Toronto Comic-Con 2023

Feature: Could You Spare A Fand-Aid? Memories From Fan Expo

I’m taking a big breath in.

What you are about to read will be a complicated piece to write.

This past weekend was Fan Expo (see my round-up).

Fan Expo has been a quintessential part of my summers for the past few years.

The line in front of Sean Astin’s table in 2019 is vital to a significant relationship in my life. I promised the person I share that memory of Fan Expo with won’t go into too much detail, so I’ll say that not having them around for the show this weekend was a great sadness. And I want them to know that I missed them.

They inspire this feature, but it’s not for them. This one is for the community that stuck beside me this weekend — people who chose to include a guy who has always been an embarrassment at these events.

Who can’t remember that it’s generally frowned upon to swear in front of children? Me, that’s who.

I’m feeling not so fandom-less

To the uninitiated, Fan Expo can seem like an over-crowded flea market where people wear their “DCs Finest” instead of their “Sunday’s Best.”

It’s easy to see it as an obstacle to a Blue Jays game.

But those of us inside know it’s a family affair lasting four days — similar to how long a baseball series goes for these days. 

The truth of the matter is I’ve been missing someone. I’ve lost someone who was an essential part of my Fan Expo process. Someone who went through that process for me because they cared about me enough to participate in the panels they didn’t know a thing about. 

Someone willing to take the crush of the South Building escalator bottleneck despite having problems with people in their personal space.

It was hard hearing them tell me they only did it for me because that makes me feel like I’m selfish. And that I force people to take me at my personality, which, let’s be fair, is a lot to handle and primarily awkward in doing so.

Let’s be fair for just a second here. Fan Expo has a certain air of stress that you can sometimes feel. It often comes from parents who wish they were next door at the Blue Jays game, not at a Barbie meetup.

It comes from those who are there for the first time and have yet to learn there’s no sense in trying to do everything on the list. It comes from those stuck in a video game voice actor’s autograph line, surrounded by fans of the biggest anime worldwide. And you are happy to see people so excited to see this voice actor, but you only want to see them because of one game they played a small part in. 

It can be hard to escape that stress. But when you do, you find community.

Fan Expo reminds me that the idea of community extends well beyond stress and sadness. Fan Expo gathers those who celebrate everything that makes them happy. Even if it costs you what Frank Miller is charging for autographs these days or $500 spent on a Citizen Star Wars watch, that will replace my smart watch at events, or so I tell myself.

That’s back to being a thought about the bad; I’m sorry. You see, while other things led me to the low I felt going into the weekend, the idea that I let interests like gaming and collecting get in the way hurts somewhat the most.

I’ve been dragging someone to Fan Expos they didn’t want to go to. But we’ve had moments I’m sure we’ll both remember. We argued that the Friends couch we were sitting on looked nothing like the couch on the show. 

Or how we thought we could beat The Lord of the Rings cast at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

There are moments I remember this weekend. But it’s healing to see people doing it healthily, sharing it with friends, family and complete strangers.

Using these things as a form of connection, not a means to escape.

That’s a major flaw of mine. I feel the need to escape. Events like Fan Expo should never be an escape but more a coming together.  

Come together around me

In case it isn’t apparent yet, the highlight of this weekend for me was spending time in the company of those I get to call friends based upon the time we’ve shared over gaming or generally fanning around.

Walking the floor with them and getting to share in the booths they’ve worked on, watching their kids nail an Ezio cosplay or win a giant Squishmallow or stream brought joy and positive thoughts of these being possibilities that seem as though they aren’t parts of my life right now. Still, there’s the possibility they could be.

And that idea of what’s possible brings me to the crux of this feature. 

Can I get a Fand-Aid?

This feature serves as some thoughts on how this weekend at Fan Expo helped heal a great sadness in my life. But just like how the festival comes and goes, it’s time for me to… At least for a while.

You see, I’ve got some healing to do. I want to stop escaping and start coming together.

I want to be one of those people a journalist or influencer stops to admire, enjoying how happy they share the expo with friends and family.

I’m not there right now.

And the truth is, I’m still determining when I’ll be back.

I’m blowing into the cartridge. 

Flipping the system off and then on again.

I’ll be back.

But until then. 

Could you spare a Fand-Aid?