The second of my ‘summer’ of Transformers conventions took me Toronto for TFCon 2011. Here’s the lowdown the North American leg of my travels:
Flew out via Air Canada on Friday July 29th. After the Air Berlin fiasco (scroll down for: Con Stories 1), I was braced for delays and airport hassle, but everything was on time and exceptionally smooth. Early start (my taxi to Heathrow was booked for 5AM), but it meant that I arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International airport at around 1.30PM (local time), a very civilized hour. Was met by Chris Hideg and… (apologies, the name escapes me – let me know, will you, and I’ll update this post), who whisked me out to the suburb of Mississauga and the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Center, which was both hotel and venue for the weekend. Grabbed some lunch, met some fans and more of the organizers/staff, and then took a little time out before the evening opening events. No official duties for me, so I just sat and watched for a while before heading to the bar and meeting yet more people on what was a pleasantly informal first day. Already, I felt comfortable at TFCon. Very friendly bunch!
Got a nice early start on Saturday, and was at my kind of ‘dealer’ table before the already huge crowd started to flood in. The organizers set me up outside the dealer room itself in the overspill area, which suited me fine, as pretty much everyone had to troop past on their way in. As usual, I had comics and scripts for sale/signature. So even though I had an official signing slot after my Q&A panel, I was actually signing pretty much all morning — whether it be my scripts or stuff people had brought with them. And wow – what a lot of people came and went. I was so busy I barely got a chance to say more than a quick hello to artist Alex Milne, who was set up a few tables further down, and didn’t get to speak Dan Khanna (a little bit further along) until much later! Once again, I was struck by the conviviality of the atmosphere. Everyone was pleased to be there, and fans, staff and guests mingled with an easy/informal familiarity. All cons should be like this.
And speaking of guests, though I’d said my hellos to Garry Chalk, whom I’d met at several other conventions, Paul Eiding and I just seemed to keep passing like ships in the night – with a series of “Hi, we really must talk.”s I’d not met Paul before, but immediately, and just on a quick couple of handshakes, I sensed we were going to get on well… if we ever actually got more than 30 seconds in a corridor! Also, it was really nice to see Joe Ng (who I’d last worked with in 2004 on the sadly truncated War Within – Age of Wrath series for Dreamwave) again. He and I did get a chance to chat, as we shared a signing table that afternoon.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My first ‘official’ duty was a Q&A session in the main function room. Hard to call it a panel, when there’s just you, so largely I just fielded a slew of questions from the audience, many of which were centered around issue #81, the just-announced continuation of the Marvel Transformers series (which ended back in 1991) by IDW. As with C.O.N.S., there was only so much I was allowed to say on the subject and I had to duck and dive around the real meat of what’s going to happen in the series. Nevertheless, the questions (on a whole range of subjects) and answers flowed back and forth for the whole hour without much let up. Once again, I was impressed both by the enthusiasm of the fans and the low key but effective organization of the con itself. The Q&A kicked off with a kind of greatest hits cover gallery from all eras of my work on Transformers, projected via the AV system, and a set-up with one mike in the central aisle and fans kind of queuing up to ask questions worked far better than someone running around with a roving mike. Then, as I say, I had my formal signing slot alongside Joe. Glad we got a chance to talk as he was only around for the Saturday. Joe – it was a pleasure, as always.
The first day wrapped up with a live script reading. First one of those I’ve been at for ages where I’m a non-participant, and it was very enjoyable. Great fun, and both the professional voice actors and those recruited from the audience were excellent. Then it was back to bar, where… a) I finally managed to talk, at length, to Paul Eiding and his lovely wife Colleen, and b) Garry Chalk produced a guitar out of thin air and performed an impromptu ‘unplugged’ session for those gathered there. What a talented guy. And my earlier instincts were proved right. Paul and I got on really well. Such a nice and genuine man. Finally, I must mention the many wonderful fans I spoke to, among them Mindy (who famously cosplayed as Beast Wars character Stampy). Finally called it a night around 3AM. Ouch.
So, onto Sunday. Once again, though a little later than the previous day, I was at my ‘dealer’ table for the morning, bolstered by several cups of coffee. Delayed jet lag probably!! Actually, before I even started, I HAD two interviews – one for the official TFCon DVD and another for fan site. Anyway, another brisk morning of signing all and sundry followed, and then I was off to my second ‘panel’ of the weekend, this one centering on the art and craft of creating Transformers comic books. As well my standard show & tell, one which I’d put together a while back with artist Nick Roche for a show in Belfast – that follows a page of Spotlight Shockwave through all stages – I had a gallery of rare or unseen Transformers art, showcasing the likes of EJ Su (his original design of Verity and pencils for Infiltration #0), Don Figueroa (Stormbringer pencils), Alex Milne (finished art from the unpublished Energon #31) and Joe Ng (Age of Wrath pencils). Lots more questions (and answers) followed my little presentation, and again – everyone seemed to be really involved, especially for a Sunday morning. Then I signed some more, at one point alongside Garry and Paul, and that was pretty much it. Off to the airport for my flight to New York. Which was delayed! Sigh.
Mini-rant time. Actually, the delay was something of a blessing. Because clearing immigration en route from Canada to the USA is a drawn out nightmare! For a start, you still have all your luggage with you! So people are having to push laden trolleys through a tortuous and twisting queuing system. And the line moves at a leaden crawl. Just too bad if you have an imminent flight to catch! And the officials are so inflexible. There was one old guy there, who looked ready to drop, and everyone in the line wanted to move him forwards. But the immigration monkey sent him right back! Just because it wasn’t in his narrow remit to allow a bit of compassion to enter the inflexible system. Just awful!
Anyhow, then I was in New York for a couple of days, doing a bit of business and catching up with some old friends. And, mostly, just getting my NYC fix. What a city! I never tire of it.
Overall, TFCon was an excellent convention, well organized and very user-friendly, both for fans and us pros. It had all the buzz of a ‘big’ convention without the walls that size of convention sometimes erects between fans and pros. Much recommended! My thanks go to Colin Douglas and his team for bringing me out and looking after me in such fine style. And for sending me back via NYC. Hectic, exhausting – but a whole lot of fun. Cheers, guys.
Look out for my thoughts and recollections of Auto Assembly soon!