Convention Report | Wizard World St. Louis 2014 (04.04-06.14)

It’s the Revenge of the Geeks as the Wizard World comic convention tour comes back to St. Louis for a second time.

 

 

 

Wizard World followed a winning trend and upped its game this year by bringing its highly popular comic book and pop culture convention back to St. Louis. Not content to rehash the same ol’ same ol’, WW decided to go big or go home and took over the entirety of the Edwards Jones Dome, plus an entry hall, effectively tripling the size of this year’s convention.
 
 
 
The. Entire. Damn. Dome.
 
Knowing that we of the geek and nerd variety are a discriminating lot, Wizard World made good on its promise to be bigger and better, luring dewy-eyes newbies and jaded veterans back with a cracking lineup of movie and pop culture celebs including: William Shatner (Star Trek), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness), Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk), Adam West and Burt Ward (the original Batman and Robin), Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin and Summer Glau (Firefly), Eliza Dushku (Buffy, Dollhouse), Sean Astin (Goonies, Lord of the Rings), and the 11th Doctor himself, Matt Smith (Dr. Who) along with many others! Returning comic and artist favorites Neal Adams, Rob Prior, Arthur Suydam and Salvador Larroca also attended along with others, commanding equally long and twisting lines of fans clamoring for their own unique pieces of art.
 
 
Renowned comic book artist Neal Adams sketches away at a Spider-Man for a fan.
 
My journey this year had me donning my intrepid journalist’s fedora and frolicking with my fellow pen-wielders at the Flamingo Bowl Thursday night to get an insider’s preview of the imminent festivities. I and my writerly brethren braved impending tornadoes dropping from the sky whilst tweeting weather updates and downing comfort alcohol in order to get the scoop on this year’s convention. Ultimately deciding to grasp the carpe diem mantra (suck it, #YOLO; #Latinrules #samenotsame), we fled to the swanky MX Theater under threatening cloud cover to revel in WW’s red carpet event and catch a screening of Captain America: the Winter Soldier.
 
 
Pictured: Ragnarok, or a Spring evening in Tornado Alley?
 
Friday marked the official opening of Wizard World 2014, and in a show of just how popular this convention is, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay bestowed an Official Proclamation on two well-known heroes. Television’s original Batman and Robin, Adam West and Burt Ward, were showered with shiny pieces of paper and their own sports jerseys after cutting the opening ribbon, and Mayor Slay declared that Friday, April 4th, was to be known as “Batman and Robin Day.”
 
 
Batman/the Mayor of Quahog and the Boy Wonder graciously accept tributes from an adoring St. Louis.
 
Saturday saw the real crowds come, and it was evident that Wizard World’s move into the larger space was quite necessary. Nearly half of the entry hall was filled with those waiting in line for the convention to officially open, and a small stampede broke out when it finally did.
 
 
Still probably more civilized than what you’d see at San Diego Comic-Con.
 
The convention itself was laid out well, with vendors up front, the autograph section in the back and a booming Artists’ Alley near the doors that led to programming panels.
 
 
 
This Artists’ Alley accepts only the most dashing entrepreneurs. Pictured: (top) artists Brian Atkins, Joe Wills, (bottom) Rob Armbrister, and m.ENGER from local comics collective Ink and Drink Comics.
 
Interestingly, a recurring theme I heard from several vendors was that it appeared at least half of this year’s attendees were actually brand-new con-goers, who had never before attended a convention of any kind. It seems that Wizard World’s pre-con marketing efforts did the trick in getting the word out to those who might not otherwise attend. This year’s big-name pop culture line-up also certainly helped, and lines for fan favorites including Nathon Fillion, William Shatner, Summer Glau and others were epic. Those waiting for a photo opportunity with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond on Doctor Who) literally filled half the entire entry hall. However, despite what must have been an exhausting situation, lines remained well-controlled and the actors very friendly for their fans.
 
 
Alan Tudyk/Wash from Firefly greets a fan.
 
As close as I could get to Matt Smith.
 
In spite of what may have been a fresh crowd, I myself definitely noticed an uptick in costumed attendees (called “cosplayers”) this year of all kinds, and spotted several Elsa and Anna’s from Disney’s runaway animated hit Frozen.
 
 
 
Alana and Marco from the comic Saga.
 
Power Girl, Captain America and Thor
 
I also recognized several returning characters, including Jack Sparrow and a very familiar wizard.
 
 
Gandalf the Crunk has returned!
 
There also seemed to be an increase in panels and celebrity Q&A sessions, which were very well attended. I stopped by Eliza Dushku and Sean Astin’s panel, held in the filled-to-capacity Ferrara Theater. Both actors were very gracious, taking questions from the crowd and commenting on the deep and introspective questions coming from St. Louisans. Dushku established a warm rapport with her fans, happily running to greet a young lady actually named Buffy, and soothing a very small and somewhat cranky fan called Miles. She also recalled one of her strangest moments in acting, wherein a fan literally jumped out of the bushes and asked her why she was sleeping with Buffy’s boyfriend.
 
 
Faith sympathizes with young Miles who was clearly upset over Buffy’s cancellation.
 
Sean Astin also charmed audiences by first asking the entire theater to say “Hi!” to his lovely wife, Christine, and they happily obliged. During the Q&A session, he recalled asking once why getting the autograph of a celebrity was so special. The reply? “Well, it’s…it’s for memory.” Astin went on to note that autographs were important “because it’s a piece of yourself, like a thumbprint,” and it was a reminder that, even though a person may be doing hundreds of signatures a day, they still shared that moment with someone else, who appreciated it.
 
 
Samwise Gamgee explains how he and Mr. Frodo simply walked into Mordor.
 
Sadly, the one downside I found to this year’s convention was the after-party Saturday night. Held in the Clarkson Jeweler’s lounge in an upper tier of the dome, the layout was unfortunately not conducive for a dance party, with a low ceiling, narrow configuration, and generally confined space. While deejay Tech N9ne spun for the crowd, the lack of a disco ball and giant screens with cartoon music videos left the event sorely lacking. Despite this slight disappointment, I would definitely count this year’s Wizard World as another rousing success, and a clear marker for more great entertainment to come to St. Louis for years!
 
 
 
The next Wizard World St. Louis is scheduled for May 15-17, 2015at the America’s Center.
 
 
 

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