Over the weekend, I attended my first convention of 2017, Toronto Comicon. It’s basically the little brother or sister of FanExpo in that it’s a fairly big event in its own right, but it doesn’t compare to the summer show that usually takes place in August or September.
With conventions popping up everywhere, it felt like as I watched the guest announcements, that they were having trouble booking big names to the show for this time of year. For quite a while, the show was boasting appearances from supporting actors and actresses from Bones, such as Michaela Conlin and T.J. Thyne. Ok then.
Ray Park was an interesting addition, who you might better know as Darth Maul.
And THEN they pandered to the first generation of Canadian Degrassi fans by announcing a reunion comprised of Pat Mastrianni, Stefan Brogren, Dan Woods, Stacie Mistysyn, and Kirsten Bourne. I’m sad to report that I never saw much of a lineup for the Degrassi folks.
Bret Hart and Mick Foley seemed to be the big celebrity draw for the weekend, despite the fact that they tried to draw interest with Brett Dalton (Agents of SHIELD), Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), and a few others.
Despite the fact that Toronto Comicon (and other conventions) continue to use “comics” within the convention name, it’s becoming clear that they’re not the priority of the shows anymore. They’re not the thing that draws in huge crowds and the media so now the more glamorous celebrities are used for that while the comic folk are kept elsewhere.
The budgets go towards flying in “big talent” such as those people from Bones instead of bigger comic guests. The comic guests that were present this year were mostly local creators that didn’t require a plane, train, or automobile that required the show to cough up money.
However, the guests they did manage to get in that weren’t local included Jim Mahfood, Amy Chu, Tini Howard, and Stephane Roux.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the creators located in Toronto and the GTA, and events like Toronto Comicon are my opportunity to see them outside of their hovels where they’re usually couped up drawing or writing, but it’s extra exciting to get the chance to chat with creators that aren’t usually in the city or province.
Guest lists and such aside, I overall had a good experience at the show. I didn’t attend any panels this year, despite having a few that I was interested in.
After much flack a couple of years ago, Toronto Comicon finally jumped on board with the Cosplay is Not Consent signage, which was prominent around the show entrance, however, despite this effort to show that they’re getting with the times, the Program Director for the show still found a time slot for the dreaded Women in Comics panel because WHAT ELSE COULD WOMEN WHO HAPPEN TO WORK IN COMICS TALK ABOUT?
“So like, what it’s like, being like, a woman. You know, like, in comics?”
NAAAAAAAAAAO. Stop it. Really. Female creators are not unicorns and they don’t suffer from THE COOTIES so feel free to add them into REGULAR panels such as Writing for Comics, Creating Comics, World Building in Comics etc.
They don’t need a Women in Comics panel to feel validated by you. They’re validated by the people that think they are amazing creators and are publishing their work. Ok thanks.
ANYWAYS, the other thing that I did wind up doing over the weekend at the con was try out MirageVR. The press team was so kind as to offer me a demo of their virtual reality which is the second time I have ever tried out oculus (the first time was for a Game of Thrones exhibit and it wasn’t interactive so much as just an experience).
With the MirageVR demo, you could interact within the game itself with mocap technology that synced you into the game. I got to be a mage and cast magic spells.
Throwing out my arm allowed me to throw fireballs at enemies while making a motion like flipping a table (I was very good at this) allowed me to cast up spikes of ice that caused significant damage.
The graphics within the game are good but not great. They’ve still got quite a ways to go for it to feel really immersive, but it was still neat.
If you’ve ever done any sort of VR experience before, it’s a bit jarring. I was wearing special slip ons for my shoes, wrist bobbles, and a large backpack with equipment in it. Then I had head gear on that included the oculus as well as headphones to allow me to hear what was going on around me, instead of the noise coming from the con-goers at the convention.
Standing up and moving around was very weird. The staff ensured that you didn’t wander too far out of a zone or run into someone etc, but it’s a very strange thing to be walking somewhere that’s not the real world, if that makes sense.
The jarring feeling made me a bit nauseous and my one real gripe with it was the setting choice for the adventure. As I mentioned, it’s already a bit jarring to have the equipment on and to be walking in a world that’s not your own (in that you’re IN a game), and the adventure was on a boat that felt a bit like it was rocking and moving. Additionally, there was the water around you that was also moving, and that combined with the weirdness of using the oculus made me feel ill for at least an hour or two after I finished with the demo.
It was a neat experience that I was happy to have tried out but I wish I had maybe aimed to try it near the end of the day rather than in the middle of it. As I mentioned, there’s still quite a ways to go with Oculus and VR experiences, but they’re really interesting to try out for short bursts like the one I had over the weekend.
You can learn more about MirageVR here.