The weekend of 11 and 12 September saw Montreal’s Place Bonaventure become ground zero for all things geeky. Comics, comic artists, comic writers, comic lovers, comic book characters, toys, a certain DeLorean and a few actors from some of our most enduring sci-fi franchises were all in attendance and on display. And that was just in the main areas. There was also a dedicated presentation room for screenings, a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament, panel discussions, superhero wrestling and of course, a masquerade.
Presentation room guests included comicsphere icons like Larry Hama and herb Trimpe, the cast of the Quebecois French-dubbed Simpsons and French visionary graphic novelist Barbara Canepa. Outside in the main area, a dedicated area served as HQ for autograph signings by Billy Dee Williams and Brent Spiner, as well as Peter Mayhew and Maria de Aragon, both of whom are mostly famous for the masks they wore in Star Wars (Chewbacca and Greedo, respectively). Adjacent to the signing booths, Back to the Future fans could get their pictures taken at the wheel of the film’s time-travelling car to support the Michael J Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s research.
It’s hard to imagine just how much money changes hands at events like these, but it’s clear that geekdom — or the sci-fi support industry, if you will — is big business. At the event, an original Millennium Falcon toy from 1978 (the one with the opening cockpit and the removable upper hull plate) could be had at the Les Collections Marsh kiosk for about $80 to $100, depending on its condition, while an original TIE fighter toy started at $25. From there, prices went steadily higher as one moved through the kiosks and the merch on offer. But, though the main aim of anyone who opens a kiosk at a con is to do a brisk business, the fact is that everyone there, from the costumed attendees to the artists and sellers, had one thing in common: a real, honest love of comics.
It was interesting to note that the event was heavily steeped in Star Wars swag and fans, whereas Star Trek uniforms were few and far between. At one point, a convention like this would have been full of Klingons rather than Stormtroopers. It’s possible that these things are cyclical, and that a Comic Con in the near future will be chock full of Romulans and scantily-clad Orion Slave Girls again. It’s also possible that Lucas’s insistence on respecting canon is reaping rewards, while the Star Trek franchisers’ habit of dancing on canon’s face and stealing its toys has finally pushed away the Trekkers. Or maybe a sci-fi con would show more Kirks and Vulcans than a Comic Con. Either way, these conventions tend to fill up fast with fans dressed up in what essentially amounts to some of the most expensive and well-made Halowe’en costumes known to man.