Philadelphia Comic Con: A view from the floor

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As we wrap up our coverage of last weekend’s Philadelphia Comic Con, we shift the focus to some final words on the fans, the vendors and the guests in attendance. Since I wasn’t feeling qualified to judge the show fairly, it seemed like a good idea to ask the people we met what they thought. Below are some of the highlights of our conversations along with some editorial comments of my own.

The Fans

We asked just about everyone we spoke to throughout the weekend whether they were enjoying themselves and if they would come back to a show like this. The overwhelming majority were having a great time. Something drew them there and they were satisfied with the money they spent. Despite waiting in long lines to get in, particularly on Saturday morning when people waited up to 90 minutes to get on the show floor after having waited up to 30 minutes to get into the building, people were genuinely excited about the show.

As expected many in attendance took to wearing costumes to show their fandom (see the photos below) and we spoke to many of them as well. The most surprising costumes were Batroc the Leaper and Morgan Grimes from NBC’s Chuck. The most refreshing thing we learned is that Jedi from Pennsylvania can get along just fine with Jedi from New York unlike sports fans.

The Vendors

For a comic book show, there was surprisingly little comic content from publishers, but there were a fair number of comics dealers. We spent time speaking with 5 in particular and most felt the show was a success for them. The measure of this success was varied, but they all felt it was worth their time to be there. The dealers we spoke to were showcasing primarily Golden and Silver Age books, and as surprising as it was to me, most said there was a lot of interest in their product. Jamie Graham of Graham Crackers in Chicago did point out that this isn’t really the type of show that’s going to bring in people interested in their product. The way to do that is to bring in creators from those eras, and this show just doesn’t do that. Overall, they said this was about an average Wizard show for them and they would certainly be back. When asked about other East Coast shows, every one of them said that Baltimore was a fantastic show for them. I’ve never been to a Baltimore Comic Con, but this has certainly piqued my interest.

If you’re interested in buying books, be sure to check out Graham Crackers, Greg Reece’s Rare ComicsHigh Grade Comics, JHV Associates, and Rupp’s Comics.

The Guests

Kevin mentioned this in his review of the show, but the guest list for the first Philadelphia Comic Con really couldn’t have had less to do with comic books. That’s not to say it was a bad set of guests, but this wasn’t the kind of show I would flock to as a comics fan. Primarily composed of personalities from Star Trek, professional wrestling, and other random celebrities, the show wasn’t without it’s appeal. Saturday was absolutely packed and plenty of people were blocking the entrance to get in line for a Patrick Stewart autograph at $60 a pop. This was a common feature of the show as nearly every autograph you could get in line for would cost you at least $20 on top of the price of admission.

Of the celebrities we spoke with, some stood out as being truly interested in interacting with the fans rather than just selling their merchandise. Of the wrestling set, Sean Morley stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of his approachability and desire to speak with fans. His enthusiasm was only really matched by Gene Snitsky and The Smoke who really took to the show and seemed like they might have been there even if they weren’t signing. The Star Trek crowd was a little tougher to get a read on. Brent Spiner and Walter Koenig were nice enough, but Avery Brooks and that Q guy didn’t seem interested unless you were spending money.

As far as the random people that seem to show up at these conventions, this one had plenty. Christopher Knight was someone who understood how use a show like this to promote yourself even if you weren’t making sales. He had plenty of people talking with him and plenty spending their money, but all seemed to be treated the same. This wasn’t the case with everyone. Paris Themmen, Mike Teevee of Willy Wonka fame, offered some great perspective on why some guests may have been a little less than pleasant, suggesting that having the same conversations again and again could be a drawback of these appearances. So rather than dwell on the negatives, we’ll chalk them up to crankiness.

There were some comics creators and we made it a point to seek them out. J.G. Jones, of DC’s Final Crisis and cover artist of their new Doc Savage series, was one of the highest profile names there. When asked about the make up of the show, he commented that it would really be better named “Thing-a-thon” as he didn’t see it as a true comics show either. It’s also worth noting that Jones had a full set of paints on hand for creating custom pieces for fans, something very unique at any show. Mark McKenna was also in attendance and remarked that this year was much improved from last and a great show as far as sketching for fans. Joe Madureira was one of Wizard’s premiere guests signing at their booth on Saturday. While we didn’t get a chance to speak with him as he had a pretty constant crowd, I understand he was signing for free. It’s also interesting that he seemed to be the only comics creator in attendance not available in Artist’s Alley throughout the weekend.

The Conclusion

Throughout the convention, I couldn’t help but focus on the fact that although I was enjoying my time there, it wasn’t a show I would have normally attended. Keeping things as fair as I possibly can and comparing it only to other Wizard conventions held in Philadelphia, I’ve been to better shows. I need more comic book content to hold my interest, and previous years have had it. With the guest list filled with celebrities from other media, this just isn’t the type of show I’d be attracted to. It even won me over before the weekend was out, but names from Marvel and DC are more likely to get me in line than those from Star Trek and other television shows. Regardless of my feelings, the show was clearly a success and the people who came left happy.

Wizard’s Philadelphia Comic Con is already scheduled to return to the Pennsylvania Convention Center from June 11-12th, 2011. Our coverage of this year’s event can be found at the links below.

Philadelphia Comic-Con starts today
Philadelphia Comic Con Day 1
Philadelphia Comic Con: A Girl’s View
Philadelphia Comic Con: A Very Brady Post
Philadelphia Comic Con: Free Stuff!
Philadelphia Comic Con: Steampunk
Philadelphia Comic Con: Blood, Fangs, and Food
Philadelphia Comic Con: Where were the comics?
Philadelphia Comic Con: Zombie Beach Party
Philadelphia Comic Con: Kaiju Big Battel

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is a scientist by trade and a fan by nature. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he has spent a lifetime attending local educational institutions, collecting comic books, and watching professional wrestling. He is the founder of Break Even, an independent microlabel that specializes in releasing music from unknown artists.