UPDATE: The mom of the Empress of Fantasia who saved the whole Wizard World Philly for me (skip to the end to read this story) found this blog post and sent me a picture! Here she is!!!
I woke up today to find this tweet, from The Empress Mum:
YAY! Ok, Cosplay community. You won this one! Back to the original post:
My late-elementary age son and I went to the last day of a comic and character convention in Philadelphia. We went in as total n00bs.
We came out as… total n00bs.
For the most part, our trip was just “meh.” Skip to the end if you want to read about one shining pinpoint of light I experienced at Wizard World Philly 2016.
ERRORS WERE MADE
Our first mistake was going on the last day, probably. Not as many cosplayers as I expected and the excitement was just not there.
Our second mistake was quite erroneously thinking we could grab a glimpse of wrestler John Cena, even though we weren’t paying $80 for a signature and another $85 for a picture. Just a glimpse of him IRL would’ve been good for my kid. But the big name stars were curtained off, literally, in square cubes on one side of the convention floor, and there were no panels that day (not that my kid would sit through them anyway). The signatures section covered an entire third of the whole convention area and the lines were oppressive.
My personal third mistake was thinking I could get my kid to participate in any of the fun kids stuff planned for Sunday at the con.
Our fourth total-n00b mistake was not bringing a gaming controller. There were rows upon rows of consoles and screens to set up to allow for people to sample games, but one was supposed to know to bring their own xbox/gaming console controller. No controller rentals (uh, someone could make a killing on this) and no vendors selling any (again, WTF?). There was someone lending one or two controllers but they were all out.
The fifth mistake is a general ignorance of how much I don’t know about the comic book world. I thought I knew a good bit, but guess what: I do not. My knowledge was at least 50% deficient than it needed to be to understand all the references.
Here are some mistakes I think the con made:
- No information at all for n00bs. None. It’s as if they didn’t even want us there. I didn’t get any prior information about the gaming controllers, or what to expect, what to look for, how to find the panel rooms, or where the con entrance was on the map (I could’ve saved a bundle on parking if I knew the entrance was going to be where it was). There was no food guide or rules or even an intro to the comic book scene or who to look for in the booth areas.
- The whole curtained-off celebrities thing is a huge mistake, especially on the one day you let kids in free (kids under 10 were free for all the days). Seeing others getting their picture taken with a star would only encourage more sales. Covering them up is so stupid. And mean.
- Multiple announcements happening simultaneously. A (recorded?) con announcement was often spoken over by a live one. It was enough to send the most chill, non-ocd person into a seizure, and I had no idea what any of them said.
- Security was awful. I witnessed security personnel start walking in the opposite direction when people approached them. And why does a huge event like this, which costs $51 a person for entry, need armies of unpaid volunteers? Not even minimum wage temp workers? Still, the volunteers were more helpful than the paid security people.
- As always, no seating in the exhibitor area. Why do conventions do this? I could also talk about how having no seating, not even adjacent to (very overpriced!) food concessions, should be a code violation, but whatever. The Philadelphia Flower Show is also crap for seating. It’s just not worth spending 5 hours on your feet or having to sit on a disgusting floor.
- Allowing the vendors with cars/scenes to photograph to chase away people that just want a pic without posing with the car adds to the scam-alert feeling.
INFO-FACTO: After-the-fact reconnaissance
When I was back home, I dug around the interwebz for some knowledge on Wizard World and comic conventions in general. Were all cons this much of a rip-off? How much do these celebrities make? Is it necessary to curtain off the signing areas? How long is the interaction with the celebrity? Who are the people who go to cons?
Wizard World seems to be taking some hits in the con blogs for not focusing on comics and comic creation any more. Their focus has changed to these celebrity cattle lines and giving more floor space to big gaming companies. Quite a few blogs written by comics fans ripped Wizard World new buttholes over this. Apparently the true Comic Con (for fans of comic books & media they spawn) is dead. It’s all about the $ now.
The celebrity earning potential differs widely. Top names can get an appearance fee in the low 6 digits. Most actors get much less than that, and some actors would never come to a comic con. Big names usually only show up if one or more of their co-stars do. Other actors are paid out of signature and picture fees. Sometimes the celebrities are guaranteed an amount they can make from those fees; i.e., if not enough of their fans show up and buy pics and signings, the con producers will cover the difference.
The dark and undignified stories of D-list and forgotten-or-never-famous actors are not pleasant reading. I suggest you skip it, if you are conducting your own Googling. Here’s the summary: interacting with (or even just passing the table of) some of these “stars” can be downright painfully cringe-inducing.
THE CLOTHES MAKE THE HUMANS, THE HUMANS MAKE THE CON
Costumes (aka cosplays [cos -as in costume- plays]) on Sunday were donned by about 8% of attendees (lots of t-shirts, small touches, abound). Some were super fun. I still felt a little shy about stopping people to grab pics, though.
In my recon mission online later that night, I learned that the cosplay world is a pretty tight culture. I found a ton of mentions of internet trolling craziness happening with someone named Denise and her husband. They love cosplayers and they love them at their booth at cons, but someone said they didn’t love cosplayers. ??? I don’t know. There was some major dust-up.
The in-fighting isn’t a ringing endorsement for the culture. I’m quite an avid costume fan/constructor.The Bowser costume I made for my kid when he was 4 (along with Princess Peach, for me) were pretty kickass to make and wear, I must admit. But after Wizard World and gathering this info, I’m turned off from participating. The costume/accessories booths at the con had some hard, hard selling vendors. (It reminded me of writing conventions. The writing world is a racket that preys on hopefuls. I’ll write about that another time).
As I was standing in line for a $12 tiny serving of french fries, I was giving up on Wizard World as a total money-sucking scheme. I was almost resigned to turn my back on it forever. Until a tiny little spark of hope was bestowed upon me.
NEVERENDING STORY OF IMAGINATION AND FUN
Just then, I noticed passing by me a ~9-year-old girl dressed as the child queen of Fantasia in the movie The Neverending Story. Her costume was PERFECT. I didn’t have time to snap a pic (because she was in a hurry!), but just look up the movie stills. The costume was an exact replica. I recognized her right away, despite not having viewed the movie in years. When I asked her if she was from Neverending Story, she nodded.
Then something magical happened.
The “grain of sand” The Empress gave me in the palm of my hand. I may wire-wrap it and wear it on a chain to remind me to always keep the spark of imagination and hope with me.
Queen Empress of Fantasia held out her delicate little alabaster-white hand. In it, she was holding something to give me. Instinctually I held out my palm. This little princess of imagination then puts a small little pink crystal in my hand! Just like the grain of sand the Empress gives Bastian in the last few scenes of the movie!
In that instant, I totally understood the draw of comic conventions, cosplaying, and fan fiction. The line between what is “real” and what isn’t blurred, right there in front of me, and it was thrilling!
For the hour or so we stayed at Wizard World after that, I wasn’t so shy about asking for pictures. Some we took are below. The old guy dressed as Mermaid Man from Sponge Bob wins for the day.
Will we visit another con again? Not sure. The kid wants to cosplay, so we’ll see.