Those are two words that mean a lot to me. I buy my tickets almost six months prior to the start of the show; in fact, back in November, shortly after getting a call-back from a job interview, the first thing I did was buy my tickets for the 2023 show.
With each passing week I'd check to see if there were any changes or announcements about guest announcements, more eager about Comic Creators than anything else.Things were going to be different about this Calgary Expo compared to previous years though; this time I wasn't going to be going alone, my Dad was going to be joining me. He'd never been to something like this before, he'd only seen pictures and videos that I posted online after the show was complete.
So you can imagine his shock and disbelief when he saw the thousands upon thousands of people at the Saturday show and just how much was going on. From cosplayers, to comic creators and vendors selling whatever merchandise they had brought, he had never seen anything quite like it. Experiencing it firsthand was much different from viewing pictures on Facebook.
So on the Sunday we took it a bit easier. We had planned to attend a panel on "Comic Book Holy Grails" and following that we planned to watch a sketch duel between Tom Grummett & Marcus To. The day before we watched a sketch duel between Grummett & Dave Johnson and was stunned by how much they could get done in a short amount of time while answering questions.
However I think all the walking we did might have tired him out and as we entered the BMO Centre, he asked if he could take a seat at the Main Stage in Hall B while I looked around. I had no problem with that and ventured out of the Hall and towards the area where all the celebrities in attendance had been herded for autographs and photo-ops. And it was there that I saw that actor George Newbern was at his table.
He and Susan Eisenberg (Who played Superman & Wonder Woman on the animated series Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited) were both in attendance this year and while it wasn't my plan that I had to get their autographs, I thought this would be a great time. After all, I loved both series and consider them them great interpretations of these classic heroes. Plus, my Phil LaMarr autograph would get very lonely without any of his fellow Leaguers to join him.
I didn't see Susan Eisenberg at her table however George was at his and thankfully the line was quite short so I decided that I would get in now. I always budget myself at these shows and had been surprisingly frugal on Saturday, the most I spent money on was another Tom Grummett commission. So while George was putting his autograph onto some swords (Not making that up either, he was autographing actual swords), I forked over my money and chose a picture of Superman for him to autograph.
We chatted briefly about how I didn't watch JL or JLU when it first aired because my home at the time had only local stations and once I moved out, only then did my folks decide to get satellite and access to more grander stations than the local CBC affiliate.
Before I left I expressed condolences over the passing of Kevin Conroy.
"Thank you," George said. "He's missed by everyone, so much."
As I walked away with my autograph I opened up the Calgary Expo app on my phone to see if I could find out when Susan Eisenberg would be back at her table. So you can imagine my shock when I turned around and...there she was. I could have sworn she wasn't there a minute ago but there she was, signing autographs as you'd expect. Who knows, maybe she parked Wonder Woman's invisible jet in front of the table and that's why I couldn't see her.
So thankfully the line was short for Susan and like with George I explained that after I moved out, I made up for lost time by watching the shows on streaming services and DVDs.
"Everyone on that show was perfect," I said smiling. "Plus, I mean, you got to work with Kevin Conroy!"
"Well, it's not just that I got to work with him," she explained, "but he was a great friend. We all became such good friends working on that show."
I could start to feel tears welling up behind my eyes but I controlled myself and started to tell her about the comic Marcelo & I had made.
"It's a bit ironic, but his passing actually motivated me to start making my own comics. I made one as a small tribute to him, if you'd like to see it."
"Oh, I'd love to see that," she said as I got out my phone and opened the file.
"It's only three pages," I explained as I handed it to her.
I'd shown the comic we made to other people throughout the weekend however Susan's reaction was much different than anyone before her.
"I don't understand," she frowned, looking at the screen.
I was thinking that maybe I had clicked on the wrong file or that she couldn't read the text.
"You can zoom in using your fingers," I tried explaining.
"Where did you get these images?" she asked.
I quickly glanced at the phone and then realized her confusion.
"These are all drawn," I explained. "I hired an artist and paid him to draw this story I wrote."
Like everyone else, Susan just couldn't believe how gorgeous Marcelo's art is. I had someone in Artist Alley tell me that this was like looking at Batman: The Animated Series.
Susan looked away from the phone and back towards me.
"What?" she asked in astonishment.
"Yeah," I chucked. "I-rather, we-we wanted to do something really special and the artist, Marcelo, worked really hard because we both knew that we wanted it to look right."
"This is extraordinary," she said as he looked back at the screen. Hearing her say that felt like I had been transported into an episode of Justice League and I felt like some random scientist who just showed Wonder Woman some weird anomaly that was forming on the edge of Earth's solar system.
"Wonder Woman just called my comic 'extraordinary'," I said out loud. "I think I can die happy now."
"Do you mind if I take a picture of this?" she said as she reached for her own phone.
No way was I going to say that pictures were out of the question. I held the phone in front of me, doing my best to be still and trying not to freak out.
"Andrew, smile," Susan told me. "You look so serious."
"Sorry," I laughed. "I thought you were taking a picture of just the comic."
Susan then asked me to give her both my and Marcelo's social media information. I wrote down our Twitter handles and our full names.
"I want to make sure that if I share this on social media that the right people get credit for this," she explained.
I don't know how I did it but I was doing my absolute best not to freak out and start screaming in absolute joy. All I had expected that would happen was she would remark that the art was great and that we had done a nice tribute to her friend. I never thought that she would say this needed to be shared.
"The problem is, I won't be able to put these online until later tonight," she said with a very apologetic look on her face.
I held up my hands. "Hey, no problem," I said. "The last thing I'm going to do is demand that you upload pictures of me to Instagram or Twitter."
We shook hands, thanked each other and at that point I felt like gravity could not keep me on the ground. I was ready to leap off the floor, through the roof of the BMO Centre and across the skyline of downtown Calgary.
If there was one thing I wish I could change about how this had played out, I would have wanted my Dad to have seen that. However I decided that he needed to be the first person who found out.
I called him, almost out of breath and trying not to cry tears of joy.
"Something has happened," I told him. "Everything's fine, but I'm coming back right away!"
"OK..." he answered.
I made my way back towards Hall B...only to get distracted by this guy who was selling these really cool models and figurines.
Is it any wonder that my previous employer once said that I'm a bit like a dog who is eager to do something but then gets distracted by a shiny red ball?
I found him back at the stage, showed him the autographs and told him what Susan said she was going to do.
He was a bit lost for words but I could tell that he was really proud.
"Something's gonna come of this," he said.
"I don't know..."
"Something's gonna come of this," he repeated.
"Even if it doesn't, the fact that something I helped make that...it can have that kind of impact on people...it tells me that what I write can be important."
Shortly afterwards, Marcello sent me a DM on Twitter letting me know the latest page of our upcoming comic was complete but as I told him, "Dude! I'm not looking at the page the coolest thing just happened".
I didn't want to go around boasting about this in the off chance it didn't happen but later on in the evening, you can imagine my...disbelief, I suppose would be the right word, at seeing myself on Susan Eisenberg's Instagram along with other people who visited her that weekend.
So how do I rank something like this? Well this was the 11th Calgary Expo I've attended and lots of cool things have happened to me at that show. I've received original art that brought tears to my eyes, I've gotten to chat with celebrities & voice actors (That same weekend I got to speak with Vincent D'Onofrio), I've met comic artists who made me dream as a child and make my inner child want to keep dreaming.
OK, to be clear there's no topping getting Stan Lee's autograph and then doing a fist-bump with him. That's always going to be my #1 experience at Calgary Expo.
But meeting the actress whose voice I hear when I read Wonder Woman in a comic, showing her a comic that I wrote in tribute to her friend and colleague, her declaring that more people need to see it and calling it "extraordinary"? That comes a very close second place and by Hera there's nothing wrong with that.