One meeting room hosted a conversation on how mathematics can be used to solve the dilemma of the zombie apocalypse. Down the hall, line ups formed for discussions on how to improve your steampunk cosplay and character. Further lines around the outside of the building ushered fans into the next celebrity Q&A.
The very idea of Ottawa Comiccon, in which hordes of people gather for three days to do nothing but dress in elaborate costumes and geek out over various media franchises, definitely raises an eyebrow or two from the random by-standards of the world. I can just imagine the dismay of OC Transpo drivers assigned to route 97 as a lovely warm spring day turned right back into Hallowe’en when costumed passengers boarded the bus. But to accurately describe the impact of an event such as Comiccon, I quote fan Daniel Harvey and his wife, Diana Rachlis: “there’s a lot of love here.”
As silly as it sounds, the couple were right. Every square inch of the convention centre was filled with the love of everything geek culture and the atmosphere reflected it. All while keeping the event feeling completely Ottawa born and bred.
Walking through the main exhibition hall of the EY Centre around noon on Saturday afternoon, you begin to realize that, for whatever reason, the celebrity guests (who adorn the headlines of promotional material as heavily as any given headliner for Bluesfest) become almost an afterthought. As much as I totally found myself wanting to indulge my inner 8-year-old tomboy and shake the hand of the original red Power Ranger, I began to find myself too busy combing through the millions of individual pieces of memorabilia and original art to ultimately care if I got to add to my list of people I’ve shaken hands with. Artists from far and wide were welcomed and were given just as much weight as the celebrity guests – in fact, the autograph lines where housed in the same room as 24 invited comic book artists and countless other illustrators, writers and crafters. These people love what they do and their work reflects their love.
Outside in the lobbies and hallways participants lined up to attend panel discussions centered on anything and everything relating to fan culture or the creation of fantasy creatures; and even some peripheral topics not necessarily thought of as something the geek community needs to discuss. One important discussion even focused on the promotion of cosplay and consent.
This panel, hosted by Hollaback Ottawa, touched on the issues surrounding inappropriate touching and outright harassment during these events. Representatives Julie Lalond and Jess Golden walked around the convention site all weekend dressed as Rosie Riveters to spread the message of consent and support for cosplay participants who felt in anyway threatened because of what they chose to wear to the event.
Having said all of that, it’s not like the idea of meeting the advertised guests never really leaves one’s mind. It’s not like the author of this particular review didn’t take some time to shake the hands of her favourite Star Trek alumni. But even with the heavy participation of such Hollywood types as Malcom McDowell, there was an unspoken desire to mix the fantasy world with our local sensibility.
Participants who purchased a VIP pass allowing them early admission were treated on Friday afternoon to an advanced tasting of HefeWheaton, the craft beer collaboration created specifically for Comiccon between Clocktower Brewmaster, Patrick Fiori and actor Wil Wheaton. A fan of craft brewing, Wheaton jumped on the chance to collaborate with Fiori specifically after sampling Clocktower’s range of brews during his previous visit to Ottawa in 2013.
Wheaton’s Star Trek: The Next Generation co-star Jonathan Frakes also got into local promoting when he tweeted his participation at Ottawa Comiccon followed by a photo of this landmark hotel asking his followers to identify where he was. Later, during his 45 minute question and answer presentation with Marina Sirtis (who played Deanna Troi on the Star Trek series), the 62-year-old actor and director spent the majority of the time answering his questions off the stage and among the audience members.
All in all, the 2015 edition of Comiccon left me feeling both energized by the power of people’s imagination to create and a sense that this geek culture trend – the one that fuels such big budget features as The Avengers and places franchises such as Doctor Who into mainstream dialogue – is one that can remain private and small for the Ottawa fans. This event isn’t the behemoth out in San Diego, nor is it just a small gathering of geeks who like comic books in a hotel conference room. It’s a thriving celebration of creativity and individuality that draws the greater Ottawa community as much as it draws geeks. And the love everyone puts into their participation however they see fit is just as important as the headliners.