On the weekend of June, Red Deer had its first comic expo at Westerner Park. It started with a lot of potential for a first timer. The stadium was big enough to offer plenty of booths and autograph areas, and still leave room for more activities. They managed to gather fan favorite guests, including Kane Hodder (four-time Jason Voorhees), Morena Baccarin (Deadpool, Firefly) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Chloe Bennett. They had all of the fun and games often associated with comic cons, from online gaming to an inflatable bounce house. It isn’t as big as Calgary Expo and it’s not as unique as Calgary Horror Con, but for anyone looking for a good time, Red Deer Comic & Entertainment Expo delivers.
Once you step past the ticket booth, you come find a row of autograph booths. Along with Hodder, Baccarin and Bennett are frequent horror actor Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Helena Mattsson (American Horror Story) and Cosplayer Nicole Marie Jean. Opposite them were an inflatable children’s playground, bounce house and a few booths selling geek items. Two booths stood out from this area. One featured cakes shaped like pop culture icons including a Stormtrooper mask and Olaf from Frozen, courtesy of Cake it! Another was Odd-Lot Puppetry Co. which not only displayed its unique Muppets and Lion King masks, but also allowed kids to make their own puppets. My personal favourite was a Donald Trump puppet.
Turn to the left and you enter a room full of booths galore, with various stores selling comicbooks and graphic novels, both new and in mint condition. There were artists of all kinds, selling artworks, self-published graphic novels and even jewelry. People got to buy collectable toys, classic video games and special candies. These are just a few examples of what this area had in store for conventioneers.
Walk further and you find yourself in a giant dark room. On the left, was the giant booth room where the guests had their Q & A panels. While most cons have a host for these conventions, the guests pretty much took care of it themselves. Each had a memorable anecdote to tell. My favourite was former stuntman Hodder mocking other stuntmen bragging about their scars (“you do realize you’re bragging about screwing up?”). On the right was the photo booth, where fans had their photos taken with guests. In between was this wide dark space. It would have been a waist of space if the LARPers didn’t use this to demonstrate LARPing.
But the high point of this convention was the video game room. In a little room, we received a combination of the new and the classic. There was a small area for online gamers, who got their kick of StarCraft and Call of Duty. A wall had a series of flat screens which played Super Smash Brothers, Lego Harry Potter or Whiplash. The biggest flat screen stood surrounded by two couches with kids of all ages bathing in its glory. Here was where the Super Smash Brothers tournament conveyed, with a commentator making the gamers feel like their superstars. But my personal favourite was the classic arcade machines, which contained every classic game from Pac-Man to all Street Fighter games. Some even had Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. These were a trip down memory lane for the children who grew up in arcade games in convenience stores and waterparks.
With this being a first year comic convention, it was rusty in delivery. They made a few mistakes, including setting up a panel on the first hour when people are still trying to get in and not listing and describing panels on their programs. Again, they are just starting out and they do try to help whenever they can. Despite the setbacks, Red Deer Expo was still a fun time for those who favour the simpler things. Hopefully, they’ll learn from their mistakes in preparation for their next convention.