Muslims go to Mecca, Jews go to the wall, Christians go to Bethlehem and once a year, Canada's geeks converge on Toronto's Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Fan Expo -- Canada's largest pop culture convention -- that combines comics, horror, sci-fi, anime and gaming all under the same roof.
This year's Fan Expo promises to be the biggest one yet. Not only does the convention boast the largest masquerade costume contest in Canada, where men and women bring their best fashionable interpretations of characters from each of the represented genres to the stage for prizes and bragging rights, but this year, they're bringing some serious celebrity heavyweights, including the father of the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee, and 'A History of Violence' director David Cronenberg. Oh, and did we mention Summer Glau, James Marsters, Ernest Borgnine and a cast reunion from the '60s-era 'Batman' TV series?
With so many stars in the same room, the floor may start to look like a living wax museum. But hob-nobbing with celebrities isn't the only thing Fan Expo has to offer. Read on for our picks for the best things to see and do.
To Be The Man, You Have to Meet 'The Man'
As the co-creator of the majority of Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers, Stan 'The Man' Lee is responsible for a large chunk of your childhood and your movie-watching habits in recent years. He is truly the big fish at this year's convention -- both Toronto mainstream comic book conventions, Fan Expo and Paradise, have been trying to get him to come to Canada for years. At 86 years old, he rarely travels to conventions outside of California, so this could truly be your only opportunity to meet him in person. His photo-ops are currently scheduled for Friday at 8PM and Saturday at 2PM, but we know the panel 'Spotlight On: The One and Only Stan Lee' in Room 107 will definitely give you a chance to pick his brain much longer. Of course, if you're one of the lucky ones who managed to score a ticket to the sold-out reception on Friday night, you don't need to worry about that. The competition is going to be heavy and if you get shut out, all we can offer is our interview with him -- sorry.
Meet an Award-Winning Master of Horror
David Cronenberg returns to his hometown as this year's guest of honor for the Festival of Fear, the horror offering at Fan Expo. His scary list of credits include the 1986 remake of the horror classic 'The Fly,' Stephen King's 'The Dead Zone' and more recently, the critically-acclaimed 'Eastern Promises' and a 'A History of Violence.' Cronenberg was also responsible for 'Crash' -- the 1996 thriller about people who get off on car accidents. His first autograph session happens at 12:30PM on Saturday in autograph area 18, and there's a photo-op later that day at 4PM. Personally, we recommend the scheduled Q&A an hour before at 3PM in Room 105, because how often do you get to quiz a Hollywood director on his films and his process? If that isn't enough, there are still tickets available for his VIP Reception at 7:30PM on Saturday night. Plus, he comes back on Sunday for a second autograph session in autograph area 18 at 1PM and a second photo-op at 3PM. A busy man, indeed.
Same Bat-Cast! Same Bat-Time!
This year's Expo presents a unique opportunity for any fan of the original 1966 'Batman' TV series. Not only are the dynamic duo of Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman and Robin, respectively) uniting for the weekend, but they've also brought along a member of the old rogues gallery -- Julie Newmar. Newmar played Catwoman for the first two seasons, before being replaced by Eartha Kitt in the third. Adam West has attended the Expo in the past, but this is the first time he will be joined by his former cohorts.
At 8PM on Friday it's "Holy Photo-op Batman!" featuring the former boy wonder Burt Ward, who is known nowadays for his work rescuing dogs. The true treat will be watching all three of them reminisce during the 'Back to the Batcave' panel on Saturday at 2PM in Room 107. You can also get your picture taken with both Batman and Robin in front of the Batmobile at various points during the weekend, including 6PM on Saturday and 1PM on Sunday. For those of you who think a photo with Julie Newmar would be purrrfect, you'll get your chance at 4PM on Saturday and 4:30PM on Sunday. Those in the know have already figured out there's a screening of the full-length 1966 Batman movie at Toronto Underground Cinema on Friday. Doors open at 7PM, the film starts at 8PM, and there will be a Q&A with Adam West after the movie. Tickets are $25 at the door and $20 in advance.
'TRON: Legacy' Sneak Peek
Disney is bringing a sneak peek of the 'TRON' sequel to the convention centre's John Bassett Theatre almost 30 years after the original film hit screens. So far, we know that Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn, but this time his son goes back into TRON's signature world in search of his father. What guests will see has been kept under wraps, but it promises to be in full-blown 3-D. We've also heard rumours that star Bruce Boxleitner will be appearing at the TRON booth. The event happens at 12PM on Saturday and just like last year, Disney is also bringing props from the movie, but this time with a new preview of the TRON video game. We bet our love of the '80s that a TRONcycle will be on hand.
Rub Shoulders with Hollywood Icons
Two of Hollywood's longest-serving legends will be on hand signing autographs and posing for pictures. Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen, known for his roles in 'Airplane!' and 'Dracula: Dead and Loving It' (among many other titles), will join Oscar-winning icon Ernest Borgnine on the convention floor. Both men are hosting their own separate Q&A sessions (Neilsen: Friday at 6PM in room 105; Borgnine: Sunday at 3PM in room 206C) and various photo-ops throughout the weekend. It's guaranteed that both these guys could talk your ear off about the good old days, so we suggest you make an effort to say hi.
Pay Attention, You Might Learn Something
The Fan Expo isn't just about autograph sessions and photo-ops. There are also plenty of opportunities to get schooled. Lectures for this year include Voice Acting 101 with Jamie Marchi and Vic Mignogna, a Toe Tag FX Workshop that introduces how they do the special effects used on cadavers in 'CSI,' and the role of writers and producers in video games. If you've ever wanted to break into the comic book industry as a writer or an artist, this is definitely the place to be. Various lectures are offered on how to draw superheroes, how to write comics and just generally how to make your work stand out to the pros. You'll even learn what the bigwigs are planning at Marvel and DC while getting sneak peeks on upcoming projects and movies like 'The Avengers.'
Rock and Roll All Night and Party Everyday
The 2010 Fan Expo is distinctive in its use of clubs and other venues off-site. James Marsters, who played Spike in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is bringing his skills as a musician to the convention centre on Saturday night at 9PM in Room #206C. There are also the two VIP receptions, the Steampunk Costume Contest and Meet and Greet, plus the Horror in the Hammer Mixer hosted by the Festival of Fear. There are plenty of opportunities to get your drink on, eat some food and chat up that girl dressed as Sailor Moon you saw in the signing line earlier.
For our Fan Expo day-to-day coverage (Friday August 27 - Sunday August 29), visit TV Squad.
For more information and the rest of the Fan Expo schedule with updates and cancellations right through the weekend, please visit www.fanexpocanada.com.