Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo thrills tens of thousands, invokes magical memories

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Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo thrills tens of thousands, invokes magical memories

Many of the big names in the entertainment world were on hand Saturday at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, along with tens of thousands of fans, and for some it's about connecting with their favourite characters and actors.

Star guests include comic royalty Stan Lee, Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, Peter Capaldi (Dr. Who), Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly), Kristian Nairn (Game of Thrones), Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes (a.k.a., Silent Bob and Jay), Adrian Paul (Highlander), John Cusack (Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity) and many others.

Marissa Graham, from Saskatoon, knew she would make the trip to Calgary when she learned Fillion was scheduled to appear.

Graham, with her little Cabbage Patch daughter in her arms, says there seems to be a connection between the fans, regardless of who they came for.

"We all have kindred things," Graham explained.

"You get in a lineup with someone and you can spark a conversation, whether it's that person or another person here, we all have ties. The same people are in so many different threads of comics, movies, TV shows. You can talk about anything so you have that community instantly, no matter where you go, what you are doing."

She's just one of more than 80,000 people that organizers were expecting to pack into this year's expo on the Calgary Stampede grounds — many in cosplay, costumes based on or inspired by characters in movies, TV shows, books, graphic novels or video games. The event, now in its 12th year, is one of the 10 largest comic and entertainment expos for attendance in North America.

Actor Steven Yeun was in The Walking Dead for seven years. He says his character, Glenn Rhee, who died a violent death at the start of Season 7, seemed to really connect with fans which made the death that much more meaningful.

"I think there was a little bit of controversy about maybe the goriness but it was interesting because I think there might have been a misrepresentation of gore and more of the emotional impact of what was happening," Yeun told CBC News.

"I think Glenn, at the time, he really embodied maybe the purest sense of hope on that show and also he was always that window for the average viewer to identify with. He was easily able to be empathetic towards."

WARNING: Very graphic

Yeun says, however, that in a strange way, it provided a closure that many fans often go without.

"I think that is something that is vital nowadays, people don't finish things anymore," he said.

"Books, movies, games, they don't finish them so for me it was a nice completion and hopefully people can see it the same way."

Fan Kate Murray and three friends made the roughly 13-hour drive from Winnipeg to celebrate their favourite characters. Murray put a lot of effort into her Sansa Stark costume from Game of Thrones, saying the character really speaks to her.

"She's had a lot of really good growth over the last couple of seasons," Murray said.

"This [costume] is from the newest [season], when she has really come into her own, and gets quite fierce and starts defending herself and actually stepping into battles. I think that is pretty great, a female character."

Sarah Lucas, of Toronto, went a little further back in time for her character of female empowerment.

"She's my favourite superhero," Lucas says of Wonder Woman.

"I just like that she is very empowering and I think that she is a really good role model for women and specifically little girls."

The 26-year-old is old school. Currently, the 1970s TV version of Wonder Woman is her favourite although it's complicated.

"Right now Lynda Carter, [but] I can't say for sure, I think Gal Gadot is going to do a really good job, so fingers crossed, I am very excited for it."

Juan Gallardo and five friends spent more than 500 hours working on his Drack costume from the Mass Effect: Andromeda video game.

Gallardo says the character has heroic qualities.

"Determination and endurance. He is actually helping the humans find a planet they can inhabit but of course there are other species on that planet causing conflict," Gallardo explains.

"Drack provides a bit of security and comfort to the humans, he's on their side helping them out."

Gallardo has some advice to fellow costume makers.

"Do it. It doesn't have to be perfect, just build. It's not how it turns out, the point is to finish it. It's never going to be perfect because we are critical to ourselves, but just have fun doing it."

Aaron McEwen from Edmonton won a new gaming keyboard. It's his fifth time at the Calgary event and although the San Diego Comic-Con is impressive, there are aspects to the Alberta expos that are appealing for fans.

"I would say Edmonton and Calgary expos are a lot homier," McEwen said.

"You get to spend a little more time with the stars here and the costumes are just great."

'We both started crying'

Actor Garrett Wang of Star Trek: Voyager fame is a regular at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.

He says three years ago, he had a fan request that completely took him by surprise.

"A young lady showed up to my table and she said, 'Can you sign this for Lawrence?' and I said, 'Well, who is Lawrence?' and she told me," Wang explained.

A couple of weeks earlier, five young adults, including Lawrence Hong, were killed at a house party celebrating the end of exams.

When Wang's appearance at that year's expo was confirmed, the young lady said Hong couldn't wait to get tickets.

"So I want you to sign this to him, in his — I am going to start crying — in his honour," Wang said, of the young woman's request.

"It was something that I did. She started crying and I walked around and I hugged her. We both started crying over the fact that he had passed but in honour of him, in his memory, I signed that autograph to him so that was probably the most touching thing that happened."

The Calgary Expo ends Sunday.