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Comic Book Convention: Wizard World Los Angeles

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Wizard World Los Angeles is a large annual comic book convention with a focus on superhero titles. It’s but one facet of the Wizard universe spanning multiple magazines, a website, and conventions across the country each year. This is only the third year for the LA show, and the first one actually held in LA following initial outings at the Long Beach Convention Center.

The move to the LA Convention Center gives the show plenty of room to grow, which was plainly evident by the booths that didn’t quite stretch to the limits of the single hall hosting this year’s event. Wizard World’s biggest event is its annual Chicago summer show, and for anyone who has attended that one, the LA event space appeared to be roughly half its size.

Wizard has a tough market in Southern California competing with San Diego’s Comic Con International, the world’s largest, but its new location makes it ideal for ease of access by entertainment industry guests. The only problem is that Hollywood hasn’t really caught on to its existence yet, so the caliber of guests thus far has leaned decidedly toward B-list status or less. On the upside for comic fans, the lack of Hollywood attention makes this much more of a true comic book convention that the mass media spectacle of San Diego.

The show ran for three days this year, with the biggest concentration of special guests and visitors on Saturday. I hit the floor after noon on Saturday and immediately noticed how much easier it was to move around compared to the hysteria of San Diego. I’m not suggesting that the show was dead, but it definitely wasn’t overcrowded.

The media company booths were all aligned by the front doors, so visitors were funneled past the big players first and gradually moved back through smaller publishers to the retailers in the back section of booths. Yes, there were actual dealers selling real live comic books at the show, not a ton of them, but enough that visitors could easily shop for classic golden and silver age comics or the latest releases, as well as graphic novels, manga, toys, DVDs, and apparel. Past the retailers was a lonely assortment of gaming tables and an artists’ alley with a few top artists such as Tim Sale and David Mack tucked in between the up and comers.

Comic book artist Jim Mahfood and friends were painting art live at the Golden Apple booth, a stunt that proved to be a hit with the attendees passing by. The pieces were all for sale after completion.

While the celebrity quotient was fairly small, the collection of comic book creators was strong, with many key players from the big houses of Marvel and DC on hand to sign autographs and offer previews of this year’s coming attractions. The biggest draw was probably DC’s Jim Lee due to his blast back to the top of the artist popularity charts with key runs on both Batman and Superman over the past few years. Former Image mate Marc Silvestri was on hand to preview the upcoming releases from his Top Cow studio, while Silvestri’s former protege Michael Turner was also on hand with all the latest exclusives from his Aspen studio. Image co-founder Rob Liefeld (creator of their iconic “i” logo, but no longer a part of the label) was also spotted on the fringes with his Arcade comic releases.

As for celebrities, Charisma Carpenter from Buffy and Angel appeared to sign autographs, but 2006 is apparently the year where Buffyverse fandom has finally hit a wall since her booth was a ghost town, causing her to leave within about 20 minutes. A few other players from Angel were appearing in another booth, but didn’t look to be faring much better.

Lou Ferrigno was on hand to prove again that he’s the Dick Clark of superhero actors, still looking exactly the same as his Incredible Hulk days. Jack O’Halloran from Superman I and II made a rare appearance, and Margot Kidder was also scheduled to appear. The Wayans Brothers were on hand to discuss a new comic book they’re producing.

Comedian Brian Posehn was pimping a new comic book he’s writing, and seemed somewhat uncomfortable to be on the signing side of the table rather than circulating with the rest of the fans as he usually does in San Diego.

The big media star of the day was undoubtedly Kevin Smith, the one celebrity who unquestionably belongs at a comic book convention due to his longstanding comic book fandom, writing, and store ownership. He held court in the show’s largest meeting hall for two hours during which he took questions from the audience and made his responses in turn hilarious, endearing, informative, and dirty. Jason Mewes popped in for a minute but left the proceedings to Smith as usual, cueing Smith to note that their real life roles are the polar opposite of their film roles as Jay and Silent Bob.

The audience questions were fairly stupid at first, but eventually somebody got around to asking about his latest acting roles, which allowed him to talk about his involvement in both Richard Kelly’s follow up to Donnie Darko called Southland Tales, as well as his role as the “fat friend” in an upcoming Jennifer Garner romantic comedy. He particularly relished recounting his experience on the latter film as he apparently had an acrimonious relationship with star Timothy Olyphant. Smith decided to improvise his lines because they didn’t sound natural to him, and Olyphant wasn’t a fan of the results or his acting in general, believing that nobody would appreciate Smith’s contributions to the film. Fast forward a few months to a test screening Smith crashed where he had the pleasure of spying on the focus group. The group leader asked the viewers what they liked best about the film, and somebody said “Kevin Smith,” to which the leader said that was interesting and asked if anybody else thought that…and all 20 people raised their hands. “Fuck you, Olyphant!” indeed. He also discussed his upcoming sequel to Clerks when prompted, but didn’t dwell on the subject for long.

The Saturday show wrapped up around 6, and while it was far from a runaway success, it did show quite a bit of growth from last year’s event. Attendance in future years would most likely benefit by a push for more presence by the niche corners of the industry such as small press and manga, more programming, as well as more Hollywood involvement to increase the must-see factor. It would be great to see this event grow to fill the entire LA Convention Center someday, but for now it’s a fun event for mainstream super hero fans.

Written by Caballero Oscuro

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • sal m

    i’ve been attending the philly-wizard show for years, and they have been the best shows that i have ever attended…the crowds have gotten larger with each year, and the show has morphed into a big entertainment/comics/gaming show in recent years…if you are a desktop/tabletop gamer this show is a must….and video games companies have increased their presence at the show in recent years as well…i can’t wait til june!

  • Andy

    I think the writers is a little confused: Carpenter went there early and inmediately went to LUNCH. When the booth’s open officialy, she had both a line for photos and a autographs! She had the best booth of the Wizard.
    She was there not for 20 minutes but most of three hours (2 to 5 p.m.) and the fans keep going after her when she was leaving! Check the forums of boosterevents.com … And You’ll see that also it had a lot of movement because the printer machine had problems and some files were lost and had to do some retakes of the pictures.
    Please tell the writer to check the information and be accurate. Charisma Carpenter’s booth was the best, followed by Andy Hallett in popularity.!

  • Hmm, let’s see…I was personally standing by the autograph area at the exact time when they announced over the PA that she would be appearing there. I watched her take over the booth and saw just a few curious people standing around. Then I went up and down one aisle of the floor and by the time I got back 20 minutes later she was packing up with nobody left in queue, nobody sadly watching her leave, and no indication that she was coming back.

  • Andy

    Again, sorry but check the forums at boosterevents and some LJ, if you don’t want to go to some ATS or BTVS site/forum to check. And I checked with some other people that went mostly for other pannels and told me the same about the ATS people, specially Carpenter that I posted. And, other one confirmed that were serious troubles with the printer for the pictures of her booth. Also, a friend of mine has a picture of her at the car and the hour was the one I posted. I don’t know what to tell you. I read that she was really early considering the schedule they gave her (mistake, maybe?) and she went to lunch and came back for the official hour of openning. I’m not saying you’re a liar, really. Maybe she was early and they announced her just in case someone wanted some picture or something. And then she went to lunch to come back later? (I also read that someone was waiting almost 20 minnutes until the opening, in the line and she was right in time, not very early). I don’t know, but letting aside the fans, I know people that went there and told me they had to wait a lot for the autograph they got for me from her and also Hallett (broken leg here)…It’s not that They’re fans of Angel to not be objective about that. Really, don’t know what to tell you but that’s what I know from people there and from what I read in several places. It wasn’t bigger like in London or so much people like her Comic-Con appereance, but all of them told me that they were a lot of people for her and Hallett, less for the others, but still far from desert…

  • RogerMDillon

    Andy, what is this noble cause you think you are fighting? Do you really have so little going on in your life that you feel compelled to defend a young woman’s honor who has no idea you exist? You’re not going to get a date with her. All you are doing is making the Babylon 5 fans realize they are cooler than Buffy fans. Give it up now.

  • Andy

    Good to read that personal attacks are not allowed… So what’s going with that message from RogerMDillon still there?, that by the way, really shows his IQ level. Also, check ifMagazine “…and Charisma Carpenter (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, VERONICA MARS) caused quite the traffic pile up in the booth on Saturday.” And also all the things that says abot Angel’s actors.
    So, my problem is that what it was posted was NOT what it happened. Period.

  • Mr Dillon’s point was harsh, Andy, but if I’d edited it we’d all have lost the chance to chortle over his B5/Buffy remark. Classic.

    You Americans!

  • RogerMDillon

    Andy, that’s not your only problem.

    How did you feel personally attacked by my previous comments? Don’t tell me you actually think defending Charisma’s honor will get her to drop the restraining order? I apologize that I didn’t realize how deep your feud with B5 fans goes. With your hypersensitivity it’s no wonder you got booted out from the “Xena, Princess Warrior” fan club.

    P.S. Make sure you don’t watch the old SNL episode that William Shatner hosted.

  • Andy

    I think that saying to someone that only is pointed that this articule is wrong, things like: “you’re fighting a noble cause?” or “That I’m doing this because I want to date Charisma” or sarcastic things like that, it’s offensive. Because you’re dismissing an poster. simply because of that. Also, and this is to point how stupid your comments are…. it’s Andy as in Andrea, a girl. A heterosexual girl, by the way. so not sexual interest her. Obviously you only make things that could get you that benefit… Poor you. I only pointed that this was seriously wrong. Sorry to try to correct a mistake!!!! But obviously the tendence here is to dismiss people and fandom, right? So no surprise about the inacurate information that this articule gives.

  • RogerMDillon

    You were also being dismissed because of your poor spelling and grammar, but thanks for taking time from your X-Men 3 Tent City Magic tournament to respond.