Some of them already had their badges, some of them where waiting to get ‘em, and there were no Expo volunteers or employees around to tell anyone anything. Since this line did not appear to be going anywhere and I already had my badge, I left the Centre and found an alternate means of egress up by the C.N. Tower entrance. The line here was chugging right along, and I got into Day Two in no time. First up, Francis Manapul (Superman/Batman, Adventure Comics) was selling his hardcover art book with the option to get a sketch with it, so I asked for Brainiac when I bought mine. Check out this craziness…

Writer Kathryn Immonen (Runaways, Hellcat) and her husband Stuart (artist on New Avengers, Nextwave) were also in attendance. I scored a hardcover copy of the collection of their webcomic, Never As Bad As You Think, as well as Stuart’s latest Centifolia art collection, The Ladies’ Auxiliary Guild. Check them out on the web here, you'll be glad you did. I also bought a Flash print from Karl Kerschl (currently rocking the amazing Flash strip in Wednesday Comics, easily one of the best strips in the series) and a Daredevil print from Mike Cho (whose gorgeous artwork can be seen in the current issue of Illo magazine, as well as the Max Finder Mysteries books and The Age of the Sentry miniseries). Also, more convention attendees means way more costumes!

"Please, folks! Step back! I'm trying to transform myself into a productive member of society!"

Wow. No wonder Booster Gold was always hanging around.

There were nearly as many Deadpools as there are Deadpool titles on the rack right now.

These ladies definitely had their phasers set to fabulous.

The light cycle from the new Tron movie was there. Apparently, a lot of people are very excited about this. Me, I prefer The Last Starfighter.

I can't decide if these costumes are "charmingly handmade" or "intentionally crappy", but I love them either way.

And then there's this. We saw this on our way out on Saturday. I have no idea what was going on, but it was impressive.

That is one wrinkly turtle.

The final day of the convention is always a bit of a drag—you’re tired, you’re out of money, and you’re sick of elbowing other nerds out of the way. I didn’t buy much of anything on Sunday, just another t-shirt and a DC Direct figure of the Composite Superman—one of my most favourite ridiculous Silver Age creations, who I really have to do a blog post about one of these days. By the final day, I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to bother getting any autographs from any of the horror/sci-fi guests, like Leonard Nimoy, Billy Dee Williams, Mary McDonnell, or Roger Corman. Their lines were too long, a signature could run you as much as $60 a pop, and I’d rather spend my money in Artist’s Alley anyway. I still would have shelled out for Savini, though, had he showed.

All in all, it was a fun weekend, but it’s most definitely all the convention I need for quite some time. Big thanks to Sean Jordan, AKA the Wordburglar, for letting me crash on his couch, fellow convention goers Andrew Bartlett and Matt Morgan for hanging out on Friday before the doors opened (Matt’s first convention! He’s a big boy now), and my old buddy and super-talented illustrator Eric Orchard for joining me for coffee and fresh air breaks when needed (check out his work at his blog). One final note, I bumped into DC head honcho Dan Didio at the Porter Air terminal on the way home and, in the interest of shameless self-promotion, I gave him one of my minicomics to read on the plane ride home. Clearly, this can only lead to one thing—a greenlight for my Composite Superman hardcover graphic novel idea! Well, a guy can dream.