Great for comic fandom lovers and geek celebrity chasers. Not that much to offer for Otakus.
Every year in March the Greater Toronto Area is treated to Toronto ComiCon, a convention that not only appeals to comic fans, but also to Anime and video game cosplayers. To sum it up, it’s a decent convention for cosplayers who can’t wait until Anime North, but only if you’re there for specific reasons. And I’ll explain why. I’m not much of a comic book guy, so this mini-review will be from the perspective of an Otaku wondering if you should go or not.
Toronto ComiCon feels like a small convention, but in reality it’s a pretty big event; it takes up half of the convention centre. When I attended on Saturday, it was fairly crowded. And I imagine it’s only going to get bigger in future years.
So if you’re a cosplayer who’s more into Anime and video games, you’re probably wondering: Is it worth buying and attending this event? Yes and no. Much like the name implies, Toronto ComiCon is geared towards comic fans. For an Anime and video game fan like myself, there wasn’t much appeal to me and the ticket price is relatively high. In my opinion, if you’re not into comic book or sci-fi fandom, you should only attend if:
-You need an indoor venue to do cosplay photoshoots
-You want to hangout with your cosplay friends
-You plan to buy or sell items in the dealer’s room
Between Anime Shogatsu in January and Anime North in May is a four month wait for an Anime convention. So Toronto ComiCon is a perfect opportunity to do any of those three things without waiting so long.
Now let’s see what this con had to offer:
Guests: As usual, Toronto ComiCon/Fan Expo is full of big name and popular guests. If you check out that link, you can see they had a ton of guests. And this isn’t even their flagship event! Surprisingly, the event featured many cosplay guests as well. Unfortunately, getting up close and personal with some of these guests is pretty damn expensive. I clicked on the first guest on that list, Mitch Pileggi – $95 for a photo and autograph with him! I suppose it’s standard these days to pay to see the guests, but I sure as hell know I wouldn’t pay that much.
Photoshoot Opportunities: This is a HUGE reason why cosplayers pay for a ticket to Toronto ComiCon (or LobbyCon). The event is a great opportunity to take free indoor cosplay photos in the middle of March. That means not having to go outside and freeze your butt off in Toronto winter weather, or paying large amounts of money for an indoor venue. If you were to do a photoshoot around the convention centre at any other time, security would probably kick you out. But during Toronto ComiCon, they’re very lax about photographers setting up for photoshoots around the venue.
As for the location itself, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is a great place to take photos. When I was there on Saturday, I noticed a bunch of cosplayers and photographers doing their shoots on the “sky bridges.” They’re pretty much an enclosed elevated bridge that connects one building to another. I wish I took some photos of these locations, but I’d imagine they were popular because the bridges provided natural light for photos, as well as providing vague scenery that could be used for any character. The convention centre is surrounded by skyscrapers, so shooting outdoors could make for good backgrounds, even though it’s still kind of chilly here in Toronto right now. I wouldn’t recommend doing a shoot inside the convention centre itself; the hallways are far too crowded. But overall, Toronto ComiCon provides cosplayers and photographers an opportunity for photos, all for a price of a pass (or at least I hope). Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until Anime North or for warmer weather until you can shoot again.
Programming: Don’t expect the programming at Toronto ComiCon to be as expansive as an Anime convention. There aren’t too many panels to see, other than QA sessions with the guests. I suppose if you’re really into the guests, then you may be satisfied with what the con had to offer in terms of programming.
Atmosphere: Definitely a trade-show atmosphere with lots of attendees walking around the convention and buying things at the dealer’s room. It’s not like an Anime convention where people sit and mingle together. I feel like the event is less conducive to socializing, unless you already know people at the convention. For instance, I knew a bunch of cosplayers at the event, so I was able to hangout with them at times. If I didn’t know anybody, I’d feel I wouldn’t be able to socialize as much. That being said, the atmosphere at Toronto ComiCon is perfect if you have a family. I’m sure as a parent, your kids would enjoy seeing all the superhero cosplays!
Value: I’m on the fence with this. If you look at the price passes, they’re very expensive. $55 for the 3-day weekend. If you’re an Otaku like me, you might think, “$55 to go in a dealer’s room.” Not only that, don’t forget you have to pay extra for an autograph and photo with a celebrity guest ($55 and $45 respectively). So in total, you’re looking at $150 for a John Hancock and quick photo snap with your favourite comic celebrity. That’s almost as much as 3-day pass for a top 10 Anime convention. If you’re not into the fandom, it’s not going to be worth the money in my opinion. They do however, offer discounts for family and child passes. So if you have a family, it could be worth the money.
Hotel Options: I didn’t even know Toronto ComiCon had hotel options until I checked out their page. They were surprisingly pretty good deals; two downtown hotels right beside the convention for under $150 CAD/night is a steal. Now the bigger question is if you need or should get a hotel. I’d imagine a lot of people didn’t do so. For one, the convention wasn’t open very late; on Friday they closed at 9 p.m. and on Saturday they closed at 7 p.m. Except for a dance party on Friday night, there’s nothing to do in the evening to justify staying late in Toronto. Secondly, the convention is located right beside Union station and the Gardiner Expressway, both a major transportation hub. So it’s easy to get there and back if you live in Toronto. So if you live in the city, there’s not much reason to stay at a hotel for ComiCon. But if you live far from Toronto and wanted a weekend getaway in Toronto, then the hotel discount is a great deal!
Verdict: Despite the high price tag to attend, Toronto ComiCon is a decent convention if you’re either into comic fandom or really want to see the guests and pay for them. As mentioned before, it’s also worth attending if you want to get some photoshoots done, you want to buy or sell items or you want to meet up with friends you haven’t seen since the last convention. If none of the above applies to you however, then you’ll want to skip out on this convention and wait for Anime North or Fan Expo.
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