For the last few years, Broken Pencil has been bringing you live coverage, mainly via our Twitter, of Fan Expo Toronto – the third-largest comic book, science fiction, gaming, horror, and anime convention in the world. In addition to all the big deal mainstream creators and projects, Fan Expo is also a venue for independent artists and publishers, and DIY enthusiasts, to meet with fans and other creators and get their work in the hands and minds of the people who are most likely to be into it.

Despite its baffling grandeur, Fan Expo hearteningly manages to put indie artists on the same footing as your Marvels and your HBOs, which makes it a great place for Broken Pencil type people to meet their heroes and discover new ones.

In case you missed it, here’s our traditional wrap-up of some of the weekends most interesting indie-related events. And if you did miss it, there’s always next year. (I said that last year too, so if you missed it two years in a row I don’t know what to tell you. It was a good time.)

The first thing you notice when you get to Fan Expo is the cosplayers. A lot of this stuff is really impressive. These aren’t store-bought Halloween costumes, but meticulously reproduced outfits from your favourite movies and videogames that humble me every time I see them. The amount of talent and dedication and time that goes into creating these costumes is kind of staggering – but it doesn’t come out of nowhere, and every year Fan Expo offers workshops on the practical and philosophical aspects of making your own costumes. This year we were treated to the Wearable Workshop, for fans whose costumes require blinky lights and whirring motors but who also don’t want to get electrocuted in the middle of the vendors floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot more Borg and Synths wandering around next year.

Plus, the Multiculturalism in Steampunk panel addressed the issue of, well, multiculturalism in Steampunk. For people whose background isn’t from the British Isles that most steampunk stories focus on, the culture and aesthetic can sometimes feel stifling. This panel offered perspectives on how to research and effectively create historical high-tech costumes from a world that never was incorporating styles from India, the Middle East, and so on. It was a really eye-opening and practical discussion, and reminds us that there’s a whole world out there full of people whose stories are just as fun to tell, but maybe haven’t been yet.

For creators looking to break into the business, some of the most relevant panels we attended were “So You Want to Write Horror” with the Horror Writers Association of Ontario; “Create and Market Your Indie Comic”; and “How to Get Involved in Toronto’s Video Game Culture.” All very friendly, fun, and informative. If you were there, I hope that you brought your notebooks and made some friends. Another impressive thing is how open and engaging most people are here – big-deal creators and fellow fans alike. It’s equally awesome for consumers and creators, and to its credit, Fan Expo has definitely improved its logistics as it’s expanded – it feels much more organized than it did several years ago, and they’ve taken steps to clamp down on the unacceptable liberties that some people have felt entitled to take with fellow attendees: signs reminding us that “Cosplay is Not Consent” shows that they’re at least taking people’s concerns seriously.

It’s fun, you guys. And it’s only once a year. Don’t keep missing it!

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