Friday, June 8, 2012

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con

Troma's Lloyd Kaufman presents Wonder Boy's Junk

Last week was the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con and ITMOD was there!  Maybe not the cultural phenomenon that is the San Diego Comic Con or the comic lovers paradise like the Baltimore Comic Con, but these Wizard World events are a ton of fun if you have the money and the desire to meet & greet the celebrities perched on display in the dealer's room.  I had not been in a couple of years, but the prospect of acquiring the autographs of all five Star Trek Captains, including Dork Hero William Shatner was too much for this geek to resist.

The Wife and I drove up to the the city of Brotherly Love late, late, late Thursday night and checked into a hotel on the outskirts of the Philly Airport.  We dashed the contents of our suitcase all over the floor and furniture, selected the appropriate con t shirt wear (plenty of Eric Powell Goon, Shatner, & Ghost Rider love represented from me, where as The Wife had her Team Zissou & Marc Maron pride) and counted the seconds until we were inside the Convention Center.

Celebrity Based Conventions are always weird experiences.  Here, under one roof, are Bruce Campbell, James Hong, Dean Cain, Stan Lee, Chris Hemsworth, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, Avery Brooks, Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery, Robert Knepper, Dean Stockwell, James Marsters, etc...  And you can meet them...for a price.  Not only do you fork over the cash for the con, but you also have to pay for the autograph, and if you want a photo with them you have to pay for that as well.

So there's no kidding yourself.  You want to meet the celebrities you've worshipped since you were a kid?   You gotta pay.  Folks like Shatner and Stewart are charging $75 for an auto and $80 for a photo op.  That's big business.  And there should be no delusions that you're having a real, personal experience with them.  So that's gonna turn off some folks.  Understandably.  That being said, I'm a sucker for these events.  And I can and will gladly pay for the opportunity to meet (and collect) these actors.  Part of me even likes that there is a monetary value that I can give to a celebrity encounter.  For this insane blogger a Star Trek art print signed by all five Captains is worth $300.  I will sacrifice good eating, gas, rent, and doctor bills to acquire it.

And that's what the Philadelphia Comic Con is about.  There are some cool panels and a pretty good dealer's room, but if you don't want to pay for autographs than there really is no other reason to attend. 


Our first day was Friday.  And The Captains would not be arriving until Saturday.  Day 1's goal was James Hong.  An actor with one of the most massive IMDB pages out there.  369 acting credits.  He's appeared in Chinatown, Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China, Tank Girl, Kung Fu Panda, Balls of Fury, Tango & Cash, and every TV show that ever existed.  He might not have had an over-stretching line of rabid fans like the Boondock Saints or Chris Hemsworth, but throughout the con he was always busy.

Hong also managed to spend quality face time with all of his fans, asking questions about them and answering their geeky awkward questions in return.  As we approached, he saw my Wife clutching the casual Kirk bear I had just bought her, and he stopped his signing for a moment to walk over to the other end of his table.  He asked her what the bear's name was, she answered shyly that it was Captain Kirk.  He asked her what Captain Kirk sounded like and she just shook her head.  He asked her to do the bear's voice and she couldn't muster up the courage.  Then mister Hong reached out, grabbed the bear, put it to his face and did a rendition of Mr. Ping from Kung Fu Panda.  It was pretty damn amazing. Just what any dork wants to have happen at a con.  When we finally made our way to the front of the line, he signed my David Lo Pan 8x10 "You're Not, But Your Friend Is Shy."  I explained that my "friend" was my wife and he laughed.  A goofy, fun moment.

While waiting in line, I also met fellow Twitter madman and Shatner aficionado, Doubledumbass.  He chastized my choices of fine dining and explained to me where all the great cheesesteaks in Philly were, and I tried to retain the knowledge.  Everyone should check out his site HERE.

The rest of Friday was spent collecting snapshots of Cosplayers; the more random and obscure the reference the better.  Lots of Ghostbusters, Batmans, Spider-Mans, Captain Americas floating around.  A couple of Galactuses and at least one lady Skeletor.  But my absolute favorite pair were the two guys walking around as The Dude & Hunter S. Thompson.  They were committed and never broke character.

Personally, growing up dork, I never quite understood Cosplay.  I still don't.  Twenty years ago at the cons, the only people to walk around in costume were the real weridos and the folks being paid to be there.  It's still the same, but now they are more widely accepted as part of the nerd community.  I guess I should just join the party.  But I'm never gonna throw on a Devil Dinosaur costume...although the idea of me as Devil Dinosaur and The Wife as Moon Boy....hmmmm...there's potential there.  No.  Can't do it.  No one wants to see me caked in red paint and lizard prosthetics.

The Wife on the other hand, really really really really loves all this stuff.  And she's been begging this husband to let her play dress up and get the "look at me" photo attention like these other silly blokes.  And I cannot deny her anymore.  I said that if she wants to dress up like a Monkee Man for this year's San Diego Comic Con than she's more than welcome.  But I'm gonna stick to the nerd shirts.

Saturday was the Main Event.  The Convention Center opened at 10 AM and The Wife & I were nearly first in line, waiting for The Five Captains to make their way to the floor.  My original goal was to just snag Shatner, but the thrill of the con took over and The Wife is such an enabler that I just started throwing money at Wizard World and went for all Five.

The Captains were running about an hour behind schedule so we had to get to know our neighbors.  Another bonus to these kind of events is meeting all the other crazy folks willing to suspend life's essentials for a little close encounter with Star Trek royalty.  We all look over what everyone is bringing to get signed.  Who bought the exclusive print?  Who's bothering with the Rocket Man art?  Who's getting the autobiography signed?  Everyone loves looking at each other's collectibles.

Once The Captains finally arrived it was go go go.  Up first was Patrick Stewart.  He seemed a little grumpy.  And of course, he had his "I Don't Shake Hands Due To Arthritis" sign up.  There was some confusion over the autograph tickets: what the hardcopy tickets meant vs. the computer print out tickets vs. the VIP badges.  Watching him shout back and forth with Kate Mulgrew over what meant what was a lot of fun, especially when Kate just said "Forget It" and started signing whatever anyone put in front of her.  Once the ball got rolling it all went pretty fast.  Patrick Stewart was nice but--on to the next one.  Kate Mulgrew was very happy but we had nothing to say to her cuz Voyager is the lesser love (although The Wife says she's starting to like that show...weird).  Avery Brooks lives up to his jazzy philosophical reputation.  The Wife bought his CD and that made him waaaay happy.  Scott Bakula was probably the friendliest, especially after we told him one of our first dates was seeing him at Ford's Theater and now we're married--"Why Wasn't I Invited?" he joked, making our fanboy hearts pitter patter.

And then came Shatner.

I've loved the man since I was a little kid.  Star Trek.  TJ Hooker.  It doesn't get better than that.  And in the five years since we've been hosting the Shat Attack parties, The Wife and I have become obsessed with all things Shat.  Movies, TV, Books, Comics, Stage, Toys.  Our apartment is busting at the seams with Shatner memorabilia.  And after having some near contact at last year's San Diego Comic Con and last March's Shatner's World production, this was the first time we would be meeting face to face.  And he did not disappoint.

You hear rumors from people that he's an ass to his fans.  Or that he can be dismissive.  Well, I'm happy to report that he was incredibly friendly and gracious with us.  I went first.  I said something along the lines of, "Nice to meet you Mr. Shatner.  Really big fan."  And I had him sign my Captains print and an 8x10 of Captain Kirk.  But The Wife had the real prize.  She unravelled our Shat Attack III poster  in front of him, and he asked "What is this?"  Not gonna lie, I was nervous that he was going to be furious.  That he would not sign some crazy weirdo image of a half dozen Shatner faces melded into the Star Trek III poster design.  But once I explained that we have a party each year that hosts about thirty people, and we use it as a means to raise money for his Ahead With Horses charity--he lit up.  He thanked us for all our donations.  He told us what new & exciting programs he had in store with Ahead With Horses and US Veterans.  And he asked us to include a picture of the Shat Attack group in the next donation as well as a phone number where he could leave a message.  Awesome.

As The Wife & I shuffled out of line, a group of teenagers approached us and asked if they could have their photo taken with the Five Captains print.  I said sure.  Somewhere out there on some random kids' Facebook page is me holding up Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko, and Archer.

The next three hours was spent waiting in line for the Shatner Photo op.  The less said about that experience the better.  When all is said and done we got our two seconds with The Man and have a great, strange photo as proof of the event, but there were several delays and the crowd was restless and downright hostile at times.  People just need to chill.

Saturday pretty much climaxed at 4 o'clock with The Captains panel.  As all the Trekkies started to file into the theater out from the corner burst a tiny golf cart carrying Kate Mulgrew, Shatner, and Patrick Stewart behind the wheel.  They raced around the auditorium to the cheers and applause of all their fans.  It was a crazy sight to behold and I'm so glad I snapped a blurry photograph.

The Panel itself was a typical Q & A and The Captains were all professional naturals despite probably having answered the majority of the questions a million times before.  There were definitely a few gems to be found like the time Patrick Stewart accidentally grabbed hold of Gates McFadden's breasts (see photos below).  Or Shatner asking Kate Mulgrew if she had a friend that wasn't a lover.  Or Avery Brooks saying that he looks forward to.........beaming i.e. teleporting.  And yeah, Shatner also stated for the record that he was thrilled with Chris Pine's performance as Captain Kirk.  Glad to hear that.  Me too.

Sure, as in all Q & As, there are the awkward moments.  But these actors make it work.  When one fan asked Patrick Stewart if he would hug her and Stewart wavered--Shatner belittled him until Stewart jumped off the stage (THUMP!) and gave the girl a massive hug.  I'm sure he was cursing Bill's name but it was a delight to see The Original Series pushing around The Next Generation.

The Wife had to leave Saturday night, so that left me all by myself for Sunday.  But never fear, over at the Quantum Leap panel I met up with Jon from the After Movie Diner podcast (you guys are downloading this show, right?  Cuz if you're not you're missing out on some wonderfully mad movie banter and some incredible interviews like the one last week with Barbara "Re-Animator" Crampton!) and with the power of his press pass we had some of the best seats in the house.

The Quantum Leap panel was another typical Q & A.  Scott Bakula definitely seemed to pleasure himself with busting Dean Stockwell's chops and either Stockwell really didn't want to be there, or he really enjoyed playing the Grumpy Gus.  Bakula went out of his way to answer questions with thoughtful answers, going to a fairly lengthy discussion on the demise of Star Trek Enterprise.  But Stockwell only dribbled out 1 or 2 word answers.  Don't think he was really "feeling" the whole con experience.  Whatever the case, he provided some amazing stares for this photographer.

The Buffy panel was up next.  I always enjoyed the show, but it's The Wife who is the real fan in our family and it was unfortunate that she missed this playful banter.  Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy, was on hand for the questions.  At first I thought it would be really strange to plop her onto the TV obsessed panel, but it was kinda fun to hear her geek on about her experiences.  James Marsters appeared to be the most at peace with his role as showman, and he had plenty of stories at his fingertips.

But the best part of Sunday was just tagging along behind Jon as he gathered interviews and photos for the After Movie Diner.  Standing behind him while he interviewed James Hong at his booth was one of the top thrills of the Con and I can't wait to hear the finished product on Monday's show.  For lunch we hopped on over to the Reading Terminal Market and chowed down on souvlaki while chatting up the merits/demerits of Tarantino & Rodriguez's Grindhouse.  It was really great to finally meet the face behind the voice, and I thank him for allowing me to horn in on his press pass.  Even if he doesn't know a Thanos from a Red Skull.

Yes.  Wizard World Philadelphia was a rip roaring success for this Dork.  I finally got to speak to and be spoken at by the Shatner.  I scored a batch of toys including The Rock's GI Joe Retaliation figure, a TJ Hooker die cast helicopter, a Brave & The Bold Hot Wheel, and a "Hail Borgnine!" Devil's Rain magnet.  I survived the cold stare of Stockwell.  And I finally got to meet fellow internet trolls Doubledumbass and AfterMovieDiner.

Now, I'm fully pumped for next month's San Diego Comic Con.  Bring it.  But can it live up to the new family portrait below???


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