As I do before every convention I go to, I made a list of things I wanted to buy, people I wanted to meet, Q&As I wanted to attend and various other things I wanted to do at this past weekend's Wizard World Philadelphia.
More often than not, my wishlist is overstuffed, so that even if I can only get to a few of the items, I still feel like I had a good show. I knew Philadelphia would be a good experience no matter what, because I was meeting up with a group of "con friends", but somehow things broke so that the show -- for me -- ran smoother than just about any I'd been to in years.
(This is the point where I have to note two things. First, four guests who I'd wanted to see canceled their appearances, two of them very early on, and two of them within a week of the show. So that sucked, but didn't really negatively impact my actual time in Phladelphia. Secondly, this is very much a YMMV recap. As I understand it, there were definitely instances of things going horribly wrong for people, including the theft of hundreds of photo ops prints. But my experience, which is what I'm recapping, ran as smooth as it could have).
THURSDAYI took the train in from Hartford to Philadelphia on Thursday morning, so I'd arrive in plenty of time for preview night. A few people asked me why I took the train instead of flying. Well, it cost about a third as much as a flight, didn't take significantly longer (once you factor in arriving early at the airport to go through security) and was more accomodating for my luggage -- something that definitely came into play on the trip back.
My hotel was nice, and my room was ready when I arrived at noon, which was extra nice. One piece of advice I'd give to convention-goers related to hotels is if you can afford it, stay as close to the convention center as possible. Time is as much a commodity at these shows as money, and the less time you have to spend getting to and from your hotel the better.
My missions on Thursday were two-fold: get as many of the comics I'd brought from home signed and take care of as much of my comics buying as possible. Normally I recommend waiting until the last day of a show to buy anything, but in this case there was a run of comics I wanted to buy that I ALSO wanted to get signed, so I had to do that early just to ensure I could. Not only did I take care of getting about 75% of the books I brought signed, I also got two pieces of original artwork, one from Ramon F. Bachs and one from Mike Deodato Jr. Not a bad day.
I honestly spent more time on the show floor on Thursday than I'd anticipated, but it was worth it to get a sense of the layout, check out a few booths that I wanted to re-visit Sunday for shopping purposes and even take care of getting a signature from one of the few celebrities who did arrive in his booth on Thursday, Lou Ferrigno. Also, preview night is always the one time at a con where you can walk around without accidentally physically bumping into a million people, and this was no exception.
FRIDAYI woke up bright and early on Friday with a Facebook message waiting for me from one of my friends:
"Why don't we all try to meet up by the main entrance at 11:20 or so."
I was confused, because I thought the show was opening at 10:00 on Friday. Nope. Noon. Whoops.
When it did open, I headed immediately to the Stan Lee line. I'd met Stan before, last year in Baltimore, but I wanted to get his signature on my "Avengers" poster, and I was willing to wait. And wait. And wait some more.
I stuck around, and when it became clear that Lee -- who arrived a little late -- wouldn't get through his VIP line by 2, the organizers decided to do the decent thing and start handing out numbers to the non-VIPs in line. That gave me time to go get autographs from some of the various other guests who were there and when I headed back to Stan Lee's line, it only took me about 20 minutes to get through.
With that accomplished, I went over to David Seidman's booth to get my "Charmed" comics signed, taking care of just about the last comics on my list, then went downstairs to the program room for the James Marters Q&A. Originally this was supposed to be a Marters/Juliet Landau dual Q&A, but Landau had to cancel at the last minute, and James handled it solo. There were some repeat questions from the last time I'd seen him, at Boston in 2010, but otherwise it was an enjoyable experience.
I finished up the day with my photo ops with the Buffy stars at the show, which led to an interesting experience. Clare Kramer, who was at the show for the beta launch of GeekNation, was filling in for Juliet Landau on photo ops (and the Sunday Buffy panel). However, when the time came for her to step into the booth, she was nowhere to be found. The photo ops organizers seemed confused -- from what I heard, a recurring theme for the show -- so I took matters into my own hands, heading over to the GeekNation booth and letting Clare know they were waiting for her at Photo Ops. Apparently no one had told her. Whoops.
That got straightened out easily enough and another good day came to an end... or so I thought.
SATURDAYSo, Friday night, I got back to my hotel room and went to take my iPad out of my bag to do a little web surfing before calling it a night. Only... it wasn't there. I had taken it out to try and record the James Marsters panel, using the Smart Cover as a stand to keep it upright, but quickly abandoned that plan when I couldn't get a good angle. I thought I'd put the iPad back in my bag, but apparently, I didn't.
I quickly used the Find my iPhone app to send a message to the iPad and lock it, but it was offline, so I had no idea if it was working or not. I decided that I'd go over to the convention center early the next morning, in the hopes that maybe someone had found it and turned it in to lost and found... which is exactly what happened. Crisis averted.
As it turned out, that bit of good fortune foreshadowed great things to come for the rest of the day.
My first destination on Saturday was the Chris Hemsworth line. The star of "Thor", "The Avengers" and "Cabin in the Woods" (among others) was only scheduled to be there one day, so I knew that I had to get my autograph on Saturday, and I also knew it was going to be a bit of chaos. As it turned out, Hemsworth wouldn't even be arriving until 11, but that wasn't the worst of it. His first hour, from 11-12, was scheduled to be a VIP signing, for those that had the Chris Hemsworth VIP package (similar to Stan Lee's setup on Friday). Then he had an hour for photo ops, a Q&A, a break, and then another 90 minutes (!) of photo ops, then, finally, another signing period from 4-5.
Now, when I walked in Saturday, I was prepared to wait in line for Hemsworth a long time. But 6 hours? Yeah, not so much. I decided to hang around, though, just to see what would happen. A number system, maybe? Maybe he'd stick around and sign longer? I ran through every scenario in my head, as I and the rest of the people in the line tried to help organize the chaos. Eventually, thanks to some dedicated volunteers, some patient attendees and some blue tape, things got organized, and then something incredible happened: Hemsworth's VIP line started moving. Well, Hemsworth arrived, THEN his line started moving, and it moved quickly. He was blowing through autographs like no one I'd ever seen before, and not in a bad way. He smiled at everyone, shook hands, was cordial and kept the line moving quickly enough that the volunteers were able to get us non-VIPs into the line before 11:30.
From there I went to the Star Trek captains area, figuring I'd just get to see how long the wait was and come back later. But the weirdest thing happened... again. The line for Patrick Stewart was only about 20 people deep, and the line for William Shatner was about 40 people deep. When I made my pre-show plan, I'd intended to get both their autographs on Sunday morning, but I knocked that out Saturday afternoon too. Suddenly it was 12:45, and not only was my Saturday taken care of, but my Sunday was too. It was incredibly freeing.
I got to go to the Chris Hemsworth Q&A, which I thought I'd have to skip to hold a spot in some line somewhere. It was pretty awesome, getting to hear him talk about "Thor", "Avengers" and even "Cabin in the Woods" (there was very little "Snow White and the Huntsman" talk, not surprising given that the movie had only come out a day earlier). He was engaging, funny, and accommodating of some fan requests too. After that was done, I headed back to the Zenescope booth on the show floor to get my "Charmed" comics signed by writer Paul Ruditis, and it was already a pretty full day.
Fom there, I considered going to the Vampire Diaries Q&A, but instead did something I rarely get to do at shows -- I took a mid-day break. I went back to my hotel (again, the awesomeness of staying one block away), dumped my bag, watched some TV, grabbed some food, charged up my good camera and then headed back to the convention hall for the Star Trek Captains Q&A.
This was honestly my one bad experience of the show. Not the Q&A itself, that was awesome. The line situation outside the theater to get into the Q&A wasn't handled particularly well. It's understandable, given just how many people wanted to get into that particular panel, which marked the first time all five Star Trek TV series captains were together at the same show, but because of the confusing line management, the panel started while the room was about 80% empty, and people were still filing in about 20 minutes into the panel. And to be clear, these weren't stragglers, they were people who'd been lined up at least a half-hour before the panel started.
As I said, though, the panel itself was awesome. And that's coming from someone who, outside of the movies, has never been a huge "Star Trek" fan. It helps that outside of "Star Trek", I'm a huge fan of Shatner, Stewart and Bakula anyway, and they all talked about more than just the show.
By the time that panel was done, there were about two hours left before the show floor closed. I hit up one booth to buy something, then called it a night.
The "Buffyfest" panel immediately followed, with Mark Metcalf (The Master), Amber Benson (Tara), James Marsters (Spike), Clare Kramer (Glory) and Kristy Swanson (Buffy from the movie). Because I'd seen many of the same cast at Boston in 2010, I'd heard many of the same stories before, but there was definitely some new cool information, and the addition of Swanson to the panel was a nice touch. My favorite moment came when someone asked the panel if they each had a favorite line from the series (or in Swanson's case, the movie).
Marsters was the first to answer, and drew a huge cheer from the crowd when he said, in his best Spike voice, "Out. For. A. Walk. ... Bitch." I can't remember what Metcalf's first choice was, be he added that he also liked the line "By the way, I like your dress." Benson's choice was "I'm under your spell", which, sadly, she did not sing at the panel. Kramer went with the classic "The slayer's a robot? Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?" and Swanson chose "Does the word 'duh' mean anything to you?", which is probably one of the best examples of Joss's wit from the movie itself.
Once the panel was complete, I said my goodbyes with my con friends, who had to take their leave and head back to the various corners of the country from whence they came. I, on the other hand, had some last-minute shopping to do. In this case, I hit up a booth that had the Sideshow Premium Format statues of Thor and Captain America, and got them to sell the both of them to me in a package deal. Transporting them back to Connecticut was kind of a pain, but the people on the train -- both Amtrak employees and passengers -- were really helpful, and they look awesome in my living room. They'll look even better once I get the Black Widow PF statue I've pre-ordered.
Two days later, I'm still unpacking, and I probably won't get everything in place until the weekend, but it was all worth it for another great show experience.
Check out some of my pictures from Wizard World Philadelphia. I still have to take pictures of some of the items I got signed or bought at the show. Those will be added eventually.