Convention Report | Wizard World St. Louis 2013 (03.22-24.13)

After years holding court in Chicago, this year Wizard decided to show the Gateway City some love, and PLAYBACK:stl was there. Check out our convention report and photo gallery.

 

Wizard World made a bold move setting up shop here in River City. For three days, fans of comics, science fiction and pop culture swarmed downtown St. Louis and the Convention Center hoping to meet an icon of geekdom, and from the looks of things they weren’t disappointed. I bravely donned my cowl and shiny vinyl boots and entered the fray incognito to get a first-hand look at what appears to be a new springtime tradition in The Lou.
 
Welcome…to the fandom side.
 
Billy Dee Williams (“Lando Calrissian” from Star Wars), Tom Felton (“Draco Malfoy” from Harry Potter), Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, and Laurie Holden (“Andrea” from AMC’s The Walking Dead) were just a few of Wizard World St. Louis Comic-Con’s headliners. Autograph-seekers staked out their turf early, and those more extroverted quickly filled the back of the America’s Center to get a picture with their idol. Everyone was cheerful and enthusiastic, and several times whoops and delighted screams could be heard across the hall as folks got to pose with James Marsters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Morena Baccarin from Firefly and Homeland. Some stars didn’t just lurk behind their tables, either. PLAYBACK:stl’s own Comics Editor Jason Green told me that The Fonz was happy to mingle among the con-goers, and even checked out some of the wares at local cartoonists’ Ink and Drink Comics’ table!
 
Ooh! Artsy things! The St. Louis-based Ink and Drink Comics crew (top) and local artist m.ENGER with some happy fans (bottom).
 
Strictly on the comics front, legendary artists such as Eisner and Kirby Hall of Fame winner Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern, X-Men), “Zombie King” Arthur Suydam (Marvel Zombies), and St. Louis’s Brian Hurtt (Hard Time, The Sixth Gun, Queen and Country) were also in attendance, and sported some impressive crowds themselves. I myself leapt into line for an autograph from none other than Stan Lee, revered co-creator of such Marvel comics as Spider-Man and The Avengers. I am not ashamed to admit that I may have pranced around the con floor singing after my encounter. What? Dude, it’s Stan Lee.
 
Zombie fans for the Zombie King–fans line up to meet Arthur Suydam and get their convention exclusive The Walking Dead #1 variant covers signed.
Artist Rob Prior sketches a Joker—two-handed!
 
One of the main concerns on every con-goer’s mind is the lines they will inevitably encounter, and just how much precious time will be wasted while in them. I have to say that Wizard World did a bang-up job keeping their lines moving. Even the hoard that descended on America’s Center Saturday morning was kept in brisk form, steadily snaking their way across the floor until they gathered, pawing eagerly at the entrance, which was kept roped off for the earlier VIP (and press!) admittees.
 
All was calm until someone said Stan Lee was giving out free hugs.
 
I was equally pleased with the overall layout of the convention, having never explored America’s Center before. There was plenty of room between aisles, and pretty much everyone exhibited standard Midwestern courtesy with little shoving for place. At the very front, organizers thoughtfully provided a sort of “chill-out” section for the weary crowd, which included recharging stations for all those smart phones drained after excessive picture taking and Twittering, as well as some fluffy beanbag chairs. Since I worked up quite an appetite slowly trolling the booths for awesome swag, refueling concerns were high on my list. The convention center provided an impressive array of food on the floor itself, including pizza, wings, pulled pork and beer, and an Au Bon Pain in the lobby. 
 
Oh hey, and costumes—did I mention the stupendous array of costumes I saw? Proving that the Midwest isn’t content to tuck in as soon as the sun goes down, on Saturday night Wizard World kept things going with their Adult Costume Contest and After-Party. The deejay spun an eclectic mix that kept the beat up while a mash-up of cartoon screen shots splashed across the giant screens. The costume contest winners were announced with an uncanny Jack Sparrow look-alike taking home the grand prize, and a Vampire Mary Poppins scaring the crap out of everyone else. Meanwhile, Kato brought down the house with his sick breakdancing moves and the chant of “Go Gandalf! Go Gandalf!” filled the air as the venerated sorcerer booty-danced with Frodo. 
 
A wizard crunks precisely when he means to, Master Baggins!
 
While I had a ton of fun at Wizard World, there were a few things I would have liked to see: first, paper booklet programs in the goody bags, as well as badges for the regular attendees. While I understand the thinking in terms of saving trees, it just didn’t feel as cool flashing my arm band to security as it would a badge, and would have made a better souvenir. Further, it was difficult trying to juggle the large pieces of paper that had the scheduling, and I wound up just stuffing them into my backpack. Speaking of scheduling, I would recommend that there be more signs exhibiting panel times, etc., in more than just the exterior lobby. I doubt I was the only one so dazzled by the Tower of Tees and Lion Forge Comics display that I had difficulty remembering when the Voltron panel was supposed to start. And, once lured into the hall by the smell of those damn, delicious roasted cinnamon nuts, it is easy to forget where such sparse signage is. At the very least, one additional itinerary should be posted back by the celebrity autograph area, along with more signage indicating where to buy tickets for certain events. Finally, I’m hoping the lineup for next year’s con will include more comic industry artists/writers. On the whole, however, I think the magicians behind Wizard World St. Louis are already well on their way to making it bigger and better.
 
Jerry Milani, PR Wizard, said that feedback about the convention this year has been overwhelmingly positive, and AMC’s The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker (Daryl and Merle Dixon) as well as Hellboy creator Mike Mignola are already on the roster for the 2014 convention. I’m rustling up my zombie-hunting bow in anticipation. Excelsior! 
 
In the alternative, a zombie-exterminating Dalek.
 
The 2014 Wizard World St. Louis Comic-Con will be April 4-6 at America’s Center. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

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