Although it might be the nation’s capital, Ottawa isn’t especially well-known for its big attractions. Compared to the neighboring cities of Montreal and Toronto, Ottawa’s does a fairly good job of living up to its reputation of being a sleepy government town. That being said, one thing I love about Ottawa is that when we do get a big event, everyone gets really excited about it. In Montreal, giant festivals are a dime a dozen, so for the most part, it always seems like the average person has no idea what’s going on in their city. This was the Ottawa Comiccon‘s second year running, which is pretty surprising when you consider that there were over 30 000 attendees. There are so few major festivals in Ottawa, that people who wouldn’t usually be interested in cons go because it’s one of the few major events available. For a con, the crowd is fairly casual, but that’s fine by me. Personally I just like to meet guests and buy merch, so I couldn’t care less about the “nerdiness level” of the average attendee.
Ottawa Comiccon 2013
Dates: May 10 – 12
Location: Ernst & Young Centre
Being that this is a sci-fi blog, I’m going to focus on the science fiction that was on offer. In terms of major guests, there were some pretty huge names from the world of sci-fi movies and television. Nathan Filion (Firefly), Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: NG), Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Michael Shanks (Stargate), James Marsters (Torchwood), Levar Burton (Star Trek: NG), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars), Jewel Staite (Firefly), and David Prowse (Star Wars) all made appearances. Actually, now that I see all the names together, that was a pretty damn killer lineup!Unfortunately, unless your name is Sigourney Weaver, I’m probably not going to pay $6o for an autograph… My friends and I were able to see the actors from nearby, but none of us paid to get up close and personal. That being said, at one point Billy Dee Williams left his booth and walked past us towards a cluster of vendors. According to one of my friends, Billy was pretty interested in a Bruce Lee t-shirt that was on display!
If there’s one bit of advice I would give to anyone who’s relatively new to conventions, try to avoid buying heavy stuff early in the day. I should’ve known better, but I ended up spending the majority of my cash in the first 10 minutes… There’s a vendor I’ve seen at several east coast cons that specializes in art books, most of which are Japanese. I almost stepped on the owner’s kid the moment I entered the booth. He had made a little home underneath one of the tables, and I nearly crushed the little guy. Personally, I love seeing kids at conventions. Thanks to my comic-collecting uncle, I used to be one of those con kids, so it’s always nice to see a healthy injection of new fans. Anyways, I ended up purchasing Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Watercolor Impressions, and an Arzach art book. Cumulatively the books must’ve weighed 60 pounds, which was way too much for my horribly out-of-shape body. To make matters worse, I didn’t bring a backpack or satchel, so I had to deal with plastic bags digging into my hands for several hours. Lesson number 2: if you plan to buy things, bring your own bag!
Continuing onwards, I got into a discussion with a guy who plans to start an Aliens USCM outfit in Ottawa, kind of like the Star Wars’ 501st Legion. I overheard him mentioning the new Neca series of Aliens figures, which is how the conversation started. He works at a local comic shop, so I’ve actually bumped into him once since then. If his endeavor ever happens, I’d love to be a part of it!
For once, I actually prepared a list of the guests that I wanted to meet. First on my list was Dave Ross, who penciled the Aliens: Xenogenesis comic, as well as many Star Wars comics. On the plus side, the lineup to meet artists are almost always nonexistent, on the downside, the number of people interested in meeting talented comic artists is mostly nonexistent… It’s a real shame, but there was essentially no one waiting to meet Dave Ross… He was a really nice guy and was happy to oblige me wanting to talk on and on about his work on Aliens. At one point, he mentioned that he had done a Darth Vader vs. Aliens commission for a fan, and told me that he’d love to work on a full version of this crossover. I’d hazard a guess that there’s a fairly large audience of people who’d love to see this happen. After talking to Dave for a while, I decided to ask him for an Aliens commission. His memory of the xenomorph’s details was pretty foggy (I don’t blame him), so I actually managed to find him a cheap set of Aliens figures to use as a reference. He ended up spending at least an hour and half on my piece, which I though was well worth the $60 price. Personally, I love how it turned it out! To me, it looks pretty similar to the cover of the Alien: The Illustrated Story from 1979. Obviously he had no idea what I was talking about.
Next on my list was Arthur Suydam, the well-known cover artist responsible for the Aliens: Genocide covers. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that his Aliens covers are easily some of the nicest renderings of the xen0morphs I’ve ever seen. I actually told Suydam that I thought his xenomorph depictions were second only to Giger’s. This was his exact response: “yes, I would agree with that”. I guess when you’re as talented as Suydam, there’s no point in being overly modest. It turns out he’s personal friends with Giger — there’s something ridiculously cool about being two degrees of separation from the legend. I asked Suydam if he could tell me anything about Giger that isn’t commonly known. The best response I got was: “well, he likes to get baked and make art.” No surprises there. I managed to get Suydam to autograph my copies of Aliens: Genocide, but not without having to purchase one of his (thankfully inexpensive) sketchbooks. Of everyone I met, he definitely seemed to revel the most in his fame, and although the lineup to meet him was basically 4 people, that was more than for any other artist.
The last artist on my list was Ben Templesmith, who some people might remember for the first Dead Space comic’s art. Templesmith was actually really fun to talk to, and definitely knows his sci-fi horror. In fact, he told me that he’d love to work on another sci-fi horror comic. He’s also got a great sense of humor, and wasn’t afraid to tell me what he thought of comic artists that charge for signatures *cough Suydam*. Apparently he got really well paid for his Dead Space work. As he explained to me, video game publishers like EA are able to flaunt a lot of money, and pay what he called “video game money”, which is much more than your average comic publisher. Pro tip from Ben Templesmith: if you want to make money in the world of comics, try to work on media tie-ins. Along with Dave Ross, he liked my Xenomorphosis t-shirt design, so he was an instant winner in my books! Also, free of charge, he drew the most adorable necromorph on my Dead Space trade!
Having met everyone on my list, and feeling pretty happy with myself, I nearly called it quits, that is until I saw Richard Starkings’ booth. Richard is respected for his innovative comic lettering, and recently made it big for writing the series Elephantment. I’ve never read the series, but I’ve always been really impressed by its incredible artwork, which often features some of the nicest coloring I’ve seen. Although I’m not usually interested in anthropomorphic animal characters, Elelphantment handles them tastefully, and has a really interesting sci-fi setting. Anyways, I ended up buying the first two trade paperbacks, which happen to have the nicest packaging and presentation I’ve ever seen in a trade. There are no less than 30-something pages of concept art at the back, and the pages are thick and glossy. It was money well spent, and Richard did some quick sketch signatures for me. Later that day, I read the forward in the first trade, which was written by none other than Dan Abnett. I personally consider Dan to be the best living military sci-fi writer. Apparently Dan used to work for Richard in the 80’s, which I wish I’d known when I was talking to Richard.
Overall, I had a great time at Ottawa Comiccon. Diehards might consider it a small appetizer to larger cons like Fan Expo, but I still had just as much fun as at any larger con. It’s really impressive to see what a huge show they put on, especially considering it’s only their second year in existence. No less than five years ago, I went to a comic convention in Ottawa that had maybe 1000 attendees, nearly all of which were purist comic collectors. To see such a massive con five years later, in Ottawa of all places, was pretty surreal. Even compared to last year, the quality has jumped noticeably. Anyways, I can’t wait to see the guest lineup for next year, and I might even apply for a press badge!