“It was a Superman comic and it featured the alien of the month,” Alex La Prova recalls fondly, of the first comic book he ever read. “Of course it was a hand-me-down from the older kid on the street . . . but I’ve been hooked ever since.” Now, as co-organizer of this weekend’s Montreal Comic Convention, he hopes to share that passion with the city.
Unlike in San Diego, New York and Toronto, there hasn’t always been an annual comic book convention in these parts. Montreal has seen several different companies host one-off events that ultimately didn’t stick. “Way, way back in the early nineties, there was a big one here and the featured artist was Todd McFarlane,” recalls La Prova. “I remember thinking: ‘Man . . . Montreal is alive when it comes to comic books!’ ”
It wasn’t until another local enthusiast, Oscar Yazedjian, began hosting one-day shows that La Prova found a partner with whom he could begin establishing a new annual tradition. Fanboys and girls turned out to support the event, which has since grown considerably. “The attendance increased from eight hundred the first year to about three thousand the next year. This year, we said: ‘Let’s go a step further’.”
To celebrate the third edition of their convention, this dynamic duo have done just that, bringing together celebrities and comic book royalty from all corners of the entertainment universe. Among the honoured guests are Star Wars rogue Billy Dee Williams (aka Lando Calrissian from The Empire Strikes Back), cult femme fatale Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira, “Mistress of the Dark”), Star Trek automaton Brent Spiner (aka Data from The Next Generation) and one especially memorable piece of 80s automation: the DeLorian from the Back to the Future franchise.
“We got to chatting with (the owners of the car) and I asked, ‘Is there any way that you could drive it up to Montreal?’” La Prova says. The beloved vehicle sees quite a bit of travel as a fundraising tool for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. This weekend, it’s one of two charity-focused attractions. On the final day of the convention, an auction hosted by Chuck Rozanski of the online comic shop Mile High Comics will be held to benefit the Ste-Justine Foundation for sick children as well.
For La Prova, though, the real draw for attendees is the chance to meet the artists and writers whose work turned comic book characters into legends. “Herb Trimpe and Larry Hama, who originally teamed up to make the first G.I. JOE comic back in the mid-80s, are reuniting for the first time in fifteen years,” he explains. Other guests include Tim Sale, the Eisner award-winning artist behind Batman: The Long Halloween and MARVEL legend Trimpe. “He drew the first Wolverine. We invited him down a couple of years ago, and now he’s family.”
Whether guests are participating in the costume competition, digging for back issues or attending Q & As, La Prova anticipates another successful weekend and is confident there is a bright future ahead for the annual convention. “Montreal is a big metropolitan city – I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to provide our fans with an event of equal proportion.”
To check out the action, head on over to Place Bonaventure, room 200-N, this Saturday and Sunday. For further information on guests and ticket prices, visit the convention website.