ReedPop Moves into Wizard World’s Turf in Philadelphia
ReedPop arrived in Philadelphia this past weekend to launch the inaugural Keystone Comic Con.
While the market for pop culture events has expanded in recent years, it has also showed signs of stratifying. The non-profit Comic-Con International runs the country’s most influential pop culture fest in San Diego each summer along with the similar, but more modest, WonderCon in Anaheim in the spring.
ReedPop, the pop culture division of the Relx Group, produces the largest pop culture fest on the East Coast in New York Comic Con, as well as Chicago’s C2E2, Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con, and other comics and gaming events in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere.
ReedPop’s major U.S. competitor, Wizard World, hosts around 16 or 17 shows each year (down from an earlier high of over two dozen shows). As Wizard World CEO Jon Maatta recently told On Technology and Media, his strategy is to focus primarily on mid-tier markets, with comic cons in locales like Boise, Idaho; Des Moines, Iowa; Cleveland, Ohio; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Madison, Wisconsin.
Previously, the only city in which ReedPop and Wizard World both held shows was Chicago. This year, Philadelphia became the second.
Keystone Comic Con felt akin to Wizard World’s Philadelphia Comic Con in many regards. The two events occupied much of the same space in the Philadelphia Convention Center. Duplicating a hallmark of recent Wizard World shows, a large stage on the show floor provided music and live entertainment throughout the event. The ReedPop event added an extra twist with the addition of a wrestling ring that hosted a series of events during the show.
While these activities kept attendees entertained, the noise levels were not popular with several vendors with whom I spoke. Less intrusive was the entertainment to keep the audience engaged between the panel sessions. The comedic vocal antics of Drennon Davis was a highlight of this interstitial entertainment.
Saturday coincided with Batman Day, DC Comics’ annual celebration of the Dark Knight. In addition to handing out free capes and Batman comics to attendees as they entered, the day featured panels celebrating Gotham’s vigilante hero.
“The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Spotlight on Frank Miller,” moderated by Patty Hawkins, presented an hour-long Q&A session with the acclaimed writer/artist. The conversation covered the range of Miller’s career from how he broke into comics to his critique of the “assembly line” approach to creating comics.
Another Batman Day panel included Batman writers and Greg Capullo and Peter Tomasi, and artist Steve Orlando, again moderated by Patty Hawkins.
John Barrowman arrived on stage for his spotlight panel to reveal his stunning gown. Joining him for the hilarious and ribald conversation and audience Q&A was partner Scott Gill. Barrowman concluded the session by serenading the audience with a song.
For “The Office Reunion” panel, the auditorium filled with fans sporting t-shirts for Dunder Mifflin, Scott’s Tots, Shrute Farms Bed & Breakfast, and even Threat Level Midnight. The session included The Office cast members Leslie David Baker, Creed Bratton, Angela Kinsey, Oscar Nunez, and Brian Baumgartner.
A highlight of ReedPop’s New York Comic Con is the show’s large Artist Alley. While Keystone Comic Con didn’t have the scale of the flagship New York event, between Artist Alley and the show’s panel sessions, comic book creators were well represented at the event.
Both ReedPop and Wizard World plan to return to Philadelphia in 2019, providing multiple opportunities for Philly fans to revel in popular culture.
For a full photo gallery from the event, see the Flickr album Keystone Comic Con 2018: