Ottawa Comiccon is always an adventure. Over the past five years the Ernst & Young Centre (EY Centre) has consistently transformed for one weekend in early May into a mecca for Ottawa geeks and nerds. Gamers, cosplayers, writers, and artists all gather together to celebrate their love for fantasy, fiction, and sci-fi under one roof. I attended Ottawa Comiccon in the year of its inception, so I can safely say that great improvements have been made on the part of the organizers to improve the overall experience for fans. For instance, this year the location of the Main Hall, where celebrity Q&A sessions take place, changed and the con was better for it. Simply by moving Hall 1 to the far right of the EY Centre the rest of the event felt more accessible and approachable. That was not the only change to the convention though, there were also noticeably shorter wait times for certain panels and Q&A sessions, at least from my perspective. While there are always hiccups, Saturday’s cancellation of actor Alan Tudyk’s Q&A due to flights and timing was a notable one, there was a prominent amount of transparency with regards to how Ottawa Comiccon staff treated fans. Staffers did not hide behind vague excuses. When a line up for autographs was marked out incorrectly people were notified and the situation was rectified. Nothing went on behind closed doors. I really appreciated the convention’s focus on customer service.
In terms of the convention itself I attended two out of the possible three days, Friday and Saturday. Friday was a little quieter than Saturday naturally. It’s the ideal time to pick up merchandise or venture into costume play (cosplaying) because the people who are there on Friday are extremely dedicated to their Ottawa Comiccon experience. Now that’s not to say that people who could not get the day off aren’t dedicated, I merely want to point out that there is a different tenor to the con depending on which day you attend. Saturday is more lively and there are certainly more bodies to contend with, but those additional people also make panels and Q&A’s more interesting. Vendors are often low on supplies near the end of Saturday and Sunday is when deals can sometimes be struck regarding certain items if the booth you’re at is independently operated. Most of the booths are operated by small business owners and maybe a few of the company’s employees. There’s always something cool to see though. No matter if you attend one day, two days, or all three, there’s always something that will catch your eye. *A handy tip for any future con-goers is to always have cash on you when you attend. Unless you’re making a big purchase cash is easier to handle, it won’t potentially malfunction due to technological issues, and you won’t be stuck waiting in line for an ATM while your favourite celebrity is signing photos.
One of the highlights of Ottawa Comiccon this year for me was the appearance of Ming-Na Wen who is known not only for her live-action work, which includes the Marvel television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and ER, but for her voice work as well. Wen voiced the Disney heroine Mulan in the animated classic film. She spoke fondly throughout her Q&A session of her work on Mulan and expressed her desire to be involved in a live-action film adaptation if one is ever made. Wen also noted that she is very proud of being Mulan and that she’s often touched by the stories of young boys and girls who are inspired by the movie. The forty-five minute session with Wen felt like it went by in a flash, and that, to me, is that mark of a good Q&A. The result of a session like that, where fans have a direct line of access to a star, is often determined by the energy of the celebrity. Wen was gracious with her time, free with her smiles, and just sarcastic enough to engage fans without being off-putting. It was a treat to listen to her and by proxy share in her memories and experience.
Aside from Q&A’s with celebrities Ottawa Comiccon offers photo-ops with celebrity guests and autograph signings too. However, there are also free workshops and panels that go on throughout the day. These events help to break up the day and keep you from spending too much cash – if you’re looking for a distraction, panels are the best idea. Various Ottawa organizations put on panels in addition to guests from out of town so there really is something for everyone. From a discussion panel on cosplay and sexual harassment put on by Hollaback’s Ottawa chapter to a costume session on building the perfect ballgown to an improv show, Saturday’s panels were varied and well-attended. Overall, Ottawa Comiccon is a fun and unique way to spend a weekend. This year’s efficiency definitely improved my experience. The only thing that was really odd was the lack of celebration or ceremony concerning this year’s con. I saw nothing that pointed out that Ottawa Comiccon is now five years old and still going strong! I was disappointed with the lack of attention paid to the con’s anniversary but, in the end it was still an amazing weekend.