Wizard World Philly 2014 memories

[Dre visits a major comic convention, and reports what artists and fans alike had to say about the con’s structure and value. — the Artblog editors]

Growing up, I remember fondly turning the glossy pages of Wizard. There, I found inspiration to become a creative professional. Today, the magazine is no longer, and the Wizard World brand concentrates solely on a traveling pop culture/comic convention.

When Wizard World Comic Con comes to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as it did June 19-22, I can focus on nothing else. I got the opportunity to approach artists like Neal Adams and Bob Camp on site; there were a number of panels I was interested in attending; and I am always interested in checking out one of the best parts of the show: Artist Alley.

Great panelists, including Danny Fingeroth

1.Danny Fingeroth
Danny Fingeroth

At the end of 2013, Wizard World hired well-known comics industry author, editor, and public speaker Danny Fingeroth to moderate panels at its shows around the country. Fingeroth also edited the instructional magazine Write Now! I am very thankful that Wizard World is taking programing seriously and bringing it to the next level.

Fingeroth summed up his experience, saying, “Wizard World Philly was a whirlwind for me, since I moderated 15 panels in four days! It was great to hear all those smart, engaging people talk about so many different aspects of comics. Thanks to everybody who was on the panels—and in the super-enthusiastic audiences!”

Artists speak about their convention experience

2.Mike Manlyjpg
Mike Manley

A very busy illustrator, Mike Manley could be seen at his table reviewing and providing feedback to aspiring artists as they showed him their portfolios. He has a plethora of professional experience, is the man behind Draw! Magazine, and currently works on syndicated comic Judge Parker.

When I asked Manley to share his insights and thoughts on the show, he said, “This was the first big con I have been to in seven years, and a lot has changed with both the cons and myself in that time. I see more of it really being about Hollywood and the characters [and] the rise of cosplay, and what we would in the old days call geekdom is now popular culture. Geek culture is just popular culture now. I saw almost nobody with a comic, but everybody with a print. I think we have turned a corner.”

3.Terry LaBan
Terry LaBan

I saw local cartoonist rockstar Terry LaBan, who has a syndicated cartoon called Edge City in the funny papers. He was also scheduled to appear and speak at three panels at the con, such as “Indy Comix Creators Roundtable,” “The World of Syndicated Comics,” and “Jews and Comics”.

After the con, when I asked LaBan to reflect upon the show, he said, “Wizard World was all right. I enjoyed being on my three panels. I saw Pete Bagge for the first time in 20 years, which was awesome. Would I do it again? I would.”

4.Peter Bagge
Peter Bagge

Well-known cartoonist Peter Bagge was a special guest and flew in from Seattle. He is best known for his character Buddy Bradley, from his comic series Hate. Last year, a book Bagge wrote and illustrated, called Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story (a biography of Margaret Sanger, a historical and political figure) was published. The book is fascinating, and I would highly recommend it.

I had the chance to see Bagge do a very detailed presentation about the book last year at the Small Press Expo in Maryland when he spoke at Locust Moon, a comics shop in University City. When he reflected upon his 2014 Wizard World Philly experience, he said to me, “Well, there were pretty much no other artists like myself there, though I was told they were trying to remedy that–by inviting me, for instance. Other than that, I had a fine time, was treated well, and made decent money.” I agree with Bagge and also hope that the future shows will feature more cartoonists.

5.Indy Comix Creators Roundtable (Phil Khan, T. Campbell, Mike Manly, Jamar Nicholas, Terry LaBan, and Danny Fingeroth.
Indy Comix Creators Roundtable (Phil Khan, T. Campbell, Mike Manly, Jamar Nicholas, Terry LaBan, and Danny Fingeroth).
6. Bryan G. Brown
Bryan G. Brown

Also in Artist Alley was cartoonist Bryan G. Brown, author of the martial arts-themed indie comic First Fight. Brown first exhibited at Wizard World Philly five years ago, so the con has a special place in his heart. After the show was over, he talked to me about his Wizard World experience, saying, “The turnout for this year’s show was the best I’ve ever experienced in the five years I’ve been doing this. The attendees were so patient and generous, and I was happy to interact with so many people who have a genuine love for art in all its different mediums. I wish I could say that the customer service among the staff could have the same level of passion.”

9. Rafer Robertsjpg
Rafer Roberts

As I floated through the aisles, I spotted indie cartoonist Rafer Roberts, of Maryland’s Plastic Farm Press, at the Beyond Comics booth. He described his experience by saying, “I usually stay in my comfort zone of small-press and indie shows, but I had a lot of fun at Wizard World. I met a bunch of great people, artists, and fans, and generally had a blast!”

Fan feedback and costumes

10. Mr.Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

One of the after-parties was a free event called the “Creator Pro Am: Drink & Draw,” held at nearby venue PhilaMoca on Friday night. It was definitely one of my favorite highlights. There, the hosts held two separate challenges for writing and drawing, with some desirable prizes, including cash. I really felt an electrifying rush of energy to be in a room with so many creative minds at work. The hosts told jokes and asked trivia; musicians I like, such as Grimes, played sets.

8. Jackie Diferdinado
Jackie Diferdinado

I realized that Jackie Diferdinado, a lady whom I photographed earlier that day when she was dressed as the Marvel Comic’s hero The Wasp, won the writing contest at at Drink & Draw on Friday night. I have also seen her in different costumes at other shows before. After the convention, I asked her how she felt about winning the writing contest.

“I was beyond excited that I won, but also surprised,” Diferdinado said. “My forte when it comes to writing is more journalistic essay-type papers, not short stories…so I was very happy to win, but also very surprised.” Sharing her thoughts about this year’s show, she said, “I had an absolute blast at Wizard World Philly this year! I got to catch up with a bunch of people who I usually only see at conventions. I also got to debut three new costumes this year. I thought the guest list was excellent! I also enjoyed all of the new social media aspects of the convention, like the virtual scavenger hunt and the Frankly app contests [Frankly was one of this year’s comic con sponsors]. I actually won one of the Frankly app contests, and got to meet David Boreanaz, a TV star well-known for his role as Angel on Buffy The Vampire Slayer,and got his autograph, which was amazing! I just had a wonderful time this year.”

11. Captain America and Bulma
Captain America and Bulma
12. Starship Enterprise
Starship Enterprise

The showroom was spilling over with fans and costume players (usually abbreviated to the word “cosplayers“). The comic con was going at full force, and the surroundings streets were awash with all sorts of outlandish and wild characters in costume. The costumes portrayed a wide spectrum of characters, from Maurice Sendak’s character, Max, of Where the Wild Things Are, to Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four and even someone dressed up in a homemade Starship Enterprise ballgown.

14. Tuxedo Mask
Tuxedo Mask
0.1. Mario Bros
Mario Bros.

The organizers of Wizard World Comic Con announced that next year’s Philly show will be May 7-10, and I look forward to it. I hope to see more indie cartoonists and original comic book creators. I remember seeing a few major comic book publishers at the show 10 years ago…can they be invited back? I did meet Jason David Frank, AKA the Green Ranger, and got some goodies from Artist Alley that I am very happy with. Overall, I loved my experience there and had a lot of fun!

For more information about the Wizard World Comic Con, check out the convention website.