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Wizard World Philly 2011 Convention Report

23 June 2011 by

I spent this past weekend at the Wizard World comic convention, held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This was the 11th year of the convention, and my second trip to this particular one.

The convention was much more crowded than I recall it being last time I went 3 years ago. This is something I’ve noticed about conventions as a whole, and something Stacey (another contributor to this blog) and I mentioned on our coverage of the New York Comic Con (NYCC). I chalk it up to Hollywood and the recent success of comic book movies. Finally, after all these years, it’s cool to be a geek. We’re geek chic now!

To the organizers of Wizard World’s credit, they really did a great job handling the crowds. While the lack of crowd control and organization at NYCC turned Stacey off to con going as a whole,  the folks at Wizard World were really on top of it all. Lines for autographs were clearly defined, well guarded, and very organized. I have to say that I was impressed.

I had to work at my real, non-geeky job this weekend so I didn’t get to convention until about 4 on Friday. As usual, Friday was the much slower, less crowded day. Friday is the day to get your autographs, scout your merch, and get a feel for the place. I took advantage by stopping by the Back to the Future Delorean time machine and taking some photos. For a small donation, which goes to To the Future, you could get your photo taken in the car. They also had merchandise for sale, including an original poster. I bought one, and it was signed by the artist for me. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go to the charity, so that’s something everyone can feel good about. It as all thanks to fine folks at BTTF.com who helped with the printing and covered costs.

The highlight of the day, however, had to be the showdown-that-almost-was between Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno and Billy Dee “Lando Calrissian” Williams.

I was saying goodbye to my friends right outside the convention floor, and who do I see coming out but the one and only Billy Dee Williams. Lando Calrissian himself.  He comes strolling out like royalty, purple velvet Hammer pants billowing in the breeze, briskly walking towards the escalators and freedom from nerds with mustaches to autograph.  He gets about halfway there when the Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, comes bolting out of the convention showroom like a bat out of hell. He quickly begins to overtake Billy Dee, when suddenly, unknowingly, Billy Dee cuts him off with a side step! Hulk’s eyes grow wide, anger quickly rising to the surface. My friends and I can only watch in awe, wondering when he will, in fact, turn green and send Lando Calrissian back to the spice mines of Kessel. Luckily for Billy Dee, and Star Wars fans everywhere, the moment passes and a crisis is averted.

My mind reeling from the possibility of a Lando-less world by the hands of the Hulk, I found myself wandering back inside.I spent the rest of the day seeking out cosplayers and scoping out what I wanted to buy on Saturday. Some of my favorite stuff was by Brute Force Studios, a shop specializing in steampunk garb. They had some truly awesome pieces.

Saturday arrives, and I once again have to work. By the time I arrive to the convention, around 3, I find a line wrapped around the lobby interior of people waiting to get on to the convention floor. My press pass afforded me no special line placement, so I went to stand in line to get up. Again, I can’t stress how well it was handled by the staff. Whereas I waited for over 1.5 hours to get into the Philly Tattoo Convention under similar circumstances, I find myself waiting for only about 10 minutes. They’d let a full escalator load go up, wait for it to unload, then send the another.

When I got up I was shocked at just how packed it was. I initially missed a lot of photo ops for the simple fact that I just could not stop anywhere to take a photo. It did die down and become far more manageable about an hour or so in though. I was in my element. Like most average con goers, I enjoy looking at all the geeky things I wish I could afford and gawking at the stars from a distance. But what I am really interested in are the cosplayers. This year they did not disappoint. Last time I went to Wizard World, which was my first con ever, I remember wishing there were more cosplayers. This time, I found myself thinking it was more in line with the NYCC than the Wizard World I remember. I sought out and shot every cosplayer I could find. And even after catching almost 200 of them, I know there were plenty that I missed.

So many cosplayers had so many awesome costumes, and every one of them was super willing to pause for a photo no matter what they were doing. Some of my favorites had to be Batman and his son Robin (who may have been one of the cutest little kids I’ve ever seen), Zombie Hulk, Terence and Philip, Wikus (District 9), and the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. With that said, I was genuinely impressed with almost every costume I saw.

In short, if you live in the Philadelphia area and want to check out a con, but are intimidated by the size of the NYCC, you should check out Wizard World next year. It’s much smaller, but still has a lot of heart. Way to come through, Philly.

You can view all the photos I took at Wizard World Philly 2011 at The Convention Fans Blog flickr account.

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