Photography by Heather Marino-Stotland
This weekend Wizard came back to Philadelphia and brought with them a bunch of Walking Dead cast members to go with the usual assortment of TV stars and wrestlers that you loved when you were a kid. Though that’s not entirely accurate this year.
As much as everyone’s go-to complaint about Wizard World guests is “too many wrestlers!” roughly half the crowd seemed to be freaking the hell out about the appearance of someone named John Cena, who is, apparently, a big deal or something. I guess? I was wondering how hard it be to start a war between the John Cena fans and the Norman Reedus fans, but then something sparkly caught my eye and I forgot all about it. But for real, it was like goddamn Beatlemania for Cena and Reedus. Meanwhile I never saw more than, like, ten people in line for Dean Cain or Brandon Routh. Oh, how the world has moved on now that there’s a new Superman. Don’t worry, in a few short years Cavill will be doing the con circuit right along with you guys.
While I didn’t go to either of the Walking Dead panels (a Norman Reedus solo and one where he shared the stage with Michael Rooker and Jon Bernthal), I did attend the Ray Park, James Marsters and John Barrowman panels. Park and Marsters I’d seen before and were again a blast, while Barrowman was a new experience and a convention guest I highly recommend everyone see if they get a chance. Ray Park spoke surprisingly little about the recent G.I. Joe: Retaliation, while the moderator oddly kept bringing the discussion back to Star Wars: Clone Wars and Rebels, which feature or may feature Darth Maul, respectively, but not Park, himself, in any capacity. When not talking about shows that use his prosthetic-covered likeness only, Park talked about his martial arts background and his signature move that tries to sneak into every movie he makes. As he was when he appeared at this convention a few years ago to promote the first G.I. Joe, Park was funny, humble, self-effacing and kind of shy, you know, for someone that could kick you through a wall. Someday I’d love to interview him though I know it would just end up with us bullshitting about comics and old Shaw Bros movies. James Marsters, as he apparently always does, opened his panel with the challenge that he can not be embarrassed. This of course led to questions about three-ways (he lost his virginity in one) and kissing men (he suggests that men shave for the sake of whomever they’re kissing, leading to thunderous applause from the ladies in the room). There were quite a few questions about his work in audiobooks, especially the Dresden Files series. He just recorded the next book and gloated about getting to read it before anybody else. Marsters was asked and spoke at length about his ability to do so many different voices and accents. He gave a demonstration of several accents, including a spot-on Russian and a Japanese that seemed to make the audience slightly uncomfortable. He also complained about a scene in one of the Dresden books where he had to perform (I think) nine (?) different voices, but they were all old men with the same accent.
A particularly poignant moment came when Marsters was asked about the scene where his character Spike tries to rape Buffy. The basis for that scene came from the writer’s actual life, when she and a boyfriend were breaking up she, in a desperate attempt to keep him from leaving, tried to force herself on him. When writing the episode, she put that into the story, but switched the roles. Unfortunately swapping the genders changes the situation from the sad scene she intended to something horrifying. Marsters was so sickened by what his character was going to do that he outright told the writers “sometimes you don’t understand what you’re asking of us.”
There really isn’t a smooth way to transition from that, so I’ll just switch gears and jump right into the John Barrowman panel.
John Barrowman is like a 12 year-old who’s been given too much candy and a microphone. That really is the only way to describe him. He laughs at his own dirty jokes, is prone to showing off his underwear, brags about the pranks he pulls and gleefully breaks the rules whenever he can. Upon noticing that many of the VIP seats were unfilled, he demanded that the people outside be let in and allowed to take those seats. When the con staff didn’t open the doors, he got off the stage and did it himself saying “let them yell at me about it.” Barrowman (who apparently still hasn’t seen the Doctor Who season finale and begged the crowd not to spoil him) ran around the stage, joking and telling stories while the moderator just looked exasperated.
The actor spoke at length about what it’s like being an out gay actor playing an out gay character, especially one that isn’t a stereotype. He talked about how rare it is that, as such, he gets to play an action lead like Jack Harknness or a villain like Arrow‘s Malcolm Merlyn. He also said, though he thinks he’s probably too old, that he’d love to play Aquaman. When asked to play “Marry, Shag, Kill” with the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors (as himself, not as Jack) Barrowman replied, “Marry Eleven because Matt’s skinny and he’d break. Shag Ten, he knows that. Because both of us equal twenty. And kill would have to be Eccleston.” What strikes me about that is the bluntness and lack of a joke on that last part. He also went on a kind of insane three minute rant about the Titanic. It was a weird panel.
The informational panels I attended, however, were weird in a completely different way. The “Wonder Women” panel about female characters and female creators was interesting and cool, and had panelists with a wide range of comics backgrounds. Strangely, afterwards this site’s photographer and I were discussing how much of that panel about women in comics ended up being about men. How can a man write better female characters? How do you get men to read books with women as leads? What women writers should I, as a man, read? I guess it’s good that there was such an interest from male readers about these issues, but seriously guys, we can’t let them have one panel that isn’t about us? There couldn’t be one room where no one talked about us for 45 minutes? Fuck.
On a tangentially-related note, it’s nice to see the vendors realizing how many con-goers are women. There were almost no booth babes, there weren’t girls in their underwear giving messages and there were a few booths specifically catering to women. Though it was a place doing manicures and a modelling school, so I guess it’s a push. There was a panel on “Geek Culture” which was partially about the idea of geeks having their own cultural identity (like people from the same ethnic background, or sports fans) and partially about using video games as a part of mental health therapy. That part sounded much more interesting, personally, possibly due to my own mental health issues. The cultural identity aspect dominated the discussion though and was still a fascinating topic that I’d like to hear more about. There was an awkward moment when the speaker, Steve Kuniak, referred the geek community as a “safe space for everyone, regardless of sex, color, disability…” which prompted TNS’s photographer/feminist blogger Heather to ask how he reconciles that statement with the death- and rape threats received by Anita Sarkeesian for her “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” video series. He admitted that he had not heard of this and would be willing discuss it more after the panel (which he did).
I do regret not waiting in the lines for Shatner or Stan Lee. Maybe next time? Definitely next time.
Despite my generally having a pretty great time, I do think there were some things that Wizard World got wrong. The panel rooms were two blocks away from the only entrance into the show floor. Really. Remember how last year, they had a thousand entrances into the show floor, but one exit (which was through the same door as the people just coming in)? Well, this time it was the exact opposite. You could leave the show floor through any number of doors, but to get back in, you had to down this insanely long hallway (passing all the exit doors) to come in the only entrance, along with the people who were just coming in. What’s funny is that there was a security guard at all the exits to stop people from coming in. Why couldn’t they just be checking for wristbands? I mean, that’s what they used to do.
And ugh, the goddamn wristbands.
So why, looking back at all of this, with so much more that I liked than I didn’t, do I still feel so meh about Wizard World Philly 2013? Is it that I’m remembering what it was like it was in years past when you could walk up Dan DiDio at the DC booth and talk about the latest storylines as equals? Am I comparing it to last year’s con, which this one was much more similar to but lacked the life of? I think that might be it. If I had to describe this year’s Wizard World (and it’s kind of my job to) I’d have to say it was lifeless, not to say it wasn’t fun, but it lacked energy and vitality.
But at least they gave people a place to sit this year, so that earns a lot of forgiveness and hope for more change for the better next year.
I’ve rambled on more than long enough though. Here’s what you came to see, cosplayers.
So we ran into this Aquabat, which was awesome, and took his picture. And while that was happening another Aquabat that he didn’t know came by, so we got a shot of the two of them together. (Possibly my favorite pic of the con, by the way.)
I’m thinking they may actually be the Aquabats. People in costumes couldn’t make anything that weird happen by accident.
Not three minutes before we saw her, we were complaining about how we hadn’t seen any Captain Marvels. I’m not a fan of this Joker design, but I love the hell out of this cosplayer. He was so in character, and just so much fun. Guy Kaylee is killing me. One of my favorite cosplayers ever. This Jack had just seen a Dalek and reacted perfectly in character, “Oh, shit!”
Half-kangaroo bun in the oven.
Hell yea, this girl went dressed as Tumblr.
Best Joker and Harley of the con, hands down.
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