Sometimes, when a topic is too big for just one of us, we put our rings together and activate our Wonder Twins powers to take the form of the mystical and elusive Double Team. This Last weekend, both Brandon and James attended the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For Brandon, it was a busy weekend dealing with a crowded expo hall as a retailer, and for James, it was his first convention as an accredited member of the media, which I guess means nobody at the Expo actually reads this site. Both of the boys had a pretty interesting, busy experience, and they’re here to give their own wrap-ups about the highs, lows and near-death experiences of the 2012 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo!
A Brush With
By James Leask
Every year, attending conventions provokes two alternating reactions in me. On one hand, I love seeing so much nerdy, geeky glee on display and all those thousands of people having fun, and I love being able to meet and talk with creators whom I respect and admire. On the other hand, I also have a severe disliking of most people, and while a lot of any con has the kind of celebration that is the whole reason C!TB exists, it also has the kinds of things that frustrate me to no end about nerds and people, mostly falling under the general category of what-the-hell-people-how-is-it-possible-to-be-so-inconsiderate.
First: if you have spent hours in line to get into a place, a place that is full with at some estimates 35,000 people on one day, as my boss informed me was reported on the news, if you suddenly stop in the middle of an aisle, in front of hundreds of people all trying to get somewhere, and form a circle to talk about something while holding up traffic, you are an incredible asshole. I am not saying you deserve to be cut (I am a pacifist, after all), but it is a distinct possibility because:
Second: I am pretty sure that a vendor skirting the rules that say you can’t sell actual weapons by selling a dull katana (as is allowed) by surreptitiously charging a customer a second fee to sharpen it for them, then allowing them to carry it around for the rest of the day at an expo centre where there is almost no elbow room, let alone murder sword room, is actually, genuinely illegal. Please don’t do it, you contemptible, reckless assholes.
Then again, I haven’t heard about anyone being maimed with a samurai sword at all since I’ve returned home, so I’m guessing it’s time to take an angry lap and remember the fact that, despite a certain amount of dicks and a fundamentally broken organizational infrastructure (more on that later), ultimately the weekend and the Expo weren’t that bad. For one thing, this was the first convention I’ve attended with a large group of friends, which meant that I always had people to joke with, wait in line with and have fun with. We went out for meals, had at least one hotel party and shared looks of shock at the male cosplayer dressed like a scantily-clad Riddler’s Daughter which was, for the record, an incredible costume.
It was also my first convention attended as an accredited member of the press, which, despite my PR contact being completely unreachable for the entire weekend and resulting in the cancelation of every single media guest interview I’d been arranging, meant that it was easier to move around the BMO Centre and to arrange on-the-fly interviews with comic creators, which was pretty dang neat. Not only was I able to talk with C!TB favourites Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo about the dearly departed Green Wake and their new projects, but I made some connections for future interviews. Oh, and I sat down for an interview with a certain Dan Parent, aka one of the greatest Archie Comics artists in the title character’s 70+ year history, to talk about his work with the company and the incredible amount of television he watches. Brandon and I also picked up some of Parent’s original black and white art pages, so I guess all in all it was pretty neat.
It was also C!TB’s first convention presence with an actual, genuine (unpaid) staff member. If you stop by later in the week, I think you’ll enjoy seeing our photo/cosplay wrap-up for the Calgary Expo with photos by my friend/servant Ryan Tomko, who got the “privilege” of hearing me loudly tell him, “I am your employer and you will take the photos I tell you to, so take a picture of that male Scarlet Spider cosplayer’s airbrushed ass or you’re fired, take it take it take it take it take it THANK YOU.”
James Leask: Employer of the Month!
Believe it or not, that wasn’t the weirdest things got over the weekend, because I hadn’t yet paid four dollars to drink a foul-tasting energy drink that:
- Contains an amount of vitamins described to me by a friend who works in chemistry as “dangerous” and which “could damage your kidneys.”
- Also contains selenium, a substance whose antidote, if it’s taken in excess, is more or less, “have some rat poison.”
- Has a label with such encouraging language as being “a factor in” a healthy lifestyle, advised for only one can per day to be taken “with food,” and “occasional use only,” as well as, “Don’t drink it if you’re pregnant, have a medical condition or get an allergic reaction,” which is more or less identical to the language the local government uses to tell people why it’s dangerous to eat fish from the river downstream of the sewage treatment plant.
- Is only sold directly to customers (at an undisclosed price and never once using the word “sale”, I might add) because, in the words of the rep, “it saves the company $50 million in marketing costs per year.” Oh, and also because, as the fine print on their inflatable promotional can reminded me, Verve is not yet approved by the FDA.
Minutes after drinking the can of Verve, I indeed felt a rush of energy and “thrilling results,” defined, I’m guessing, as “dizziness,” “pain,” “the urge to sit down and rest,” and the frequent request to friends that “I need an adult.”
Keep in mind, the product’s tag line includes the word “Insanely,” so it’s not like I shouldn’t have known what I was getting into. Hours later, I was finally feeling fine and, for reasons unknown, discussing with Ryan my plan to “have three cans [on Sunday], get weird and do some interviews.” Unsurprisingly, the only friend who would lend me some extra change to buy some Verve was Brandon, despite the physical attempts at protestation by our friends, because he is a good friend. In the end, I decided to buy some onigiri instead and then later discovered that I potentially escaped a case of selenosis, the symptoms of which include “garlic odor on the breath, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, sloughing of nails, fatigue, irritability, and neurological damage,” extreme cases of which can involve “cirrhosis of the liver, pulmonary edema, and death.”
In other words, we have finally found the line I will not cross, and I say that as someone who bought a non-FDA-approved energy drink because “I want[ed] to make some bad decisions.”
All this puts what I was going to wrap up with – namely, that the Calgary Expo’s repeated assertions that, despite turning away hundreds of attendees who had already purchased advance passes because the fire marshal wouldn’t let any more people into the convention, they weren’t actually oversold are factually untrue at the fundamental level of language – kind of inconsequential, because no matter how many vacationing young families with children and advance passes were turned away, how many times Ryan was delayed getting his press pass because he was told that if he stepped outside the hall, he wouldn’t be allowed back in due to overselling, or how many volunteers actually told people in line that the convention was oversold and that they should just go to the Craft Expo next door instead, I survived. Some days, that just has to be enough, because not only did I get to meet Dan Parent, I managed to live to see another convention.
Brandon! The Sexy Musical
By Brandon “Nerp Patrol” Schatz
I didn’t murder anyone and I haven’t murdered anyone and quite frankly, I think that is an accomplishment.
At about 2pm on Saturday, as the torrent of people kept flowing in and out of the 3 section booth I was working, I felt my brain enter a panic mode. I needed the people to stop coming, and I needed there to be nobody for five whole minutes. Just five. But that wasn’t going to happen, clearly was an impossibility, and through sheer force of will, I wrangled my brain back under my tenuous control, produced a smile, and continued to deal my wares.
But then there’s the people who ask if they can get an extra discount on $35 hardcovers that we’re selling for 10, the ones that haughtily exit your booth because they feel like they’re owed a better deal than less than half when we attempt to politely tell them “no”. There’s the people that grab $500 worth of product and ask if you’d be interested in letting the whole lot go for $100 total. And sometimes, there’s the odd douchebag that walks right into your booth asking if you got anything that isn’t tactile because “paper is fucked and if you don’t start selling movies or some shit, you’ll be out of business in a year.” Yes, some people come to comic and entertainment conventions to tell you how your comic shop is going to fail, while your ever expanding fistful of twenties, fifties and hundreds starts to get unwieldy.
And there’s the set up, which takes hours and makes you tired before the convention even begins. And then there’s the take down, which takes hours, and makes you tired as you begin your long drive home. The bathrooms, the food lines, the ticking clock that tells you that you should be heading back to your booth so the next guy can have an hour to tour around the show as the guy in front of you starts his lecture on why they liked so-and-so’s take on a character better and couldn’t they write them or draw them a little more like that?
Conventions can be maddening, especially when some of your favourite creators are just a walk away, and you’re stuck in the trenches.
Through the day, you are beset by friends, acquaintances, and customers who are positively beaming and vibrating with excitement, because holy damn the things they have done! They have a sketch by George Perez. They met Stan Lee, and he signed their favourite comic. They sat in the Batmobile, shined Patrick Stewart’s head, and had sex with the Honky Tonk Man.
That last bit might be a little exaggerated, but you get the idea. You get to see people that you know, that you love utterly giddy at what they’ve been able to do, what they’ve been able to acquire. And that? That’s the good stuff. You get to drink all of that in, and more often then not, you can smile to yourself when you (somewhat selfishly) realise that they’ve come to you to let you know, because you’re a part of this. You’ve been a part of their love of comics, of media, of whatever, and you’ve helped them down the path. You’ve chatted with them, and you’ve spent time and countless hours helping nurture and foster a love that has culminated, in some cases, in this giant burst of excitement.
You really feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself – and no matter how tiring or frustrating the job can be, helping people get that feeling (and getting that feeling yourself when you’re let out of the pen for a few hours) is just about the best thing in the world.
Comics are fucking rad you guys, and whenever I finish a con, that’s the thing I always take with me. I’m in an industry that I love, helping people love it back. And that’s amazing.
Plus, sometimes to cap off a convention, your girlfriend finds a booth selling pins with phrases from iCarly emblazoned on them, and she buys them for you. And that’s pretty rad too.