TORONTO - Vulcans, Stormtroopers, superheroes and zombies invaded downtown Toronto on Friday as Fan Expo Canada got underway.

"This is the place to be if you're a multi geek," three-time Expo attendee Toni Weri, 29, of Ottawa said in her Trekkie outfit on opening day Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Billed as the third-largest pop-culture convention in North America, the three-day event draws in international celebrities and thousands of costumed enthusiasts to celebrate science fiction, horror, Japanese anime and gaming.

Stars on the docket for events running through Sunday include actors Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Campbell, Lou Ferrigno, Linda Hamilton, Beau Bridges, Tony Curtis and Udo Kier, a German horror movie icon.

"It's important for me to have a direct contact with the fans because I'm not on Facebook -- I don't believe in it -- I'm not on Twitter, nothing," said Kier, whose credits include "Andy Warhol's Dracula" and "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein."

"Once I got to know somebody who tattooed my face on her stomach," he said of his experiences in conventions in Baltimore and London, England.

"It's amazing how far people go."

As doors opened Friday for the 15th annual instalment of Fan Expo, dozens of aficionados poured in dressed as their favourite pop-culture characters, a ritual known as "cosplay."

Many participants were in groups with themes, including a clan of superhero lovers dressed as Wonder Woman, Batman, Supergirl and Superman.

"The costumes are made by fans," said James Armstrong, a spokesman for Hobby Star Marketing Inc., which runs the expo.

"These guys are not professionals, they do it in their spare time as a hobby and what they come up with is just fantastic."

"I think there should be movie production people in the audience hiring these guys."

Stephanie Bennett, 22, of London, Ont., attends about 10 pop-culture conventions a year in a variety of daring duds.

"I actually have made a costume out of chalkboard fabric and brought chalk around with me and had people write on me," she said, donning an anime costume.

"We've also done duct tape costumes."

Fan Expo started in 1995 as a comic book show and is now said to be Canada's largest pop culture convention and North America's third largest next to Comic-Con International: San Diego at No. 1 and Comic Con New York at No. 2.

Past attendees to the Toronto even have included Elijah Wood, Patrick Stewart and William Shatner.

Events lined up this year include workshops, gaming tournaments and celebrity meet-and-greets.

Saturday night's main event is the masquerade contest, which awards prizes to the best costumes representing each genre.

Last year's Fan Expo drew in a crowd of nearly 47,000.

Organizers expect to see 50,000 participants this year.

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