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Calgary Expo stays true to its comic-centric roots

Most people go to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo for the celebrities, but its true start was a gathering place for the talent behind comic books.

The Calgary Expo runs at Calgary Stampede Park between April 27 and April 30. It’s a chance for fans to meet the artists and creators of their favourite franchises. 

“We have a fairly wide and broad spectrum of artists,” said Kandrix Foong, founder and director of the Calgary Expo.

Beginning in 2005, the Calgary Expo has since boomed into one of the largest comic-cons in Canada. Around 300 artists and creators from multiple comic genres are expected to attend this year, as well as artists from other mediums like animation.

Foong said people don’t typically notice what kind of work goes into comic books. It was even more labour intensive before computers came along, when comic books need needed talent people skilled at pencil and ink drawings and lettering and other specialists.

Still, the Calgary Expo is a fun way for fans or curious individuals to buy art and get commissions straight from the artists, talk to industry professionals and learn about the comic-making process.

“Sometimes, it gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what they’re working on or what their thought process is,” Foong said.

The convention is also a good way for up-and-coming artists to make connections, perhaps make professional contacts, learn a few tricks of the trade and even come up with a few ideas of their own.

“Art tends to inspire art,” Foong said.

You’ll also find many local artists attending the Calgary Expo, an inexpensive way to rub shoulders with the fans and maybe a few famous people.

“It’s a lot easier if you’re in your home court.”

Ryan Ferrier is a Canadian comic-book writer who has created several original properties and worked on a number of different franchises such Deadpool, Power Rangers, Sons of Anarchy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He first came to the Calgary Expo as a fan but now attends as a professional.

“For a creator in the industry, it’s often one of the few times we get to see our peers and colleagues, as well as interact with our fans and readers,” Ferrier said. “These conventions become reunions of sorts.”

During the Calgary Expo, he’ll be around for autographs and will attend several panels, including one on April 30 where he will give tips on how to pitch a comic-book series.

“The greatest part of any show is the opportunity to talk with people about your passions and your work or to discover someone else’s work.”

Chris Thompson is a local artist who often attends the Calgary Expo to get exposure. He draws fan art for numerous fictional characters and does professional commissions for collectible Disney pins.

“Drawing is like visiting a spa for me,” Thompson said. “The world disappears as I get lost in my imagination.”

Thompson went in blind the first time he exhibited as an artist at the Calgary Expo. He had only six different designs to sell and barely had a display.

“Sales were not my focus. I was just so happy and excited to be involved with the world I really loved.”

Thankfully, he was able to generate some revenue, start a fan base, make artist friends and get motivated to draw more. His favourite thing about the Calgary Expo, however, is how it’s a place where fans can be fans.

“You are in a room of people who are excited to be excited.”

Of course, a majority of people who go to comic-cons only know about comic-book properties through television or movies. While big names often draw in crowds, Foong said it’s important for conventions to remember how they started.

“They really should be rooted in the comic-book world,” he said. “It’s called a comic-con for a reason.”

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http://calgaryherald.com/entertainment/books/calgary-expo-stays-true-to-its-comic-centric-roots