Monday, June 20, 2011

A Report from Wizard World's Comic Con

I’m not the only person in my household who enjoys science fiction so a couple of us went off Saturday to the Wizard World Comic Con at the convention center in Philadelphia. The first decision was whether to buy the tickets in advance online ($25) or at the door ($35). The online purchase had an additional charge of nearly $5 which halved the price advantage. Plus a mobile phone number was required and I wasn’t willing to hand over that information. While buying tickets at the door usually slows things down, it proved to be fortuitous in this case.

The line to get in snaked around the convention center entrance at 13th and Arch. When we got there the line was one and a half blocks long. It moved at a good pace though. Some enterprising company had people handing out free bags of pita chips and hummus. Some water would have been great but none was to be found. A young man was sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign that said “Homeless. Hungry. Travelling.” I offered him the pita chips and hummus but I guess he wasn’t that hungry since he turned them down.

When we finally got into the building there was another line snaking towards the registration booths. A conference staffer asked if anyone still needed to buy tickets. When I said I did we were shifted to a different line, with one person ahead of us. The people who had bought tickets in advance had to continue moving through the longer line.

Once in we headed for the exhibits and sale booths. Most of the events I had noted in the program were reserved for those who paid an additional fee. We were not willing to part with more money. There were also gaming rooms (Yo-Gi-Oh not gambling). The exhibit hall was enough to keep our interest. There were t-shirt vendors, comic book sales, artwork, autographed photos, action figures – you name it, you could probably buy it. The few items on our particular shopping list, though, were not in evidence.

As always at this sort of thing the people watching is the most interesting activity. A number of people came in costume and were willing to strike a pose or be photographed. They seemed to cluster by character or plotline, whether by intention or chance. So you could find Poison Ivy and Cat Woman standing together with the Joker not far behind. Darth Vader was flanked by a couple of storm troopers. There was a special area set up for light saber duels. If you were willing to part with the money you could be photographed in the Mystery Machine or the Batmobile. There was not a single a pointed ear (Vulcan or Elf) in the entire room, but I’m short so maybe a few went by that I couldn’t see.
Among the celebrities spotted: Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman and Robin), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Pam Grier (Jackie Brown), Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian).

Later in the evening a costume contest and zombie beach party were scheduled to be held. We left late in the afternoon, before those festivities got started. Even so, it was a fun way to pass a few hours. City officials and the tourist bureau should check with Wizard World to get a gate count – there were a lot of people there. These kinds of niche events, well attended by the well-behaved should be encouraged. Just a note – someone could have made a nice profit selling water bottles along the line to get it. Those intrigued should watch for announcements of next year’s event; it will be held June 1-3, 2012. In between, you might want to check out Philcon 2011, sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, November 18-20 at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill. Author Cory Doctorow is the featured speaker and Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell are the artist guests of honor. Details at

A few charitable notes:

Philadelphia Ghostbusters are available for appearances and often attend charity events.

If you have a closet or garage full of old comics (in good condition) that you can’t bear to toss out but don’t really want to keep, here’s a thought. Superheroes for Hospice started in 2009. The group accepted donated comic books, gives the donor a tax receipt, and sells them with the proceeds going to the Saint Barnabas Health Care System. They have two comic shows scheduled, July 16 in West Orange, NJ and Sept 17 at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, NJ. They are also looking for volunteers to help sort and arrange the donated comics. Comic book creators are encouraged to attend the shows to sign books or sketches. Sounds like a worthwhile project.

The 2011 Philadelphia Japan Arts Matsuri will be held July 7-9 at the Prince Music Theater with proceeds going to the Japan Disaster Relief Fund.

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