This weekend I drove up to Richmond for the latest stop of the touring comic convention Wizard World. While the con ran Friday through Sunday this weekend, I was unfortunately only able to attend on Saturday. I did try to make the most of my time there and see what I could. Admittedly, I was a little surprised when I walked in because I assumed Wizard World Richmond would be bigger. My only other experience with one of the Wizard World cons was way back in 2003 in Chicago, and I remember that one being HUGE. Granted, that was my first actual convention experience and I probably would have been impressed no matter what. Also, I think there was only one or two Wizard World cons per year back then, so they may have tried to make a bigger deal out of them too. Either way, Richmond just seemed… not small, but not as big as I expected. There were still plenty of booths with vendors, creators and celebrities signing autographs and giving photo ops, and panels/programming to suit all tastes. Of course there was also lots of cool cosplay too.
One of the bigger comic names at the show was the legendary artist Neal Adams. I went with my friend who wanted to get a Batman sketch from Neal and we kind of stumbled upon his booth by accident when we first arrived. It was early and his line was relatively short, so we went ahead and jumped in. Neal was at the end of a long booth full of at least a hundred different prints of his artwork from over the years that you could purchase and have him sign. There were prints of Marvel and DC characters and iconic covers. As the line moved along I slowly passed by all this amazing art and it sunk in just how much work Neal Adams has done, and how long he’s been int he game. When we finally got to the head of the line, my buddy asked for the Batman sketch and Neal went to town. Getting to see a master go to work, even on a quick profile sketch was pretty great. The end product is really cool and easily recognizable as a Neal Adams work, and not just because of the signature.
Not long after that I found Greg Horn’s booth. He was selling dozens of prints of various sizes and even a few graded comics that he had done the covers for, and added a unique sketch to. I ended up buying a very large, about movie poster size I’d say, print of Deadpool fighting Wolverine. It’s a very over the top piece, but really captures the ferocity of the two characters and has a touch of humor too it. I think it’ll look cool hanging on a wall. Yeah, I’m that sort of geek. Because I bought a larger, and more expensive, print, Greg threw three smaller ones in for free. I got one of Thanos, one of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and I let my buddy pick out one of Batman standing behind Catwoman who is bent over lapping up milk out of a dish. It is… a bit provocative.
After that I wandered around for a while, taking in all the sights. I stopped off at several comic vendors to see what kind of treasures they might have hidden away. Walked by a place selling really nice looking leather bags. I passed multiple booths with hand made arts and crafts. Things like wood burnings of characters from comics or anime. Several places were selling pins, buttons, lanyards, and other assorted accessories, and as usual, there were a few booths dedicated to nothing but geeky or just plain funny t-shirts.
Around 11:45 we headed toward the grand ballroom which was all the way on the other side of the convention center, to for the Gotham panel that was supposed to start at noon. When we arrived, there was plenty of seating still, and we sat as close to the big screen that would actually be displaying footage as we could. The panel started almost fifteen minutes late, and began with a convention staffer apologizing for the tardiness and explaining that we were originally supposed to see the first episode of the show, but Fox pulled it at the last minute. Instead, we were getting a 22 minute preview. Many people in the hall got up and left right then. I decided to see what the preview was like. It turned out to be footage I had already seen. Needless to say, everyone in the hall was sorely disappointed. The preview has been around for a bit, and shows interviews with several cast and crew members interspersed with bits of actual footage from the show. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here.
When the Gotham panel was over I headed back to the main exhibit hall to take care of one of my goals for the show: to meet Adam West. I had the option of getting an autograph from him, or getting a picture taken with him. I opted for the picture because it just seemed like it would be cool, and I thought it would be fun if we could put our hands in front of our faces with the index and middle fingers spread… as if we were caught in the middle of doing the Batusi. So I got my ticket and stood in line. It was a very assembly line-like ordeal. Everyone was moved in, got their picture taken, and moved out so the next person could get in. As we entered the photo booth we were told there would be no hand shakes. There was little time for small talk, or conversation of any kind really. Now… I was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Skeletor throwing his head back and shouting, “MYAAH!” at the con yesterday. For the photo shoot Adam was sitting on a stool, and I’m a tall guy, so his head was about at my chest level. When it was my turn for a picture, he looked at my shirt, and as I got closer, he looked up at me from his stool and said very slowly, “MeeeeeeYAAH!” and then gave me a big smile. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how to react. That was the absolute last thing I expected to come out of his mouth, and I was dumbstruck. I almost lost it, and doubled over laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Then the lady behind the camera yelled READY and we both snapped to. FLASH and the picture was taken. A yell of NEXT was my cue to exit. I thanked Adam and walked off, still a little unsure of what just actually happened and went to pick up my photo.
Still giggling, I decided I may as well take care of my other big goal for the con: getting Bruce Campbell to sign my copy of his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. On my way to Bruce’s line I saw boothes for several of the other media celebrities that were there. Lou Ferrigno was looking Hulk-y as ever. Ron Perlman, Michael Rooker, Dave Bautista, and three of the guys from AMC’s show Comic Book Men (not including Kevin Smith) were all in attendance. There were a lot of people in Bruce Campbell’s line, as he was only going to be at the show on Saturday, but the convention staffers kept things moving swiftly. Bruce was looking suave in a dark suit with a black vest and dark purple shirt beneath. He was very friendly with everyone he spoke to, ma. king small talk, asking people about themselves, and even joking around with kids. When I got up to him, he signed my book, telling me to “Stay groovy”.
After meeting Bruce Campbell, I wandered around for a while longer making sure I hadn’t missed any cool vendors or booths. There were a couple more panels that I wanted to check out, like the “Inside the Batcave” one with Adam West and Burt Ward reminiscing about the 60’s Batman show, or the “Disney’s Gargoyle’s 20th Anniversary” but I was too busy standing in line. I think I need to do a little better planning for my next con to make sure there’s no scheduling conflicts that prevent me from missing cool stuff. At that point I was hungry and ready to go eat, and decided that I had seen pretty much everything there was to see so I left for the day. Of course, after I left I realized I missed out on a Guardians of the Galaxy panel with Michael Rooker and Dave Bautista, and a Q&A with Bruce Campbell. Again, more planning next time.
Wizard World Richmond turned out to be kind of a learning experience for me. If I was to give once piece of advice to would-be con-goers, it would be this: PLAN AHEAD. Most cons of any substance should have a schedule online for all their programming, and will likely have signing/photo op times for talent listed on their websites too. If they don’t, make sure you get to the con early and find out when you can meet the people you want to and formulate a game plan. I’m going to be going to NYCC next month, which is a far bigger con than Wizard World Richmond. It is going to have a lot more talent and a lot more panels. I’m going to start planning ahead for that now.
So in spite of the one crappy panel, and the fact that I didn’t really have a game plan, but I still had a lot of fun in Richmond. I got to meet a couple of my favorite celebrities. I know he won’t remember me, as he didn’t even get my name, but I will always remember the day that Adam West said, “MeeeeeeYAAH!” to me.