Geekdom in Whitehorse: YukomiCon a super success

Whether you're into sci-fi, fantasy, super heroes, gaming, or just Hercules, YukomiCon was the place to be this past weekend. And a lot of people were.

Whether you’re into sci-fi, fantasy, super heroes, gaming, or just Hercules, YukomiCon was the place to be this past weekend.

And a lot of people were. A little more than 800 people – many in costume – attended Yukon’s first comic convention and organizers are thrilled with the responses they’ve received. Apparently it’s not too early to call last weekend’s three-day comic-con a first annual event.

“I can’t believe how overwhelmingly positive the response has been to our event! We will definitely be doing the event again in 2015,” said Jessica Prentice, one of the event organizers.

“I’m just floored by how many people came out in costume and how many people are excited. There are kids and adults – it’s been great.”

The inaugural “con” – the abbreviation used by veteran con-ers – was presented by the Yukon Comic Culture Society and held at Whitehorse’s Coast High Country Inn and the Yukon Convention Centre.

YukomiCon was eight months in the planning. The inception of the event happened exactly where it should: in a comic book store.

“Caitlin (Stonechild-Beaulieu) had this idea to see what interest there would be having a con out here, little did she know there were several of us thinking the same thing,” said Prentice. “We had a meeting in the basement of (Whitehorse’s) Titan Gaming and Collectables just to talk about who’s in, and eight of us were like, ‘definitely.’

“So we formed a non-profit society in December and in the new year, right away, got to work… We’ve put hundreds of hours into this and I think it’s been a success.”

“We tried to have a tasting platter with something from every geeky genre,” she added.

It’s time to beam up to the Enterprise because that mission is accomplished.

At the risk of glossing over a few things, there were cosplay (i.e. costume) contests for all ages, gaming tournaments, and panel discussions, with topics ranging from the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman to the languages used in the writing of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

There were artist workshops and talks with accomplished comic book artists, creators and graphic novelists.

Of course, there were also venders selling everything from comics to superhero T-shirts to

Star Trek cookie cutters. (I picked up a set of Batman and Superman pint glasses. They’re awesome.)

And no comic-con would be complete without celebrity guests, who gave talks, signed autographs and posed for photos with fans.

The headliner was Hercules himself, Kevin Sorbo.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Yukon – I love to travel,” said Sorbo. “I get invited to five or six of these autograph shows, comic-con shows, every month, so I pick up about five or six a year to go to and this was on my list.”

Sorbo played the title role in the ‘90s television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Later he was captain Dylan Hunt in Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, which aired from 2000 to 2005.

“I’ve been to first(-time) events in the States and the turnout is always low, but hopefully word-of-month from the people here – they liked it, enjoyed it and are pumped up for next year,” said Sorbo. “You never know what areas you can draw from. I’ve been to cons in which people drove 500 miles to be at the con.”

“For me, this is the smallest con I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to cons with 200,000 people … and I’m used to signing non-stop, three days straight, seven hours a day. This one I get some time to actually talk to people.”

Special guest Vickybunnyangel, a master cosplayer (costume crafter and guru), has been attending about a dozen comic-cons each year for the past decade. She’s the first Canadian featured in Cosplay Gen magazine, and she was impressed by the attendance considering the population of Yukon.

“It’s actually quite big compared to some of the smaller ones I see in Toronto,” she said. “For the first of its kind in the territory, I think it’s off to a great start and I definitely hope it grows. A lot of cons got their start this way … eventually word spreads and everyone is going to be coming to Yukon as a destination. That’s how Winnipeg started, Halifax – they all started really, really small. But they’ve been going strong for years now.”

There are benefits to attending a smaller con, said celebrity guest and sci-fi star Magda Apanowicz.

“The unique thing – especially being a first con and smaller – is you’re not taking an hour getting into the convention centre so you can try to walk the floor,” said Apanowicz. “People can spend a couple hours or the day and get to see everything.”

Apanowicz broke onto the sci-fi scene playing Lacy Rand in the series Caprica, a prequel spin-off of the cult series Battlestar Galactica.

She currently stars on the Canadian sci-fi series Continuum.

“I’ve been pleasantly shocked that there’s such a big geek heart here in the Yukon,” said Apanowicz. “I like any kind of cons – anytime people get to express themselves. I’m a super nerd about a lot of different things and I’ve never really fit in. So it was nice to grow up and meet a lot of actor friends who are geeks and nerds, so I don’t feel alone anymore. So any time I come to a con with that whole unity and spirit and knowing there are other people like you is really special, and I love that Yukon is doing this.”

To secure the celebrity guests the Yukon Comic Culture Society used an IMDb (Internet Movie Database) account. Through the account the society contacted agents and managers of celebrities. It was a long process with plenty of rejection.

“So we basically started spamming them and calling everybody, asking ‘Who do you have?’ We were on a budget, of course, so were trying to see who we could get up here within our means,” said Prentice. “It was a long process with rejections and agents not answering our calls. We were an unknown. A lot of people in L.A. haven’t even heard of the Yukon, let alone YukomiCon, which has never happened before.”

The Yukon Comic Culture Society is understandably tight-lipped about their plans for next year’s YukomiCon. However, Prentice, who is the society’s treasurer, did say there will be other similar events between now and then.

“Our mandate is to foster and promote a geek community in the Yukon,” she said. “So this event is a huge part of that, but we’re planning on putting on some smaller things throughout the year to keep that momentum going. There are a lot of people here that I didn’t know were geeks until we were talking about this event.

“At the RPG (role-playing game) table, I heard people say, ‘You play Dungeons and Dragons? I play Dungeons and Dragons.’ People are finding new gaming groups to play with and new friends. And that’s been really important to us, to bring people together.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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