Talking with Fan Expo Canada's Kevin Boyd

Considered the third largest multi-genre fan convention in North America, Fan Expo is set to return to the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto, Canada August 28-30.

Undoubtedly, the focal point of the weekend is the Comic Book Expo, which has traditionally landed some of the biggest names in the industry since its inception in 1995. And 2009 is no different. Previously announced guests include heavy hitters like Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and superstar artists Ethan Van Sciver ("The Flash: Rebirth") and Mike Deodato ("Dark Avengers").

In an interview with Comic Book Expo Event Coordinator Kevin Boyd, CBR News learned even more big name talent has been added to the guest list including fan favorites Chris Bachalo ("New Avengers") and Georges Jeanty ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8," "Manhunter") and legendary DC artist and editor Dick Giordano ("Batman," "Green Lantern/Green Arrow").

CBR: Back in 1995, Fan Expo existed as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo and approximately 1,500 fans attended. In 2008, Fan Expo Canada welcomed over 47,000 attendees. Are there that many more comic book fans in Toronto now?

Kevin Boyd: With any show, of course, word of mouth and advertising increase attendance incrementally, and we are talking about a 15-year period in which the Comic Book Expo has grown to become one of the top three shows of the convention season, attracting comic book fans from all over the world, not just local fans.

On top of that, the show has added additional shows to the overall umbrella framework of what is now called Fan Expo Canada - from the addition of the Sci-Fi Expo, the Anime Expo, the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear and finally, the Gaming Expo. Each of those events brings new attendees to Fan Expo.

To what do you attribute the tremendous growth to over the past decade?

I see it as a number of different factors coming into play. First, the Fan Expo Canada has had, year after year, the top comic book creators and media guests in the business. Second, it has remained consistent in time of year, late August, and location, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and continued to build on that foundation. People know when and where it is every year. Third, the addition of the other genre shows attracts a lot of new fans to Fan Expo each year. Finally, Toronto has continued to grow as one of North America's top entertainment destinations, not to mention we have one of the largest and most vibrant comics communities around so Fan Expo Canada is their chance to shine brightly on the world stage. Plus, people love to visit Toronto as a vacation destination.

Is Fan Expo still considered the third largest event of its kind in North America?

It is. The distinction comes from the amount of space used by the show, combined with the attendance.

Is there a guest you have coming this year that you have been angling to get for a while?

Since I came on board the show two years ago I've been pushing for getting Joe Quesada back to Toronto. Having Marvel come up last year was a great step forward for the event, but having Joey Q. come up and interact with Toronto fans is something that I think adds a lot to the show for comic fans.

As a person who is very pro-Canadian comics, I'm also very happy to welcome Darwyn Cooke back as an official Fan Expo guest this year.

You've released a number of the guests already via your website but can you share any others that haven't been officially announced yet?

Sure! We're really happy to welcome Michael Choi ("X-Force"), colorist Christina Strain, Richard Isanove ("Stephen King's Dark Tower"), J. Bone ("The Spirit," "Super Friends") and the talented crew from "Transmission X," which includes Cameron Stewart, Karl Kerschl, Michael Cho, Ramon Perez, and Eric Vedder.

We invite CBR readers to check our site www.fanexpocanada.com frequently for updates on guests as more will be added over the summer.

Because Fan Expo happens in Toronto, is it important to recruit exceptional Canadian talent every year like this year's guests Darwyn Cooke, Dale Eaglesham, David Finch, Steve McNiven, Francis Manapul and the Immonens?

Since the Comic Book Expo at Fan Expo Canada is Canada's largest comic book event, we have to approach the show from two perspectives. On one hand, we have to approach the international creators that the Canadian fans want to see, and on the other we have to make sure that we also include and promote the best creators that Canada has to offer. We want visitors to see and interact with the top-notch talent that we have here in Canada.

Fan Expo isn't all about the comics. Do you find that's one of the strengths of the event that you're offering essentially five conventions - comics, Sci-Fi, horror, anime and gaming - all under one roof over one big weekend?

We offer strong shows within a show that do appeal to fans of the specific genres and would stand on their own, but I think it's safe to say that most fans are fans of multiple genres, so it's a definite strength for Fan Expo to have these cross-genre events all under the same roof. While my personal focus is on comic books and working on the Comic Book Expo, the thought of meeting Sci-Fi guest Linda Hamilton does appeal to me and I'm a huge fan of Festival of Fear guest Bruce Campbell.

Are there any new events or offerings added to this year's programming that you are particularly excited about?

We are always working to deliver new and interesting programming for the attendees at Fan Expo, but the content is ultimately decided by who is attending, as we build our most popular events - the Q&A sessions, the Cool School workshops and the Sketching Duels around the attending guests. I'm always excited when publishers present and discuss their upcoming product and enable the attendees to give them direct feedback on what they like and don't like.

What do you personally love about Fan Expo?

I love seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Where do you spend most of your time during the event?

I'm usually on the 700 level, making sure that the programming is running smoothly, but I'm also frequently down on the show floor checking in to make sure the guests are being looked after and checking in with our other coordinators. We have an exceptional team working on Fan Expo and we are always looking for ways to make things run smoothly.

Are there any important deadlines or dates fast approaching that guests should be made aware of?

At this point we are almost sold out of Artist Alley tables, so I would recommend anyone considering setting up get their application forms in as soon as possible. Forms are available for download on the Fan Expo website.

Tickets for Fan Expo Canada go on sale July 1, and anyone looking to get one of our VIP passes should consider booking early. The VIPs get in early on Friday afternoon and receive a bag filled with incentives and other goodies. Last year every VIP received a Fan Expo Exclusive variant of "Uncanny X-Men" #500, and I think we will see something similar this year.

Also, the Toronto hotels near the Metro Toronto Convention Centre are selling out, so if you are coming in from out of town, the sooner you make your reservations the better.

With Canadians and North Americans struggling (to put it mildly) economically at the moment due to the market downturn, do you expect to feel any fallout at Fan Expo?

I don't want to underplay the struggles that some people may be facing, but the team here at Fan Expo just hasn't seen any sign of a slowdown. We've already sold a record number of exhibitor and Artist Alley tables, and we've had no trouble booking the great guests that the fans demand for this event. Attendance at past Fan Expos has never declined and we are expecting, based on turnouts we've had at our other comic book and anime events since last year's Fan Expo, to see that trend continue into 2009. If the US dollar continues to be worth 15-20 per cent more than the Canadian dollar, our American visitors will actually get more for their dollar here in Toronto.

Any final words for anyone who may be sitting on the fence about coming down, or I guess up, to Fan Expo in August?

Fan Expo Canada has always attracted the biggest industry guests, and this year is no exception. The fans who attend Fan Expo Canada expect a lot from us and we work hard to deliver the best for them. After all, they have made Fan Expo Canada one of the industry's top three events and since this is the 15th anniversary show we have a lot of exciting things planned for our attendees.

On the comics side of Fan Expo, comic book fans will find the Comic Book Expo to be a unified and enjoyable place to meet creators and interact with other fans and collectors. The guest list is one of the largest and most diverse lists on the convention scene, and truly has something for everyone.

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