Last weekend was the first Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo as part of the Fan Expo family. The union of the two convention companies has not only led to the Calgary Expo hosting more big name celebrities like Jason Momoa and Anthony Daniels, but also more famous comic creators like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. They added some new panels never seen before in Calgary, and even had an evening with some of the cast of Back to the Future. But one of the biggest changes for the Calgary Expo was the rearranging of the show floor.
The Calgary Expo takes place in Stampede Park in the core of the city, which is made up of the BMO Center, the Stampede Corral Arena, the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Big Four Building, the Grandstand, and many more. Calgary Expo takes place in three of the buildings: The BMO Centre , the Corral, and the Big Four, with the majority of the Expo being held in the BMO Center. All of the vendors, film and TV celebrities, and most of the panels are held in the BMO Center, while the Corral holds the most anticipated panels (The Hall H of Calgary Expo, so to speak). In previous years, Photo Ops were held in a different area every year like the Expo didn’t know where to have them. But this year they were right next to where they had all the celebrities doing their autograph signings, which makes perfect sense.
In years past, the Calgary Expo had the Artist Alley in the BMO Center near the vendors, but not all artists would be included there. Some ended up mixed in with vendors in the Big Four. The Calgary Expo would put some big name celebrities in the Big Four to draw fans in and drive them past these artists, and vendors. This year the Artist Alley was confined to the Big Four and it was probably the best lineup of comic creators the Expo has ever had: Jim Lee, Neal Adams, Rob Liefeld, Meredith Finch, Amanda Conner, Jim Zub, Ray Fawkes, Jody Houser, Ty Templeton, Dan Parent, and many more. These creator guests outlined the hall of the artist alley. There were people doing commissions, selling homemade pillows and bowties, arts prints, folks doing on-site tattoos, and creators selling comics based on their original creations. One of my favourite booths was a comic about a Flash Gordon-esque pig: Spacepig Hamadeus (by Donovan Yaciuk). Another comic was based on a society ruled by hairdressers and barbers. Great hair ruled the land and a barber could depose a king.
You really have no idea what kind of hidden treasures you might find in Artist Alley.
One of my favourite parts of the Calgary Expo is watching the Sons of Fenrir, a viking reenactment society, do battle with one another outside on the grounds. Their outfits are historically accurate so you won’t see any horns on their helmets, but wearing wool in 20 degree Celsius weather must’ve been hell. They work very hard on their fighting skills, and the level of detail in their shields, helmets, and weapons is immense! I saw one viking wearing handmade, leather sandals.
I might be getting old and crotchety thinking they need to put comics back into comic cons, but I walked away with a fairly large stack of indie comics. I may not have spent hours diving into longboxes of comics looking for that one issue I need to finish my collection, but I’m certain other people did. Not everyone needs to go to these kinds of shows for the comics. They can enjoy it by watching the sketch battles or parasol duels, listening to Elijah Wood tell stories about Lord of the Rings during filming, or even just running around the grounds in their cosplay. There’s a good reason its called the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.