Weird, wild, and wide-ranging: Gerhard, Marina Sirtis among highlights on Edmonton Expo’s opening day

Review of the first night of Edmonton Expo, Sept 20

Day one at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo was as you might have pictured it, and exactly what illustrator Gerhard expected.

“It’s been strange,” the acclaimed co-artist (with creator Dave Sim) of Cerebus the Aardvark said as he sat behind a table in Artist Alley, busily drawing and selling prints of his work. “It’s a comic book convention. Everything about it is weird; I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Gerhard, who was born in Edmonton but moved to Ontario as a toddler, had stopped doing conventions years ago. He only started up again about four years ago, and while some things remain constant, others have changed. In and amongst the pop culture memorabilia and booths for such organizations as the Alberta Ghostbusters you can now buy bath bombs, soap, and beef jerky. The Canadian Armed Forces have a spot set up, and you can find at least one vegan-themed exhibitor.

The heart of the con, however, remains genre-affiliated celebrities like Carey Elwes (Princess Bride; Stranger Things), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: Next Generation; Titans), and Wallace Shawn (Princess Bride; Deep Space Nine), along with celebrated superhero cartoonists like Mike Zeck (Secret Wars; Captain America), Rags Morales, and Pat Broderick (Alpha Flight; Green Lantern). Put in musical terms, Gerhard and Sims would be the Velvet Underground to Zeck’s The Cars.

“These shows do tend to focus on the well known superheroes, especially with these huge movies coming out” Gerhard acknowledges. “We had this little independent black and white book that didn’t sell anywhere as much in comparison, but I’m starting to understand the impact it’s had, not just on comic book readers, but also artists and writers. For young artists, Cerebus was their own underground thing. Even if people don’t recognize the name Cerebus all you have to say is “the aardvark” and automatically they go “Oh, yeah, yeah, I know him.”

There were no Cerebus cosplayers on Friday (c’mon, con-folks, up your game), but there were at least three Joaquin Phoenix Jokers, two Wolverines, and an impressive, painstakingly cobbled together version of the Iron Man Mark 1 suit. The Harry Potter fan crew were all out in full force, mixing easily with the DC heroes cosplayers and those headed to look for love in the Geek Speed Dating room. The Next Generation’s Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) signed autographs and posed for photos for a long line of fans, until having to cut out for her celebrity Q&A in the Rec Room Theatre.

That Sirtis is completely and utterly unlike her most famous role became evident early on at her talk, as she opened with a blast at her country’s current administration. Those who expect their favourite celebrities to keep their mouth shut and say innocuous things would have been appalled, but the large crowd that assembled to hear Sirtis speak on a variety of topics loved her brashness. It was essentially a salty Star Trek stand-up act focusing on her cast-mates, Hollywood’s obsession with actress bodies, and the many costumes (among them the “cosmic cheerleader outfit”) of Deanna Troi.

The Q&A was even better as Sirtis bantered with fans lined up at the microphones. She referenced dark experiences as a young actress in the pre-Weinstein era, her love of football (both American and English), and gave up some deep nerd trivia, such as the fact that she turned down appearing in the first Men In Black film because she felt she’d done enough sci-fi. Sirtis was warm, funny, and outrageous; she kept the fun rolling a little longer to accommodate the lineup of questioners, and then was off.

She’ll be back, along with everyone else, signing autographs through Saturday and Sunday.

Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets: $80 deluxe pass; single day tickets are also available in advance from the Expo website