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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Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.