by Nelson Caetano

As I entered Fan Expo Thursday, it was announced that comic book legend Stan “the Man” Lee had just stepped out to greet his legion of fans, who had all crowded around the Marvel table. The power of the fan and hero-worship is as strong as it’s ever been, as record numbers flock to comic book conventions all across North America, this weekend being no exception.

Offering comic book, horror, anime and video game enthusiasts vast opportunities to meet their heroes, purchase an array of collectibles and get a chance to see new and upcoming releases – Fan Expo has become Canada’s premier convention for geek culture.

In an age of virtual media – digital comics, digital downloads and on-demand movie and video games – one has to ask, what is the draw to a convention such as Fan Expo?

We live in a world where there is no need to go out to a “brick and mortar” store to buy your comics, movies or video games – so why does attendance to these conventions keep surpassing old records, growing bigger and bigger each year? In fact, over the past few years, Fan Expo has pulled in over 80,000 patrons over the entire weekend.

With the tactile element being eliminated from these hobbies, the opportunity for enthusiasts to get their hands on a hard to find collectible, get a book signed or get a photograph with a hero becomes all that more special and rare for fans. These conventions also give fans the chance to meet outside of Twitterverse or other social media outlets (yes, in person and face to face) with other fans who share in the same interests.

As much as technology propels us forward into a virtual world, the need for human contact – physical interaction – is still very much a need for fandom. Fans need to connect with their heroes and the celebrities need to connect with their loyal followers.

The lines to the sci-fi or horror legends were bearable on Thursday and Friday (Saturday was a madhouse) as fans wore smiles as large as a five-year-old’s on Christmas morning. The celebs were more than gracious, they were genuinely honoured and excited  to meet each one of their adoring fans.

It wasn’t only the big name artists that fans were eager to meet. Fellow enthusiasts dressed as Iron Man, Thor, Loki, Sailor Moon, or Megatron made for a great photo opportunity and a chance to open the waves of communication allowing you to say “What an awesome outfit” or to ask “How long did it take you to make that?”

This weekend, I made sure to pick up some much-needed back issues from the fine people at Silver Snail, checked out some rare action figures and  Transformers, played a couple of upcoming video games (that new Avengers game from Ubisoft looks amazing!) and found time to swing by the anime and horror areas to see what new and haunting things were lurking about.

The food court, however, was where the real fun was happening. The high concentration of conventioneers reading their newly acquired comic books, gamers competing head to head, and fans making adjustments to their costumes – it’s the level of enthusiasm that these fans bring to these annual events that is truly memorable, something you can’t get virtually.

By the way, that Megatron costume was so cool. Can’t wait until next year!

Nelson Caetano can normally be read at nelsoncaetanostudio.wordpress.com

All Photos by Nelson Caetano.

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