My Day At Wizard World

Dude, it’s, like, post-apocalyptic and stuff.

By Matt Springer
July 11, 2002
Ah, Wizard World. You’re an old cat with new tricks.

I remember the days when you were the Chicago Comicon, and I used to save up my nickels and dimes from slaving in the hot janitorial pits of St. Jude the Apostle grade school, yearning for the chance to blow hundreds of hard-earned dollars in a single day of back-issue purchasing glory. Of course, there was also time for waiting two hours to get Todd McFarlane to sign an issue of Quasar, or to nervously wonder just what I was going to say to Peter David that was clever enough to make him chuckle as I waited for his John Hancock.

Nowadays, Wizard World is a far more corporate enterprise. Like the San Diego Comic-Con, it’s a walloping behemoth of a convention, designed more to batter the average fan over the head with its marketing cudgel than to gently welcome him or her into the brave new world of geekdom. But hey, it’s still got the three things all geeks love: the Dealers Room, the autographs, and the freaks in costumes.

Let’s go!

9:15 a.m.: I arrive. Trumpets blare.

9:35 a.m.: Having parked the car, trekked to the con, and registered at the press desk, I notice the large signs announcing the day’s great tragedy: Stan “The Man” Lee, the man I’d arrived to see, the guy who I was planning to brownnose to high heaven in a press conference at 10 a.m., was unable to make it. No Stan Lee?!?! What to do, what to do?

Buy shit, that’s what to do.

10:35 a.m.: I have dropped $50 in an hour. Somebody stop me!

11 a.m.: I can no longer resist. I spend some time taking in a demo of the new Marvel HeroClix game, the one that I am sorely tempted to dive headlong into every time I see the lil’ figures gracing a store peg. (It’s also the game that EG’s very own Chris Stewart will be penning an article about next week! How’s that for synergy?) For the uninitiated, HeroClix is a role-playing type strategy game in which tiny representatives of your favorite Marvel heroes and villains battle it out on a giant mat. For the mere price of a starter kit, this can happen on your very own dining room table! Shocking, I know.

I’m riveted by the game because the figures are so darn cool, and I have a sweet tooth for geek games, even though I almost always lose interest in pursuing them within mere months of taking them up. (You don’t want to know how much cash I poured into the Decipher Star Wars CCG before deciding it wasn’t my crack anymore. I’m embarassed every time I think of it.)

So I spend a half-hour letting some agressively social geek spit the rules all over my T-shirt. And I must say, it was pretty fun. It was so fun that I fought all day against dropping the $18 it would have taken to pick up a starter kit. Instead, I wasted that money on graphic novels, action figures and other nonsense.

Wither the Frugal Geek??? Help me! I’m outta control!

11:32 a.m.: Time for another hour or so of wandering the convention floor. At this point, unless you are a pretty die-hard comic book geek, Wizard World doesn’t seem like the funnest place to drop your convention dollar. On one hand, the rather tight comics focus is pretty cool, because it means that comics lovers can spend a couple days really getting down-home and hardcore about their hobby. On the other hand, the average hardcore geek with only a casual comics habit may find himself compelled to walk back and forth down the floor of the Dealers Room, throwing money at dealers like every bill is a carcinogen.

11:47 a.m.: Time to scope out the celebs. Jeremy Bulloch, David Prowse, Lou Ferrigno, Peter Mayhew, and even the guy who played Virgil in the WWF, all on hand. And all charging obscene amounts of money for a signed photo. It’s a living, I guess.

12:42 a.m.: Okay, this is a rarity: I’m actually bored at a convention. I have no clue what I should do. Should I sit down for a demo of the Buffy CCG? Should I spend even more money and make myself want to jump off a cliff? Should I find a corner and read?

Naw, I need to see Luke Perry.

12:47 p.m.: Mr. Perry is in Chicago to attend Wizard World and promote his sci-fi show, Jeremiah, which airs on Showtime. Even though I have never seen this show, Luke is a minor pop culture icon, having captured the hearts of just about every female my age as Dylan on Beverly Hills, 90210. In other words, he’s famous for a bad reason and may just make an ass of himself. Could be fun.

I head to the Wizard booth, where I’m directed to another booth, and where I’m unable to beg a spiffy Firefly T-shirt from the lady behind the counter. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: Hey, where’d you get that T-shirt?

Her: Oh, they were throwing them out here a little while ago.

Me: Do you have any more?

Her: I don’t know, and I’m not the person in charge of deciding when the T-shirts get thrown.

Lord almighty, to be the person who decides when the T-shirts get thrown!

Also demonstrated here: My utter inability to namedrop, schmooze or scam. As I walked away from the booth, ten different angles on getting my grubby paws on a shirt entered my brain. I declined to do any of them. “But hey, I have Danny Strong’s phone number in my Rolodex! He played Jonathan! On Buffy! Which Joss Whedon also produces!” Truly, I suck.

12:53 p.m.: I get my Luke Perry ticket at last and note the obscenely long line for the Michael Rosenbaum signing. I see his bald head and yearn to give it noogies. And no, that’s not a sexual thing, thanks for asking.

1:15 p.m.: After a short delay, Luke Perry at long last takes the stage. And holy sideburns, Batman, he sounds just like Dylan McKay! I mean, really. I know we’re in good shape when the first question is from some gimp who jumps up and smarms, “Did you honestly think that 8 Seconds would be your ticket to stardom?” Geeks show no mercy.

1:40 p.m.: I’m sick of hearing Dylan actually gas on about the relevance of yet another post-apocalyptic sci-fi media vehicle, so I leave Luke behind and venture forth for lunch.

2 p.m.: Hot dogs and Coke, the perfect con meal. While I eat, I take some time to read The 3 Geeks, a trade paperback I picked up for nine bucks from the author himself, Rich Koslowski. It’s funny stuff, the tale of the titular geeks and their first trip to a comics convention. It manages to poke fun at the world of cons and geekdom without being too cruel about it; it’s gentle mockery, which is a nice refresher from the usual viciousness with which geekdom is parodied. Also, the art’s really fun, with lots of wacky exaggeration and dynamic curves. Or something. At any rate, it’s worth tracking down, and I’ll be hunting for the later trades in the series when I’m at the San Diego Comic-Con in a few weeks. Here endeth the plug.

2:36 p.m.: Fueled by my lunch and my enjoyment of an indie trade paperback, I decide to spend some cash in the small press section, randomly dropping about $15 on whatever looks cool and funny and weird. Little indies make perfect bathroom reading, plus you never know when you’ll find something great. And it’s always nice to support the struggling artist; hell, I hope I get a bit of support whenever I decide to shit out some art of my own. So do your part; support your local indie comics! Here endeth the PSA.

3:15 p.m.: I’m on my third trip out of the convention center and into a nearby hotel to use the ATM and the bathrooms, the latter of which all boast nice fluffy hand towels as opposed to hand dryers that everyone from Mark Waid to some creepy guy with shit under his fingernails have pawed. I’m also somewhat tempted to run and buy a picture of the T-1000 from Terminator 2 so that I can get Stan Winston’s autograph.

Speaking of which, what’s the deal with everyone and their brother invading the comics world? First it was J. Michael Straczynski and Joss Whedon; now it’s Stan Winston and Ron Zimmerman, who actually seems to have written a Spider-Man/Jay Leno crossover. (Did this really come out? How could I have missed this?) I thought the industry was dying. Anyway.

5:30 p.m.: I literally lose two hours to wandering, thinking and buying. I have spent an obscene and irresponsible amount of money on too many trade paperbacks to count. Suffice it to say that I’m a long way toward completing my collection of Marvel Essentials.

And so, with a light wallet and a heavy heart, I bid Wizard World 2002 goodbye. San Diego, here I come!

And Stan, you better have had a goddamn good excuse for ditching, or the next time I see ya, it’ll be clobberin’ time. I don’t care if you’re a living legend or not. By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, I’ll smack ya ’round.