Fanning the flames of fandom at Northern FanCon

Ben Gibson strode the concourse of CN Centre Saturday, clad in armour of silver and gold, faceless underneath a horned helmet and clutching a mace with six blades that bloomed wider than a warhorse.

He was Mordekaiser, a character from the multiplayer online video game League of Legends, who, according to the game's website "is among the most terrifying and hateful of spirits that haunt the Shadow Isles." To put such a creature, the so-called Master of Metal, on his back heel, even briefly, took neither steel nor wit nor arcane barrage but rather a question: What makes a great fan?

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"There's so many things," said Gibson, who lives in Prince George. "I just like doing costumes, I always have, I can't really explain it to tell you the truth, it's just fun, you meet lots of great people doing it and learn so many things doing it.

"I'm definitely a fan of cosplay. And bad-ass armour."

Gibson came well-armed to wade into the multitude from across the region who gathered at CN Centre for the crush of collectibles, comics, celebrities, and costumes that was last weekend's Northern FanCon. If you could watch, play, trade, collect, sign, draw, join, wear or roll it, chances are there was someone who loved it and was looking to share that love with like-minded souls during the three-day event.

Finding fans, be they casual aficionados or devoted followers who traced their loyalty back decades, was easy. There were even fans of fans ("Is that EVA foam?" asked one onlooker as she stared at Gibson. "That is amazing...").

But answers to what makes a great fan - and why they becomes fans - were scarcer.

Gibson, who enjoys cosplay or costume play, spent 250 to 300 hours fashioning the 21 pieces of his Mordekaiser armour and he was by no means alone. Also striding through CN Centre was Ganondorf, the antagonist in "all the good" Legend of Zelda games, according to Lane Monteith. To become Ganondorf, Monteith had spent "a year and a couple months" making his costume and about two hours at 8:30 a.m. getting his hair and makeup ready ("I was dreading it.")

Monteith's Facebook name is AlphaNerd Cosplay - and, as such, he wears his feelings about being fan on his shoulders (and face and short, curly dyed hair and legs).

"I think (it's loving) something regardless of what other people think of you," said Monteith, who splits his time between Edmonton and Prince George. "People are going to tease you and you don't care - you just almost... you almost feed off it."

A little of that stubborn nature drove Trevor Elkey to spend 19 months crafting his Boba Fett costume and leading him to join the famed 501st Legion, an international Star Wars costuming group (he's also joining The Mandalorian Mercs since Fett is a Mandalorian).

Both groups were at Northern FanCon; they also do charity appearances where they appear en masse as the ubiquitous Imperial soldiers the Stormtroopers and other characters from the iconic science fiction franchise.

The attention the 501st, the Mercs, and other similar costuming groups lavish on their gear and appearance is where they derive much of their fanaticism. Elkey, who lives in Prince George, is in the final process of having his Fett costume approved, where senior B.C. 501st officials will critique every inch of his work.

"I started with the helment - I thought this would make a great Halloween costume," said Elkey. "At the time I didn't realize exactly how intricate, in-depth the costume was. But as I got into the build, it just snowballed... until I thought why not make it as close to authentic as possible?"

A fan's attention to detail is something Justin Rain can appreciate - to a point. Rain, who played Warrior in the vampire movie Twilight: Eclipse and Quentin McCawley in the TV series Defiance, said he's sometimes a little taken aback by how much fans know about his work - and him.

"Ones that kind of know personal things about you and you don't know how they know them is always kind of... surprising and sort of flattering," he said, chuckling a little nervously. "It's cool too when a fan comes up to you and starts asking you questions about your character's dreams, they're talking to you literally like you're that character and you get to interact them that way.

John de Lancie agreed a grounding in reality was important for a fan. Taking a break from signing autographs the actor who played the mercurial, all-powerful alien entity Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation ("He's Discord!" also piped up a nearby fan, referring to de Lancie's work as a voice actor in the cartoon My Lttle Pony) he said of fans: "It's somebody who's really interested in whatever they're interested in, who recognizes it's not... real."

De Lancie's fandom is more traditional: a voracious reader of history, he's most interested the common experience of people throughout the ages.

Turns out he's a fan of everyone.

"I love reading about how people existed thousands of years ago," said de Lancie. "Battles and things like that don't interest me as much as how people lived."

Yet there's still room for a little hero worship. Keith Stecko is the fire chief of the B.C. community of Smithers. He runs into burning buildings and orders people to do the same.

But, standing in front a comic book stall, he was still a little shaken by his encounter with William Shatner, who served as Stecko's boyhood idol commanding the USS Enterprise in his role as Captain James T. Kirk.

"I grew up with William Shatner on my TV screen every Saturday morning for as long as I can remember and I would say he was inspirational in terms of what I do now," said Stecko, who quizzed Shatner on the possibility of a cameo in the rumoured new Star Trek TV show Federation. "My palms are still sweaty and, given the line of work that I do, I'm surprised I almost felt like I was going to faint.

"I cannot pick a word in the English language to describe... just the opportunity."

And Stecko isn't even the clear choice as the biggest Star Trek fan in Smithers or even in the community's local government. Stecko pointed out his friend and Smithers' municipal director of finance Leslie Ford is also a huge fan with a collection of books and comics stretching to hundreds of tomes.

"You can't even imagine how excited we are," said Ford, who clutched a handful of vintage Star Trek comics ("They're not in great shape because I would have read them in the Sixties and Seventies") and a pair of Star Trek clocks.

Ford said growing up her father was a fan of Isaac Asimov, "hard core" science fiction. She read those books and then become enthralled with Star Trek - from the original series to Voyager.

"I always liked the concept that Star Trek showed an optimistic view of the future," said Ford.

Ford would certainly fit into Colin Burke's definition of a great fan: "Honestly, the first word that comes to mind is dedication." Burke, dressed up in a forest green and leatheresque outfit and clutching a multi-pronged spear ("It's kind of my own original character"), said he's a fan of movies ("you've always got to go with Star Wars, that's the original") games, and TV shows, including the Japanese manga series Attack on Titan.

Attack on Titan?

"Attack on Titan is awesome!" interjected a nearby fan.

"Yes, yes, yes it is," said Burke. "Oh god, it's... giant human zombies and civilization's last hope... kind of. That's a titan."

"That's a colossal titan," said the other fan.

Colossal titans and civilization's last hope. Sounds like something worthy of a fan.

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