K-Squared Ramblings

Wizard World LA 2008 – Con Report

Wizard World Los Angeles turned out to be a surprisingly good con. Originally I was planning to go on my own, but when they announced the addition of Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli) to the Heroes panel, Katie decided to go as well. So we drove into LA Saturday morning, and arrived at the con around 11:00 AM. I was expecting a much sparser crowd based on my experience last year, but that had been a Sunday. This Saturday was a full-fledged con.

Update: The photo gallery is up!

The Floor

I spent most of the time on the main floor, hunting down back-issues, bargains and autographs. A lot of dealers had brought their bargain bins (some of them, thankfully, alphabetized!), and a lot of them had trades and hardcovers for half-off or close to it. There were also the booths selling high-grade Silver-Age and Golden-Age books, toys and collectibles, and at least two booths selling swords. Yes, swords.

At one point, I overheard two comic-book dealers discussing whether the show was worth it. One of them said that people here tended to be looking for bargains, so it was hard to sell anything else. They agreed San Diego was a better bet.

I’ve been joking that the logo design for this year’s con (see above) was inspired by the gigantic auto show that shared the convention center witl last year’s con. So I was surprised to find a mini-auto show here: Marvel-themed cars, including Iron Man and Punisher SUVs.

There was a stage set up for Guitar Hero. At one point, I noticed the music was Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It seemed appropriate.

Costuming

There weren’t quite as many people in costume as I saw at WonderCon last month (also a Saturday). But there was a large contingent of people in Jedi costumes, some of whom seemed to be sparring with lightsabers every time I walked down the right edge of the dealers’ room. And there were Imperial Stormtroopers directing traffic, making sure people could find the one large panel room that was half-way to the other end of the convention center.

They held an informal costume contest at 1:00, with winners chosen by applause volume. To avoid interference from the “awwww” factor, they held two: one for kids, and one for adults. The kids’ entries consisted of two groups, one of DC characters (Robin, Harley Quinn, and someone else), and one of Star Wars characters (a Jawa, Leia, and someone else. Gee, my brain’s really working here). The Star Wars group won handily.

The adult costume contest had closer to a dozen entries, and came down to two: A very detailed, complicated Optimus Prime, complete with working taillights and light-up Creation Matrix, and a pair dressed as Mario and Luigi. The Mario Brothers won. (IMO, Optimus Prime was robbed.)

The weird thing is that the prizes for the kids’ contest were the same as the prizes for the adult contest: mini-statuettes and busts of characters like Hulk, Venom, etc. I can’t imagine the two-to-six–year-olds who won were terribly pleased with their prizes. The parents have probably listed them on eBay already.

Signings and Encounters

At the Avatar booth, I talked with someone who I took for a sales rep. But when I paid for the books I picked up, he offered to sign the Anna Mercury preview. It turned out he was Jacen Burrows, who’d drawn the cover. (Interestingly, over half their table space and nearly all their shelf space was devoted to Warren Ellis books.)

Once again, there were no placards provided in Artist’s Alley, but a lot of the artists had made their own. I finally managed to track down Josh Middleton, whom I’d looked for at San Diego last summer, and got him to sign my copy of All-Flash #1 (the new one, obviously!) We agreed it was really disappointing that DC had printed it so dark, but he said my copy was actually in the middle of the range! Some of them were even harder to see! I seriously considered buying a print (not that I have anywhere to put it), but while I was there he told someone else that only the pieces up on the board behind him were available—and it wasn’t on the board. Though I have to admit considering his River from Serenity: Those Left Behind.

While looking for Marv Wolfman (since I missed my chance to get the Crisis on Infinite Earths novel signed two years ago, I’ve been unable to catch him again at a signing), I saw recognized Mark Evanier standing on the other side of the row, talking to someone who I thought could have been Peter David. I walked around, saw it was him, and pulled out my copy of Fallen Angel #1 to get signed. He asked me if I was still reading the series at IDW. I said yes, I was, and he pointed out that J.K. Woodward was at the table next to him. D’oh! I hadn’t realized he was coming, so when I was putting together stuff to get signed, I only grabbed the first DC issue of the book, instead of the first IDW issue! We talked a bit about the current storyline, and I got to see some of the original art for the next issue. It turns out he’s doing a couple of signings in the next few weeks, so I might try to catch him at one of those.

I met John Wesley Shipp, who played the Flash on the 1990 TV series. After kicking myself for not bringing the Flash TV Special which I’d gotten signed by the show’s creators at another con, I just bought a photo for an autograph. I also got my picture taken with him. (The guy who was with him handling the money took the picture. When I handed him my camera, he asked whether the flash was on.)

I’ve noticed some common threads among the celebrity signing areas. Lou Ferrigno seems to do a full circuit of cons, as does the actor who played the original Boomer on the 1970s Battlestar Galactica. Several of the contestants from Who Wants to Be A Super-Hero seem to be making the rounds this year.

One set of autographs I wanted to get, but couldn’t, was Seth Green and Hugh Sterbakov. I’d brought my copy of the first Freshman trade, and went over to the Top Cow booth 10 minutes before the signing. Only one problem: The program book had neglected to mention that the signing required tickets, which had been handed out at the Top Cow panel 2 hours earlier.

Added: I did, however, find myself walking past the Golden Apple booth during the Pathology signing. I wasn’t sure whether Katie was in the incredibly long line (she wasn’t, as she’d had the same problem with unpublicized tickets that I later had for Freshmen), but I figured I’d try to snap a couple of shots of Milo for her as I walked past. Or, more accurately, shuffled past. The crowd was so thick that I basically couldn’t move for five minutes. I could barely see him, and couldn’t see anyone else at the booth. At least Michael Weston was supposed to be there, but I couldn’t tell. (Not that I would have recognized him.) (Edit: Apparently Alyssa Milano was sitting right next to him—probably straight through that other camera—but I couldn’t see her at all, even in the photos.) But one nice thing about digital cameras: you can afford to take pictures without aiming. It seemed like everyone in the crowd was reaching up with a camera.

Knowing is Half the Battle

The main problem I had with the convention was hidden information. I’ve mentioned the lack of placards in Artists’ Alley two years running, and the unannounced signing tickets. There weren’t any placards at the panels, either, so if you didn’t recognize someone by sight and couldn’t catch their name at the beginning of the panel, you were out of luck trying to figure out who they were.

Another problem was the map: it showed the dealer’s room in great detail, and the hallway with most of the panel rooms, but it didn’t show how to get from one to the other. It also didn’t show how to find Petree Hall, which turned out to be not only halfway to the other convention center, but directly above a street.

And then there’s the schedule. Most cons I’ve been to will put out a flyer with any changes to programming. Even small fan-run cons will sometimes put out a daily newsletter. Wizard World LA just posted changes on their website and in front of each room. So if, for example, you wanted to go to the Heroes panel, but didn’t know it had been moved from 6:00 to 5:00 in another room (probably to accommodate more people and Milo Ventimiglia’s schedule), and you hadn’t looked at the website at home, there were two ways you could find out:

We were fine, but there must have been a few people who showed up an hour late to the wrong room.

In Closing

While I was wandering the floor, Katie went to the Pathology and Lucasfilm panels. We met up for lunch (well, her lunch; I’d eaten an hour earlier), and again for Heroes. (Yes, I passed up DC’s “Countdown to Crisis” panel again.)

After the Heroes panel, we did a quick circuit of the dealers’ room. I wanted to pick up the Anna Mercury book (success) and check one more time for Marv Wolfman (no luck). We left around 6:30, during some sort of giveaway at the Marvel booth.

The door guards asked us two questions: “Did you have fun?” Yes. “Did you find great stuff?” Yes on that one, as well. Despite the convention’s flaws, it was more fun than last year’s, and definitely worth attending.

See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups