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Comics, costumed fans and celebrities stampede into the BMO Centre April 24 - 25.
the Gauntlet

Big dreams ahead for Calgary comic con

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2010 might be the year the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo makes the comic convetion map.

This year features a comprehensive list of some of sci-fi and horror's greats -- Troma Studio's auteur Lloyd Kaufman, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Brent Spiner and the venerable Leonard Nimoy -- and an even larger space thanks to the recent expansion of the BMO Convention Centre.

With massive crowds last year, event organizer Kandrix Foong says this year is an attempt to broaden the focus. This ties in with the eventual desire to establish the event as a destination spot, where major comic companies and studios make large announcements to excited fans.

"I think we're doing great for getting the word out to Calgarians, but I'd like to start drawing in more people from the other provinces," says Foong. "Every year we've had a solid increase from out-of-towners. I'd love to add another hall or two to accommodate the growth. It's taken five years to get where we are, but there's still a lot we can do. I'm hoping we can start adding some big sponsors, and getting to the point that people want to do special releases for our show, like movie studio support. That would be cool."

To do this, the expo is focusing more and more on a wider base of contemporary and famous pop cultural figures. The expo also features guests from the wildly-popular Twilight series, and despite some comments that this year seems to be particularly Star Trek heavy, it's all about the careful balancing act of pleasing a wide variety of fans.

"You have to look at each guest and their respective fan base, and seeing how things cross over," he explains. "A great example of that would be Twilight vs. Star Trek. I'd say something like 90 per cent of the Twilight fans don't really care about Star Trek and vice versa. After we announced Nimoy and Spiner, a lot of other Star Trek actors started to contact us about coming out because they know we've got two major stars but at some point it's too much in one genre."

Even though some may feel it is too focused on Star Trek, Foong explains he took the oppor- tunity because he saw it as a rare chance.

"We had [Brent Spiner] on board first, but then we had a chance to bring in Nimoy, which is really a once in a lifetime type of opportunity, so we pulled the trigger on it."

One of the major problems with organizing this kind of event in the Calgary market is the competition. Not competition from conventions inside Canada, but the entire world. This is especially problematic in the busy summer season, where every other week major American cities like Chicago or Seattle invite creators to come and participate. Foong says that due to the time-intensive creative nature, getting comic guests can be a bit of a tough slog.

"I think the hardest area to fill is actually the comic book guests. The reason I say that is because people don't realize there's more than just one show . . . lots of the comic creators only want to do one appearance a month because it takes them away from creating. There's a major show in Chicago the weekend before, plus Boston, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, and I'm sure a bunch of other smaller events."

Despite this problem, the sheer breadth of potential attendees allows for an always exciting lineup of comic book artists and writers.

"Jeffrey Brown's great for the indie scene, and Chris Claremont and Len Wein are awesome for mainstream," says Foong. "As we've grown, we're getting more support from comic publishers too, we've always had Udon, but now we've got Top Cow, Boom, and Avatar Press."

"Hopefully we'll make enough waves to have Marvel and DC one year."

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