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Wizard World Philadelphia is my happy place. The first year I went in 2014 I had just moved to the area, and I was so excited about the con that I purchased a custom-made $300 Loki costume and walked around for 12 hours with ridiculously itchy ice blue contacts in my eyes (I wasn’t “Loki” enough without them, and screen accuracy was critical). Last year, I donned said costume again to meet Tom Hiddleston, and although I had a fantastic weekend, talk on the street was that Wizard World had missed the mark.
In case you didn’t know, my astrological sign is cancer, which means I’m fiercely loyal. This also means I wasn’t about to miss my favorite weekend of the year just because the prior year’s show was a bit off kilter, and I’m really glad that I didn’t.
Last year, Wizard World brought the A+ of A+ nerd celebs to the con. And while I’m sure it made them a boatload of $$$, it resulted in ballrooms and hallways packed beyond capacity, and an experience more reminiscent of waiting in line at Disney World than going to a con. I quite literally spent my entire Saturday (the biggest day of the convention) last year in line for Hiddles’ photo op and autograph.
Whether or not this was intentional I’m not certain, but this year Wizard World seemed to take a different tack: bring slightly less famous, but no less nostalgic celebrities, and break down the barriers to meeting them.
My absolute favorite feature of the convention this year was what I’m going to call “celebrity circle.” Rather than having all of the celebs sequestered in private booths, all but the biggest names were placed at smaller tables in the center of the exhibit hall, and you could go up to them for selfies, autographs or general conversation as you pleased…and that general conversation came for the cost of $0 American monies. It was liberating to waltz right up to Emma Caulfield (she played Anya on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) with my friend and just have a conversation like she was a real person. As a result of this set-up, the con seemed significantly more congenial with fewer barriers between the “have’s” who could afford crazy expensive celeb VIP packages and the “have not’s” who couldn’t.
I was also really impressed with the variety of exhibitors. It seemed to skew slightly higher in terms of mom and pop craft and kitsch shops, and the wares were incredibly unique. The smaller T-shirt vendors blew me away with their creativity (I picked up a Negan’s Wives Club shirt that I will wear when I eventually meet Jeffrey Dean Morgan and confess my adorations), and I also snagged a Deadpool bathing suit and awesome handmade Star Wars tote bag. Whether you were in the market for jewelry, toys, comics or even just really cool decorative items, there was something for everyone and something at every price point.
While I felt like the panel line-up was a bit weak this year (perhaps that’s part and parcel with fewer A-list celebs on the docket ), I fed my 90s-kid nostalgia with Boy Meets World (featuring Rider Strong and Will Friedle), Charmed (featuring Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (featuring James Marsters, Nicholas Brendan and Emma Caulfield) panels. And then there was Michael Rooker. Crazy, out there, I-wear-my-sunglasses-when-I’m-inside Michael Rooker, who answered audience questions with reckless abandon, ran around the ballroom and agreed to shout, “I’m Mary Poppins, ya’ll!” at a fan’s request. I still don’t quite understand why he walked onto the stage clutching a fire extinguisher, but I guess that’s why he’s paid the big bucks and I’m not.
Ultimately, I had a fantastic time, and I appreciate the show organizers for putting in what looked like a concerted effort to make the convention well-run. I look forward to seeing what the show brings to Philly in 2018, and by that I really mean more Tom Hiddleston. Please?
Gabrielle (Gabby) Bill is a full-time career coach, part-time marketing consultant, sometimes blogger, and certified group fitness instructor (did we also mention she’s clearly a masochist?). When she’s not working, you can find Gabby snuggling up with her two Chihuahuas, Bailey and Bella, reading a good book or watching the latest nerd movie. She’s also obsessed with Tom Hiddleston (but who isn’t?)