25 years of FACTS, Your Belgian Comic Con, in 25 facts

FACTS is turning 25! That's a quarter-century worth of experiences with movie stars, huge artists, thrilling cosplay shows, wonder and anecdotes. A lot of anecdotes. We present you a selection of FACTS' history facts.

  1. Today, FACTS welcomes tens of thousands of fans each year, but it all started with 40 visitors (and a poodle) in the Ghentisch café Het Tonneke in 1993. The hastily made poster of the first edition (added to this article) spoke of 'a free meeting' and requested that the visitors would 'bring their own stuff, to sell or trade'. The organisers were four befriended students.
    In other words: FACTS was a gathering of friends and fans who wanted nothing more than to bring as many fans of pop culture together as possible. That philosophy still stands to this day.
  2. FACTS is more than 8 soccer fields in size. This show fills every nook and cranny of Flanders Expo with activities and shows around films, series, games, comics and other pop culture phenomenons. That makes for more than 54.000 m² of fun and unique experiences. 
  3. This pop culture gathering entertains over 75.000 fans each year and that number is still growing. Who knows that the result will be in 2018?
  4. About 140 international actors have been guests at FACTS. We can count some big names to that list, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Carrie Fisher of Star Wars, Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, Robert Englund of Nightmare on Elm Street, Tom Felton of Harry Potter, Nathan Fillion, Richard 'MacGyver' Dean Anderson,... And the list goes on! 
  5. The biggest guest - literally! - was Star Wars-actor Peter Mayhew, with his 2,21m. The smallest guest was Warwick Davis (1,07m), known for his role as Ewok Wicket in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and the goblin Griphook in Harry Potter
  6. FACTS also welcomed hundreds of international artists in its 25 years of existence. Tony Moore (co-creator of the hit series The Walking Dead), Don Rosa (the legendary Scrooge McDuck artist) and internet hero Rob DenBleyker of Cyanide & Happiness are just a few shining examples in the Artist Alley hall of fame. For FACTS Spring 2018, the main eyecatchers are probably the five The Simpsons artists and the amazing comic author Brian Azzarello
  7. The name FACTS is an acronym for Fantasy, Animation, Comics, Toys and Space. In other words: it contains the main pillars of the event.
  8. Since 2017, FACTS is part of the European Heroes network. Its eleven events in five countries draw in over 300.000 visitors on a yearly basis. 
  9. The largest group of visitors are between 18 and 35 years of age, but FACTS caters almost every age category. From the newest Netflix-actors like Joe Keery to the 80's heroes like David Hasselhoff, everyone can find a feeling of adoration and nostalgia at FACTS.
  10. One out of three FACTS visitors come to the show in cosplay, which is a form of performance art in which the participants use costumes and accessories to imitate a certain character. The term 'cosplay' is a portmanteau word of 'costume' and 'play'. The first cosplay contest was held in Japan in 1974.
  11. One of the originators of FACTS, Emmanuel Van Melkebeke, is still heavily involved in the organisation of FACTS. He acts as an advisor and helps to bring the biggest movie and series stars to Ghent, once again with big success for this edition
  12. After café Het Tonneke, FACTS moved to Centrum Ten Berg (Sint-Amandsberg), afterwards to the ICC Ghent and finally to Flanders Expo in 2009, where it is still held to this day.
  13. After many negotiations and talks, the group Easyfairs took over FACTS in 2015. The soul of FACTS remained, but expanded from an exhibitor event to a huge, total experience.
  14. FACTS can rightfully call itself an international event. In Spring 2018 alone, FACTS has over 15 nationalities coming to the show, from countries such as Israel, the United States, Norway, Slovakia, Russia and other corners of the globe. And then we're not even counting the many nationalities of the Artist Alley!
  15. Even the more local heroes have found their way to FACTS. Dimitri Vegas, Jan Verheyen, Alex Agnew, William Boeva, Henk Rijckaert and Lieven Scheire are all FACTS fans. 
  16. The international press attention was soon to follow: FACTS was mentioned more than once in countries like Japan, the United States and other exotic, faraway countries.
  17. Even the exhibitors come from all over the world to have a booth at FACTS, from Australia to Japan and the USA. The show has an average of 300 exhibitors. And they all bring so many treasures that even Smaug himself would be jealous. 
  18. Every visitor spends €98 on average on merchandise alone, according to our most recent survey. That's excluding the entry costs, catering and activities.
  19. This great reach and increasing renown is thanks to a positive word of mouth, but also to social media. Through Facebook (73K followers), Twitter (4,5K followers) en Instagram (6,5K followers), we serve more people than ever before in their geeky needs. And not only during the two weekends of the event, but '24/7'. 
  20. FACTS has always put the internet's ways of communication to good use. Through the years, FACTS was active on MySpace, Hives, internet forums (remember those?) and finally settled with the classic trinity Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 
  21. But since FACTS started in 1993 - when pc's were not quite the must-haves that they are today - the news about the event had to be spread manually. Posters had to be DIY'd, pictures had to be collected by hand, visitors and exhibitors were to be reached by letters and phones. Can you imagine that process today?
  22. FACTS wouldn't have gotten anywhere without the help of the fan clubs, de groups of fans that throw themselves with their hearts and souls onto a specific movie or series. They made sure that the news got to the real die hard fans, which was hugely important in pre-usable Internet days. So thank you, fan clubs!
  23. More than 100 loyal volunteers are always ready to help out at the show. Each of them started as visitors, but kind of ... stuck. Once you go FACTS, you never go ... backts.
  24. FACTS houses the biggest bouncy castle *slash* inflatable obstacle course in the world for the second time in two years. With 272 meter, 1.440 m² and 6.000 kilo, the 'The Beast' is not to be trifled with. If you do, you'll probably end up puffing at its anckles rather than reaching the head in triumph. Try if you dare!
  25. FACTS is green! The event is powered by 53.000 m² of solar panels, mounted on the roof of Flanders Expo. The peak capacity is 1.87 megawatt!

Anthony Audenaerd

Spokesperson, FACTS

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FACTS, Your Belgian Comic Con, is not just a convention, it’s another dimension. FACTS is the biggest pop culture event of the Benelux that brings together the best of movies, series, games and superheroes, allows all its aspects to spring to life and unites a wide array of pop culture fans.

Twice a year, the FACTS Flagship docks at the halls of Flanders Expo in Ghent to present its riches in the form of world-famous actors, international comic artists, thousands of fans dressed up as fictional characters, 54.000 m² of surprising activities, and 250+ exhibitors with geeky merchandise and collector’s items. 

FACTS has been around since 1993 and has 30 years of know-how in the comic con world. On top of that, this event is backed by ‘Heroes’, a European network of 9 pop culture events spread across Belgium, The Netherlands, and Sweden. The Belgian eventMade in Asia, for example, is one of those sibling events.

The 2023 editions will be held on 6-7 April and 2-3 November, in Flanders Expo Ghent. If you’re even remotely a fan of fantasy, science fiction, comics, anime, cosplay, video games, board games, films and TV series, then FACTS is a phenomenon that should be on your bucket list.

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