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Wizard World Anaheim Recap

Written By: Abel S. - "Honest Abe"

04-26-2010

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Last weekend was the inaugural Wizard World Comic Con taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center.  For those of you who have attended other Wizard World’s which are held around the country, then you probably already knew what to expect.  I have attended San Diego Comic Con for years as well as other local comic book shows but this was my very first Wizard World.  In a word: meh.

First, the Anaheim Convention Center is quite a lovely monster.  It’s frickin huge!  Wizard World only took up a small space of it which made it easy to maneuver around, however.  After arriving on Friday and speeding my way through registration (which was nice and easy, as it should be), the first thing I noticed was the size of the showroom floor.  It was a decent size but my first thought was “where is everybody?”  The aisles were wide enough and there was a decent amount of vendors but…no crowd.  Perhaps because the first day was a Friday, and many kids are still in school, were factors here.  Also, I saw very little print advertising prior to the event.  Sure, they hyped the hell out of this on Facebook and on local radio stations but in the local newspaper, the only notices were articles in the Saturday and Sunday papers detailing what had occurred the previous day.  There was nothing in the weeks prior or even in the Friday paper stating “hey, come on down to Wizard World!  Opening today!!!”  Nada, zilch, zip.  I would just think that not everyone would know about it online and the newspaper would be the best place to casually glance at the notice and tell the kids, “Hey, kids, let’s go check this out!” 

One other thing I noticed was that unless you approached directly from the front entrance, there was no signage pointing your way.  I noticed this as I approached from the side entrance.  Being somewhat familiar with the convention center, I knew I was headed in the right direction but I did encounter some fans that seemed lost until I saved the day for them.

So, now I’m inside and I do a quick power walk through the whole thing.  Not stopping for a single thing, I walked through the whole showroom floor in thirty minutes max.  That includes the autograph and artist alleys.  (Side note: the panels were being held in an adjacent area but I chose not to attend any panels once I learned that Irvin Kershner would not be attending due to illness.)  Alright, I’ve got my bearings so let’s walk through this slowly and take it all in.  The next thing I noticed was that there were no major vendors or retailers there.  Aside from Kotobukiya and Warner Brothers, there were none of the major players there.  No Marvel, Dark Horse, D.C. or any of the other major movie studios.  Now I’m stunned.  This is a comic book convention so where are the comic book industry leaders?  The majority of the vendors were comic and toy vendors, some local and some not.  The Warner Bros. booth was really just a table where one could score free shirts for The Losers and A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Free swag is always a nice thing!  Okay, so I’m wandering the floor and come across some women dressed like various comic book and sci-fi hotties.  They are part of a group called Purrfect Angelz.  According to their website, they perform at trade shows and conventions everywhere.  First of all, I’ve never seen anything like this at San Diego Comic Con but more importantly, they don’t do anything except dance around at random times and clog up the aisles hawking their calendars and photos.  When they would perform, people would surge forward to the stage set up next to their booth and gawk and snap pics.  I felt bad for the vendors on either side of the stage because no one could get to their booths because the aisles would just congest with people.  There should have been convention center employees or volunteers funneling people around to the front of the staging area and kept the side aisles clear.  This was a major nuisance.  Also, these girls were charging money even if I wanted to take a picture of them with my own camera.  WTF?!?  It’s my camera, it’s my film, WTF?!?  I can understand if I wanted to buy one of their 8x10’s but I have to pay with my own camera?  I almost yelled out ‘shenanigans!’  Sadly, this was not the only instance of overcharging that I was to find this weekend.  I’ll get to that in a moment but look, I’m all for hot chicks in hot/skimpy attire but aside from all that, they have no business being there.  Yes, it’s a comic show and they’re dressed like comic book heroines and villains but still.  All they are doing is prancing around and taking money.  I’d rather go somewhere else where I can do the same thing and see way more for my bucks. 

I discovered that many celebrities were charging if you wanted to take a picture with your own camera.  I’ve seen very few instances of this at San Diego Comic Con.  Probably the most frustrating was that they actually had the original 60’s TV Batmobile on display.  Did I get to take a picture for this article?  Nope, because I refuse to pay $10 bucks to snap a pic.  You have so got to be kidding me.  They had a few other movie vehicles there and even though they also had signs saying you had to pay to take pics, there was no one there to enforce this policy.  Alright, enough of this, onto Day 2.

Saturday didn’t start so well because of the parking situation.  Everyone was being directed to Car Lot 4.  The problem was when we got there; it was full so an attendant was directing everyone back onto the street.  Now, there were no pylons so everyone was just following everyone else hoping it led somewhere.  Granted, it did, as there was another lot right on the other side of Car Lot 4 but I noticed the attendant in front of Car Lot 4 had no radio to communicate with other parking attendants to maybe tell them, “Hey, stop sending people this way because Lot 4 is full.”  Minor communication malfunction aside, we parked and off we go.  Problem two soon raised its head.  We got to the back of the convention center only to be stopped by an attendant telling us that unless we were there for a different convention that was going on at the same time, we had to go the looooong way around and cut through a kitchen to get to the main floor.  This attendant didn’t even know about Wizard World.  Ok, so we go traipsing around the looooong way but we make it inside and it’s crowded!  Goody, more people are here which makes it feel more like a comic con.  Since I was not planning on attending any panels, all I did was soak it all in today and revisit a few favorite vendors.  I wandered Artist Alley looking for Simon Bisley and while that failed, I did find Bernie Wrightson and got a few autographs from him.  He was one of the highlights as he was quite charming.  All this walking around is getting me hungry so I ventured over to the food court where I was pleasantly surprised to find two things.  First, they were actually serving alcohol.  Sure, it was pricy and I didn’t have any but it’s always a nice option to have after a full day of walking.  More importantly, the food court took plastic.  I hate the fact that the vendors at San Diego Comic Con are all cash only.  (By the way, I’ve heard from others that there were very few ATM machines on the premises but I learned that if you looked around and maybe wandered away a bit from the showroom floor, there were other machines to be found.)  Of course the food is going to be pricy, but again, not having to spend my cash there so I can save it to buy a photo op with the Batmobile was nice to discover. (BTW, that was sarcasm.  Screw you Batmobile!)  Other positive notes were that the few celebrities I did talk to were all very polite and friendly, particularly Joyce DeWitt (from Three’s Company).  She was probably the nicest person I met there and definitely the best memory of a show with few to offer, really.  Day 3, the final day is really not worth mentioning because I was only there for three hours and there was nothing new to see.  I’d seen it all and done it all, panels aside. 

Let’s wrap this up:  More signage is needed and the staff needs to be better trained. (I overheard one volunteer tell another, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”)  The pricing for taking pics with your own camera is re-goddam-diculous, but not needing cash at the food court rocked.  There should be more vendors, especially more of the major players if you know what I mean.  There should be more advertising as well.  Oh! I just remembered something.  Speaking of advertising, on the facebook page for the Anaheim Comic Con (why wasn’t it listed as Wizard World?) one of the final entries was “We gave over 500, yes 500 Hollywood clebrities, actors, publicists, PR Agents, managers, directors, producers and more already signed up for Anaheim Comic Con! Over 500! Keep your eyes peeled, you never know who you might see! This 500 does NOT include the 200+ signing celebrities!  Does anyone see the problem with this?  To me, this makes it sound like the showroom floor is going to be crawling with famous people.  My question to all of you is, would any of you recognize any Hollywood publicist or agent or producer if you bumped into him on the showroom floor?  Me neither.  One more:Our Hollywood VIP list has surpassed 700 people! Agents, managers, publicists, celebrities, studios, directors, producers! EVERYBODY IS COMING!!!! You can't miss the biggest Comic Con launch of 2010! The train is out of the station, folks!  I think their publicist drank way too much of all the free energy drink samples that were given out during the con.  Day 2 of Anaheim Comic Con! Day 1 felt like a Saturday! Tomorrow will be bedlam! Those of you who were there today felt the craze! Tomorrow - STAN LEE & AVI ARAD TOGETHER ON THE OPENING PANEL! Who does it better than Wizard World!?”  Um, the guys running San Diego Comic Con, perhaps? And Day 1 felt like a sneak preview to the main event or more like a ‘media only’ day. “UTA, ICM, IMG, CAA and everyone else is SWARMING today! We know there are MAJOR Musicians showing up to walk around, as there will be MMA UFC Fighters, as well. Keep your eyes peeled. Oh, yeah, and an actress named Shannen Doherty! Her bodyguard came yesterday to inspect the joint. OHHHHHH BABBBBBYYYY!! IT IS TIME!!!!” Please stop yelling at me?  Alright, UTA and those abbreviations are some of the major talent agencies in Hollywood.  We all care about that, right?  Right?  (…crickets)  I half expect to be picked up and body slammed at this point.  I get it.  Y’all are excited for the show and you’re hyping it up like it’s the end of the world as we know it.  (and I feel fine….sorry, couldn’t resist).  Look, don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad my fiancée and I went and we all had a good time.  We found a few bargains and got some free shirts but the 3-day pass was not worth it in my humble, honest opinion.  And the purrfect angelz (no more proper name spelling from me for them…they were kinda bitchy) should not be invited back.

Abel S. a.k.a. "Honest Abe" has written reviews for Dark Horizons, JoBlo and MusicTap.  He has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He can usually be found at his keyboard ranting and rambling about the human condition or watching Beavis & Butthead.