Comic Conventions have evolved greatly since their inception in 1964. What was once a small get together of comic book fans has become an entertainment and fandom multi-day experience. The focus of conventions has changed, too. While the original intention to bring fans and nerds together is still there, often conventions are now focused on debuting new content and creating press for upcoming movies or projects. FanExpo Boston continues to stay true to the initial objective: this is a convention for fans, plain and simple.
FanExpo Boston took place from August 10 through August 12 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport district in Boston. The two and a half day event hosted over 55,000 attendees and featured over 40 creators from movies, television, animation, comics and more. Notable guests included Jeff Goldblum, William Shatner, Evangeline Lilly, Oliver and James Phelps, and a reunion of the Back to the Future cast including Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Tom Wilson and Christopher Lloyd. Panels took place throughout the three days where both moderators and audience members could the guests questions. Aside from purchasing autographs or photo-ops, this gave guests an opportunity to interact with the guests in a more direct way.
One celebrity guest at the convention was Mark Sheppard. His Q&A took place on Friday evening in one of the smaller panel rooms. For a while he spoke with the moderator, Devin Pike, about his family, his passions, and his work on Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and of course, Supernatural. Later in the panel, audience members lined up to ask questions about various shows he had worked on. (In fact, the end of the panel had come but Sheppard continued to answer everyone’s questions until the line ended.) You can find an almost complete live tweet of the panel here, but one moment that stood our was when an audience member asked for his thoughts on Jodie Whittaker about to take on the role of the new Doctor in Doctor Who. Before she could finish, Sheppard responded, “Fantastic. Wonderful. Should have been done a long time ago, but that’s not the point. The point is, we’ll see. We don’t judge people by their gender, we don’t judge people by their color, we judge people by whether they’re any bloody good at it,” to which the audience erupted in applause.
One of the more unique main stage panels took place on Sunday afternoon with Doctor Who and The Office actor Catherine Tate. Unlike other guests who sat on stage with a moderator, Tate walked around the theater and the stage, interacting with fans in a more freeform way. She began by walking down into the audience asking who had traveled the farthest to be at the panel – one fan answered Arkansas, one California, but the winners were two friends from Germany. She then went back onto the stage and took questions from audience members, prefacing that, “I know nothing about sci-fi, so just be prepared.” Fans asked questions about her time as Donna Noble on Doctor Who, her experience playing a rather disliked role on The Office, and her part in the recent short film, “Leading Lady Parts,” which satirized the entertainment industry’s expectations for women.
“Everyone was donating their services, from the actors to the runners to the writers and directors, we were all just doing it to be part of that little moment of time. And it was great! There was a great sense of camaraderie, it’s a very timely piece… I loved doing it. It was great fun working with brilliant people,” she said about the project. On a Sunday afternoon, she held an energetic panel that was much needed to close the convention out on a high.
The heart of the convention was the expo hall. At over 200,000 square feet, the expo hall was where vendors, artists, and a whole community of nerds were able to meet, explore, and express their passions. One way many did this was through cosplay. Cosplay, or the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, was abundant throughout the convention and featured characters from everything from Harry Potter to the Mario franchise to actual Iron Man suits. Many also came in group cosplays, such as attendee Kate and her dad, Matt, who came as Pennywise and Georgie from the Steven King novel and 2017 film, It. A first time attendee of any convention, Kate and her father focused their time on photo ops with guests such as William Shatner, Paul Reubens, and Brent Spiner, as well as shopping for comics:
“I’d never been to FanExpo before so I was excited to experience a convention for the first time. I brought my dad, who grew up surrounded by comics and especially loved the Tales to Astonish comics featuring the Hulk. I spent more money than planned so that we could have an absolutely incredible experience, which was more than worth it when I saw my dad’s face light up when we met Paul Reubens (who plays Pee-Wee Herman, long considered iconic by my dad). Beyond the photo ops, I especially loved the diversity in comic book availability, because there were so many different series and editions available to peruse. I was able to find some awesome buys that will last forever as incredible reminders of an awesome day.”
Check out some of the other amazing cosplay finds from the weekend here:
Artist’s Alley was particularly impressive, featuring painters, sculptors, and crafters, original and fan art. One artist was Karen Hallion, an illustrator who makes prints, magnets, stickers, and enamel pins on subjects from Hamilton to Star Wars to Firefly, and a series featuring Disney Princesses being whisked away in the TARDIS. Her next convention will be DragonCon from August 30 through September 3 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Another vendor at the convention was Tod Emko and his dog, Piggy. The real life Piggy is a three-legged therapy dog who sat behind the booth and allowed guests to pet him all day. But Piggy has a superhero alter ego which comes to life in the comic book, A Piggy’s Tale: The Adventures of a Three-Legged Super-Pup! The book is a fun read for all ages and proceeds from sales go directly to organizations that support veterinary clinics and education all around the world.
Overall, FanExpo Boston delivered on the four C’s of conventions: Celebrities, Cosplay, Comics (and other goodies to buy), and Community. It’s a big convention that feels small where everyone is welcome. It is well organized and well run, and other conventions should aspire to be at its level.