Contributed by Tim Lasiuta with files from Geoffrey Lasiuta and Jeremy Rinas
It was a show that exceeded expectations, from the more than 41,000 fans who attended, to the celebrities who took time from their busy schedules to meet with fans and share their experiences.
Officially, attendance was pegged at 41,238 for the three-day show that ran from September 21-23, 2018 at the Edmonton Expo Centre. The guest list included David Tennant and Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Brent Spiner, T.J. Thyne, and Michaela Conlin (Bones), Amy Jo Johnson (Power Rangers), Mark Sheppard (Supernatural), Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead), Danielle Panabaker (Flash), and Katie Cassidy and John Barrowman (Arrow). Animation guess Kevin Conroy (Batman), Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain), Amanda Miller and Cherami Leigh (Boruto), Linda Ballantyne and Katie Griffin (Sailor Moon), and Grand Theft Auto's voice actors Ned Luke and Shawn Fonteno.
Attendance was up significantly from last year. Organizers were hoping for a crowd of 30,000-plus, and are thrilled with the turnout.
“Never doubt the creative community in Edmonton,” said show director Kandrix Foong, at the end of Sunday. “Not only we did have an epic turnout, but there was an energy in the halls and on stage at events like the costume contest that was infectious. People in Edmonton are always happy to pose in cosplay for photos and share how they created their costumes, or ask vendors and artists about new comics and artwork, or discover new stories and characters. As we say goodbye to our invited celebrity guests tonight, we keep hearing over and over again how lovely the fan community is here and how much they appreciated that energy – they didn’t even mind the snow! We had a blast, and can’t wait until next September.”
A special feature of this year's show was a special Star Wars-themed Citizenship Ceremony that saw 49 new Canadians welcomed to the country. Among the new citizens was Daniel Straka, who took his oath dressed in a NASA space suit costume.
“When I was little, I was watching Star Trek episodes and that was like my dreamland,” said Straka, clutching his citizenship certificate. “When I came to Canada, I realized that this is my Star Trek. That’s what I said to myself when I landed in Canada. It’s so diverse, so beautiful.”
This was the first Geekiest Citizenship Ceremony held during the Edmonton event, expo spokeswoman Alex Kingcott said, but not the first in the country. The Saskatoon expo was initially approached by Citizenship Canada with the idea.
Comic book guests for 2018 included Neal Adams, Mark Texiera, Mike McKone, Nat Jones, Matt Batt Banning, MIke Henderson, Dylan Burnett, John Delaney, Amy Chu, Steve Lieber, Dan Parent, Richard Pace, Lovern Kindzierski, Vic Malhotra, John Gallagher, and authors Samantha Beiko and Tim Lasiuta.
Neal Adams, the elder statesman of the comic book industry, appeared at the Edmonton show, thrilling collectors and art students alike with his legendary artistic output.
“This is a good show,” said Adams, pointing at the people in the aisles. “It is amazing that many of the fights we had so many years ago has allowed artists and writers to be here, earning a good living doing what we love.”
Adams referenced the early fights for copyright and artist/creator remuneration and ability to draw commissions for fans. “Just think of the Shuster estate, if Jerome Siegel is paid for Superman today, why not Joe's family. Just think, if I asked every person here if both should get paid, I would say that a high majority would agree,” Adams said. “It is important to recognize the pioneers in our industry.”
Vancouver CW/WB artist John Gallagher spoke of his current project with hushed tones. “I work on the Flash, Supergirl and Legends, but the new Twilight Zone is one of my new projects,” Gallagher said. “This is the 4th incarnation and I think people will like it but that is all I can say.”
Edmonton based artist, Vic Malhotra was pleased that the show had been successful this year. “I got my start in these aisles,” Malhotra said. “I had done a few indy books and had brought my portfolio to show to some of the pros here. They liked what they say and said that they had seen a lot of poor work, but told me to send some samples to their contacts. I did, and a few days later, I had my first IDW assignment and now I work full time in the industry. That's why this show, and every show is important. We need to encourage and support new talent.”
Malhotra spoke of his work with Insight Editions' Clockwork Lives, based on Kevin J Anderson and Neil Pearts' classic novel. “I got a call from Insight editor Mark Irwin inquiring if I had time to draw 12 books, but only had time for 2,” Malhotra said. “So I got to draw two books. Quite a thrill to illustrate books by a classy author and co-author.”
Matthew Clark, DC cover and WB artist, enjoyed the show and the support the fans gave him. “Fans have been telling me how much they liked my Rebirth covers and work on Green Lantern, Astro City and the Justice League,” Clark said. “One of my favorite pieces is the promotional art for Wonder Woman and WB that I did.”
Canadian artist Scott Chantler brought his celebrated Two Generals book to the show for appreciative fans. “I was raised in Stratford, Ontario and have had a successful career as a comic book illustrator and writer,” Chantler said. “I have been fortunate to be recognized a number of times with Harvey and Eisner nominations, but most importantly, I get to do what I love doing.”
Chantler noted that the crowds had been good and he had received positive feedback from both new and old readers of his work.
First time Expo artist attendee, Richard Pace thought the Edmonton fans were “amazing” and was glad to be in Alberta`s capital city. “I have recently returned to comics from a decade working in television and on video games,” Pace said. “Since my return, I have worked with Vertigo (Second Coming) and as writer on a Batman book, ‘The Doom that Came To Gotham,’ and for Dark Horse on their Savage Tales book.”
Artist Mike McKone, felt the show was very well organized and that the fans who came through artist alley were friendly and informed. “When I first started doing conventions it was rare to find an older fan who even knew who Ant-Man or Deadpool was,” McKone said. “But today, it is nice to see older collectors with a knowledge of the history of popular film characters now.”
Author Samantha Beiko brought her bestselling Scion of the Fox volume to the show and was surprised at the response she had gotten. “It's nice to see people pick up my books, actually I have almost sold out of the stock that I brought this weekend,” she said.
Archie artist/writer Dan Parent brought his popular Die Kitty Die books along with his Archie Meets KISS, The Ramones and other books to the show. Parent has been a well loved guest for several years at both Calgary and Edmonton and other Fan Expo shows across Canada.
Alex Finbow's Renegade Arts smuggled Sharkasaurus into the convention and while nobody died, fans loved the book and sharks that walked the floor. “I came onto the book after a successful Kickstarter campaign by Spencer Estabrooks and got it to the finish point,” Finbow said. “It is a great book and has been very popular with readers so far.”
Along with Sharkasaurus, Finbow talked When Bears Invade, and the impact it has had in schools and audience with young readers. “With our Loxley books, we are winning our way into schools one teacher at a time,” he said.
Mark Texiera brought his ghastly art to the show and was a popular guest. “I have never been up to this show before and it has been great,” Texiera said. “I have done some commissions and signed a lot of books.”
On the panel side, the last panel of the weekend was Evolve, Year Zero and featured four of the many stars from the web based series. Produced for under $6,000, the show is going to a second season and is the brainchild of Rebecca Eady.
“We were all dedicated to the show and made it work,” Eady said. “Based in Vancouver, we were able to use resources like film schools to edit and score which helped quite a bit.” The series won an award from a Los Angeles competition which encouraged the cast. “We wanted the opportunity to show that a female produced and written show could be successful, and we think we are well on our way.”
With the fan experience at the heart of the any convention, moments of humanity often come through. Friendships are made through shared interests, geek speed dating often results in couples, yet lost within the spectrum of attendees at any show, are those with a bucket list.
One such young man found his bucket list, We'll call him Chad. Chad and his mother rushed to the Neal Adams booth with definite purpose. Clutching precious comic books, Chad passed the books over to Neal and asked if he would sign them. His mother looked on with glee.
“All I heard was Neal this and Neal that for three hours,” she said. “We missed you in Calgary and Chad wanted to meet you and have you sign his books. This is on his bucket list. Now the trip home will be quiet.”
Adams signed the books while Chad looked glowingly at them, thanking him and then bouncing off. A couple of minutes later, the mother returned, with tears in her eyes and looked Adams in the face.
“You see, my son had to meet you Mr. Adams. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer yesterday,” she said. “Thank you.”
She then shuffled off to catch up to her son. The silence was deafening, yet it spoke of the power of the medium of comic books, and the stories that artists and writers have told for decades. There is a power to inspire, to define, to give meaning to those who identify with the characters.
It was a moment that defined what Neal Adams has spent his life doing, creating powerful art for powerful stories.
With a better-than-expected attendance, Edmonton Expo 2019 is already in the planning stages!