Hi all, this is Megan “Nutmeg” Adler, wife of AICN Comics commentator Matt Adler. From Thursday May 31st to Sunday June 3rd, we attended the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con (try saying that three times fast), and documented a spectacle of geekdom and entertainment for all to enjoy. With the assistance of my happy hubby, who took notes and added relevant details like a good little reporter should, I now present to you this report on the strange and surreal goings-on at this pop culture conflagration.
Comic conventions, ideally, are a chance for fandom to gather and celebrate their shared love for pop culture across all media, despite their four-color roots. Although the major comic book publishers have become more frugal in recent years, and reduced their presence to just a handful of conventions across the country, Wizard World Philly has still managed to create an event that provides attractions and entertainment for every corner of fandom. As with most conventions, there are rows and rows of vendors hawking some of the coolest and geekiest merchandise available at reasonable prices. I myself purchased a Wonder Woman t-shirt with a cape, and gloves with fingertips that light up, and wore them to the con the following day. Nope, I’m not ashamed to let my geek flag fly!
Nor was anyone else, apparently, as the craziest Halloween party was in action all weekend, with every character imaginable welcomed into the fray. Some of the costumes were very creative, and must have taken an enormous amount of time and effort to construct—to be honest, I can’t imagine walking around like that all weekend! All ages were represented, from young kids, to people who may well be eligible for their AARP discount. But I’m sure it was worth it, as the convention did include an official contest, which was taken very seriously by all involved. I spotted a woman and her son dressed in some kind of giant mechanical contraption rushing by us in a panic, desperate to get to the competition on time.
One event I knew I had to witness was something known as Sci-Fi Speed Dating (Matt found the idea of such a spectacle too embarrassing to join me). Some entrants were dressed in costume, but not all—what they had in common was that they all came to meet new people, and perhaps find a chance at love. This was NOT a spectator event, however—I was permitted in as part of the press, but anyone else who wasn’t there to participate was shown the door. Everyone was paired off and had 3 minutes to introduce themselves in hopes of finding their soul mate. At the end of the event, everyone places the numbers they like on a card and if the numbers match each other, it was revealed. If the numbers didn’t match, then love just wasn’t in sight.
The other major attraction at Philly is the celebrity guests. Not all of them are associated with comics, but it’s still fun to get to meet people you grew up watching on the big and small screens. I met actors including Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club, and many other John Hughes films), Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills 90210), Kristy Swanson (star of the Buffy feature film), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), and Norman Reedus (Daryl in the Walking Dead).
I also got the chance to speak with some of the comic creators in Artist’s Alley including Alex Saviuk (Stan Lee’s Mighty Seven), Dan Parent (writer and artist of Archie), and Phil Foglio (writer and artist of Girl Genius).
But perhaps the highlight of the convention were the entertaining panels, in which fans got the chance to really interact with their favorite celebrities, and ask them the burning questions on their minds. On Friday, my idol Dean Cain, who I grew up watching on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, held a panel and told us all about his career, from the NFL to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. He related an amusing story about his brief NFL career, in which after an injury ended his career in his rookie season, he was interviewed by a reporter who asked him if he thought he could have helped bring his team, the Buffalo Bills, a Super Bowl championship. He replied that naturally, every player wants to believe they can make that much a difference, which ended up being reported as “Cain Says He Would Have Brought Championship to Buffalo.” He enjoyed many of the episodes for the Lois and Clark, but one of his favorite episodes is the marriage proposal. Presently, Dean has a number of projects starting up, and is a single parent to his 12-year-old son.
Overall, it was a loose and fun panel, with all manner of discussion. At one point, Dean mentioned that he had heard Richard Dreyfuss (star of Jaws), had originally been up for the part of Indiana Jones. My husband, the wiseguy you know as Matt Adler, piped up from the audience in a nasally, Richard Dreyfuss-type voice, “I HATE snakes!”-- an impression which Dean complimented him on.
Also on Friday was a Star Wars panel, featuring the likes of Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), and Star Wars stunt coordinator Nick Gillard. Mayhew explained that Chewbacca’s voice was created using a combination of recordings of a dog and a bear, but the crowd enjoyed when Mayhew gave his own impression of Chewbacca’s voice. One fan expressed concern about how Mayhew’s costume must have been, but Mayhew explained that the trick was to take it off after every scene, as it was relatively easy to get in and out of. Nick Gillard also shared his experiences on the set, and on the convention floor, he held interactive demonstrations for fans on how to fight like a Jedi in Jedi Light Saber training. The highlight (or perhaps lowlight) of the panel was a scary fan with green hair tied up in two ponytails, who was rather obsessed with Boba Fett and Chewbacca and proclaimed his enthusiasm repeatedly in a loud, screeching voice. Yikes. Bulloch particularly looked ready to flee the scene.
Saturday held probably the biggest panel of the entire convention—the Star Trek Captain’s Panel. Assembled were all five captains from each of the Star Trek TV series—William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, and Scott Bakula. It was mostly banter amongst the actors who all knew each other well, but they also shared their experiences on the making of the show. Some of them also discussed the other roles they played outside of Star Trek, such as William Shatner’s one man stage show, Patrick Stewart’s theater experience, and Scott Bakula’s role on Men of a Certain Age. To no one’s surprise, William Shatner stole the show as by far the gabbiest of the captains, but Bakula and Stewart added their own brand of humor to the proceedings as well.
The final panel I attended was on Sunday, and featured Melissa Joan Hart of Sabrina The Teenage Witch fame. Melissa was attending the convention while pregnant with her third child, which I thought was pretty gutsy! Melissa spoke about her role, and some of the challenges she experienced on the set. Melissa had trouble getting used to the idea of a talking puppet which portrayed her cat, Salem, but explained she became more comfortable as time went on. When asked if she kept in close contact with her former castmates, she admitted she did not, but said she actually had closer relationships with the people behind the cameras. Melissa mentioned that she loved the outfits Clarissa wore in Clarissa Explains It All and wasn’t as into the outfits Sabrina wore. Melissa currently plays the role of Melissa in the ABC Family show Melissa & Joey, working alongside Joey Lawrence. She and Lawrence were friends growing up and are like brother and sister to each other. Melissa says she enjoys her current role because out of all the characters she has played, it’s given her the most opportunity to include something of herself in the character.
Overall, the convention was surprisingly well-attended, with some of the major stars being crowded by thousands of fans. That’s of course great news for the convention organizers, although I confess to being disappointed that I was unable to get more than glimpse of luminaries such as Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth. Still, if you’re looking for a fun weekend and a chance to mix and mingle with your fellow fans, Wizard World Philly fits the bill.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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