Winnipeg Comiccon’s event at the RBC Convention Centre wrapped up Sunday, October 31st and I, for one, was thoroughly impressed with the organization. The many, MANY volunteers and organizers should pat themselves on the back. As I walked around the convention over the three days, I was hard-pressed to find a frowning face (that wasn’t actively engaged in cosplay that called for anger or what have you).
Comiccon brought together so many different communities, from people interested in a specific show or series like Ghostbusters or Star Wars to folks interested in whole genres like anime or horror, and everything in between.
The exhibitors ranged from local authors and content creators, to stores that specialize in niche items, to the main guests like Billy Boyd, Billy West, John De Lancie, and the rest. No matter what your connection to geek culture, be it movies, video games, comics, etc, there was something at this con for you.
Billy West, known best as the voice of the Nickelodeon cartoon Doug as well as almost every character in Matt Groening’s Futurama, was also impressed with the convention. He told me he liked conventions because it brings people together. Even though he had a very busy autograph and photo op schedule, he sat with me for a little bit discussing his work. Of all the characters he does, I asked him if he had a favourite, to which he replied, “I can’t because I was very lucky. Whoever considered me to work in their shows, they’re entrusting you to interpret a character. And it’s a concerted effort that everybody has gone through and done all the development. Then it comes down to you and I think long and hard before I open my mouth. I’ve gotten to do so many really rich, beautiful characters that I don’t have a favourite.”
Have a listen to a small snippet of my conversation with West where he drops in some of his on-the-fly voice work… Do you Recognize a character?
On the question of characters that the actor will remember, John De Lancie knows that he will always be known for his portrayal of Star Trek: TNG’s favourite omnipotent being “Q”, despite his laundry list of other acting and voice credits. I asked him if he was bothered at all by Q overshadowing all his other wonderful acting accomplishments. De Lancie acknowledged, “In the end, it [Q] will be the tomato that stuck on the wall.” He does a lot of work that his adoring Star Trek fans would likely be unaware of. “What you don’t see is that’s sort of the tip of the iceberg,” explained De Lancie, “you don’t see plays that I do, you don’t see any of the stuff I do for symphony orchestras, you don’t see any of that.” What I do know is that I get excited every time I see the man’s face pop onto my screen, no matter what show he steps into, be that Stargate SG-1, Breaking Bad, or any of the many others he’s been part of over the years.
A wonderful part of any comic, fantasy, or sci-fi convention is the panels and workshops that go on. For those that are unable to get any one-on-one facetime with one of the special guests, the panels are a chance for folks to hear them speak and even ask questions. For example, Billy Boyd’s panel was very well attended, and for good reason. He’s a hilarious entertainer. Boyd, known best as Pippin in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord Of The Rings, has a popular podcast called The Friendship Onion that he does with fellow Hobbit Dominic Monaghan, as well as a music career. During his panel, he answered audience questions about his various projects and it was a lively, enjoyable experience. Every person in the room left smiling and as excited as if they had sat alone with the man as he described the first time he read Lord Of The Rings and how Pippin was the real hero of the story. Question after question, Boyd entertained the audience with his responses using many call-back jokes referencing questions and answers that came before. He’s incredibly engaging, which is very likely why Winnipeg Comiccon decided to make him their Guest of Honour.
Beyond the mainstream well-known celebrities, there were a plethora of vendors, artists, cosplayers, and fans roaming about the exhibition hall. I was fortunate enough to talk to local cosplayer Melissa Wiess who was dressed as Scarlet Witch. She has been cosplaying for ten years and says “I always cosplay when I go to cons.” She loves going to conventions and cosplaying. “Everybody is so friendly in the cosplay community,” says Wiess, “it’s just overwhelming. It’s great!” Part of a charity group called “Costume Alliance”, Weiss visits children in the hospital in cosplay costumes like Snow White and others.
Charity work is a staple of the convention community. Like Wiess, many find much satisfaction in using their niche hobbies to help raise money, awareness, or generally spread happiness whenever possible. One such example would be the Winnipeg Ghostbusters group. Sharon Blady is one of the organizers of the Winnipeg Ghostbuster community, sanctioned by Ghost Corps, which is the official fan group of Sony’s intellectual property. In addition to visiting hospitals and setting up photo booths at events like the Teddy Bear Picnic, they also make and sell Ghostbuster-themed items to raise money for charities. Blady and the other “Ghost-heads” as she called them will be at the launch of the next Ghostbusters movie at the St. Vital Cineplex on November 19th of this year. “We’ve been in touch with Sony and they’ve invited us to be at the premiere,” says Blady. She was clear that you don’t need to have any of your own gear to join their community, either. “To join Winnipeg Ghostbusters it’s not like you need to pay a membership fee or show up a certain amount of times or have a costume already. It’s if you’re interested and you want to take part and Ghostbusters is something you enjoy and there’s magic in it for you.”
Speaking of magic, I was very happy to speak with Coltin Day and Daniel Johnston of the local Winnipeg Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) group Underworld. The local guildhouse is called Misthaven, and they run weekend-long events where participants take off to the woods and role-play as a particular character all weekend with a fun action-packed storyline. All participants stay in character for the entirety of the event, and they interact in the fictional world they have created. These particular folks have a property where they run their events that has actual decorated structures. “Our site itself has outbuildings that are decorated,” says Johnston. “We also have an apothecary that has potion bottles, a trading post that’s kind of like a store, guard towers, [and] an armoury.”
The Underworld LARP ruleset is just one of many around the world. Day explains, “As numerous as cultures and people are, so too are LARPs. There [are] LARPs out there that specialize in different video games or pop culture. I’ve heard of a Fallout-themed LARP down in Nevada.” So, not all LARPing involves vampires, goblins, elves, staves, and swords. Day continues, “There’s a group down in Virginia that’s trying to make the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] a viable LARP.”
The Misthaven guild wants to increase the number of events that they run per year. Currently, Johnston says, “It works out to once a month. We’d like to get to the point where we can run twice a month, that’s the dream. Typically in any given year, pandemic forgotten, it’s about nine games.”
Honestly, I could have spoken to these gentlemen about their organization for hours, but that will have to wait for when we can put together a full exclusive feature on their whole guild. Until then, I’ll mention you can join their Facebook group, “Underworld LARP Winnipeg: Guildhouse Misthaven” to connect with them and look into joining for an event.
In a sea of vendors, I happened to run into John Forsyth of Crafted Bath. Crafted Bath is a small local maker that The WPG Magazine‘s Pamela Roz did a Local Maker Spotlight on back in April. We are pleased to announce that since that spotlight, their business has boomed. Forsyth’s wife, Melanie, is the creative brain behind the whole operation where John does more of the packaging and logistical side, including standing behind a booth at a convention selling soaps and bath balms shaped like your favourite comic and cartoon characters. Recently they have had to expand and will soon have a retail space that will double as a production facility. “We were home-based until a couple of months ago,” says Forsyth, “and then we moved to a location at 336 Keewatin St. So we’re opening up a retail space there… and all our manufacturing is going to be there. We just couldn’t handle it in the house anymore, it was just too much.” If you missed the spotlight in April, go have a read of it and show them some local support.
Among the vendors were several local authors including Matthew Komus, Josephine Winter, and Alyssa Thiessen. Komus, a ghost walk tour guide and author of Haunted Winnipeg and Haunted Manitoba, writes about the creepy happenings in Manitoban properties. When I asked him how he came up with the idea to write the books he mentioned that he was involved in guiding historical and architectural tours during which the participants were constantly asking about which buildings were home to spectres. “I realized there was a lot of interest in that,” explained Komus. “I started doing some tours. Cold, rainy night and twenty people show up in the rain for the first one ever.”
Winter, who resides in Steinbach, is the author of the K-11-7-4 series, about a slave of the same name. With three books currently released, her vision sees the series as an eight-book saga. Dressed as the main character in the series, Winter said a coworker challenged her to tell them a story, which morphed into the series as we see it. “I’m mainly a fantasy writer,” says Winter, “so obviously J.R.R. Tolkein has always been a huge influence. For these ones, in particular, it mainly all started because a co-worker looked at me one day at work and said, ‘tell me a story… about space trains,’ and for me, I do fantasy, not sci-fi, so that’s a dumb idea… but I ended up getting an entire series out of the idea of space trains.”
Theissen kept her ideas more “down to earth” with her novels. Her latest book is called Ride to Daylight, and it takes place in a modified version of Winnipeg that she named River Ridge City. Shortlisted for the Manitoba Book Awards 2020 in the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction category, the book follows a young female protagonist and her younger sister as they attempt to escape a gang-heavy post-apocalyptic city without power. “There’s a chase scene at the end that’s designed to be in Bird’s Hill Park,” says Thiessen, who actually sold out of copies of the book during the con. “I’m pretty involved in the mountain biking community, and I thought how if there was ever a disaster people would need bicycles to get around. They’d be way more important than they are now, and I don’t see any post-apocalyptic fiction really that features bicycles and their importance in life, so this was actually kind of like my love letter to the bike community and bicycles.” So, if the world ends, forget horseback riding, grab a bike and get out of dodge! Not before grabbing a copy of her book, that is.
For those more into video games, there was a group called The Winnipeg Community Streamers who are powered by Twitch. Head organizer Samantha Requeima, who goes by the streamer name Samisauris, explained that they are partnered with, but not legally part of Twitch itself. “We’re powered by them, we’re not technically affiliated with them. So they don’t pay us, it’s all separate. We just pretty much enjoy the perks of using this community to fund and bring us all together,” says Requeima. With over three hundred active streamers, they help each other with tips, tricks, and encouragement. They make getting into streaming much easier and I recommend checking them out if you’re interested in it or if you’re already streaming.
So, as you’ve seen here, the con not only brought big, world-famous talent to town, but also lifted up some of the locals who are creating some wonderful content and doing great works within our own community. Keep an eye on Winnipeg Comiccon’s website later next year for details about the next con, and get your tickets. In the meantime, check out all the people and organizations mentioned here and get involved where you can.