As many of you know, FAN EXPO Canada took place from August 24 – 27 this year in Toronto. We at TBU had the opportunity to cover the event on location for all 4 days. A special thank you to the folks at FAN EXPO Canada and at Touchwood PR for making that a reality. Our recap write-up coverage is a little delayed because I’ve been at a cottage in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception for the entire week following the convention, but in any case, what follows is a summary of my first experience covering the event.
It really felt like a celebration of all the things we, as fans, love.
For starters, as someone who attended all four days, I must say that I thought the convention as a whole was a success. It’s amazing how there are so many people filling the convention center and yet everyone is in such a good mood. It really felt like a celebration of all the things we, as fans, love. The first session I was able to attend was Thursday evening at the “Drawing DC’s Finest” panel with Sweeney Boo, Jahnoy Lindsay, Jamal Campbell, and Simone Di Meo. It was the first time I had seen these artists in person, and I was pleasantly surprised by how personable they all were. We heard a lot about their backgrounds, the inspiration for their art, their hopes for future projects, and how they approach the work they’re doing. Sweeney Boo and Simone Di Meo both took inspiration from a lot of European comics. Simone Di Meo mentioned his dream is to work on the main Batman title. Jamal Campbell said he prefers working on 3 to 4 issue story arcs and then doing something new; a point on which the other panelists were quick to add their agreement. The other inspiration that most panelists had in common were the DC Animated Universe shows from the 90’s and early 00’s.
Ken Lashley, A Charismatic Artist
The next panel I had the fortune of attending was the Ken Lashley spotlight on Friday afternoon. While he discussed his career with fans and answered questions, he drew a symbiote version of Ghost Rider live for us all to see. Lashley had probably the most charismatic aura of any panelist I listened to at the convention. He talked about his career and how fortunate he has been to work for so long on so many different books. However, in response to a fan question, he was also open about how he’s worked on many iconic characters, but not the definitive version of the character (ex: Flash but it’s not Barry Allen, Batman but it’s not Bruce Wayne).
Given the quality of his work and the longevity of his career, it’s hard to make a case that he doesn’t deserve the chance to do that at some point, and I certainly hope he gets the opportunity. He also commented on the pace artists are required to work at, even if it’s just cover work, and said he once did something like 14 covers in a month. Lashley was also incredibly open about the dynamic with editorial. He mentioned that he doesn’t take issue with editorial decisions and doesn’t feel responsible for educating them on what is best artistically. He also told a very cool story about the time he got to take his daughter to the Black Panther film premiere and sit with all the film stars. On the other hand, he told a very sad story of the time one of his Star Wars art pieces was featured on a TV talk show, and he was sitting with his family watching to see when they would mention his name. The talk show hosts never did credit the artist. Still, while that was an extremely sad moment, Lashley explained that’s why he never gets too high or too low in this business. As many of his fans are also no doubt aware of, Ken Lashley is a huge football fan, and he talked at length about the teams he’s coaching at the youth level. Incidentally, he was one of the coaches on my younger brother’s high school football team way back in the day.
On Saturday, I got to attend the Three Jokers panel with Jason Fabok (the artist) and Brad Anderson (the colorist). While the previous two panels allowed me to get to know the comics creators better and get some insight into their artistic background and process, this panel was focused on a singular book and gave the fans some behind-the-scenes look into how it was created. As with all the other previous panelists, Fabok and Anderson came off as very cool people to talk to and they were very forthcoming in discussing the book. Originally, Three Jokers was supposed to be the next story arc in the main Justice League series after “Darkseid War.” The initial version of the story included other characters like Nightwing and Harley Quinn, and Fabok had done character designs for all of them. The book itself also wasn’t announced properly as an editor leaked it beforehand. In his mind, Jason Fabok said that this story is in continuity, but also mentioned that Dan Didio was very against being definitive about it either way. There were also some changes made to the story from the original concept. The ending for Batman: Three Jokers #2 was changed because it was too controversial and creepy, although they declined to elaborate on what the original ending of that issue was. Batman: Three Jokers #3 was altered by editorial request, specifically the cinema scene, because it had some similarities with the ongoing “Joker War” story in the main Batman series.
On the topic of collaborating with writers, Fabok said that Geoff Johns was extremely inclusive of the artist in his approach. He mentioned that Johns would often call him in the morning and go through whichever page he was drawing at the time. Johns would often ask Fabok “what do you want to draw?” and whatever the answer was, it would find its way into the story later on. Fabok mentioned this approach was different from other writers such as Scott Snyder or Tom King, who usually deliver a script to the artist and ask them to draw it (he didn’t mean this as a criticism of those writers). He also mentioned that he often didn’t have a script for certain scenes for Three Jokers. Often he just had an instruction such as “Joker says something scary here to someone” and had to draw based on that.
Brad Anderson also gave us a fascinating look into his coloring process going through some of the pages and showing how the colors communicate, assist in the flow of the story, and craft a specific mood in each panel. Fabok mentioned that they had a clear idea for the sequel to this story, but he declined to elaborate on what it was. He did say that they’re working on something else right now, and if that is successful, he’s hopeful they’ll get to do their sequel idea. These are just a few highlights from the sessions, and I found them all to be very engaging and informative.
FAN EXPO Canada Offers Something For Everyone
I also had the fortune to attend a couple other sessions that were not DC-related. I went to the “Religion and Spirituality in Jujutsu Kaisen” session by a PhD student at York University (my undergrad alma mater), which was really well done. Then I also attended the “Star Wars High Republic 101” session on Saturday, which I found to be informative without the use of spoilers but which confirmed, sadly, that the High Republic era isn’t for me (I prefer everything from the Old Republic era up to the end of wherever the Filoni TV projects end). There were also a ton of great vendors and products on the sales floor. I was able to snag a few really cool, unique items that I don’t think you can get anywhere else, and there were some great deals on comic books. For example, I got a brand new hardcover copy of Wonder Woman: Historia, still in the plastic wrap, for $25 (regular retail price is $40). At the BMV booth, they had a deal where you could pick up 5 TPBs for $20. Artist Alley was filled with tons of great professional and independent artists. I was able to get the very friendly Jamal Campbell to sign a copy of Naomi Season 2 and picked up some cool Lord of the Rings and Spider-Verse prints at another booth. I didn’t get a chance to go through the gaming and e-sports areas, but from the looks of it, they were immensely popular with fans. For anyone who is fans of comic books, comic book characters, and anything science fiction & fantasy or anime related, I would recommend checking this event out next year (currently scheduled for Aug. 22-25, 2024). I hope to see you there in 2024!
Editor’s Note: We thank the team at Fan Expo HQ for allowing us to cover this year’s Fan Expo Canada and we look forward to working with them again.