FanExpo Denver '22

A buddy happened to have an extra ticket to FanExpo Denver, so I got to swing through and check it out.

Despite being squarely in the target audience for events like this, somehow I’d never been to a ComiCon or such before, and FanExpo was definitely a cultural experience a couple of things stuck out from.

Vendors and booths

Weird mix of brands advertising something (gaming stuff mostly), smaller vendors with their own wares, artists with originals and ahem wholesalers. Several booths had literally identical products. The wholesalers were kinda fascinating because there were at least two booths with identical selections of prop firearms and swords. Now I appreciate that relative to say paper art prints those products require a lot of tooling, but they clearly came undifferentiated from the same supplier. There was also an xbox themed minifridge that occurred in multiple vendors’ selections.

It was also fascinating how the artists skewed. Of the artists, most had their own original work but much of it as presented was homages both in content and in style. I found (and bought some) excellent original art from a couple of the vendors, but the average booth was homages to either DC, Marvel or Star Wars characters in fairly traditional styles. There were a few fun stylebends – but they all skewed ur-japanese/anime? Eg. DC characters in vaporwave color schemes or stylebent to samurai armor were really the only style variations to be had.

But all the really fun art was originals or small studio comics, and even there it was hard to walk the line of original art and characters/themes vs homages.


I’d say overwhelmingly star wars. Almost zero trekkie presence. Maybe two trekkie cosplayers and a handful of vendors with trek inspired product. Meanwhile, Star Wars characters probably accounted for half the art I went through. It certainly felt like anime/manga plus traditional comics was still less by volume, with manga styles being in the minority. One Piece got probably the most representation, but I think I only found one piece of Akira art for instance and it wasn’t really art – just a replica of Kaneda’s jacket.

Cosplay and gender roles/effort level

Lots of mando and even original series characters and product, the good o’ 504th was out in force. Definitely a multivariant age split.

Younger folks’ costumes were almost uniformly anime. Soul Eater, One Piece, Kingdom Hearts all out in force in marked contrast to the over 40 set.

Adults were DC/Marvel characters. Couple of spider men, one whole spider family, couple Harleys, but again skewing away from Star Wars.

And then, bless them, you’ve got the 504th with set-grade R2D2 and Imperial Pilot builds. Easily age 40+ with money and time to throw at this.

Some outstanding semi-pro cosplays too, and fun talks on builds from that crowd. I need to play with resin casting and multi-step manufacturing processes from the printer to larger or repeated cast objects. Also really need to look into finishing techniques for printed objects.

Most folks who dressed up were femme or crossdressing-to. Probably 3:1 ratio. Dudes wore armor (504th, couple SPARTAN builds, several mandos, batman) chicks wore good anime outfits and the occasional Gwen Stacy. The common ground was absolutely body suits, and it was cool to see folks being able to get into costumes easily. While there were a few shirtless Inoske cosplays running around, there’s really something to be said about gender roles and perceived acceptability of costumes. When the mean dude cosplay is a suit of armor and the mean chick cosplay is an anime dress if not a Harley outfit, that says something about relative failure to perceive guys as attractive and presentable.

Closing thoughts

I’d be curious what the mix looks like at COAF, and I definitely got some fun art out of the exhibition floor but that was a … fascinating cultural experience.

It’s curious to me how much representation Star Wars got. It feels like a lot of the product present was Star Wars, while relatively little of the art was, and much of the cosplay (504th excepted) was anime. And this is at a “comics” event, not at an “anime” event. We’ve got one of those coming up!

It feels a bit like the con pulled a weird mix of old school tabletop/dnd folks (fairly small), computer gamers (even smaller), “fans” broadly construed of a lot of media, fans-who-cosplay and then lol 504th. I’d probably go again next year as a cultural experiment but unless I find something useful in the talk tracks I’d have a hard time hanging out at the con. Because it sure felt more like a garage sale of fandom products than a … fan event. And I don’t love my interest in things being so brazenly reduced to “CONSUME”.