How I survived Fan Expo 2009 and lived to tell the tale

Okay, title’s a bit dramatic, but as this is one of my OTHER jobs, I thought I’d just give a quick update on Fan Expo Canada 2009. One word comes to mind, and it’s one that gets over-used in conjunction with it…. HUGE.

This event was massive and everything this year was bigger than ever. Call it post-event hype if you will, but attendance was way up this year, and we were all a little surprised at how much it increased. With all of the talk of the economy, etc. I think everyone was a little concerned with how things might be affected. I guess those concerns were a bit off. I don’t have hard numbers, but it’s known that we sold out of the VIP passes a week before… I’m actually surprised those didn’t sell out earlier. However, sales on Deluxe tickets sold in advance were DOUBLE what they were last year. Was that a sign of a smarter audience (knowing they get in faster because they get processed and into the show quicker than buying the pass at the show) or increased interest? Still hard to know… but on Friday and especially Saturday, the lines were huge.  Updated: overall attendance was up 23% — 59,000 attendees.

What does that mean for comics? And further, what does that mean for Canadian comics?

Obviously an increase in interest in an event like Fan Expo means that comics are getting increased exposure as well, as comics are front and centre – all over the place. The dealers, creators and publishers were all seemingly happy (at least the ones I spoke to were) with sales strong across the board of comics, trades, manga collections, hardcovers and original art and sketchbooks, not to mention t-shirts and statues and action figures.

As we know now that Marvel Entertainment was purchased by Disney Corp. this morning (explaining Joe Quesada’s hasty departure yesterday afternoon) I can see that as an example of a pattern of continued and expanding interest in comics from the entertainment community and corporate culture. Iron Man was used as an example a lot in the conversations today — Marvel Comics took a character our comics audience was interested in and transformed him into a character that everyone knows vis-a-vis a popular and well-made movie built with input from the comics creators at Marvel.

Back to the Expo, DC gave out over 13 pallets of free comic books and posters to a hungry audience who will hopefully turn around and read those free comics and perhaps follow-up and read more comic books. Artist alley creators and comic guests were constantly busy, with no real slow periods, things were busy right down to the last hour of the show…

…and being that 95% of the comics creators guesting at Fan Expo were Canadian, that’s good for Canadian comics and a lot of exposure for our country’s great talent. Darwyn Cooke, Tom Grummett, Francis Manapul, Jeff Lemire, the Transmission-X collective (incl. Karl Kerschl, Cameron Stewart, Michael Cho, Ramon Perez), the Immonens, Yanick Paquette, Ryan Sohmer and Lar De Souza and their Blind Ferret Entertainment booth, Dale Keown, Udon Entertainment and their creative team, Willow Dawson, Ty Templeton, Paul Rivoche, Adrian Alphona, Valentine DeLandro, Laurie B., Jay Stevens…. the list just goes on and on.

Big congratulations to the entire Comic Expo team — my fellow coordinator Tiziano DeSantis, Ty Buttars, David Wray, Allison Covey, Matthew Allen and Debra Jane Shelly and to the rest of the extended Fan Expo Canada and Rue Morgue teams – including show managers Aman Gupta and James Armstrong.

Planning has already begun for the Fan Expo 2010.

On a personal note, I’m exhausted still, but energized!