Continuing my account and experiences of the most recent version of Comic Con Philadelphia (aka Wizard World Philly), here is a day-by-day breakdown of the major events that transpired and moments that stood out for me.
I spent a vast majority of Friday, while it was relatively easy to get around, networking in Artists Alley. I found quite a few artists who caught my eye, and hopefully soon they will have their art gracing the interiors and covers of new comics from GrayHaven Comics. One of those artists was Joshua Stulman, creator of MAGEN, a character who is basically the Jewish version of Captain America. Stulman’s classic style and motivations for getting into comics instantly had me wanting to pair him up with a writer I know.
Speaking of writers, I also introduced myself to Dan Melnick of NOD COMICS. He had two issues of Nod for sale (at an astoundingly cheap $1.00 apiece) but he also had some other artwork on display for two projects he’s currently working on putting together with two different artists; CRYPTIDS (which instantly piqued my interest) and STITCHES (which currently has a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help complete the book. Donate HERE). Dan, his wife and I all talked shop for a bit and I think he’s also going to send in some pitches to GrayHaven the next time the call for submissions open up to writers.
I also was able to run into a friend of mine and talented artist, Griffin Shawn, who I met at the Baltimore Comic Con in 2011 when I commissioned three different pieces from him and picked up his fantastically entertaining comic, HEALED. I had offered to help him out in watching his table since he was supposed to be stuck at the con alone all weekend but he managed to find some help at the last minute. Instead I just did what any friend would do for a pal working a con and got beer for him from time to time, or grabbed him some lunch. There’s a reason they call them starving artists, you know!
I spent the last few hours of the day working the Hero Initiative booth, which is where I got to meet the remarkably talented Scott Hanna for the first time and watch in awe as he penciled and inked his way from one masterpiece to the next. Scott is known for being an inker but, as he and I discussed, many people fail to realize that ANY inker must first be an incredibly talented artist. Sometimes inkers must be MORE talented than their penciller counterparts — but fans often fail to realize this fact.
Nicole joined me at the convention for the day, and she looked amazing. Not only was she sporting her new shorter hair (cut to look like Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in the Avengers) but her top was quite revealing. It caught many the eye of male convention-goers (we actually counted one guy looking at her boobs five times in a two-minute period). She made for a wonderful companion to walk what was quickly becoming a heavily crowded convention floor.
I introduced myself to Philly native Pete Stathis, whose new comic (a D&D inspired comical gem called KULOK AND DUNLOP) debuted just in time for WWPhilly. Pete is a former classmate of one of my high school classmates, so we already “knew” one another from Facebook. I picked up Kulok and Dunlop as well as both volumes of his earlier fantasy comics, EVENFALL. I also recommended that he check out the brilliant SKULLKICKERS comic from Image as it was something right up his alley.
Nicole and I met up with my co-worker Dave and his step-daughter, Lynn, both of whom are big comic fans. She even moreso than he…and Lynn introduced me to Chris Williams, a guy set up in Artists Alley only two seats over from my friend Amanda Rachels (the person who was essentially responsible for my pass all weekend long). His art was gorgeous and reminded me of a cross between J. Scott Campbell and early Jim Lee – who he just so happened to mention were his two biggest inspirations. I ordered a commission from him and took down his information for the GrayHaven “Artists to Pester” file.
After a brief chat with Chris, Nicole and I went to Reading Terminal Market to meet up with my mother and go out to lunch together. We took the walk to Maggiano’s and, as usual, the food was delicious. What made the meal even more memorable, however, was who walked in and sat down at the table next to us. Two young women (late teens, early 20s perhaps) in full Anime-style baby-doll dress (I think the kids call it “Gothic Lolita”) were accompanied by a much, MUCH older gentleman. I guessed maybe he was their grandfather, or an older father, or – maybe—no… that was too creepy to think about. About 15 minutes they sat down at the booth besides ours, and shortly before I stuffed the last piece of a meatball sandwich into my mouth, something dawned on me. The creepy old guy looked oddly familiar. And it wasn’t until I leaned over to Nicole and whispered to her that I realized why he looked so familiar.
“Hey, isn’t that creepy old guy blankly shoveling spaghetti into his mouth like an Alzheimer’s patient Dean Stockwell?”
Yes. It was him.
After lunch, Nicole was kind enough to distract my mother by taking her to Chinatown while I went back to the convention to work the Hero Initiative booth once more. I was able to meet Jamal Igle, who was sketching for charity alongside another artist who I had the pleasure of meeting before, Khoi Pham. Khoi was there all weekend appearing ONLY at the Hero Initiative booth, which is pretty remarkable since he basically drew all weekend long and didn’t earn a penny — instead donating it all to charity.
At that point the convention floor had turned into three zones. The artist alley section (which was fairly busy), the dealer table section (not nearly as busy) and a massive sea of people seeking celebrity autographs separating the two comic book centric parts from being easy to get to from the other side. Nicole had returned from her trip through the city and we went over to meet (Diamond) Dallas Page, not because we’re fans of wrestling – we’re not – but because of his yoga DVDs which Nicole had heard great things about. So $100 later we bought them and at some point next year I should be able to show you a six-pack where my keg used to be. We paused for a moment to photograph Nicole with a guy cosplaying as Loki (he looked great, and apparently won the costume contest), and just before the show ended for the day we headed home – tired and quickly running out of money.
After she had such a great time the day before, Nicole decided to join me once again at the convention.
Sunday is normally the day you want to buy things because dealers don’t want to lug all of their crap home with them. The one thing I noticed about this convention however was that there really were no great deals on comics or toys or t-shirts to be had. So Sunday was spent just walking around once more, taking in all of Artists Alley one last time and ordering new commissions or picking up artwork that I had commissioned earlier in the weekend. The “Cassie Hack” portion of my sketchbook is filling up rather well.
The real highlight of the day was when Nicole and I broke for lunch. After watching The Avengers three times in the theaters we knew that we had to have shawarma, and before the weekend began I found a place at 8th and Sansom called HAMIFGASH and I heard that – while maybe not up to Tony Stark’s standards – they had some AMAZING shawarma. And amazing it was. We dined like battered superheroes and gorged our faces with the spiced chicken and fresh made pita that made the shawarma so memorable and chowed down on wonderful, flavorful falafel as an appetizer. We picked up some cookies from Famous 4th Street Deli in the Reading Terminal and went back into the convention for one final taste of the show.
While Wizard World Philadelphia is clearly no longer a Comic Con (I’d love to see Wizard drop that from their marketing campaign), it’s definitely an entertaining pop culture convention. And even though I didn’t really spend any time seeking autographs from Stan Lee or Chris Hemsworth or C.M Punk or any of the Star Trek captains – nor did I do much sight-seeing in what I often called “Sad Celebrity Row” – it was great to see that a crossover crowd could show up for something that began as a comic book convention.
As long as Wizard World keeps showing up in Philadelphia, I will be there. And that’s good enough for me.