The heat wave that scorched the streets of Philadelphia on the weekend of the show did nothing to stop the stampede of comic universe fans from coming out to Wizard World Philadelphia, an annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. As we entered the cool oasis of the sales floor, we saw people, many of them in cosplay, gathered around coffee tables that served as the designated hang out space–reading comics, drawing, and talking with one another. We felt an inspiring sense of community as soon as we stepped in.
People’s costumes were really outrageous this year. I noticed a significant trend of 1980s characters such as Jem, She-Ra, and Skeletor. In addition, attendees adopted the looks of Daenerys Targaryen, Kaleesi from Game of Thrones, and of course your classic super heroes.
In the Artists’ Alley, I scouted out Tania Del Rio, the lovely and talented individual who wrote, drew, and revamped the Sabrina the Teenage Witch floppy comics. Del Rio’s Sabrina is currently being rereleased as paperback manga style digests. The second book just came out. Comics Alliance calls her version of Sabrina, “One of the best and most underrated all-ages comics in the last 10 years,” and I couldn’t agree more. I find her stories to be very touching, bringing me to tears in some instances. I was ecstatic and truly grateful that she took the time to sign the second volume I had picked up that Wednesday. Tania Del Rio also wrote the comic Archie #636, the story in which the Archie gang has their genders reversed through magic, and publishes a popular web comic: mypoorlydrawnlife. Tania Del Rio is super nice! When asked about her experience at the con she said, “Wizard World Philly was seriously one of the most fun con experiences I’ve had! Coming from the West Coast, I really appreciate getting to meet my East Coast fans as well as see new people discover my work. It seems that good Artist Alleys are becoming more and more rare at big conventions, but this one was filled with a great mix of artists and was lively all weekend long. Also, I was so busy doing sketches I barely could get a second to eat or walk around, but that’s actually a really good sign! I’m already looking forward to next year.”
My friend and fellow cartoonist Bryan G. Brown was also tabling in Artist Alley. He writes a comic call First Fight about his experiences in his mixed martial arts training. He and I collaborated on a comix zine called The Blueberry Boy of Asbury Park, which debuted at the Asbury Park Comicon a few months ago. He gave me some overall positive feedback about WWPhilly, saying it was the best con he ever tabled at, but also criticized a policy that restricted exhibitors from distributing promotional materials—unless they happened to be affiliated with the two major sponsors of the show.
Brown found this policy “a bit ridiculous considering the entire point of cartoonists exhibiting their work is to show their stuff and promote themselves.” Brown deems policies of this sort to be impractical in the long run, calling it “short-sighted to try to cut out the life blood of these conventions which are the artists and writers who created the characters and stories that fans of comics love—not the celebrities and eye care companies that are lining the pockets of the owners of these cons. Thankfully, any attempts to stifle traffic to Artist Alley was no match for the awesomeness of comic fans – I can’t wait for next year! Thanks to everyone!”
Bryan G. Brown also wrote about his personal experience at the con on his own site. Brown plans to exhibit his work at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, but will forego tabling at any major conventions until that time.
We met Brandon Routh! He is sooo kawaii! Brandon took the stage as Superman in Superman Returns. He also played Todd, the vegan and bassist playing evil ex-boyfriend of Ramona, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Thinking about his role in both movies, it’s hard for us to decide which role we loved him in more!
Bongo Comics writer Tony DiGerolamo presented a panel on how to start a web comic. He writes the webcomic Superfrat as well as the comics on The Webcomic Factory. He shared lots of valuable information from his experiences that highlighted the benefits of creating webcomics instead of printing them.
On Saturday night, the Adult Cosplay Contest took place, which was judged by Power Ranger Jason David Frank, professional cosplayer/comic enthusiast Ivy Doom Kitty, and wrestler Eric “The Smoke” Moran. It was a lavish event that displayed a great variety in design, creativity, and style. It was a memorable way to wind down the night. The official after-party then followed the contest.
Sunday was the day geared towards kids! Mel Coci and I dressed as Salem and Sabrina. Our cosplay fit right in because Sabrina and Salem are friendly to comic book readers of all ages! There were many activities planned especially with young ones in mind such as the Children’s Cosplay Contest and karate workshop with the powerful Jason David Frank.
There was a panel called What’s Better Than Superman? Supermen! featuring Brandon Routh and Dean Cain. They talked about what it is like playing Superman, what it means to be a hero, natural disasters and nuclear disasters. “I think the bigger role that Superman plays is the hope that we can all be better people,” said Routh toward the end of the panel. “He’s a role model for us to be friendly and spread love. If we can stop the fighting between us, we would all be more like Superman.”
Jason David Frank put together a karate workshop for the kids called The Green Power Ranger Power Hour! Adults were allowed to participate, too. It was all ages, really. He really is a great sensei and we love his personality. He is absolutely fantastic and an amazing role model! We want him back in Philly ASAP!
Watching Hercules was a family activity at my household for many years. I think I have seen every single episode, so seeing Kevin Sorbo—the man who played Hercules in real life—was surreal. I immediately felt star-struck. By the way, he looks like he hasn’t aged a single day since Hercules. Is he immortal?
Mel’s main goal was to get an autograph or some sort of memorabilia from Dean Cain. She and her sister Angela have always been big fans of the show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Since Mel is Australian this was an extremely rare opportunity. When his manager told us the cost of their memorabilia, Mel went to go hit up an ATM. He said we had twenty minutes to do business. I stood there in her place. As she walked away, I also watched Dean Cain walk away with a friend of his and call out “I’ll be right back” to his manager. Then the manager managed to slip away. He said he would be right back, too. Mel came back, ready with the money, to an empty scene. She held onto hope as she waited for their return, and ended up missing most the Children’s Cosplay Contest. They never came back.
Phil Kahn, the local writer of the comic Guilded Age, was tabling at the con! I asked him to sum up his experience at the con. “Wizard World Philly,” said Kahn. “I’ve never been happier to have completely spent all my energy AND money.”
“Cosplay is not consent.”
That’s one of the mottos of the non-profit organization Hollaback, a movement to end harassment. The Philly branch of Hollaback teamed up with Philadelphia cartoonist Erin Filson and created an anti-harassment comic book, “Hollaback: Red, Yellow, Blue.” Filson and I discussed how she got involved with HollabackPHILLY. “I make a web-comic and was thinking of creating a series about catcalling situations I had encountered, so I emailed HollabackPHILLY to see if they wanted to share links,” she said. “Meanwhile, they were in need of an artist to mock up their recent SEPTA subway ads. So we got together to talk about that but eventually the conversation turned into the possibility of creating an anti-street harassment comic book. We were all very excited about it right away. I care deeply about gender equality and social justice so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to combine that passion with my love for comics. I think HollabackPHILLY’s mission of addressing street harassment and the fact that it is wrong is very important. The behavior is so normalized and accepted yet it is really something that adds to a culture where women are degraded and over-sexualized and an environment where you never feel safe.”
When asked to reveal their thoughts about their time at the con, Media Projects Coordinator of HollarbackPhilly Anna Kegler said that she was “really impressed by the number of men who stopped by our table and expressed support for not only the comic book, but the entire mission behind our comic book project.” Director of HollabackPhilly Rochelle Keyhan answered that she was “pleasantly surprised by how much interest people took in our booth, from geeks, to cosplayers, even to Wizard World support staff. We handed out materials to nearly 1,000 people, most of whom we had conversations with about productive ways to be a part of the solution. Many of them eagerly promised to spread the word, to help us recreate our streets as ones we can be proud of.”
“I’ve been going to Wizard World for several years, but this was my first time running a table there,” Filson added. “I loved it and would definitely do it again! The volunteers and staff were friendly and helpful. Seeing people get excited about the comic book I made was the most amazing thing! And I love all the cosplayers! Seriously, it was such a great weekend!”
The next Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con is scheduled for June 19-22, 2014.