On the Scene: Wizard World Philly: The Pinnacle of General Nerd Capitalism

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Chikara On the Scene: Wizard World Philly: The Pinnacle of General Nerd Capitalism

By Box Brown

 

I’ve never paid to get into Wizard World.  Well, actually one time I had to pay $10 to get a pro-pass.  I thought I overpaid.  I haven’t paid to get in since.  This year my free admission came via Wizard World giving some free space to local organizations.  Local cartoonist celebrity Doug Slack ran a table to promote the Philly Comix Jam.   My other pal Brett Hopkins, who makes sure the Jam runs smoothly every month, and I rolled up around 3 pm on Friday to work a shift manning the PCJ table and take a look at the show. 

Among the seemingly sparsely attended show there were quite a number of cosplayers about.  I particularly liked the trio of Batman, Poison Ivy and Lord of the Rings looking Batman.  The Penguin and Two-face couple were quite cute.  There was a for real, legit Chewbacca there! He was easily 7 feet tall.  I wasn’t sure if he was on stilts or not, and I did notice that Peter Mayhew was listing in the program.  His booth conspicuously empty too.

 

The vibe in this place is weird.  It’s a lot of kids and teens and a lot of dudes who, and I realize this is stereotyping, probably live in their moms basement.  But, also, there were a ton of really scantily clad babes (and some not so babe-like).  The term “ass-cleavage” was bandied about a lot.  It creates this really pervy air around the festival.

 

The first section you walk through is the toys and merch section.  An enormous tower of t-shirts  is the main event, but there are lots of smaller shops that have all kinds of swag.  Also, one of the dudes who worked there was supremely ROCKING OUT to “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing (Theme from Armageddon)”.   I wanted to snap a photo but didn’t want to disturb him.  The original art dealers are always worth a look through.

 

In the center area of the show is a WALL OF CANVAS.  It’s canvas booths everywhere!  Seriously, you can’t even tell what you’re looking at!  If you pay close attention you start seeing little cattle lines and then giant signs that say “NO PHOTOS IN THIS AREA”.  That’s when it hit me, “Oh dang! This is the washed up minor-celebrity area!”  This has got to be the most inauthentic way to meet a celebrity.  Still, I was thrilled to see Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling, former joke writer for the Howard Stern show.  There was no line so I decided to go up and talk to him.  Jackie was kind of nice, but it was clear he was there for one thing: selling Jokeman swag.  He was 100% not interested in talking to me at all.  I even had to sneak a photo.  “Photo-ops” were $30. 

 

Two other celebs I was interested in meeting (for comic research purposes) were “The Mouth of the South”  Jimmy Hart and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, 80’s wrestling stars.  Dibiase wasn’t around when I went by but jimmy Hart was! Unfortunately, as soon as you got close to talking to Jimmy his handler would come up all pimp-like  and say “Are you interested in meeting him? I can make that happen.”  For $50, natch.  I did meet one wrestler: Ophidian from ChikaraPro.  I went to the Chikara show the next night and it was spectacular.

 

Well, after making it through tent-city of z-listers, I was happy to see that the convention center was selling beer! I didn’t get one though.  I was too excited to finally see some comic artists! Sequestered all the way in the back was the Artist Alley area.  I saw some local bros like Phil Kahn and Christine Larsen.  My favorite artist to finally meet was Edwin Vasquez! But everyone seemed to be most pumped for Saturday to be a big day for sales.  Friday was pretty clearly slow for everyone.   The people who seemed to be making the most money were those selling zombie versions of other peoples’ characters, art and designs.  You know, people debate what the lowest form of art is, I’m pretty sure it is Zombie Deadpool Jaws no matter how well rendered it is.

 

Would I go back to Wizard World next year?  Eh, If I ain’t doing nothing and a free pass becomes available, maybe.  It’s still worth the $4 I spent on trolley fare.

[Box Brown is a cartoonist, illustrator and comic publisher from Philadelphia.  His comics have been featured in Mad Magazine and his illustrations have been on Wired.com.  His web and print comic Everything Dies was named a notable comic of 2011 in the Best American Comics Anthology and was honored with two Ignatz Awards.  His comics publishing outfit, Retrofit launched in 2011.  He’s currently working on a comic biography of pro wrestler Andre the Giant.]
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Comments

  1. You should have been there on Saturday. The mood was quite different and the crowd was rather large. Granted, it was no NYCC, but the place was hopping.

    (Who does a report about a convention and only reviews one of the slower days. You have to look at the con in whole, not just a Friday…. Jeesh…..)

  2. I was at all four days of the convention, and I wouldn’t call Saturday “hopping”. Granted, I offer this with the caveat that I was only there until 2 pm that day, but it only seemed a wee bit more crowded than Friday. Definitely way less crowded than a convention of this size usually is on a Satuiday.

    Not that I think this is a bad thing. I love being able to go from one end of the floor to the other without much gridlock and being able to peruse vendors without being crushed by other people.

  3. Atlee Hamaker says:

    People see what they want to see and “write” what they want to write… Two huge halls, Five Star Trek Captains, Chris Hemsworth, CM Punk, lots of people having fun… Read any of 1000 other reports on how good this con was and you might have a different opinion…

  4. Atlee Hamaker says:

    Picture of Stan Lee but no mention in the “story.”

  5. There’s a great shawarma place nearby. Seriously. In the Reading Terminal Market. I ate there Saturday and Sunday. I’m surprised that a group of Avengers cosplayers didn’t gather for at least one meal.

  6. Boy, these last two critical Con reviews this site been running lately are sure different in tone and content from that C2E2 one… great reads all.

    (It’s fun to compare and contrast them!)

  7. jacob goddard says:

    It feels like Wizard World Philly has been the “pervy” con for a while now. Way more pornstars, pin-ups, booth girls, regrettable cosplay than any of the other comic conventions I attend.
    It’s pretty skeevy. Has been for a while.

  8. Sucked says:

    It sucked, $45 to get what??? NYC was much better than this crap filled with tools! Never again unless they have more great guests like the tools you had there!

    Oh forgot Chicago con has the stupudsituation what a joke!

  9. I went to this con every year for the first few years, when I was a local and it was a subway ride away, but not in ages. It’s a shame that the con has come down, but I think a lot of us in the Northeast would just rather wait until NYCC. If I’d known CM Punk would be there, I might have gone, though.

  10. This was a shameful event. This was a comic con in name only — all the talent featured was TV, movies, wrestlers. These people think that by paying big bucks to bring in Stan Lee that covers
    comics.

    I looked at the Wizard Philly Facebook page, wanna know how many times an actual comic artist was mentioned in two years of posts? Once! Something about a Green Arrow poster — one artist mentioned in two years!

    The people that run Wizard know nothing of comics — the CEO, John Macaluso, is from the garment industry, not even the convention industry.

    The show was a four day show and and nobody did any business Thursday and Friday. Saturday was okay, but Sunday was a washout.

    A friend of mine who is the promoter of the Bamboozle concerts stopped by to visit me. As a promoter of major events, he was aghast at how shabby the overall look was: “No carpeting, faded dirty looking pipe and drape, large unattended areas — just depressing.”

    I agreed to accept a free booth when Peter Katz told me that Gareb Shamus was no longer with the company. Imagine my surprise when I saw good old Gareb on the floor. The fact is Shamus is just not the CEO anymore, but he is still a major shareholder in Wizard, so he is involved.

    Comic conventions are a popular form of entertainment in North America these days, and I enjoy doing many of them. But cons like Wizard World Philadelphia can easily kill the golden goose ruining the name comic con for all of us. If you want to see a well run mid-sized con, try Boston Con — I did well up there. I hear great things about Heroes Con. I’m looking forward to Baltimore.

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