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We’re Off to See the Wizard World!

Cosplay at Wizard World Comic-Con Philadelphia.

We’re Off to See the Wizard World!

by Jay S. Jacobs

Wizard World Comic-Con touched down in Philadelphia again as freaks, geeks, aliens, superheroes, gamers, mad slashers and B-actors all made their way to the Convention Center this past weekend. (June 1 to June 4.) It was where fantasy met commerce in an awe-inspiring, sense-pulsing dance, where fans and the famous rubbed elbows and shared their particular obsessions with like-minded friends.

Philly’s Wizard World has always been a little more manageable and less overwhelming than its San Diego and New York cousins, and yet it shares the basic principles of fun and fandom.

The Philly convention has downshifted a little bit after last year’s superstar-a-looza. (The cast of Thor! The cast of Captain America! The cast of Back to the Future! The cast of X-Files!) This year, the celebrity guest list was a bit more earthbound (fine actors all, but none are exactly superstars) – Jesse Eisenberg, John Cusack and Famke Janssen were the biggest names on display. Charlie Sheen had to cancel in the weeks leading up to the show, and Paul Bettany was a last-minute no-show. The CW’s hip new Archie rethink Riverdale had the only full-cast appearance.

However, things were made more inclusive for a wider range of fans. There was a whole horror cross-section. There were live concerts by aging rockers Gene Simmons and Don Dokken, and well-known video game composers, not to mention a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with film star Barry Bostwick and two rival Rocky Horror cosplay troupes. Gaming, animation, fantasy literature; all had significant presences.

Some of the celebrity panels were a little inscrutable – what was the deal with Gene Simmons’ oddball early morning financial seminar on how to become a greedy millionaire like him? (Though it was oddly amusing to see the KISS rocker casually admit that if he was caught in a burning building with his kids, he would have to save himself over them, because so many people “rely” on him.) Yet some of the panels were unbelievably fun. If you ever get a chance to see Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Michael Rooker speak, do not miss the opportunity. He’s funnier than many professional comedians. And the cast talk about Riverdale featuring stars KJ Apa, Camila Mendes, Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse was a good-natured treat. You could tell how much the cast liked each other and loved their show. I for one am going to be binge-watching the series simply because of seeing this chat.

A multitude of other celebs were happy to meet and greet their fans, take pictures and give autographs (for a price, of course…) They came from all over the spectrum of genre culture, everyone from original Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols, 80s faves Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell, original Buffy Kristy Swanson, Nightmare on Elm Street survivor Heather Langenkamp, and even comic actors like Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) and Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie).

Of course, like most years, the fans were the real show. Dressed up as their favorite heroes and villains, the people of Philadelphia put on a spontaneous costume fest that was complex and varied. They disappeared into other personalities and were stars for the day, happily posing in character for anyone who asked, though it was a tiny bit disturbing to see how many 50-ish guys were stopping hot young Harley Quinn cosplayers for pictures. But, what the heck, a little lecherousness is a component of cosplay, too. Besides no one dresses like Harley Quinn if they don’t want the attention.

There were also dozens of Spider-Men, lots of Game of Thrones characters (big props to the woman who used cardboard swords to make her wheelchair into a traveling throne), tons of Jokers, lots of Wonder Women, throngs of Captain America’s, colonies of Batmen, a full-sized Groot, a very fun costume take on Eleven in Stranger Things (Lego waffle box included) and many, many more.

We also had displays for long-awaited films like a photo sewer for Stephen King’s It, a bigger-than-life-size photo stand for the new Spider-Man film, a whole bus for the upcoming Tupac bio-pic All Eyez On Me, and a huge Dark Tower teaser template.

And, of course, pretty much any piece of memorabilia you could think of was available in the stuffed booths, from artwork to books, games to lasers, clothes to comics. There were specific areas for gamers (video and board), and more hand spinners than you can shake a stick at.

For four days we disappeared into this black hole of passion, fandom, make-believe and commerce. Particularly in our increasingly complex society, Wizard World was a welcome respite from the real world. Lord knows we’re going back out there soon enough. As the old t-shirt used to read: “Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle science fiction.”

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 6, 2017.

Photos © 2017 Deborah Wagner. All rights reserved.

 

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