Monday, 10 July 2023

Vancouver Comic & Toy Show - April 2023

Who doesn’t get excited when they hear the words ‘Comics’, ‘Toys’ and ‘Con’? Two of those three words appeared this April with the latest Vancouver Comic & Toy Show from the owners of Canadian Comics, held at the popular PNE Forum.

While it’s not as big as Fan Expo or Anime Revolution, this event certainly gives local pop culture fans something to look forward to in-between the larger conventions.

Over 300 tables of sellers were present, some offering the usual goodies, such as comics and toys and then there were the vendors that sold slightly more unique products, such as scented candles, custom made magnets and 3D printed mugs.

General Admission: Saturday $22.00, Sunday $15.00, 2 Day Pass $25.00, Kids 12 and under FREE! Tickets sold online, or cash at the door.

Plus…Big Kudos to this!

MULTIPLE GIANT-$IZE DOOR PRIZE$ - Multiple Vancouver Comic & Toy Show $50 and $100 Gift Cards for use anywhere at the Show to be Mystery Bag drawn during the Pre-show Line-up on Both Days! Plus, Multiple Gift Cards for use anywhere at the Show to be randomly handed out at the door Both Days!

Our reporters Sammy (cosplaying as Captain Marvel) and Arthur (cosplaying as the Ultimate Spiderman) were there to cover the event and interview some of the vendors and fellow cosplayers on Saturday the 1st of April.

Here’s what they got up to!

501st Garrison
Sammy

I was so excited that I would be teaming up with fellow Marvel fan and co-writer Arthur to cover this event. Arthur is a great cosplayer and has become a good friend, his passion for cosplay is admirable, he really gets into character and his ultimate Spiderman was a huge hit with everyone!

I was really looking forward to seeing what Vancouver Comic & Toy show had to offer and it was also my first time in the PNE Forum too. It’s a large space, about 44,000 square feet, the venue is often used for large conventions and concerts, so it was cool to see the inside of it for the first time. 

I arrived at the vendor hall around 1pm after running a little late due to a wardrobe malfunction, I could feel the energy and the buzz coming from inside and was excited to get in and have a look around.

The first thing I noticed as I entered the hall was the shear size of this venue, with its 60ft high ceilings the venue is open and spacious.

The second, was the rows and rows of vendors. It felt never ending, although it certainly was laid out much better than some larger cons I’ve been to, and luckily the vendors didn’t seem too crammed together.

Some vendors were your usual con sellers, selling cool pieces of art, handmade trinkets, stickers that sort of thing. Then there were more unique tables selling things like the 3D printed items from Diabolical Dungeoneer or original creations like the World of Eezoes booth, which by the way was my absolute favourite stall, the creator Kidcitizencrafting was so sweet and has created such a beautiful, magical world of mysterious creatures. I HIGHLY recommend checking them out!

World of Eezoes

Then there were some vendors who literally were just selling things from their personal collections. Some things were quite impressive, like giant collectable figurines and then some things kind of seemed a bit like junk, I feel a bit mean using that term, but there were some items that looked so worn and tatty…But I guess the saying goes; one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

The main downside to the number of sellers tables was the lack of space for anything else… Apart from having an area for the 501st Garrison, (whom by the way were awesome and helping raise money for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank!), there were literally just endless rows of tables. It kind of reminded me of a car boot sale, not sure if there is a US/Canadian term for this, but basically, it’s just regular people lining up to sell their personal belongings out the backs of their cars.

There also seemed to be rather poor structure and planning when it came to the layout either, a few comic book artists we met were mixed in with everyone else and they kind of got lost in amongst all the chaos.

One guy was so happy we stopped to ask questions about his comic, because most people were just ignoring him where he was a little hidden in amongst other stalls. So special shoutout to creator and illustrator, Tony Bosley, with his new comic book series – The Adventures of Malcolm Ferroid!

Whilst also on the subject, I would also like to give a special shout-out to Jay Mundi, owner, and creator of the ALLStarsYOUniverse

Jay is so passionate about this project and has spent the last 10 years trying to perfect it. He really took the time to explain to us his idea of creating a universe as big as Marvel or Star Wars but using it as a platform to educate children ages 8+ on important subjects such as, anti-racism, being kind to one another and protecting our planet etc. whilst still having fun and becoming the number 1 Superhero in their own YOUniverse.

@candyhappy & @ladyvalkyrie13

I do think Jay could use some help on the marketing side of things, there is a lot of information to remember with this comic book and I think shortening and the wording and explaining will help make it more appealing to kids and less complicated for the adults. But the concept is there, and I wish him all the success.

The biggest issue that we encountered on the Saturday was that nearly every vendor we spoke to said they hadn’t sold anything, or the few that had had only made one or two small sales. We were also told by one seller that the tables were very expensive to rent, $140 for the weekend, but the fact that they weren’t getting any sales meant that they were very much out of pocket.

We tried to give the sellers some hope, that maybe more people would return on the Sunday and make those bigger purchases, but we are also in a recession right now, so maybe people just can’t afford to spend at this time. Vancouver is a very unaffordable city to live in and people are struggling more and more each day. I hope that there were more sales on the Sunday for the seller’s sake…if not, I can’t imagine many of them would return next year.

The facilities were pretty good at the PNE Forum. I believe there were two sets of washrooms available and as far as I was aware the venue was wheelchair friendly. More indoor seating was needed for this event though, as there were only a couple of tables and chairs for people to take a break, and more signs are needed with directions to the outdoors food trucks. We didn’t notice there were more food options outside until after we had already bought a drink and a cookie at the indoor kiosk. This was pretty much all I could eat here, as the indoor food venue only sold meaty pizza and hotdogs, nothing vegetarian friendly and certainly no vegan options. Food trucks were advertised on their website and Facebook page, but without noticing them upon entering, I had no idea they were there.

I also feel like the outdoors space was a bit wasted, they could have easily reached out to local cosplayers to do meet and greets at the entrance to draw people in.

Overall, I did enjoy myself. The variety of vendors available was quite something and I loved getting to know some of the local artists and cosplayers more personally! (Interviews will be uploaded to our brand new YOUTUBE channel soon! 😉).

I just wish they offered more opportunities and activities for local cosplayers. There were very few cosplayers on the day, it would have been nice to have seen more people show up in costume. This would be very easy to change too, offering local cosplayers the chance to set up their own booths, running a cosplay contest or parade, organising unique photo op areas, or maybe even offering some mini panels/Q&A type things would make this event more appealing to our community.

There also wasn’t anything for kids to do either, apart from shopping, which I’m sure entertained them for a bit, but I imagine they would have gotten bored rather quickly. The kids we did come across loved our cosplays and asked for photos, so again, the more cosplayers attending these smaller cons the more fun the day is for everyone involved.

I look forward to seeing if the event organisers listen to feedback and make some improvements, it would be great to see them get as successful as Fan Expo, we could use some larger cons in Vancouver! <3

Sammy as Captain Marvel
Arthur

Compared to last year’s event, this time they had more space available from the other side of the building for accommodating more vendors. This was a big win for the convention as it not only managed to onboard more merchants, but it also gave the guests more breathing room while strolling around. I still recall how stuffy it was last year in the summer when it was pretty humid during July, and it was packed which made the experience not as fun as this year.

An ancillary benefit of having more vendors is having variety to the type of products and services they offer. Last year it was mostly comics and collectibles being sold by nearly all the merchants. This year’s offerings were more unique. For instance, there was a seller (Hail Clayton) who made and sold special candles shaped to look like stormtroopers from Star Wars, Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, and food items such as ramen soup and corn on the cob.

Another distinctive vendor was selling incredible 3D printed mugs with Dungeons and Dragons themes (Diabolical Dungeons). They also had some cool dice rollers and holders that blew my mind away because I never knew such things even existed before! My hat is off to the event management company behind this decision to bring in these types of businesses this year to further broaden their offerings to all the customers who spend their hard-earned money to discover more than just comics and collectibles.

Another thing I really admired about this event is the lottery they had for the participating vendors. It is something we hope they carry forward as a tradition to entice more creative vendors in the city to apply for the next show. It allows the new players in the market to get noticed and build their brands by giving them the opportunity to meet prospective clients and other business partners. Hopefully these lotteries in the future will see the same growth as the expansion of the event to achieve these ambitions. It will also simultaneously inspire new creators to pursue their passion and give them the boost they need to eventually morph into entrepreneurs.

Lemon Dawn Studio

We were delighted to see the 501
st Outer Rim Garrison organization at the event with some incredible Star Wars character cosplays supporting the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. They seemed to attract a lot of guests to take photos with R2-D2, Chewbacca, Kenobi, and a couple of Stormtroopers in return for a donation. Having an association that supports a good cause at your premises is always a plus point for any big event.

As most Vancity residents have felt it in recent years, the grocery bills continue to shoot up. Hence, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank was the perfect cause to have at this event the way we see it.

It may sound like this event was a giant success based on the previous sections, but unfortunately it was mild. There are a couple of good reasons for that. Firstly, it had very limited online presence. Having only a Facebook page to promote events would have worked back in the early 2010’s but that ship has long sailed. Facebook alone is not sufficient to advertise upcoming shows and attract new visitors anymore. An Instagram and maybe even a TikTok will make a lot of difference in appealing to not just toy and comic collectors but also cosplayers. Like last year, we did not see too many cosplayers this year the day we went to the event. It is imperative for local pop culture events to put in as much effort as possible to attract costumed customers as it will not only help them get better press coverage, but also bring in more die-hard fans who are willing to spend some of their disposable income.

The comic and toy show was very lacklustre this year in terms of interactivity compared to last year when we at least had a popular local cosplay guest in the form of Katy DeCobray, who had her own booth set up while she dressed up as Harley Quinn along with another well-known local cosplayer Julianne who was there as Poison Ivy. This year it felt more like just an exhibition to do some shopping or window shopping. While they did have the 501st Outer Rim Garrison, not a lot of local cosplayers were aware of their appearance hence we didn’t see too many costumed bodies. To reiterate our previous point, you can have a good offering as a business, but without effectively marketing it, you will not be able to meet your target audience.

@wrestlngfan @chadsklapsky @Brightest_day_cosplay

Our recommendations for the next show:

We would like to say, that this event did have a very cool poster/graphic design which really popped on pamphlets, however, there needs to be more effort on the marketing end of things and a little more attention to detail when it comes to the placement of vendors and artists.

Our advice for the organisers is to create accounts on Instagram and TikTok, where most of the creative minds share their content these days. That way they will be able to attract more cosplayers and hopefully experience a boom in ticket sales. To sweeten the pot, maybe even host a cosplay competition to entice the local cosplayers to want to show up there. This will help get the word around online to a plethora of extremely talented cosplayers who have a lot of followers on their accounts. Inviting local high-profile cosplayers like Katy DeCobray again, along with a few other names such as @evilyn13 and AnyaPanda would also help bring in the crowds.

Separating comic artists and other vendors would help keep some organisation and stop some of the smaller tables getting lost in the crowds.

Having an official photographer and videographer on site will also make a huge difference, as they are the ones who make the cosplayers and vendors look good on camera. Addy Davies, RJ Design and Photography, and Dale L Photography are some of the best local photographers who we recommend for great outdoor and indoor photos. Their pictures will grace any cosplayer, merchant, and event management company’s social media pages.

Providing more photo opportunities and extra activities for kids will also help make the day more memorable for families.

Lastly, we recommend hiring someone who can help reach out to potential sponsor partners who can provide some funding while also simultaneously promoting the show to their existing associations and customers. Having a couple of benefactors always helps in taking events to new heights.

@ttnsuch

The organisers have already set a date for October 21st and 22nd later this year for the next show and we’ll be sure to be there to give you all live updates and keep you up to date with the latest Comic Con news! 😊

Thanks so much for reading!

Sammy & Arthur.

Sammy     

   Editorial Assistant/Writer

Arthur Kaz

    Writer

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