Here’s another write up from Shawn! This time he managed to check out the Anaheim Comic Con put on by Wizard World!
The Anaheim Wizard World Comic-Con
Just like last weekend’s show in Long Beach, this weekend Wizard World Comic-Con (WWCC) attempted its sophomore show in Anaheim, California. The coupling of last year’s show garnering mixed reviews and a headliner list that left something to be desired, made me approach this weekend’s trip with some trepidation. Although I love the location, right across the street from Disneyland, it felt like the buzz going into this show lacked the fervor that Wizard stirred for other locations, such as Chicago, Miami, and Toronto. Over the last year, I frequently would re-check the guest list and find other locations getting the stars…and Anaheim getting their co-stars. For these reasons, I went into Friday night expecting another large, but empty, convention center…boy, was I wrong!
Like last week’s show, it was immediately noticeable that this show had grown in attendance. Having stood in the snaking entrance lines last year as well, it seemed that they may have even doubled in length. Although the attendee lines were nowhere near as long on Friday and Sunday as they were on Saturday, each day still carried a certain energy of excitement (something that was noticeably absent in their freshman attempt in Anaheim). Even more importantly, Wizard World did an excellent job of stoking the flames upon entrance. DJ’s were consistently blasting music that provided a consistent party-like atmosphere. Furthermore, their strategic planning of floor space made it so that you were never far their “big ticket” booths. While a show like this will never attract the types of iconic branding that a San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) will, WWCC did a great job of using what they had to form a perimeter of excitement. From the second attendees walked in, they were immediately greeted by the wonderful nostalgia of the Batmobile. Then, move to the left and attendees could get close and personal with agents from S.H.I.E.L.D. (featured in the new Thor movie) and stand in a line where they could join their ranks and get personalized security access cards (only level 1 clearance for the rookies, of course!). Furthermore, while making their way in line, attendees were free to snap pictures of one of Acura’s S.H.I.E.L.D.-edition TLs, equipped with sonic cannon, anti-ballistic exoskeleton, and “other” Stark technologies featured in the movie itself. This sort of excitement was stirred across the exhibition floor, so even if you weren’t interested in the many walls of comic vendors (like I am), you could still engage in SDCC-like fun.
Although Wizard World is known for its autograph-heavy shows, this Anaheim convention provided a focus on comics that I’ve not previously seen from Wizard. Sure, Charlene Tilton, Adam West, and Ian Ziering were all there posing for pictures and signing away, but beyond the nearly 100 autograph booths, there were over 200 comic creators working away in their very large Artist Alley. This provided an excellent balance that was not present in last year’s Anaheim WWCC. Much like the strategic planning of their many DJ’s, the idea of placing Artist Alley in the center of the show was a great one, as it enveloped the room. Just as your ears couldn’t escape the music, your eyes could not escape the art.
Fresh off the announcement of Wizard World adding an LA show in the fall, I was sure that they were just calling this one in; essentially, I thought they’d given up on Anaheim and were going to focus their efforts on the SDCC-deprived LA market. Now, I think that is totally incorrect. Instead, I think Wizard World is planning on making itself known as a major player in the crowded Southern California pop-culture convention scene. With Wizard joining an already crowded September-October season (Comikaze Expo and Long Beach Comic-Con both have big shows already planned), and putting on such a strong showing in Anaheim, as Yoda would say, “begun the Con Wars have.”