Every comic con is different. Events run by Comic-Con International (San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon), ReedPop (New York Comic Con, C2E2, Emerald City Comic Con), Wizard World, or dozens of independent producers all have unique characteristics. While last month’s independently-run East Coast Comic Con focused on comics creators and 1960s popular culture, this past weekend’s Philadelphia Wizard World Comic Con spotlighted celebrity appearances and musical entertainment.
Upon first entering the exhibition hall, attendees encountered the show’s entertainment stage. Throughout the show, Kato Kaelin served as the master of ceremonies for musical performers and other acts. The live entertainment was the brainchild of Wizard World CEO John Maatta. “I used to come to Wizard shows before I had this job,” Maatta told me at the show. “There was no entertainment, there was no music in the hall. I thought it was kind of a sullen experience.” Maatta believes “entertainment and the experience has to be paramount — bringing music in, bringing acts in.” [For my full interview with Maatta, see “Wizard World CEO John Maatta: Growth through Media Development.”]
Elsewhere on the show floor attendees could peruse vendor booths related to comic books, gaming, cosplay, and other pop culture activities. As is common at Wizard World cons, there was also a smattering of booths unrelated to popular culture: insurance and telecom companies, a home improvement firm, and even a fortune teller.
The show’s Artist Alley included artists, authors, and illustrators, most notably Jim Steranko and Greg Capullo. Steranko, alas, eschews having his photo taken, so I have no pictures of him from the show. He does, however, gladly engage in extended conversations with fans. When Capullo arrived at his booth on Saturday to find fans already queued up, he went down the line and greeted each person before beginning the signing.
Much of remainder of the show floor was occupied by booths set aside for what is the major focus of the show for many fans: celebrity autograph signings and photo ops.
Most of the show’s celebrities also participated in an audience Q&A as part of the show’s programming. An exception was Jason Momoa, who was only available for fan signings and photo ops.
Featured programming sessions at Wizard World Philadelphia included the following:
Henry Winkler gave a funny and honest talk about his life and career, from his first major role as Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days to his current role co-starring with Bill Hader on Barry. Winkler candidly discussed his childhood learning difficulties and his desire, from the age of seven, to become an actor.
Stephen Amell, in conversation with Victor Dandridge, answered questions from fans about the Arrowverse television programs.
Charisma Carpenter and Holly Marie Combs talked about their roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. In response to a question from a fan, both seemed open to the notion of revisiting their characters from Charmed, but only if it carried on the tradition of the original series. Carpenter expressed little interest in the reboot currently in development at the CW.
Jewel Staite spoke with fans in a session moderated by RealBreakingNate. In one highlight, cosplayer @CatsimileCosplay came up on stage attired as Catalina from Space Cases to take a selfie with Staite.
RealBreakingNate also led the Q&A with the Justice League’s Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher. A fan came on stage to teach Miller and Haddon Heights High School alumnus Fisher the school’s newest dance moves, the Garnet Shuffle.
Sean Bean made a rare comic con appearance in conversation with Mike Gregorek.
Three cast members from the Lord of the Rings films — Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and Billy Boyd — appeared in a panel moderated by Mike Gregorek. Boyd told a story about hanging out with Dominic Monaghan in rented house during a break in the production. The pair passed the time drinking wine, watching DVDs, and making videos of just the two of them. One morning, Boyd came downstairs to find Monaghan at the fireplace smoking a pipe naked. “Where could the tapes be?” Wood asked, doubled over with laughter. Boyd said he has them somewhere and hinted at eventually releasing them as a documentary.
And, of course, there were fans in costume throughout the event.
For the full photo gallery from the event, see the Flickr album Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con 2018: