BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

This is it. It’s the morning of Wednesday, August 22nd, and my alarm’s telling me it’s time to get up at 6 AM and hit the road in a truck filled to the brim with comics, toys, shirts and other such assorted merchandise. After a quick stop for coffee, we’re off! Or rather, we would be if this wasn’t Highway 401 during morning rush-hour. As I sit between tired commuters in their cars I have time to get excited about FanExpo. After all, it’s been hyped up beyond belief by co-workers and customers alike. The grandiose displays, the fantastic (and sometimes not-so-fantastic) costumes and the seemingly endless shopping booths are reason enough for me to look forward to what has become Canada’s biggest geek event.

But for now, I have to focus on the empty Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the hustling and bustling of other vendors off-loading their hauls (all of this at a far too early hour in the morning). As I wheel the dolly back and forth from the loading bays to the hall, which seems much larger while it’s completely empty, I catch snapshots of the show to come. Ubisoft is raising their banners to the rafters. Lego is hauling in a giant Hulk made entirely of their small bricks. There are giant towers of t-shirts being built right in front of me. Seeing the inner workings before actually going to the show really makes you appreciate all the work that goes in to making an event this big happen.

Once the temporary Big B Toronto is all set up, Marc, Walter and I cover up our hard work with tarps and call it a day. By this point, a lot of the booths are already up and the show has more or less taken its form, so I get a sneak-preview of what to expect the next day, when I will be working the actual convention.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

After what seems like not enough sleep, it’s time again to rise earlier than I ever normally would and prepare for my big trip to Toronto. This time I choose to take the GO Train with Nicole to avoid watching people’s rear bumpers for an hour and a half, and we happen to run into Marc on the same train.  After a quick meet-up in the hotel lobby to distribute our fancy line-skipping retailer passes, we hoof it over to the MTCC again to start up the first day of commerce! We arrive earlier than the shoppers so we have time to check out other retail booths, and I get to see a bunch of neat stuff that I probably wouldn’t find anywhere else. I muddle around here and there, drop some cash to buy some back-issues I’ve been eyeing for a while, and return to the Big B Island of Deals to strap in for a long day. As the joker would say: “Here… we… go!”

Thursday is normally a slow day for the Con, so it’s more of a steady trickle of people as opposed to a flood, but there’s still enough to keep me busy from the get-go. I’m assigned to the toy/manga/$3 books section which saw a lot less traffic than the other side with shirts and graphic novels. It’s hard to keep my eyes on the merchandise when there’s Spider-Men, Black Widows, zombies and Jokers wandering all around me! I’ve never been to any sort of convention before this, so the cosplay is definitely a novelty that’s new to me. Coupled with the scale of the place and intensive displays of the big names like DC and Microsoft, I’m taken in completely. I got to wander around Artist’s Alley and see some cool stuff for sale, and because the DC booth was right next to Big B’s, I also got to stare at Brian Azzarello for a while!

All in all, after two intensive days of work I fully ready for both my bed and the Friday off. As much glitz and glam as there was, it was a completely exhausting experience, at least as a retailer. Perhaps for the 2013 FanExpo I’ll get to go as a fan one day and see it from the other side of the lens.

Till next time,

-Marko