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Fan Expo Vancouver Recap: Cosplay, Twisted Toonz, Personal Growth, And More!

Monday 13th November 2017 by Mikaela Maxwell

Since meeting Derek, I’ve heard a myriad of tales of the wonders of the convention world, especially his years at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). It’s always seemed so neat to me; so many new things being demonstrated, new experiences to be had, SO much magical art, and a huge variety of people dressing up as their favourite characters. Listening to Derek talk about all the incredible games he has tried (long before they’d been released to the public), experiences he has been immersed in, and cosplay, all the cosplay… I knew I had to give this a try for myself.

This is surprisingly not my first convention! Well actually Fan Expo Vancouver was, in 2016. Last year Derek and I took his Dad (Rob) to Fan Expo Vancouver for the weekend. Now usually Derek, Rob, and I hanging out equates to me asking what everyone wants to do, everyone refusing to make a decision, and then me throwing my hands in the air and creating an impromptu itinerary to keep us busy. So that weekend together was a bit of a change as we were 100% out of my element, and I was going eagerly into their territory of geek fandom. EEP!

Fan Expo Vancouver 2016 was a great weekend. I was a little bit shocked by the number of people, and lack of breathing room (which I still hear is nothing compared to SDCC, or even Seattle’s Emerald City Comic-Con), but adjusted to that pretty quickly (who needs personal space?!). I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone, but super proud of myself for sticking it out. I wanted to look at every single booth, which meant I was forced to talk to vendors, and this turned out to be great. I met local artists and talked to people about their passion projects. I found an artist that I really liked and bought his whole series of comics along with a custom cover that features Eleven from Stranger Things. Someone helped me pick a few new graphic novels (I think that’s what they were, you know the ones where it’s like a comic book but way more pages and like real book covers) based on artwork I liked and previous books from Derek’s collection that I had enjoyed. I wish I could remember the name of that booth – that guy was super helpful, and made me feel like I wasn’t a total loser for being totally unsure of myself in the situation. I even bought a physical copy of the best comic that I’ve read so far called Wytches, a book I had already read the digital version of but wanted the physical one cause it is my favourite art. I literally have a Wytches Mondo print (from good ‘ol SDCC) hanging in our entry way so it’s the first thing you see when walking into our house.

For me the most notable aspect of Fan Expo Vancouver 2016 was the cosplay! The cosplay was REMARKABLE. I could not believe the intricacy, detail, and sheer size of these amazing costumes. As a person whose favourite holiday is Halloween, who wants every party to be a costume party, and who uses any excuse to wear a moustache… I guess its not really surprising that this was the most exciting part for me. I remember walking down a hallway and literally not being able to look straight ahead of me, I was rubber necking all over the place. On all sides there were people wearing the most amazing outfits. Some were riding solo, others were in groups, there were adults and kids and men and women, all just putting so much energy into expressing themselves through the recreation of so many different characters. I have never in my life asked the question ‘What is that one?’ so many times. Derek spent most of that weekend whispering character names into my ear, and then having to explain their backstory as I had no idea who they were most of the time anyways. It. Was. Great.

Old school Mika Moustache

We were also able to sit in on a couple of how-to Cosplay panels, which were soooo interesting. My favourite was listening to Andy Rae go through the basics of how she came up with, designed, and created one of her cosplay characters (I believe it was like a badass Snow White). I came away from Fan Expo Vancouver 2016 feeling totally inspired and freaking stoked about this new world I had stumbled into. I wish I could say I had my own cosplay put together this year, but I still haven’t found the courage/money/artistic-excellence required to make it happen… yet.

Needless to say, this year I couldn’t wait to see the cosplay, and Fan Expo 2017 did not disappoint! Literally on the sky-train down to the convention centre a family of four got on with a tiny Batman and the most legit tiny Wonder Woman I have ever seen. My heart melted and I got so excited!

Now let me paint the picture a little for you. Fan Expo is a Friday to Sunday event. I didn’t get to go on Friday as I had to work night shifts on Thursday and Friday night, so during the day on Friday while Derek was there to kick off the start of the event, I was tossing and turning trying not to think about it so I could get a good nigh… day’s sleep. This also meant that I got home from work at 8:15 on Saturday morning and needed to power nap and paint my face with makeup so I could hopefully trick people into thinking I was a normal human and not a night shift zombie (dang I am just realizing now I shoulda just gone as the zombie #MissedOpportunity). Normally any of the days surrounding night shifts are off limits. I know that I need sleep to be able to function on a normal human level, but the situation could not be helped, and there was no way I was missing out on any more of this convention than absolutely necessary. So, with the help of a little caffeine, we ventured out and managed to get there by noon!

The first thing we did (other than gawk at the amazing cosplayers all around us) was go to a Q&A panel with Nolan North (voice actor of Nathan Drake from Uncharted among a million other things) and Troy Baker (voice actor of Nathan Drake’s brother Sam Drake from Uncharted 4, among a million other things). Side note: Holy crap I just remembered those things all by myself, like literally out of my head, and actually know what I am referring to and their relevance!

Luckily I had watched Derek play Uncharted 4 for a while so I actually kinda knew what we were getting into and why we cared. That game is beautiful, and looks like so much fun (regardless of what Shane thinks)! It would likely take a little too much coordination for me to play at this point, as you can tell from my gaming experience detailed in my Super Mario Odyssey piece. It turns out these guys have voice acted as soo many characters in sooo many different franchises. It also turns out that they are hilarious.

Nolan and Troy walked into the packed Meeting Room 2, stating that they weren’t a big enough deal to get slotted into Meeting Room 1, and away we went. They were briefly introduced and right away launched into questions from the audience. It was super neat to hear lots of different types of questions from people who were clearly huge fans of these guys. It was also neat to see them call out some of the fans to show off their great cosplay. The guys played off of each other really well, and you could tell they were friends and really enjoyed working together. They had the room cracking up with almost every question asked, no matter what the topic. Now I don’t remember most of the specifics, it turns out that inspirational quote about how people don’t remember what you said but how you made them feel… whelp, it’s totally true. The two things that stand out in my mind about this panel, aside from feeling genuinely entertained the whole time, were: when I almost cried, and that it turns out I didn’t actually know how video games were made… like at all.

I did not expect to get emotional listening to some guys talk about how they were the voice for animated characters. Yeah, I was wrong. There was a question about one of the characters Troy has voiced, regarding something to do with how the character had been received (I believe the character was Kanji from the Persona series). Of course I know nothing about what this person was referring to, or the exact words of Troy’s response, but it was something along the lines of the power of accepting yourself and your sexuality and embracing your unique qualities etc. etc…. I was blown away that in the midst of having no idea what these people were talking about I could be so moved by someone’s attitude towards peoples’ rights to their bodies and the beauty of being your genuine self.

Also I don’t really understand why they are called ‘Voice Actors’. Like I get that they are the voice of the character, but I didn’t know that they are actually the body of the character as well?! My mind was serious amounts of blown. I’ll explain my vague understanding, just in case there is anyone else out there who has been living under a rock like I have. These guys legit broke it down for us. Turns out when the character is running, jumping, turning their head, crouching, falling, being thrown by an explosion, basically doing anything in the game, this is ALL actually done by the “voice” actor (or sometimes a stunt person). The actor will don one of those green suits with all the electrodes or something built in, and be placed in a big open room, then recorded from a million different cameras to capture every angle. Then they do all of these moves in this open space, and the animated character will be adapted to their body movements for the game. MIND BLOWN. Now that I am typing it out, it makes sense, it’s just like any CG movie effect. But somehow, I had never connected the dots that they would use the same technology for video games. I literally thought it was like an animated movie… wait is this how Pixar makes their movies too? Oh god I don’t know what’s real anymore.

We then went into my most anticipated panel of the entire event, the Celebrity Cosplayer Panel with LeeAnna Vamp, Holly Wolf, Karli Woods, and Riki Lecotey. I’ve gotta say that their Cosplay was definitely on point. I even knew who most of them were dressed up as! There was a bad ass Lady Beetle Juice and Lydia Deetz; this combo was definitely one of my top five for the expo, but I sadly didn’t get a picture. As well there was someone from X-Men (Derek says it was Rogue), and I’m not really sure what Riki was cause she is tiny and I could barely see her, but her top hat was pretty rad and apparently she rehabilitates baby squirrels in her real life, so I’m officially a big fan. They went on to discuss the basics of what it takes to use social media effectively as a professional cosplayer. There was a lot of information shared, but the biggest tips I remember are: to use whatever the newest feature is on that network (ie: Instagram’s stories, Facebook Live etc.), don’t put text on your Facebook photos cause they will get buried, and don’t put a link to another social network in your Facebook post, instead put it in the comments so again Facebook is less likely to bury it.

Once they were done with social media talk, there were just three minutes left for the audience to ask question (waah-waah). A few questions were asked, most noteably one about how someone who isn’t skinny can make it in a world where most of the higher profile women fit into the thin-waist-big-boobs category. And the answer was a solid inspirational quote type of situation. All in all, I feel like I would have appreciated a lot more of the how-to type of panel in relation to the physical costumes, but I can definitely see the value in knowing the ins and outs of using social media (especially if you’re already cosplaying and not just looking to get into it).

Going into this weekend, the big Geekscape project that I wanted to do involved taking pictures of cosplayers and interviewing them about cosplay generally. However, walking into the chaos of Saturday on almost zero sleep and even less confidence I definitely lost my nerve. I wandered around staring at all these amazing creations and passionate people, and basically just shrivelled up inside myself.

I took one picture all of Saturday (of an amazing Jupiter Jones cosplay). I got up the nerve to ask her a few questions, as soon as we started talking I immediately forgot how words worked and forgot the short list of questions I had prepared. Luckily for me she was super approachable and really excited to talk about her look. It also turns out she is a nurse (like me) and so we got to chat about that a bit too. I felt good about this interaction, but still totally self-conscious and awkward.

We then went to a panel called Twisted Toonz where a few voice actors Maurice LaMarche (The Brain), Rob Paulsen (Pinky), Jennifer Hale (Lady Shepherd from Mass Effect), Troy Baker, Nolan North & Veronica Taylor (Ash from Pokémon) were assigned various well known characters/celebrities to impersonate while reading scenes from The Princess Bride. It was pretty freaking hilarious. I spent most the time not being able to follow what was happening, but cracking up at their impressive impersonations.

Going into Sunday morning I knew if I wanted to earn my right to represent Geekscape, and walk away feeling satisfied with having pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I needed to step up my game.

I’m happy to report: I did it!

Sunday morning we arrived and hung out in the lobby for a while allowing me to approach people and talk to them about their cosplay. After a while I found my footing and got in the groove of it. Not once did I remember all of the questions I wanted to ask, but was able to get varying little bits of insight from everyone. It was super interesting to hear about how people got into it and what inspires them to do cosplay. I ended up talking to a lot of people who were cosplaying for the first time, which was pretty neat. I also get to talk to a guy dressed as the guitar guy from Mad Max: Fury Road, which is one of my all-time favourite movies. It was pretty neat – I won’t go into detail here, but hopefully I can get that article up in the next few days!

We went to Sketch Duel between Jae Lee and Eric Vedder, which was kind of a big deal. They were given a character (someone from Game of Thrones whose name I don’t remember) (editor’s note: Daenerys) with a modification (zombie) and each had to do their version of it while the audience sat there and asked them questions. It was pretty neat, and totally crazy that these people can just sit there chatting AND creating amazing art like it’s just no thing. The best part was at the end audience members got to win the sketches! (I was one number away from winning and just a little bit bitter about it).

Next up was a panel with the cast of iZombie, which Derek is super into and I have yet to actually watch even though it’s on Netflix (oops!). It was also pretty entertaining. I don’t remember anyone’s names, but they all played off of each other very well and were super into engaging with the crowd for the Q&A. The best part was when everyone sang Happy Birthday to one of the guys, and then at the end Rose McIver (the main character of the show) got all the people who were dressed in her character, Liv Moore, cosplay to come up on stage for a group photo. There were so many. It was great.

We then spent the rest of the day walking the floor, talking to artists, talking to cosplayers, taking pictures of people, and looking at all the things. Derek surprised me with a painting he bought for me while I was caught up in conversation with someone (the artist has an amazing Etsy shop here). We legimately did not leave until the show floor closed.

All in all it was a great weekend. There was so much packed into these two short days, and I walked away once again feeling inspired and excited about so many new things. I am so proud of myself for finding my lady balls and talking to all the people. I felt awkard and scared and I did it anyways… and I think it turned out pretty well. I gotta give a shout out to Derek for totally supporting me in embracing this and opening his Geekscape arms to me; as well as reminding me that I am awesome when I wanted to run away from everything. I am really looking forward to putting together my piece about cosplayers, and hope that you are too!

Wow. That was a lot of things to talk about. If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read about my experience! I had a great time and can’t wait for the next convention!

Shout out to the photo-bomber in the background.