Guided by Voices at Sasquatch, May 30 2011. Jade Dempsey photo

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Vancouver Fan Expo day one—recap

Batman and Batgirl prepare for Vancouver’s Fan Expo.

Recap – Fan Expo Vancouver day one, April 21 2012

– by Ryan Ingram

I admit it: during this week’s inuagural Fan Expo there was a moment when I doubted that Vancouver could handle its first big pop-culture convention.

It came shortly after entering the convention center Saturday morning, as I dodged through a giant crowd to line up for my pass. Immediately, I noticed that there wasn’t a single cosplayer in the line. And, even more staggeringly, there wasn’t a single backpack in sight.

As someone who has survived 15 tours of San Diego’s massive Comic-Con, the cardinal sin on any nerd festival is being caught without something to carry your loot in. Backpacks are a necessary staple for any comic book or fan convention, and this wasn’t a good sign that Vancouver could make it out of its first year of Fan Expo alive. It was all over before it even began.

“Fan Expo is over there,” said the lady politely, when I asked for my press pass, at the exact moment that I noticed I had been standing in line for some sort of health and wellness trade show that was also going on at the convention center – which also sort of explained the abundance of khakis.

Turning the corner, I picked up my (correct) pass, and made my way down to the expo floor, where it felt like I was back with my people; cosplayers posing for photos, a Batmobile sighting, and that skyscraper made out of nerd-referencing T-shirts that dots the landscape of every comic convention. And, of course, there were lots of backpacks.

Vancouver’s first Fan Expo looked to have all the proper ingredients.

There was also a booth that sold bathrobes emblazoned with Star Trek and Star Wars crests, as well as an impressive turnout of proton-pack wearing Ghostbusters enthusiasts. If there’s something wrong in your neighborhood, apparently the 604 area code is rife with people to call.

After taking a brief survey of the floor, I headed to one of the first panels of the day, for Continuum – a time-travel show set in Vancouver, that debuts later next month.

A lot of the cast was on hand for the mini-preview, including Rachel Nichols (Alias), and Tony Amendola (Stargate SG-1), as well as a couple of the show’s writers, and the show’s creator, Simon Barry.

Continuum’s Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster and Jennifer Spence.

A trailer-type clip set up the premise: Nichols’ character is a time-travelling cop that gets stuck in 2012, chasing down a crew of dangerous criminals from the year 2077. Slow-motion ass-kicking was also prominently featured in the trailer.

Amendola looks to be playing the spiritual leader of the time-terrorist cell, known as Liber8. And it was teased throughout the panel that although Nichols’ character is trying to capture the criminals, there may be some moral ambiguity around the criminals’ motivations.

There was also a mini-demonstration prior to the panel, with some planted audience members shouting, pretending to be from Liber8. And it was also revealed that they’ve wasted no time launching an alternate-reality game for the show, found here: liber8.com.

Barry said Continuum’s format will be a mix of sci-fi and procedural, and it’ll be interesting to see how the show executes some of the ideas discussed at the panel.

Continuum’s Tony Amendola and Erik Knudsen.

Continuum’s 2077 future is a world where corporations have taken over failing governments, and the West Coast has become a dominant player in the global scheme of things, with ocean levels rising in the East Coast. (It was also revealed that Vancouver’s coast is protected by a giant dam has been built across English Bay. However, in the future, there’s still no cure for the traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge.)

Barry also talked about how, although Vancouver will play itself, he’s not looking to create a “tourism board piece”, and that aside from Plaza of Nations playing the police precinct, he hopes the portrayal of 2012 Vancouver will be honest.

Filing out of the panel, I could see people still funneling into the convention down the escalator, and the walkways were getting increasingly congested for what would be a sell-out first day.

I ended my Fan Expo experience on a high note, walking around Artists Alley, talking to some of Vancouver’s comics creators and picking up some incredible stuff, including some Emily Carroll mini-comics, a couple of sweet prints by James Stokoe and Brandon Graham, and the newest collection of Robin Bougie’s Cinema Sewer. I also talked to David Boswell, creator of Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman about his early days, and Ed Brisson about his new book from Image Comics, as well Inkstuds’ Robin McConnel – and a bunch more awesome Vancouver comics people, which there is clearly no shortage of.

James Stokoe’s “drawing claw” that has been said to have driven even Chester Brown mad(der).

Day One of Fan Expo showed that you don’t need necessarily need to go to San Diego for a pop-culture convention that mixes comics, video games, television and cosplay. But you still need to bring a backpack.

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