Broken Pencil at Fan Expo 2014!

Fan Expo Toronto is now the third-largest comic and scifi and horror and gaming and anime convention in the world, but it would be a mistake to write it off as a forum just for the Big Guys. You’ve got your Marvel and your DC, of course, but you’ve also got hundreds of independent creators in every medium – not to mention the thousands of exhibitors and, of course, the cosplayers who more often than not Do It Themselves.

If you’ve been following us on Twitter – and I know a lot of you have, because I’ve been obsessively checking how many favourites and retweets we’ve been getting, you’ve been reading all about our adventures and observations of Fan Expo stuff for the interested indie fan, but here’s a wrap-up of a couple of our favourite events for anyone who missed out on this fun weekend for every kind of creative.

At the writers panel discussion for surprising hit Canadian show Degrassi: The Next Generation, friend of Broken Pencil Zoe Whittall spoke about the experience of moving from acclaimed indie poet and writer to a position in the writers room of one of the most iconic television franchises in Canadian history. Writing is usually such a solitary pursuit – particularly in the world of independent publishing, where you haven’t got the resources of a major publisher or network behind you, which can be either a blessing or a curse or both. But Whittall learned that, far from “selling out,” she was able to learn a lot from the more collaborative process of story pitching and writing that the television writing process affords – and from the rest of the intimidatingly talented Degrassi writers. The experience is something that she’ll take and invest back into her more personal work, her novels and poems, going forward.

At the Indy Comic Book Startups panel, there was more good advice than can possibly be contained here, but one particularly cool thing was Ray Fawkes – Toronto-based writer and artist who started out with indie and small-press titles and went on to work on books for DC, Marvel, Image, and more (as well as keeping on with his own independent projects), mentioned that the first time he realized that it was possible to make his own comics was at Broken Pencil’s own Canzine Festival! As he walked around and saw all the dozens of people, just like him, who had made something of their own and selling them or trading them with other creators, he realized for the first time that he could do it too. That event crystalized his determination to become the artist and creator that he wanted to be, and paved the way for all his successes. Fawkes recommended Canzine attendance for anyone with an indie or self-published work to sell, or anyone who just needed inspiration or wanted to make new friends in the DIY community. Canzine registration is now open, by the way.

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles screened here on Friday. The documentary delves deep into the origins and the development of a black-and-white, self-published comic that two guys made in their kitchen and follows it as it became the biggest independent transmedia property of all time. The film starts out in the early eighties and finishes up about ten years later, shortly after the triumphant launch of the first live-action TMNT movie, when the Turtles were at the absolute peak of their popularity. But everyone is in this movie. The filmmakers not only sat down and spoke to practically everybody who had anything to do with the property (even, full disclosure, me, who had absolutely nothing to do with the property except being a fan and writing a book/love letter to capitalize on people’s fondness for it), but they got access to some never-before-seen footage of the early development; from preliminary sketches for the cartoon adaptation that were *very* different from what we all remember, to actual video of creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird receiving the phone call telling them that their comic had been picked up for animation. Absolutely fascinating and enlightening for anyone who ever loved the Turtles.

And those are just a tiny selection of the stuff we saw at this year’s Fan Expo! If you missed it, you missed out – but there’s always next year.