Community, comics, and cosplay come together at Toronto ComiCon

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"You come as you are,” said Melissa G, of why she loves attending ComiCon. “No matter who you are, or what you’re wearing, or what you’re into, these people will accept you.” 

Dressed in a cosplay of Clara Oswald from Doctor Who, she was surrounded by other cosplayers, many of whom she only met that day. Melissa said that she has been to 10 conventions in the last year, although she admits “I did miss a couple of them.” 

The group of Doctor Who cosplayers posed patiently for photo after photo, and a man dressed as Dr. Evil from Austin Powers strolled in and stood in front of their photo, declaring “I am the other Doctor.”

This kind of camaraderie and community was impossible to ignore at the 2014 Toronto ComiCon, with over half of the convention centre being devoted to Artist Alley where Canadian independent creators showcased their work and attempted to impress the undercover publishers strolling through the crowd.

Peter Chiykowski, an independent creator behind “Half-Cat Research” and “Rock, Paper, Cynic” was a great find in Artist Alley. His hobby is to create free access, advertising-free webcomics. 

While he stated that most of his readership is online, ComiCon and other fan conventions provide him with the opportunity to get more exposure, and also to sell merchandise. After a short discussion with Chiykowski, it was revealed that he was behind Canada’s first successful Kickstarter, which raised $15,000 towards a parody book about their “research” on “Half-Cats.”  

After this success, his team was asked to visit Kickstarter’s headquarters in Brooklyn, where they presented their “findings” in character as mad scientists. Chiykowski’s story was one among many stories of achievement in Artist Alley.

Rebecca Yanovskaya, a freelance illustrator from Toronto, experienced her first convention in this year’s Toronto ComiCon. 

When asked about why she chose ComiCon as the best convention to begin with, Yanovskaya said that ComiCon is “good for local artists, for local things. When you start out, you don’t want too much exposure, because it’s overwhelming. You want to keep it local.” 

Her pieces, inspired by fantasy priestesses and goddesses, are works of pristine and detailed art that deserve to have the exposure that Toronto ComiCon could give her.

Waterloo grad Miroki Tong also had her own stall, advertising “The G33k Art Show,” held in Kitchener, which seeks to “increase exposure and offer support for the development of the independent community for the artists of ‘geek’ culture.” 

There were a number of families who attended the convention, many of whom cosplayed together.

“I can’t get him out of it,” one mother from Guelph admitted, referencing her six-year-old son in a homemade ninja costume. “I thought it was a bad thing, but then we came here, and it doesn’t look like such a bad thing. Everyone’s having such a good time, and he loves the attention people are giving him.” 

While the emphasis at ComiCon this year seemed to be on community and not commercialism, it was difficult to ignore the whole rows of vendors selling, trading, and buying comic books.

The comic book vendors were the busiest stalls of the day, as a constant stream of people were flicking through their merchandise. Even then, most vendors had a one-dollar section, and many of them spoke to their customers as if they were old friends, discussing the pros and cons of each comic that a customer would purchase. 

Also adding to this sense of community spirit was the local 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars enthusiasts from all walks of life who dress as the characters at different functions, usually for the benefit of their chosen charities.

While their annual group photo was a sight to behold (particularly the youngest members in the front who, tired and bothered from a long day in costume, didn’t want to keep their masks on), the most impressive display from the 501st was their method of fundraising for Make a Wish Canada. Attendees could purchase Nerf gun bullets for $3 and blast a Stormtrooper for a donation.

No matter how many times people came up to shoot foam bullets at them over the course of the weekend, the Stormtroopers acted appropriately, reacting as if they were being shot by expert marksmen of real laser guns.

The most impressive sight of the day was outside of the actual convention hall, where fans lined up to speak and listen to their favourite actors, voice actors, and artists in a Q&A style setting. 

Tatiana Maslany and Jordan Gavaris from Orphan Black in particular drew an impressive crowd, with fans lining up over two hours before the event began in an attempt to have the best seats for the Q&A. Similar lines formed for Sean Astin and Billy Boyd, actors from The Lord of The Rings. 

For the 20th anniversary of the event, 2014 Toronto ComiCon did not disappoint eager fans and interested outsiders. Since ComiCon was such a high quality event, it will be interesting to see FanExpo, the larger and reportedly “better” event coming up soon.