[Review] - 1st Annual Ottawa Comiccon

All photos by the author.
An author who hates taking pictures.
And does so poorly.
And low, they did descend upon the capital of Canada: the geeks, the nerds, the aficionados, the obsessed, and the curious. They came in costume, and in regular attire, and one with just a box on his head, and set forth to provide commerce to the exhibitors, and to acquire the signatures of their preferred stars. And they were much appreciative.

Considering that this was Ottawa's first foyer into the turbulent world of comicconning, things went about as well as can be expected. The guest list was surprisingly impressive, the venue seemed appropriate, and the results were... a learning experience.

For my impressions, hit the jump.

This being my first con, I had only the stories of other cons, in larger cities, to impress upon my imagination. Not knowing what to expect, I expected everything, and nothing. If figured I would love the experience, or never wish to go near such a thing again. I also knew that many people go to these things in costume. This was not given consideration. I did put on my 'Hand of the King' badge, and wear my very best TARDIS (that's Time and Relative Dimension in Socks).

The extent I was willing to go
The venue, the newly built CE Centre, has been very clear in the media that this is the biggest event they've hosted in their short life, and was to be the litmus test for their future, in terms of the size of hosted events. Numbers are uncertain, but estimates for attendance over the two day event are around twenty five thousand. A healthy number, to be certain, and one that almost guarantees the event to return next year. I heard several complaints from other, more world weary travellers, that the venue was too small. I have a different interpretation.

A significant amount of wasted space
For the size of the event, the venue was pretty much exactly what they needed. The problems arouse in utilising that space effectively. They had organised all seller's tables nearest the main entrance, immediately creating a log jam as you entered. The seller's tables were also clumped together in tight islands of commercialism, with space in some areas barely wide enough for two to walk abreast. Beyond that was the 'Artist Alley', by my reckoning at least half empty. These booths were given vast acres of space, enough you might have been able to drive a vehicle between them. Beyond this, was a huge area of empty, unused, undesignated floor, pictured above, that was simply walked through as one headed towards the booths, the guests, or the card and game area against the farthest wall.

I'm sure the floor planners thought this space would be useful for something, but it might have been better suited to allow the seller's booths to come further down the hall, providing additional space in the more cramped areas. My instinct too, would have been to place the artists nearest the main entrance, preventing buyers from stopping traffic, and pushing the attendees further into the room, forcing them to see everything, rather then just stopping at the first booth they came to.


What was well set up was the guest booths. Running along the back wall, each area provided ample room for waiting in line, while the guest tables were private enough to carry on a brief conversation with the the signer. Prices were, as I understand, the usual $40 range, though Guest of Honour William Shatner charged significantly more. In one interview, former 'Hulk' Lou Ferrigno admitted that con appearances like these make up the bulk of his income, and considering the number of fans waiting to see the likes of Brent 'Data' Spiner, John 'Q' de Lancie, or Jamie 'Apollo' Bamber, I'm not surprised so many actors take parts in these little economic windfalls.


Yes, that is a hover board mounted near the rear wheel.
Aside from the stars, there were other guests of honour. The DeLorean from ToTheFuture.org, a working car that has been lovingly refitted with exhaust ports, Mr. Combustion, time circuits, and neon track lighting to make it the closest thing to the original time machine as possible. This car has, according to the owners, logged more than 300,000 miles, travelling from con to con, raising money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to Cure Parkinson's. It allowed me to add yet another entry in my collection of "pictures of me standing next to, or in, famous things, while wearing my hat." It's a working title. Also there, but not publicised, was the Gran Turino from Starsky and Hutch.

And, the other major attraction: the costumes. Honestly, I thought there'd be more. Certainly, as the day wore on, more and more appeared, or disappeared, as people realised that wearing a full body sock is only a fun and exciting idea for about fifteen minutes, then it becomes binding and clammy. As generic costumes go, the most common were Starfleet officers, and Jedis. In terms of specifics, any of the Avengers, for obvious reasons, and Princess Leia, in both bunned and slaved flavours. The overall theme of the weekend was Steam Punk, with many of the guest speakers and seminars, and exhibitors, geared towards the world of buckles and gears (so...many...buckles...), and as the day progressed, the number of people I saw with goggles, or eye patches, or dragon squirrels on their shoulders increased dramatically.

"Zach Levi is a very generous [kisser]."
The guest Q&As were another area where improvements can be made. Each guest was limited to 45 minutes, which I'm sure was long enough for most, though most ran over, which meant the next speaker was being bumped back fifteen minutes, half an hour. The Q&As on the second day were clustered together, one after another, while on Saturday huge blocks of time separated the presenters. A more balanced schedule should be arranged, which would also cut down on the congestion of the people leaving meeting the people waiting, and possible cut down on the size of the lines. They made the wise decision of clearing the hall after every event, preventing people from taking the San Diego route of finding a chair in the morning and putting down roots. However, the location of the hall meant that the line ups, which were considerable (half the time I spent at the con was spent in a lineup), were outside, and around the outer edge of the building, with no shade or rain cover.

As for the stars themselves, they're old hat at this sort of thing. They've heard most of these questions before, and obviously have the answers primed and ready. Shatner's presentation was a stream of consciousness sort of crazy that one expects from Denny Crane, musing randomly about his thoughts on life and his career. By all accounts, Marina Sirtis was the most engaging, cracking jokes with the audience and making fun of the (absent) Patrick Stewart. Adam Baldwin, blurishly seen above, won the room by talking hockey, himself an LA Kings fan, who were seeded 8th in the western conference, mirroring Ottawa's own Senators, who were 8th in the east before being eliminated by New York. Baldwin achieved some goodwill with the home town crowd by hoping for the Ranger's swift defeat in the final round. He then playfully mocked Ottawa's defeat before relaying how kissing Zachery 'Chuck' Levi was his favourite moment on that show, or how much he enjoyed tormenting Ottawa's own Vik 'Lester' Sahay.

Was it a success? I honestly couldn't tell you. Those more in the know would be able to tell you better. I, for one, enjoyed myself. Despite usually airing on the side of 'don't meet your heroes', I shook hands with some actors whose work I respected. Will I return next year? I'm basing that decision entirely on the guests. The shopping wasn't good enough to warrant a return on that alone, nothing any different then what you might get from visiting twenty comic book stores in a day. Next year they might strive for a little more variety in terms of the seller's. But get another roaster like this, covering the spectrum of sci-fi, fantasy, voice work and artistic talent, and I'll be there with my hat on.

And, I bought old school Doctor Who commemorative plates, so that's always good.

Best Costume: A single, unassuming, Arthur Dent. I'm sure many wrote him off as a lazy Jedi.
Worst Costume: Not in terms of construction, just in terms of impression: a semi-pregnant, midriff exposed Supergirl made me feel all kinds of uncomfortable.
Least Amount of Effort: Anyone walking around in a Ninja Turtles or Power Ranger t-shirt. In the immortal words, "never half ass two things. Full ass one thing."
Best Missed Opportunity: Over the course of the Sunday, I spotted every single member of the Avengers in sleeping baby form. They never assembled.
Most Cliched Nerd Moment: Three mid-twenties college students in a line discussing, with some passion, that they wanted to find and basically stare at, Heroes of the North star, and cosplay Latex fetish icon Marie-Claude Bourbonnais (that link is VERY not safe for work).
Oddest Moment: A Catwoman, in full S&M gear, pushing a baby stroller. Made me think twice, and cock my head slightly to the left.
Most Assured Sign That Man Kind Is Doomed: Not the number of booths selling Japanese body pillows, but the number of people purchasing them, and walking around the hall with them snuggled under their arms, a big, goofy grin on their face. Yes, I judge. Those pillows give me the wiggins, folks.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

2 comments :

  1. great review. checking it out to see if i would go to the 2014 show.

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    Replies
    1. I'd say it's worth it. It's the biggest lineup yet, and it's pretty impressive (though not as impressive as last year - Fillion is hard to top). Plus, the organizers have gotten better at putting the thing together every year.

      I'll be there, Saturday at the very least.

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