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2009 F.A.C.T.S. – Ghent, Belgium
by Joris De Smet
October 17-18, 2009
FACTS 2009

Yes, I have dallied a bit to write this year’s report on the FACTS convention. The feeling afterwards is certainly a bit ambiguous …

Why, you ask? Indulge me …

It certainly has nothing to do with the convention as such. FACTS was again bigger, better and more fun than last year’s edition! A lot bigger, palpably better and scaringly funnier to be precise and that was underlined by the fact that there were never more visitors for FACTS before.

FACTS has moved to Flanders Expo after having thoroughly outgrown the International Congress Center. It was a bold move, because the cozy atmosphere of the Congress Center (in the middle of the green Ghent city park) had really become part of the “face” of FACTS and it was somewhat of an anxious wait to see if the random FACTS visitor would recognize ‘the Expo’ in the same way. It quickly became obvious that those worries were for nothing at all: save for the one single person thinking that the ICC was a more comfortable place still, everybody immediately felt quite at home in the Expo halls. Especially because those halls came with plenty extra room for the walking lanes.

What I certainly didn’t mind is that there’s also plenty more easily accessible parking space for my LandSpeeder around Flanders Expo than there ever was at the Congress Center.

The one thing that was just too crowded was the agenda of the convention.

Of course the most noticeable were the toy merchants: they packed a whopping two halls with merchandise of every cult movie and TV-series ever made. That would be no less than 8000 square meters of toys… move over Mister Magorium’s Toy Emporium!

Also the artist’s alley was packed with unbelievable talent both from within and outside the Belgian borders. It is obvious that the US comic culture really catches on here in the Benelux as well, more than was the case ever before. Some of the comic artists attracted lines of fans that could easily withstand comparison with the ones for their neighbors, the TV and movie actors.

And speaking of them… while there were fewer actors at FACTS than we are used to in the meantime, it has to be said that the names on the bill were distinctly bigger than ever before. Who wouldn’t line up to meet Stargate’s Teal’c, the powerful “Haitian” from the Heroes series, muscle-bulging Hercules or the breathtaking Leah ‘Racetrack’ Cairns from the recent Battlestar Galactica series? We decided to line up and shake hands with Kevin Sorbo, better known as Hercules on the little screen and we weren’t sorry we did. He proved to be an extremely warm person, taking largely the time for each and every one of his fans.

And the fans were again present in large numbers as well. Yes, the Star Wars fans again were the most numerous. The fan village boasted impressive life-size replicas of the Endor bunker with accompanying speeder bike and a Hoth Rebel Snowspeeder. The in the meantime very well known life-size Jabba brought along his trusted sergeant Mon Ephant for the first time around. Of course also the Artoo Builders were there on the appointment and there were plenty of Jedi, Stormtroopers and Clone Troopers to guard the perimeters of the dioramas.

So, you may wonder, if it was all so marvellous as you described, why the ambiguous feelings you were talking about at the start?

Despite the valiant efforts and the enthusiasm of the Star Wars cosplayers, Star Wars is so obviously in a lull in Europe. I read reports on our own beloved site that the toy distribution in the US already leaves so much to be desired already, but finding a new Star Wars toy in Europe is simply becoming downright impossible. Sideshow 12-inch Utapau Trooper? Nah. Tank (Snail) droid? No again. “Scramble on Yavin” Battle Pack? I don’t think so. Same story for the Battle-damaged Legacy Darth Vader, the Rebel Legacy Packs or the Yaddle and Even Piell figures which adorned so many collector’s wants lists. And we won’t even talk about the more recent “Gelagrub Patrol” or “Geonosis Assault” Battle Packs or the mail-away Eopie. The very lucky collectors were able to score the Return of the Jedi Legacy wave, but they had to opt in for the Early Bird ticket as a condition for that. The new Target Rancor and the Magnaguard Fighter were offered up in what seemed to be large enough quantities to satisfy demand, but prices were quite steep in both cases. FACTS was often the last resort for collectors to find the much-desired last item, so it was a bit disappointing to see that so few was to be harvested.

And of course there’s probably not actually a relation between the poor Star Wars sales offer and the fact that there was no Star Wars actor on the bill, but it leaves some room for speculation. You can’t help but wonder… are we down to the proverbial “last 17” again and are we up for the next Star Wars hibernation period? There’s hoping that the announced TV-series will remedy it all and that we can go ahead swinging our lightsabers for some time to come.

Luckily all of these dark musings evaporated as Hoth snow to the Tatooine sun when we laid eyes on another cosplaying hype that seems to have blown over from the States: scantily clad Slave Leia impersonators! They certainly made the day for many visitors. They were so inspiring that I decided to add my own little Metal Bikini surprise to this article. If you’re at the end of the photo report, just keep clicking…

See you at FACTS 2010!

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