The Great Philadelphia Comic Con: a Quick Retrospective
Authors note: This article is late: The convention was held April 12-14, and the delay was due, quite simply with me not having written anything in a long time. So, I created a new column, called “You’re Not Going to Believe This, Doc!” Peace!
As the blockbuster summer movie season begins to rev up and a few television shows are simultaneously winding down, mid-April proved to be good time for The Great Philadelphia comic con, and I was able to attend with my friend’s son. Though we went in on Sunday, the last day of three day event, we were able to pick up on the vibe that likely lasted throughout the weekend. Clearly, the Great Philadelphia Comic Con is organized by the same outfit that also runs “The Great Allentown Comic Con” (the same logo gives that away) they can clearly cast a wider net with the Philadelphia version of this event. I have previously been to the Great Allentown Comic Con on more than one occasion, and that is held at the Merchant’s Square Mall, an antique type shipping mall that actually is a little known secret for getting vintage toys both used and new, and although the the main part of the convention itself is held in the showroom in the mall, you never feel like you’ve left the convention if you explore the other stores as you walk to the panels. This was the little comic con that could, and each year I started to see some more prestigious media guests attend, including people like Michael Biehn (Terminator) and Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek TV shows and films), and as a result, the convention itself became more and more crowded. The showroom was always packed, there was perhaps a bit too much overflow into the mall itself. Science fiction and comic books are all the rage in media entertainment, and since that isn’t going away any time soon, the organizers (who are still holding conventions in Allentown) were able to book the Expo Center in Oaks PA, just outside of Philly, for the convention, and this was the first time I’ve attended a convention there. It was huge, far bigger than the Allentown con, as well as the Garden State Comic Expo, but maybe not quite as large as the New York City Con. Yet, having attended both New York City Comic Con, and now the Great Philadelphia Comic Con, it kind of feels close enough in size to be comparable: that’s how it “feels”, at least, while you’re in there. The main part of the convention, which has vendors and comic artists, is expansive, and feels a bit bigger than NYCC if only because it was not as packed with people.
The guest line-up might have spanned from from comic book and film franchises of all types (and that is reflected by the variety of cosplays that I saw) I honed in on some really notable stars: Jack Gleeson (Joffrey from Game of Thrones), Edward J Olmos of the remake of Battlestar Galactica, and, well quite a few guest stars from the Star Trek franchise. So, with Star Wars Celebration having just taken place in Chicago, along with a myriad of events elsewhere hyping up the Marvel films, the organizers of this convention might not have had the top tier of entertainment guests to book for this event, they still managed to get some pretty well-known guests. Oh, about Star Wars, one of the guests was Paul Blake, the original actor who played Greedo was there. He spoke with us a bit about the experience of what it was like to “not” shoot first while in the booth of A New Hope, and was very friendly. Olmos was similarly receptive to chit chat, reflecting on how, during our brief chat, his show was able to allegorically grapple with some of the unease our nation was feeling at the time the show aired, in the immediate years following 9/11.
It seemed that every time we went back to celebrity to perhaps talk to Anson Mount, the fine actor who has played Captain Pike in Season Two of Discovery, he was never there. I’m sure he would be a pleasant man to talk to, but when we finally saw him, his handler was having none of the “say hello without paying an exorbitant amount of money for an autograph” with her simple line “we are not doing that right now,” so, as much as I enjoyed Mount (frankly, his performance and his interpretation of the star Trek’s original captain are the best things about Discovery) my desire to actually pay to talk to him and get autograph dissolved right then and there. No matter, as the legendary Michael Dorn (Worf), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Shran, and Brunt) and Nana Visitor, were much more receptive to a few questions and idle conversations. In fact, my conversation with Visitor about the semi-serialized nature of DS9, the elaborate sets constructed for that show, and some of the fight scenes she participated in, was one of the highlights of the convention for me. These actors are, quite simply class acts, and, since the shows they are most known for are no longer on the air, their handlers were more open to some fan interaction beyond selfies and autographs.
The Great Philadelphia Con Con had hundreds of incredible booths that had some high-caliber comic book talent (the legend Larry Hama, the man behind G.I. Joe was there, having written the series for Marvel in the mid-80s) but there were also some impressive things to buy, including a stunning bluetooth speaker replica of the HAL 9000 computer terminal from 2001: A Space Odyssey my Master Replicas Group. While the price point was a bit steep (maybe you don’t want to know) it was impressive seeing a replica of HAL from one of the finest science fiction films ever made.
It’s out, on the floor of the convention that one might find some of the true innovators that will set the stage for the future, be they writers of new but lesser known fantasy novels, artists selling magnificent prints, or in the case of the graphic novel Column by creators Timothy Morris (writer), Ben Harvey (artist), and Mike Moore (editor) use an audio component for this series about an all-female tank crew operating during World War 3 as a means to innovate and immerse the readers into the world of the story. It’s innovations like these, those you might not expect, that you can find out there on the great floor of a convention like the Great Philadelphia Comic Con.
I have no doubt, in the coming years, The Great Philadelphia Comic Con will continue to grow, more and more prestigious guests will show up, and the crowds will come from far and wide just as they do for NYCC. But, there is a part of me that thinks the convention is a perfect size now, just as it is. I want to thank ComicBooked for giving me the chance to experience this!