Wizard World Comic Con

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Check that one off the bucket list~  I finally attended my very 1st comic con! For some reason Wizard World decided to come to my little ole’ town, and as a a lifelong geeky fangirl of sci-fi, superheroes and the like I was SO there. It was the first year for this event here, and it was a smaller con. Smaller can also mean less crowds and less waiting in line, especially since a lot of people had not heard about the event (I saw a lot of “wish I had known about this!” comments after it was over). But it was still well-attended , and it was if I had finally found my people. I was positively giddy, and all day long I felt like my son at 1:06 in this video, “This is the best thing of my life!” The video (our own little brush with media and pop culture when my son’s enthusiastic response to playing with a sea lion briefly became one of those “viral videos”) even came up a couple times in conversations about using media opportunities to help bring about more than entertainment, but also a greater good.

When we arrived downtown it was right at starting time, but there was a loooong backup to get into the parking deck. I tried not to go into fits, thinking about the fact that I was wasting time in the car. Must. See. COMIC-CON! Finally I asked my husband if he could pleeeease park the car without me, and I jumped out with oldest child and scampered to the convention center. I then proceeded to break rule #1 of comic cons: make sure you know what line you are waiting in. Luckily, I didn’t waste more than a minute, ha.

Commence the joy.

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Kids get in free with a paid adult so we had our two boys with us for the first two hours, then my parents kindly picked them up. The boys enjoyed seeing all the superhero, comic and sci-fi merchandise. My youngest son wore a shirt with the Autism Ninja, our very own family superhero.

The NinjAlex, our Autism Ninja superhero, created by my son and drawn by my brother.
The NinjAlex, our very own Autism Ninja superhero. Copyright Jennifer Bittner and Brian Roberts.

My oldest was wearing a Minecraft shirt, and the highlight of his day was when someone dressed as Steve gave him a thumbs up. There were a lot of cosplayers, and we were impressed by how elaborate and creative some of the costumes were.

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I have no idea what that third set of people are supposed to be, except that they are now IN MY NIGHTMARES! And look at that intricate cardboard Groot! But baby Rocky, however adorable, was just NOT having it.

One of my favorite parts of the day was talking to some of the vendors and artists. I saw a variety of beautiful and creative work, and heard some amazing stories. These guys were pretty cool, and have some great artwork.

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My main focus, of course, was the headliners. I flitted back and forth around the meet-and-greet section all day just to see who I could see. Going to Wizard World was my birthday present, and my husband declared it was “my day,” sometimes simply watching from a distance as I ran around like a manic puppy. I was totally geeking out, and got to feast my eyes on people like Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Walking Dead) and Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead). Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters was there, and every time I saw the big smile on his face I was tempted to quote a really obscure Saturday Night Live Skit about “Who is your favorite Ghostbuster?”

I decided to stand at the entrance to the booth for Jason David Frank from the Power Rangers to see when he would arrive, and happened to turn around just in time to gaze into his face. He ran into the crowd, obviously pumped, and led them in a rousing cheer before he began signing autographs.

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There were a lot of excited kids in line, and their parents looked equally excited. JDF is actually a professional mixed martial artist, and according to his Facebook Fan page he “holds a seventh degree black belt in American Karate, and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.” On Sunday he led a Karate class for the kids (and kids at heart), and I was bummed my family was not able to attend. There are so many awesome things at a con that sometimes I get stressed out because I need to have ALL THE FUN.

Writing the word “con” just reminded me that every time I said that word my husband would interrupt me by yelling “Khaaan!!!” After the third time I just stopped and stared at him. He mistook my frustration for confusion, and asked, “You do know why I am saying that, right?” I responded, “WHAT!?! How can you even ask me that? It’s like you don’t even KNOW me!” I guess he forgot that one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad, eating cheese and crackers and watching Star Trek.

So back to the escapades of the manic puppy. Sean Patrick Flanery (Young Indiana Jones, Boondock Saints) played a boisterous game of “keep away” with my son as he gave him several Life Savers. This was despite the fact that he had a line of paying fans waiting to see him. He had a high level of energy and seemed like he was genuinely enjoying himself. People responded to that (especially the ladies) and he had a steady stream of fans all day long. I had the chance to talk to him more later in the day, and he was a really fun guy.

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Can you believe he is like 49?!? Wish I looked better in this picture. Anyway, I am looking forward to introducing my children to the “Young Indiana Jones” series. I know they will love it!

Another squee-worth moment was that Dean Cain called me pretty! And TOUCHED me! In a completely friendly, appropriate way, of course. Earlier in the day I had been surprised by my reaction when my husband pointed him out for the first time, “There’s Dean Cain!” I sort of swooned, and responded, “Give me a moment,” as I basked in the Dean Cain-ness of it all. I mean, come ON, he and Christopher Reeve were MY Superman (Supermen?) when I was young. So all day long I kept an eye on him, because, DEAN CAIN. He was incredibly warm and friendly to everyone. We caught him during a lull and he was kind enough to talk. He teased my husband about his Batman shirt and we proceeded to discuss who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman. And then, in my euphoric, exhausted state, I accidentally called Dean Cain… “Batman.” OHMYGOSHYOUGUYS, do you understand what I am saying? I called Dean Cain “Batman!” His reaction was hilarious, and I was mortified. But for the record, I still think SUPERMAN would win in a fight.

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After that I was too embarrassed to ask to take a picture with him, and I am kicking myself over that now. He probably would have said yes, because he is a super nice guy (see what I did there?).

I was impressed that most of the featured guests looked genuinely glad to be there and pleased to be meeting the fans. They seemed to make each person feel special, which is no easy task. This was my first comic-con so I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t sure if sometimes celebrities were stand-offish or tired. It must be overwhelming at times. There was only one celebrity who seemed less than friendly. I am not going to name him, but I will say that I was very disappointed in his behavior. Up until yesterday I had this person on a pedestal. All day long he pretended he had tunnel vision and he didn’t see you UNLESS you paid. The times that his booth was empty (which was quite often) he looked like he was trying to stem his frustration. Call me crazy, but I think more people would want to pay him for his autograph or a picture if he had more positive energy about him. He even happened to walk past me and I smiled at him, only to have him look like through me like I was a wall. A disgusting wall. That he HATED. I actually didn’t realize at first I was smiling at a celebrity, I just did it because he was next to me and that’s what people do. WE SMILE AT OTHER HUMANS, or at the very least treat them with basic respect.

Near the end of the day, as things were winding down, I approached the booth of Garrett Wang who played Ensign Harry Kim on “Star Trek: Voyager.” This lifelong Trekkie lingered at the entrance, watching and smiling, since he was talking to a couple of people and I didn’t want to impose. The person assisting him eventually called me over, and I asked, “I didn’t know if I could approach without the spending of the money?” Garrett laughed, and said, “We should put that on a poster! ‘Yes, you may approach without the spending of the money.'” Cool guy. One of our main topics of conversation was about how proud he was to be a part of such a groundbreaking show. Captain Kathryn Janeway was a strong character that also happened to be female, and a great role model for girls. According to Garrett not everyone responded to a female Starfleet Captain in a positive way, and some men sent in letters of complaint and even death threats. We were able to chat for a while and he told told some great stories. He also does a killer George Takei impersonation.

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You should check him out on Twitter. Garrett, I mean, not George. Well, not NOT George, it’s just that Garrett was my focus here. But while we are on a tangent I may as well mention that as we talked I noticed Bruce Campbell breezing past. Since there was no one else around, I yelled, “HEY! How’s it going?’ and waved. Bruce replied, “A-OK, baby!” in a very Bruce Campbell way. And I died.

Speaking of female characters, one of my disappointments from the day was the lack of female celebrities. Unfortunately the two main non-males that had been advertised ended up canceling. I understand that schedules change, but since the lineup had been so light on females in the first place it ended up having NONE (or so it seemed the day I was there). As I discussed with Garrett Wang, it is often a struggle for little girls to find empowering characters they can look up to in movies and television, but they exist. I’m looking at you, Janeway, Ripley and Buffy! I still think there are not enough inspiring, strong female characters on film, and the ones we have seem to not be celebrated as much as the male characters. For example, Gamora was left off the majority of the “Guardians” merchandise, prompting the Twitter hashtag #whereisGamora. It did us all a disservice for there to be little or no female celebrities at this convention. I hope that Wizard World will make a greater effort in the future to ensure proper female representation.

My other frustration was with some major last minute schedule changes. I don’t know what the SOP is for these things, but I feel that there could have been a bit more organization and better communication. Some changes were announced on the loudspeaker in the main area, but that information was missed by anyone who wasn’t within earshot. Other changes were scribbled on signs outside panels. If possible I think it would be helpful to do something like send out a Tweet when changes happen. There are so many great experiences and so little time, and fans want to make the most of it. My husband and I missed seeing most of Bruce Campbell when we stepped out for some food during a break in the panel schedule. The schedule change was announced minutes before it happened, and he was pushed up by almost 2 hours! Luckily we caught the end of his panel when we arrived for what we THOUGHT was Ron Perlman (who was pushed back in the schedule). Lesson learned: don’t leave, even if just for a bit, because you might miss something.

I attended four panels that day. One was with Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast, Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy), and his persona is remarkably complicated. He is one of most down to earth people you will ever meet, and his smile extends up into the crinkles around his eyes. He seemed genuine and warm with his fans during the meet and greet, so I was surprised when within seconds of the start of his panel he was dropping f-bombs.

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Somehow he came off looking both gruff and approachable at the same time. “Hellboy” and some of his more obscure works were discussed, but unfortunately not “Sons”. He said that the best part of being in “Beauty and the Beast” was working with Linda Hamilton. He also spoke of fulfilling the wish of a child with cancer for the “Make a Wish” foundation, and told the story in a truly humble and moving way.

I also attended a panel with Burt Ward and Adam West, the legendary “Batman and Robin.” They have quite the witty banter worked out between them in their well-rehearsed shtick, and it was an amusing, albeit odd, experience. Adam West continues to be quite the character, and does an hilarious (but not very PC) Liberace impersonation. It was wonderfully nostalgic to watch them tell stories of the bygone era of television.

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The funniest panel was with Bruce Campbell, and I really regret missing half of it. He was incredibly charismatic and really knew how to work a crowd. He continually amused and surprised us with the things he said, and thinks pretty quickly on his feet. He ran a hilarious Q&A and had people simply shout out questions, then moderated some sort of random talent show. It was everything you would expect from Bruce Campbell, and he was pretty much the same on the stage as he is in his films.

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The best part of my day was preceded by the worst part. I was feeling torn between two overlapping panels: Giancarlo Esposito and James Marsters (Buffy, Angel). Buffy is one of my all-time favorite shows, and am a proud member of Team Spike. Basically, I love anything that has to do with the Whedonverse. But my husband and I also loved watching the show “Revolution”, and marveled at how easily Captain Tom Neville could switch from powerful charm to a murderous glare. He would make one of those chilling faces and one of us would invariably remark, “Oh, he’s so good!” I decided to go ahead and go to the Esposito panel because I couldn’t bear to miss it, and hoped that I could still score a seat at Marston later. When we arrived at the first panel I was shocked that the room was not full, considering Mr. Esposito is such a versatile actor. He has portrayed an impressive variety of characters in shows like “Once Upon a Time”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Revolution,” and even received an Emmy nomination.

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We scored second row seats in the center, are were thrilled to be so close to one of our favorites. The discussion was quite interesting, and Giancarlo Esposito is a very positive, comtemplative person. He also seemed genuinely grateful for the opportunities that has been provided by his career. I was having a great time, but after about 15 minutes I decided to try and sneak out while my husband stayed. Apparently I didn’t manage to do so without being noticed. About 24 hours later when we were discussing my departure my husband remarked offhandedly, “Oh yeah, he actually said something about that.” I froze and stared at him, mouth open. “AND YOU ARE JUST NOW TELLING ME THIS!!??” I begged my husband to tell me EXACTLY what was said, but he COULDN’T REMEMBER! WHAT!?! The Chicken Man, one of his favorite actors, made a joke about his wife but he couldn’t be bothered to sear every second into his memory forever? I am still dying to know. He did say later that the rest of the panel was interesting, and they talked about things like filming the famous death scene in the Breaking Bad episode “Face Off” (more prosthetics than CGI!). Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to discuss Revolution.

I excitedly found a seat near the front for the James Masters panel, carefully avoiding the front four VIP rows. An usher proceed to come ask me for my wristband. It turns out I can’t do maths, and I was actually IN row 4. I managed to find another seat that was still happily close, and I remember thinking that if it was a bigger con I would have had to wait in line. Before long the moderator came on stage and began to explain that James Marsters was feeling under the weather and wouldn’t be coming out, but he did it in such a way that people weren’t sure if he was joking. I have no idea what played out behind the scenes, but it seems to me that a decision could have possibly been made and communicated sooner. That way people would not have wasted their time arriving early to wait for a panel that didn’t happen. There were some VERY disgruntled holders of VIP passes as we trudged out (despite the fact that they were offered refunds), and I heard one woman remark, “He was the ONLY reason I came!” Marsters apparently was able to meet fans on the final day of the con, but that didn’t help the disappointed Saturday-only attendees.

I rushed back to the Esposito panel to try and salvage what was left of the time, fighting back some very unpleasant emotions. As the crowd filed out my husband was surprised to see me near the back of the room. He took one look at my quivering, pouty lips and sorrowful eyes that were ever-so-slightly glistening, and he simply said, “I’m sorry.” I tried to overcome my frustration, but it was difficult. Not only had I NOT been able to meet “Spike”, but I also missed part of a great panel in order to experience said heartbreak. Double disappointment.

We decided to get back to the business of having a good time, and headed to the autograph area to see if there was anyone new. My husband stopped at the restroom as I continued to the back. And there, having just arrived in his booth, was Captain Neville himself. YES! There were not too many people in his line yet so I took a few moments trying to muster up the courage to talk to him. When there was a break in the crowd I walked up and politely asked Mr. Esposito if I could simply talk for a moment without purchasing an autograph. He responded warmly with an “Of course!” and waved me over.

The first words out of my mouth were, “I’m so sorry I left your panel early!” He laughed and told me, “No problem!” We chatted for a few minutes and I told him how much we loved Revolution, but I TOTALLY flaked and forgot to ask anything about the show (WHATWASSUPPOSEDTOHAPPENNEXT???). I glanced over my shoulder from time to time, frantically hoping my husband would show up. Finally I saw him, and as I tried to get his attention I fought the urge to yell, “Hurry up! YOULOVEHIMMMM!” He stared us for a moment in surprise, because he didn’t expect to see his wife holding hands with his favorite actor. Husband joined us and we chatted for several more minutes. I don’t remember everything we said because I was so ridiculously happy. At one point we began to discuss the concept of good karma, and as we did so Mr. Esposito held my hands in his and gazed into my eyes. Amazing that such a gentle, warm soul can so convincingly portray a psychopath. He stressed that if you put positive energy into the universe it will come back and benefit you somehow. We discussed that he has been able to use his status to do good things and help make the world a better place.

I talked some about life as a mother of a child who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our mantra about embracing uniqueness: “Different isn’t bad, it’s just different!” I also mentioned how unexpected and wonderful it was that a video of my son playing with a sea lion was able to help spread Autism Awareness in media outlets all over the world. It was not only a cute video, but it was a cute video that also helped people. Mr. Esposito looked genuinely interested in my story, and pleased that we had such a unique opportunity. As we finished talking I asked if it would be possible to take a picture of him, and instead he was gracious enough to let me take a picture WITH him.

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DOYOUSEETHISPICTURE? Do you see how happy I am? Day. MADE. It almost makes up for Revolution being cancelled. Almost.

What a wonderful experience. I’m thrilled I finally got to go, and can’t wait for my next Comic Convention. So, Wizard World, when are you coming back?

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9 thoughts on “Wizard World Comic Con

  1. Suzette March 27, 2015 / 10:47 AM

    Hello! Would it be okay if I use your Ninja Picture to make a T-Shirt for an Autism walk I am doing April 2015? I’m not reselling it or anything just wanted to make a nice autism T-Shirt online and have it printed to me for my son.

    Like

  2. TakingItAStepAtATime February 21, 2016 / 6:11 AM

    I have been a fan of Giancarlo Esposito since his days on Homicide; Life on the Streets (which still to this day ranks as one of my favorite shows) – Sounds like it was a good time (other than the “Marsters incident”) – I had to laugh about the impatience to get inside. I am the same way. “Stop wasting time! Let’s go”!

    Liked by 1 person

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