Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wizard World Philadelphia

I was not officially covering the Wizard World Philadelphia show this year and that’s okay.  It allowed me to wander around and not think about my blog here at home.  However, I am still going to talk about my experience at the show.

Now I know word gets around and I am fairly certain anything I post on friends Facebook profiles or pages will go back to Wizard in some way.  I am no fool.  I have tried to be careful with my responses because while I had a very good time at the show there is no questioning the show has changed dramatically in the last six years I have been attending.  Wow, it’s been awhile hasn’t it?

I haven’t been to other Wizard shows so I can only talk about my experience with Philadelphia.  With the onslaught of comic conventions popping up across the country it makes sense that Wizard would reevaluate their place in a growing market.  Rather than being all encompassing instead honing in on specific pieces of geek pop culture, particularly media guests.  Not just any media guests, but ones that comic fans want to meet (i. e.: the Firefly cast, John Barrowman, etc).

When I started attending WWPhilly the show was all encompassing.  They had all of the major publishers there, comic book guests, and rows of comic book vendors on top of their artists alley and media guests.  What I loved about WWPhilly that first year was having the opportunity to meet people in a smaller more intimate convention.  For 3 days you could actually fit everything in, see everyone you wanted to, check out every vendor, meet and have long conversations with artists, colorists and writers.  For my experience, it was unique to WWPhilly alone and that is why I have continued to attend year after year.

After my first year at the show, when I returned in 2009 I found all of the major publishers to be missing.  However, I am much more interested in independent tittles so DC and Marvels absence had little effect on me.  The thing is they have remained missing.  I also noticed the absence of Jay Company Comics who had previously released variant issues of my dear Zenescope Wonderland books.  The first year I ran to their booth to snatch those variants and the following year the vendor was gone completely.

I then skipped a year and came back in 2011.  At the time I was beginning in cosplay and that year I had an awful time at the show.  Starting out in this hobby can be very tough if you don’t have the right support team.  What made the show awful had absolutely nothing to do with the actual show but the attendees and a particular vendor.  I had two store bought and slightly altered costumes.  Friday, I wore the female Robin and a fanboy asked to take my photo in front of the General Lee.  I obliged and then he told me how he took a photo of my chest alone.  I scowled and walked away.  Saturday, I wore the Bo’Peep costume.  The costume did not fit correctly.  It was poorly made.  I also made the poor decision of wearing a costume that I was uncomfortable wearing in public.  While walking the floor I had a vendor’s employee heckle me over being a crap cosplayer because my costume was store bought.  He was rude enough to send me out of the show crying hysterically.  As I went to head down the escalator Daniel Logan grabbed me and asked if I was okay but being so upset I continued my mad dash to get out of the convention hall and into Chase bank where a friend of his followed me.  It was pretty clear I hadn’t been paying attention so that person informed me who had grabbed me, because I had no idea.  I just need to get out of the building to calm down and catch my breath.  When I returned, I went to his booth and we chatted a little.  Very nice guy that Daniel Logan.

So 2011, wasn’t the best show year for me, but I do have some fond memories from it and it remains as a wonderful beginning to this world of cosplay.  I met a people there that are now wonderful friends of mine.

So 2012 came along and I had a great time because I spent it with friends.  This has become the reason to attend shows alongside cosplaying.  I get three to four days to see my friends that I only see at conventions and yet I hear from them all the time.  I was also covering the show, so I tried to really take the time to soak everything in.  I attended my first panel because it was a friends panel and I also attended the costume contest and watched friends of mine win awards and traipse across the stage. I had a lot of fun last year.

It was this year that the changes in the show became a lot more noticeable.  Long gone are the days of large publishers (again, they are not a draw for me), gone are the comic book retailers with 50% off trades in long boxes doubled up down aisles, gone are the retailers with modern comic variant displays (where I used to hunt for old Fathom variants), and gone are reasonable ticket prices.

My big issue with the ticket prices was the absence of the 3 day ticket.  This year (and seemingly also for 2014) the only tickets were a 4 day or single day tickets.  I don’t think $85 for a 4 day ticket is unreasonable.  What made it unreasonable was the absence of the 3 day.  It forced people who would normally purchase a 3 day ticket to buy a 4 day and pay for a day they either can’t attend or would not attend normally.  It also forced people who would have purchased a 3 day to only purchase a single day.  The single day tickets were very pricy.  I had considered only purchasing Friday and Saturday, but the cost of the two single days would have been more than a 4 day ticket.  Add to this that I know a lot of local friends that could not afford to attend the convention because of the ticket prices, but they were able to attend other shows taking place in the area.

The layout of the show was very different this year.  They have vendors then artist’s alley and then in the back media guests in two rows.  This was pretty cool for artist’s alley.  Their area at any show always seems to wind up wherever they can fit and tends to be a touch out of the way but at this show they were dead center on the show floor giving them more exposure.  Unfortunately, being so far in the back this hid the media guests.  I was interested in meeting John Barrowman and Summer Glau but I forgot when they were not in an area that reminded me they were there.  I understand why the media guests were in the back.  They had a sign and a taped line on the floor asking for no photos past this point.  I see the purpose.  This also allowed the media guests to have their own bathroom facilities.  I only know this because as we approached one bathroom we were told it was private which is fine, but a sign on top of security would have been nice.

I loved the addition of cosplay guests this year!  There was a slow role out of announced guests, but it was pretty cool regardless.  Ivy, Nicole, Dayna, Rosanna, and Spencer were really fun to meet.  I don’t recall seeing Dayna, Spencer or Rosanna on Wizards website.  I think they were late additions.  Initially I was excited to see Ivy Doomkitty as a guest.  As the show came closer Nicole Marie Jean announced she was sharing Ivy’s booth in my delight and shock I checked Wizard’s website and there Nicole was listed as a guest.  There was another Allie Cat Cosplay that was a cosplay guest.  I did not see her and lots of people mistook me for her (including one of my friends).  It’s possible I missed her but I am not sure she was there.  I wasn’t crazy about the Cosplay Stars booth.  People will do what they want but among the community none of had heard of either of those ladies.  They may be stars of an adult nature but not in the cosplay world which is fine but the name is misleading.  I enjoyed the stage.  I thought that was really cool addition.  Of course I had a great time seeing Together Brothers Productions and NY Cosplayers Network.  Brian’s Tardis is amazing.  It’s a beauty by far.

They had a lot of space this year.  So either the hall was slightly bigger, they had less vendors, or the reorganization allowed them to create more aisle space.  Having more aisle space is usually a plus but it seemed to me the show was slower than previous years which made the larger aisles look emptier.  So in regards to being slow, Thursday felt empty which is should, that’s sort of the purpose of Thursday as a preview night.  Friday’s crowd seemed more like what Thursday should have been.  Saturday felt like a Friday and Sunday was the busiest of them all.  I expect Sunday was busier due to both Kids Day and the lowest priced ticket of the three days.

It seems a lot of people have been very indifferent about this year’s show and I am among them.  I understand Wizard’s need to carve out a niche for itself in the growing convention world.  I don’t mind the changes as long as what is being removed is being compensated with something of value to us geeks.  For me this was the cosplay guests, it made the convention worthwhile to me to meet Nicole and Rosanna especially.

For the bigger picture, to me conventions are about seeing friends.  It’s about getting dressed up, meeting people, delighting kids and seeing friends.  I got to do all of those things.  I got see all of my friends (I did miss a few unfortunately) and that alone makes the show worth the ticket price.

I am not 100% sure if I will be returning next year or not.  I really hate the idea of saying goodbye to my long time favorite convention.  I guess we will have to see what Wizard brings to Philadelphia next year.  I do like that the show has been moved to the 3rd weekend in June (this makes it feasible since I really want to go to PCC 2014).  However, this may be bad news for the show since I am pretty sure that is graduation weekend.  I know it will be bad news for driving on Sunday.   I had a hard enough time getting home last weekend without it being a big travel weekend!  What usually takes me 3-4 hours took 5 and a 1/2!  Ouch!  However, this meant I got to sit in a bit of traffic on the BQE which I don’t mind if I am not on a time constraint because I love staring at the NYC skyline and it’s absolutely stunning from the BQE.  I also had gorgeous views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.  Gush!

Oh and to those of us who drive into the show watch for parking fees.  The Hilton Parking Garage charges $29 (about) for 3-12 hours, $33 for 12-24 hours or $6 for every ½ hour (for shorter stays).  Two blocks down is the Convention Center parking garage (which is light gray and yellow on the outside of the building) their fee caps out at $25.  Their hourly rate is $6 an hour.  On Sunday I was at the show for three hours and paid my parking fee thinking it would be $18 to find it was $25.  So I am guessing at hour 3 you hit the $25 mark somehow.  I don’t suggest paying at the kiosk because when I got to my car it took me 30 minutes to get set up to drive home (navigation and such) and find my iPod that I thought I lost because of this when I drove out I was charged an additional $6 for the 30 minutes in-between when I paid and when I left even though I had already paid for a full day.  So either get out quickly or pay by card at the exit ramp.

I am actually really excited for Wizard World New York Experience in a few weeks, but first off to Eternal Con next weekend!
~ Ally

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