Fan Expo Canada is back in all its glory this year – a space where comic book fans, TV and movie superfans, and cosplayers can unite.
The convention – Canada’s biggest pop culture event – is expected to draw thousands of fans to the Metro Toronto Convention Center for four days, between August 25 and 28, its first full-scale show since the pandemic began.
What fans can expect this year
For cosplay fans, there will be an open red carpet, a cosplay skills workshop, and the Masters of Cosplay Grand Prix — a contest to show off the best costumes from the event. The winner will face champions from seven other Canadian cities.
Tattoo artists will shop for fans looking for specific ink, including Marc Draven, the only tattoo artist in the world to be both licensed by Lucasfilm Ltd and endorsed by the late comic book writer Stan Lee.
fans of stranger things will be able to take photos with the cast of the new season, as well as attend panels featuring the cast. Grace Van Dien (Chrissy Cunningham) will have a Q&A on Friday, while Jamie Campbell Bower (Vecna) will do one on Saturday. Joseph Quinn (Eddie Munson) and Canadian Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) will be joined by a surprise guest on Sunday.
stranger things fans will also know Sean Astin, who played Bob Newby in Season 2. He joins fellow hobbits from The Lord of the Rings, Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd for a reunion event this weekend.
Iconic Canadian comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall will also be at the exhibit to promote their return series on Prime Video.
Other fan favorites at this year’s convention include Laz Alonso, Giancarlo Esposito, Kevin Smith and William Shatner.
Fan culture continues to evolve
The first Fan Expo in Canada was launched in 1995, attended by only 1,500 people. But over the years it has grown considerably, attracting stars like Stan Lee, Carrie Fisher and Nichelle Nichols.
Other fan conventions, such as Toronto Comicon or Anime North, have also grown in number and attendance in recent years, highlighting the continued rise of fandom culture.
This growth is also attracting new audiences, says Jamie Broadnax, founder and CEO of media publication Black Girl Nerds.
“We’re seeing more women, more black women, more people of color, in subcultural communities, from gaming to anime to cosplay,” she said.
Social media has made more people feel included and represented, Broadnax said, encouraging participation from those who may have felt discouraged from participating in fandom culture in the past.
“I even remember when I started Black Girl Nerds, that cosplaying different characters and anime was, like, taboo. So to see that being normalized in different cultures is amazing,” she said.
Social media has also given fan communities more visibility, Broadnax said, calling it “a huge catalyst that gives fans more of a say.”
An example of this is Zack Snyder’s Justice League. After Snyder walked away from the film in post-production, Warner Bros. changed Justice Leaguethe tone, displacing it from the director’s original intent. But fans used social media to sway the studio, which eventually released Snyder’s original cut online.
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“They were able to get Hollywood to make some changes, which I think is pretty phenomenal,” Broadnax said.
Fandom also carries over to the cast
However, Broadnax said, there are still issues to be resolved when it comes to representation in fan culture.
In particular, the people she calls “book purists or film purists”. This refers to fans wanting the cast of characters to remain similar at a very specific time, which often means they don’t want to see gender or race changes.
This has been seen in some backlash around the casting of certain characters, such as Death and Lucienne in Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of The Sand sellerReva Sevander in Obi Wan Kenobior Annabeth Chase in the next Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Actor and former Star Wars star John Boyega recently opened up about the racism he suffered after being cast as the black lead in the franchise.
And while fans like Broadnax say we’ve come a long way in the last 10 years, continuing to see these changes will go a long way – for current fans and fans to come.
“We need to reflect the world that looks like the world we live in – and that’s going to continue to happen.”
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