The Wizarding World of Wizard World Philadelphia

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Wizard World Recap

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Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and more prone to daydream about being a father, or maybe my perception of the comic con crowd is actually legitimate, but it seems to me that the annual Wizard World Comic Con event in Philadelphia is becoming increasingly targeted toward children. As it should be.

The weekend-long events have always been largely family-friendly and adult Stans and fandom devotees never resisted the urge to drag their children along for the ride due to some fleeting hope that a switch may flip in Junior’s subconscious, causing him to suddenly be fascinated with low-budget sci-fi from the 1970s.

While it is difficult to tell whether there were really more children in attendance or if I was just noticing them more frequently, the stands, merchandise and set-ups featured ball pits, stuffies, children’s costumes, people talking in cartoony kindergarten voices, and more.

kSJPQPsrRPql4PoSo3BGfANow, I could be horribly wrong and the reality of the enigmatic landscape of Wizard World Comic Con could just be catering to the sophomoric desires of its giddiest attendees. But there was something about seeing loads of parents with their bright-eyed kids (with varying levels of excitement) actually able to enjoy and participate in the festivities without having to narrowly avoid being trampled by a stampede of 30-somethings desperate to get a picture with an adult man who portrayed a cartoon character in a movie.

The levels of exuberance amongst adults seem to be a bit subdued when the celebrity guests aren’t a tremendous draw, leveling out the attendees to those who simply want to bring their kids, hang out, buy some pop culture merchandise, and get some pictures of the bewildered.

Saturday, the busiest of the Con days, wasn’t even overloaded with large elaborate costumes. It seemed to be mostly young people and young children having a solidly good time. The moderate level of celebrity photo ops were engaging but not distracting. In fact, one of the longest lines I observed was in the food area where costumed grown-ups waited for hot chicken tendies.

When the crowds aren’t overwhelming and the booth operators and merchandisers are able to breathe while they converse with potential customers, everything seems a little bit more fun.

The only thing to which I can attribute this perceived new Comic Con dynamic is the lack of truly A-List celebrity guests. And in a world where the pop culture comic book fandom has become ubiquitous and over-praised, children are often alienated, or at least pushed to the sidelines.

kuv5m4e8RluNawp3eUiqLwThink about it. When you were a kid, it was far more exciting to play with toys, imagine yourself as a superhero or Jedi, and be able to share those moments with your parents than it was for you to meet the guy who played Chewbacca. I think that’s the key.

Can the comic book pop culture, toys, costumes, and imaginative play survive on its own merit once the deadpan seriousness with which it’s taken in the real world subsides?

Do we even remember what it’s like to see toys and games that require us to utilize our imaginations rather than be visually fleshed out in all its detailed cinematic glory?

While it doesn’t seem likely that these indulgent fantasy fandoms will deteriorate from the mainstream pop culture ether any time soon; but it was nice to see actual children being able to embrace it all without chaotic adults running the show.

You remember children; the audience all of this nonsense was always intended for.

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Going Solo: A Wizard World Story

Every year there is a palpable anticipation for our local Philadelphia version of Wizard World Comic Con, and 2018 was no exception.

Generally, the first step in building the excitement is what film, tv, media and pop culture projects are in the works; or what is set to be released around the time of the event. This year was primarily driven by the enormous release of Avengers: Infinity War, the Reddit-Nerd continuation of Deadpool, and upcoming sleeper hit(?) Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The second exciting factor of the annual Comic Con circuit are the guests. Now, obviously the Wizard World events are not the enormous, spared-no-expense spectacles where major studios break industry news and premiere huge trailers, but their guests are usually fairly notable.

This year’s Wizard World event brought out some incredible guests from various franchises and fan bases–while all being at least generally appealing to the standard pop culture junkie.

Personally, I get much more giddy about the 2nd and 3rd tier guests–the ones who may not be household names but appeal to a very particular audience: the comic book artists, character designers, and stars of esoteric sci-fi television.

For example, everyone knows Elijah Wood, Jason Momoa, Natalie Dormer, and Sean Bean. What grown man wouldn’t want their Notre Dame jersey signed by Rudy (Sean Astin); or a keepsake photo saying “Aaaaay” with the Fonz?!

But the people who would walk up to Jewel Staite and tell her how she was one of your first crushes back when she was on Space Cases on Nickelodeon?

Well, that’s my kind of freak and/or geek.

There was something for everyone this year, which is difficult to accomplish in a Comic Con setting. And I think because there was no strict focus on nostalgic casts this year (i.e. Every Star Trek captain, all of the Avengers, or the cast of X-Files) the one thing that fell short for me was the lack of intriguing panels/interviews.

Frankly, I found the most engaging stage events this year to be the “Creative Stage” where artists explained storyboarding techniques, publishing do’s and don’ts, and composition for comics/graphic novels.

Perhaps that’s just where “artists” like myself get our jollies.

The vendors, collectors, merch and snake-oil salesmen of past years seemed a little more prevalent than in 2018. Unless you’re breaking the bank on photos and autographs, one of the fun things to do is to shop around for interesting collectables you may only be able to find cracked and broken in the back alleys of eBay.

One merchandise table really stood out to me this year, as a Star Wars collector. I managed to pick up some inexpensive keepsakes in the form of original action figures from the 1970s and 1980s Star Wars films which can often be either overpriced or hard to find in any kind of acceptable condition.

Finally, the most important reason to attend Wizard World Comic Con is for the stories. If you’re not stuck in your anti-social bubble, riding the benches playing your Nintendo DS, you’ll be sure to leave with some interesting stories, some fun conversations, and some chance encounters with the personally enlightening…or the impossibly craaaange.

This year, I learned a bit about the value of old comic books and the people who shell out tens of thousands of dollars for them…as well as the business of autograph collecting.

I was also fortunate enough to see an exhausted Kato Kaelin, interviewing Wizard World attendees from the main stage, approach a female(?) Wario cosplayer initiating the following exchange:

“What are you supposed to be?”
“IT’ZAMEEEE! WAAAARIO!!”
“What’s a Wario?”
(frozen in panic)

Those are the Wizard World moments I live for.

Talking Nerdy, Ep. 206: How I Could Just Kill a Graham

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Anthony Alburger from The Fight Back Home joins us in studio for some San Diego Comic Con news / Ghostbusters is a horrific mess and Leslie Jones is 48-years old and should know better / MARVEL trailers and news wrap-up / DC may actually be making good product after all / Television and Netflix shows and the end of Bates MotelThe Walking Dead introduces the a CGI tiger / Pokemon GO gains the suspicion of Oliver Stone / TommyNC2010 starts a movement #PokemonLivesMatter / Winifer Fernandez offers us our first booty of the 2016 Olympic Games / The British invent a monster called Graham.

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–Follow today’s crew:  @NerdyPodcast@Dan_SuperDPS, @JoeyHAHAs, @BurgerBackHome & @SuperDudeDavey