Murtz On The Scene: Fan Expo Canada 2014 Review

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Fan Expo Canada took over Toronto’s Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend and the result was the arrival of many celebrities (who can now just extend their stays in Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival next week), cosplay babes and costumed nerds just about everywhere, and an event that ran much smoother than in previous years.

For its special year, organizers of ‘ComicCon North’ returned the festival back to its roots, eliminating last year’s sports pavilion and honing in on what made the event what it is today. Comics, cosplay, and celebrities.

The funny thing about Fan Expo is that fans really are there for different things. Some spend their time searching for the comic that will complete their collection. Others fork over cash in order to get a photo with their favourite star. Some just like the attention of dressing up. It’s the show’s ability to cater to all these interests that make it Toronto’s only must-stop event of the summer.

In that vein, my highlights will probably differ from everyone else’s but here they are just the same.

1. Hulk Hogan Interview

For those of you that know me, you know that I have been chasing an interview with Hulk Hogan for nearly half my life. In 1990 when I was 10 years old, I saw Hogan wrestle the late Ultimate Warrior at the SkyDome at Wrestlemania 6 with my dad. In 2002, I purchased a ringside seat for Wrestlemania 18, painted my body half red and half yellow and held a Hogan Is God sign for the entire four-hour PPV (which you can see if you rent the DVD). Last year, I talked to Hogan over the phone prior to the Expo but still missed the thrill of interviewing him on-camera.

This year, that changed.

After his autograph signing on Friday, I had the chance to catch up with Hogan and the interview is not only the highlight of this year’s Fan Expo for me, but definitely the single most important moment of my career. Stay tuned to Pulse Wrestling for the video. As an advance tease, I can tell you that we spoke about a variety of topics including John Cena rise to the top of the company and the division that has created within the WWE Universe.

2. The Walking Dead Panel

The Walking Dead panel is always the most popular event at the Expo and this year was no different. Featuring David Morrissey (the Governor), Michael Rooker (Merle Dixon), Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Danai Gurira (Michonne) and Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene), the panel filled Constitution Hall at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to capacity.

While the cast kept mum about the new season, both Lauren Cohan and Norman Reedus addressed the rampant speculation about their characters. While Cohan didn’t confirm that Maggie would be pregnant in the upcoming season, she did acknowledge that the comic version of character was with child at this point in the timeline. For his part, Reedus didn’t confirm that his character, Daryl, would come out of the closet in Season 5 but did admit that he had heard the gossip about it.

3. Stephen Amell Panel

Arrow‘s Stephen Amell held court at a scintillating Sunday session where he openly discussed the show’s upcoming third season. He said that he was not interested in playing Arrow on any of the movie adaptations of the series and addressed the blossoming romance between Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak.

He also told a great story about how Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal mastermind Shonda Rhimes gave him his big break by casting him on Private Practice. He said that the executive producer had already decided he had landed the part but called him in for a callback just to make sure he wasn’t “an a**hole.”

4. Cosplay

The cosplayers were one of the main attractions at this year’s Expo.

Jessica Nigri’s table had what seemed like an omnipresent line-up on both Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday, the American cosplay celebrity and model mysteriously pulled out of her scheduled appearance and Q & A session. On the Expo’s official Twitter account, information about her cancelled appearance was scarce, but Nigri later took to her Facebook page to explain why she left early.

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In addition to Nigri, LeeAnna Vamp was also in attendance. The host of I Love Nerd Girls and Fiends Forever also made a big splash at the convention appearing all weekend in various costumes.

I also had a chance to have a quick chat with CanadaCosplay.com designer Kay Pike who said that it was her first time at the Expo.

5. Napoleon Dynamite Panel

Friday’s Napoleon Dynamite panel was, in a word, hysterical.

Seeing Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez together again brought back all the memories of the classic 2004 film and it’s almost surreal to think that the movie came out a decade ago.

 

With regard to the Expo itself, the organization was definitely better than in previous iterations.

Perhaps the biggest improvement were the photo opp lines. Clearly marked and easily accessible, the extra space in the line-ups allowed fans to get the photos that they needed quite quickly this year.

Another aspect where the Expo improved was in the coordination of the celebrity panels. When one panel ended, volunteers ensured that the room was cleared before the next group was allowed in allowing everyone a fair opportunity to see the panel that they most desired.

It is also important to note that the Canadian productions, often ignored at Fan Expo events of yesteryear, were now one of the event’s most popular attractions. The Murdoch Mysteries, Bitten, Z Nation, Lost Girl and The Killjoys all featured some of the biggest crowds of the weekend which was actually quite encouraging.

And just like that, the four-day extravaganza is over.

Stay tuned to Inside Pulse for my video interviews with The Walking Dead‘s David Morrissey, WWE Hall of Fame Divas Trish Status and Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas, Napoleon Dynamite‘s Efren Ramirez and, of course, Hulk Hogan.

Title Photo Credit: Ian ‘Flash’ Jennings

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