TFCon / ConBravo weekend report.

The function of a convention report is to capture and relate the experience for the sake of those who couldn’t attend and might be considering attending next year, and to provide feedback to the convention organizers.


Last weekend (June 29th to 31st, 2011) there was Carribana, Oakville’s Art In The Park show, Barrie’s Kempenfest, Otakon, the vaguely defined Atomic Lollypop, Montreal’s Osheaga music festival, the EVO videogame tournament, and many other events competing for the attendence of the general public. As my (phone booth) time machine is presently out of service, I was limited to but two excellent adventures, TFCon, and Conbravo!.

Tfcon:
TFcon, (formerly Transformerscon) is the Unoffical Transformers Convention held annually in the GTA. I’ve been attending them regularly and have watched the convention grow from a dealer room with some trivia and door prizes to something I spend the whole year anticipating. As somebody who flew across the states for a Transformers convention in Pasedena, it would be silly for me to miss out on one that I could bike to if needed. despite my enthusiasm, because of my art table and Conbravo! I was only able to experience a limited amount of the convention. I’m also going to note that a poorly planned trip to visit “the sticks” meant having my art printed up at Staples at the last-minute and Staples was infuriating with their inability to print jpgs (even though they were able to last year) and I will soon compose an angry letter too their head office explaining why I will seek out alternative means of glossy printing next year.

Friday night, the dealers set up their tables and affixed prices. Since I waited until the last minute to apply for a table (partially the fault of the postal strike) I was situated in a back hall seperated from most dealers, but the flow of people leaving the main room kept people walking by my table. Since my table only took a few minutes to set up, I was able to spend some time lurking in the dealer room early and meet with convention guest voice actor Paul Eiding who was most excellent and signed a print I illustrated of his character, the lovable scientist Perceptor. While signing, we talked about how cool Joe DiMaggio was.

Exclusives:
Two heads compatible with any old Headmaster body (a kind of Transformer prone to losing their head). In order to get one of them, I had to buy a weekend pass in addition to my table registration, meaning I had three passes (thankfully my friend Charlie meant one didn’t go to waste). The Stronghold head and accessories blend in perfectly with the official toy they were designed for and the the Toxin head helps any Headmaster feel more complete.

The neat thing about these exclusives is they actually aren’t official Hasbro product. Unofficial fan-production figures and accessories for Transformers are a growing market and TFcon, being an unofficial convention, has a unique opportunity to take advantage this grass-roots industry in a manner Botcon is basically legally prohibited from.

Opening ceremonies (guest starring a Jimmy Stewart impersonation that could have been shorter) and a recital of “Honoo No Overdrive” to start the convention. The parts-trading party was a crowded flea-market style warm-up for the dealer room. The friday trivia (co-hosted by Gary chalk) asked questions which relied on knowledge of precise wording and minutae and lucky guesses, as it has in the past. Next was the Transformers Pictionary, now I’m a pretty good artist but even I have trouble using a only a green marker to depict “Cosmic Rust”. In the same room as these contests was a brief presentation on the art of collecting Transformers which I overhead a lot of and had some pretty good tips for collecting; such as not trusting eBay auctions that use Hasbro stock photos.

I spent most of Saturday behind my art table. I would have liked to go to more panels and spend more time wandering, but thankfully this dude Evan has it covered: each year at TFcon he sells DVDs with recordings of the panels and events from the previous year. Thanks to my everpresent friend Veronica, I was able to leave my table for a few moments while I grabbed a few figures I was looking for (and a Gundam). I also picked up a complete Armada Megatron for $20 which makes me glad I didn’t buy one of the ones at Botcon going for $40. I also met up with Simon Furman, who has written roughly a million Transformer comics and will likely write a million more.

TFcon is a great event. While I had a great time at the official Botcon event in California earlier this summer, I feel like that was mostly Hasbro taking the convention and using it as an outlet. TFcon has Hasbro pressence, but it’s still a fan convention and likely will always be cooler because of it. People go to Botcon because they need to, people go to TFCon because they want to. I can’t think of anything an unlicensed convention like TFCon can have that it doesn’t already.

Bus train walk taxi to…

Conbravo!

Last’s year conBravo was their first year and really just felt like all my friends putting on their own convention to prove they can. Attendence was 350. This year the attendence was 1200. What made the difference? Well honestly I never ever expected internet TV show hosts to be such a draw. Keith Apicary is apparently a big deal to some people. A lot of people. So Conbravo is officially a real convention.

The dealer room was at least five times the size it was previous years with vendors and artists vending various wares to whomever would haggle for them. And I purchased another copy of Shaq Fu awesome. There was also a gaming room that had both tournments in all the popular tournament games and just CRTs hooked up to console for anybody walking by wanting to play something random like the Sega Genesis X-Men game. With a little wandering you can find the Arena which is a field large enough to battle strangers using one of the several harmless weapons lying around. Or for the less physically inclined there was a designated room for tabletop gaming. So at any given time, there’s always stuff to do – of course like last year I spent a suspicious amount of time hiding in the staff room.

Saturday Night ended with a big dark dance with glowsticks and love. Music was a single non-stopping tune which would segue from one pre-requested tune into the next as engineered by DJ Janos. Personally I am a totally white guy when it comes to dancing so instead I spent time with friends in the hotel’s bar.

Panels:
Jen Norman’s live reading of bad fanfics once again competed against the 404′s Improv Comedy Troup (guest starring Doug Walker). I hosted a panel on American Comic Books which had an actual attendance this year. The Transformers panel suffered from being too late in the day and all the die-hard Transformer fans were at TFcon so it was mostly discussion of Beasties. Conbravo’s mastermind Mark P Tjan hosted a panel on How to Draw Manga which was as good as any of the art lessons I’ve taken (and I’ve taken quite a few). Afterwards Mr. Kitty hosted a panel on some poorly conceived comic books that was really funny – I expected the panel to just be another slideshow of Superdickery but his material came from all corners of the industry including quite a bit of Archie and Harvey comics.

Closing ceremonies ended with everybody thanking Mark and Mark thanking everybody. then there was some Q&A as he took suggestions for next year – it was revealed that next year will take advantage of all the facilities of the hotel to accomodate the growing number of attendees. If the closing cermonies were like last year where I knew half the people there I would have stolen the stage to cut off my ponytail but since it was a real convention this year I kept my hair for another day. Afterwards waiting to find a ride home I tried to help with clean-up, but with an army of volunteers there really wasn’t anything for me to do.

So that’s two conventions, one weekend. Honestly despite the lack of sleep and malnourishment I was able to buy toys, see a ton of friends and still come out feeling better than I did after Fanexpo 2009. Hopefully these events will be on different weekends next year so I won’t have to miss half of each, but if that happens to me again then I’m not going to pick between Friends and Fandom and I’ll do both again.

For more information on either of these events…

http://conbravo.com/

http://www.tfcon.ca/

-Michael Ryan.

Con Life.