Ronnie Angel Invades Wizard World Portland 2015
Welcome to Wizard World Portland 2015
It had been a while since I have attended a convention. Luckily, with the new year comes new opportunities for fun and adventure. Wizard World Portland approved me for a press pass, so this January I was once again off to yet another convention for WPR! This time it would be different for me, though. While I am a seasoned veteran on the horror convention scene, this weekend would be my first foray into the world of the comic book convention. Needless to say, I was up to the adventure and ready to enter this brave new world of geekdom.
I awoke at an ungodly hour on the first day of my adventure and was soon greeted by a familiar sight for the Pacific Northwest…rain, and lots of it! It rained the entire trip from Seattle to Portland. You would think I’d be used to it, living here, but alas I have never gotten used to it. Despite the weather, I managed to arrive at my destination right on time, the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland, and soon made my way in right as the doors opened. As I picked up my press pass, it quickly became apparent to me that these comic conventions were a different breed of monster. The line stretched out the door and around the corner to get in the center. Once inside, you were quickly greeted by more and more lines. There were lines for almost everything. Even the bathroom had lines! I could tell it was going to be a long weekend. After getting my press pass, I headed onto the convention floor.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the convention happened to be a staple of the convention scene…cosplay! And tons of it! It seemed everywhere you turned; there was another intricate costume to check out. They were from every genre you could imagine, from every age group, from every size and level of detail. There were times over the weekend where it was just fun to kick back and see what cool costume would stroll by next. Naturally, there were a few that kept popping up again and again that seemed like constant sights. For every one that stood out, there were several of Harley Quinn, the Joker (Heath Ledger of course), Bane, Wolverine, Star Wars characters, anime characters, and more from the Marvel and DC Universe. There was always more than one that could catch you off guard, though! Here’s a few examples from over the weekend (trust me, I could have done a whole article on the cosplay alone!):
The next thing I noticed (besides the massive crowds in every area, inching along) was all of the vendors. The con itself is made up mostly of the vendor area. I soon found out that many of the vendors come from all over the country just to be there. Some follow the convention circuit around. Listening to one vendor’s schedule reminded me of Chris Farley explaining Alice Cooper’s schedule on Wayne’s World. There was so much variety in the vendor booths. I could have easily spent the entire weekend just going through each booth, seeing what I could find. Every aisle and every booth was usually packed as fans searched for through comics, toys, shirts, memorabilia, and even weapons. There was also a gaming area on the side where one could partake in intricate games of Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering and more as there were constantly tournaments and workshops on how to play. Naturally, this being a comic convention, the other thing that took up most of the floor was the Artist Alley, where comic artists from all over the world were peddling their works of art and gaining new fans on a daily basis.
One of the other things that really stood out to me at Wizard World happened to be some of the vehicles on display on the convention floor. The car from Supernatural, a car from Fast and The Furious (dedicated to the memory of Paul Walker) and a Delorean made to look like the time machine in Back To The Future, all got their fair share of attention over the weekend.
While at Wizard World, I managed to take in several of the events and panels happening over the course of the weekend. One of the first I was able to attend was the filming of a game show called Last Fan Standing, hosted by none other than the new William Shatner of the con scene, Bruce Campbell! The game started as an interactive experience with the fans answering several pop culture based questions for a chance to play on stage with Bruce. Sadly, my skills must be lacking as I did much worse than I expected and didn’t make it. Once it got rolling, it was hilarious to see Bruce tear down the contestants in the game. He proved to be quite the master showman up there, with quick wit. I can see why he is a fan favorite at these conventions. Unfortunately, for the other players, one geek stood above them all and decimated the competition. It makes me glad I wasn’t up there!
Over the course of the weekend, I also had the opportunity to sit in on several panels at the convention. Among the panels I was able to attend were the Q and A sessions with Alan Tudyk, Lou Ferrigno and one with WWE stars Daniel Bryan and The Bella Twins. I was amazed that they were even able to be there, as they had to be in Philadelphia the next day for The Royal Rumble. Because of this, their time was short at the convention. Even with that brief window, fans lined up in droves to meet them at their booth. They also packed the room for their Q and A, where they answered several questions from the fans who ran each other over lining up to ask their wrestling idols some of the tough (and not so tough) questions.
Among the other celebrity guests that had the fans lining up at Wizard World, there were several instantly recognizable faces. Among the other guests were Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Ming Na-Wen, Stephen Amell of Arrow, Eliza Dushku of Buffy and Dollhouse, ’80s pop star Debbie Gibson (I was surprised too!), Karl Urban, the former Power Ranger Jason David Frank (who looked to be having a lot of fun with the fans), Tyler Posey, Ksenia Solo of Lost Girl, as well as several stars of The Walking Dead in Steven Yeun, Josh McDermitt, and Michael Rooker, among several others. Several had very long lines to meet them, some hours long. I tried to get Bruce Campbell’s autograph, but was sadly met with the longest line of the convention, so I turned away. I guess I’ll have to wait for a another day to meet Ash. I did, however, get to have a couple of great interviews with two of my idols in Lou Ferrigno and Yaphet Kotto. They can be seen here:
Among the other guests I got a chance to meet were Michael Rooker and Ming Na-Wen. Ming was only taking pictures with fans that brought her bracelets and gifts, funnily enough. I looked through my pocket and counted my lint and change when I met her. Luckily, she let me slide.
Needless to say, there was always something to see and do at Wizard World. There was so much to do there, you could have spent all weekend there and still not seen everything. There was even some free entertainment outside when one of the Children of The Corn (I think it was Isaac all grown up) showed up protesting the event, trying to convert the “heathens.” Yeah, I think he was at the wrong event.
There was even one of those wacky robot/living statue guys out there doing tricks with his robot balls. Yeah, Portland is interesting for sure!
Now of course, with anything good there is a downside to it all. So, with that, I give you: THE BAD.
I realized quickly that my Press Pass didn’t mean free access to all of the convention events and guests. I was even blatantly told so by security after accidentally walking out one door, turning around and being refused entry in the same door seconds later. I had to walk around the entire convention center for re-entry. From minor issues like exiting the wrong door to larger ones like assistance scheduling interviews with special guests or getting photos, I found that my press pass did not get me full coverage of the event. This was very different than my previous experience at horror conventions.
I used a few stealth moves of my own and going rogue to get the coverage. Thankfully, I ended up getting the coverage, interviews and the pictures I wanted, but it I only have myself to thank for that. With so many rules around pictures and access, you can’t do much. Even trying to get a good picture in a panel is frowned upon, with security quickly putting a stop to it. It seems they didn’t fancy press much in general. To sum it up, I liked the freedom involved in the horror conventions more. I like being able to just go up and talk to somebody and not having security step up to you.
Everything seemed about double the price of what I’m used to as well. I didn’t want to wait in line for hours for a photo-op, but a friend did and told me it was very impersonal, over in seconds and they refused to take a second picture when the first came up with a glare. That’s just a shame. You can tell it really is a corporate thing where the all mighty dollar is king over the whole fan experience. I really hope the other comic conventions are not like this in these ways. (Ed. note: Ronnie, you are spoiled with the horror cons! Your experience with very limited access to special guests for interviews and photos is pretty standard for comic cons. It’s just the way of the next wave of pop-culture events, or so it seems.)
Despite its drawbacks, and some are big, I still had fun at my first Wizard World convention overall. I just learned to go with the flow and do things my own way to get the coverage I needed. Work aside, I can really see this as a fun experience for any fan. The most fun part was seeing everyone in costume having such a great time. Some of these costumes were amazing and I could tell had a lot of time and thought poured into them. Seeing everyone from children to the elderly and everything in between from all walks of life letting their inner geek shine through was really a great experience for me. For that alone, I think I will definitely be attending more comic book conventions in the future, just for the scene alone. Hell, I may even cosplay a bit myself next time. Cheers!