So How Was Wizard World Philly 2012?

Photography by Heather Marino-Stotland

Wizard World rolled into town this weekend for what they’re again insisting on calling the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, but no one calls it that. It’s Wizard World Philly and it always will be, even if nothing else about the show is the same. And I’m really alright with that.

WWP 2012 was a lot like last year’s scaled-down convention, and for the most part, I enjoyed it even more. As is now the case at Wizard’s cons, you’ll no longer find any booths from Marvel or DC (or Dark Horse or Image). Mattel and Toybiz now take a pass, as do the film and TV studios. This leaves the convention’s focus on dealers, Artist Alley and, of course, the celebrity guests. A large chunk of floor space was given to a celebrity autograph area, and the bulk of the panels were those same actors and creators telling stories and doing Q&As. In many ways, this is refreshing. It’s like the cons of years gone by, where you could spend a day rooting through back issues and listening to sci-fi actors tell embarrassing stories without having advertisements aggressively shouted at you from all directions. It’s a much more relaxed and laid-back, and frankly fun, environment.

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It was actually pretty great, this overgrown hotel-con. Wizard took what worked last year and made it work even better, making for a really fun time, despite not fixing any of the things that didn’t work last year. And possibly making some of them even worse.

The same stupid easily fixable annoyances from last year were back. They still had nowhere to sit down and the door situation was still insane. You had to go down an escalator to get to the panel rooms, but you couldn’t go out the door near the escalator. If you wanted to go downstairs you had to go out the same door that people just entering the con were coming in through. If you were coming back upstairs you could in the doors by the escalators though. It was weird and incredibly frustrating.

But again, once you could fight your way past the people coming in to get to the panels, they were great.

James Marsters was supposed to share a stage with Juliet Landau but she couldn’t make it, which just meant he got to run the thing (I’m thinking he probably would have done that anyway). He did an entire panel of just Q&A, saying that no question could embarrass him. The audience took that as a challenge, right away asking him when his last three-way was. (It was 2004.) Then came the deluge of questions about kissing John Barrowman. Apparently Marsters doesn’t like doing love scenes – he says they make him feel like a whore – but he really trusts Barrowman (partly because he didn’t tease him like Sarah Michelle Gellar did) so it wasn’t so bad. Also Marsters’ fiancé directed that scene and he bit Barrowman. He spoke frequently about how he never knew if or when Whedon was going to kill Spike and that Whedon hated the character’s popularity (and how the two points intersected – “I don’t care how popular you are, you’re dead. You’re meat. Remember that.”). He always knew he wanted to be an actor, and in fact his first acting experience was as Eeyore in a school play. He took the the part way too seriously, like “looking for the pathos in the character” seriously. Also, if he could bare-knuckle box any other guest at the con, it’d be Hayden Panettiere because she’s the smallest and the only one he thinks he could take.

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Similarly, the Torchwood panel was down one guest as Gareth David-Lloyd’s wife had just had a baby. (Congrats from The Nerd Signal!) This led to Kai Owen having to handle the Q&A by himself as well, and like Marsters he didn’t seem to mind the extra attention much. And again, the first question set the casual tone when the actor was asked what his favorite beer was. In a bit of local pandering, he answered that he’d spent the previous night enjoying quite a few bottles of Yuengling, and that it was his new favorite. When asked what it was like to be the only character on the series to not have had a gay kiss, he expressed his desire to have on-screen sex with John Barrowman (adding that he’d kissed him off-screen “loads of times” and that he’s a “great kisser but he smells of cabbage”). Owen was asked about fan-fiction, and said that he’s familiar with it, but hasn’t read any. He is, however, flattered and fully supports it. Oh, and he ended his panel with this lovely musical number.

Bruce Campbell’s panel was as awesome as you’d expect. He spent his whole time ostensibly doing a Q&A, but really just heckling his audience. He held a tattoo contest with the prize being a whopping $2. He talked about the the recent zombie trend sweeping the news, “Miami used to be face of homelessness, now it’s the home of facelessness.” When asked about the upcoming Evil Dead remake, Campbell’s response was that “You can’t stop it. It’s happening, it’s almost done filming. You can’t stop it.” Though as negative as that sounds, he talked the project up, pointing out that he, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert are all involved. He added that they’d be using mostly make-up and trying to avoid CGI whenever possible.

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All in all it really was a pretty great con, and if Wizard World sticks with this direction it could continue to be a fantastic throw-back to the way cons used to be before the big companies took over the floors. And wouldn’t that be a welcome respite from New York and San Diego?

But enough of all that, here’s what you really want. The cosplayers.

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(Gangstas. Straight-up gangstas.)

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(They got the voices perfect. Amazingly perfect.)

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(Booster Gold was not with this group. He photobombed them. Because, you know, he’s Booster and can’t not jump in front of a camera.)

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(Check out her two-headed cat!)

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(Words cannot describe how absolutely excited about her She-Ra costume this little girl was. Best kid ever? Very possibly.)

Check out more pics at our Flickr page.

Skott Stotland is a thousand monkeys in a man suit. He has been writing for the internet for over a decade.

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