Home > Dangerous Universe > Welcome to a Wizard World that’s not ruled by Harry Potter.

Welcome to a Wizard World that’s not ruled by Harry Potter.

By Bert Ehrmann

Check out The Dangerous Universe Website!

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-08-30


“A” is for “August,” that time of year when the weather in northern Indiana turns from hot, to hotter, and then hellish, while the children, gambling on an endless summer from school, are dragged into the local box-marts by parents and are force fed ream upon ream of either wide or college ruled notebook paper.

But that’s not the only reason that August ROCKS! There’s also the annual Wizard World Convention held in Chicago every year where the freaks, geeks, dweebs, spazs, dings, and Trekkies of the world, Midwest America at least, unite to assure each other that there’s nothing wrong with falling in love with a cartoon character or having the Starship Trooper logo tattooed on their upper arm.

Essentially, The Wizard World Convention is what the Chicago Comic Book Convention morphed into after Wizard, a magazine publisher, purchased the convention and raised ticket prices. (Thanks!) However, The Wizard World Convention is still at its heart a comic book convention though other items such as toys, DVDs, and Kevin Sorbo’s used undershirts might also be for sale. (Anyone looking to purchase said undershirt please contact Bert via The Fort Wayne Reader.)

Over the last nine years I have attended these randomly named conventions in Chicago eight times. (I didn’t get to go in 2003 due to a wedding. Thanks Ben – you know who you are.) I did get to go this year and was pleasantly surprised at what I found.

Most of the trip to the convention was uneventful other than two speeding violation tickets, accidentally picking up a serial killer hitch-hiker whom “tasted Illinois blacktop” when we threw him out of our mini-van going 90, and a high-speed chase through the streets of Calumet with “shots fired.” All of which is too boring to relate.

We arrived at the convention around noon, stood in line for a few minutes to purchase tickets (it cost $25 to walk through the door) and quickly made our way out onto the convention floor. The sights that greeted us upon entrance would make even the most jaded comic book geek drool in anticipation.

Booths from all the major comic book companies were sprawled out on the convention floor and, for the most part, were manned by scantily clad women. (Nothing attracts the geeks to the booths like scantily clad women.) Overhead giant screens played out various new cartoons, movies, and television shows said companies were promoting at the convention. Crowds gathered around the booths looking to get an autograph from a popular comic book artist or writer.

Moving onto the convention floor, hundreds of dealers were set up with booths hawking everything from comic books featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, and selling from anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over 15,000 dollars, to various old toys, movie posters, bootlegged DVDs, swords, movie scripts, and the what-not. Some comic book geeks are known to suffer a brain seizure upon entering a room filled with such great items all available for purchase.

Inside the convention center people are lined up almost elbow-to-elbow, crowded to the extreme. Fans crowd certain booths looking for “that” particular comic book, or an autographed copy of an Aliens vs. Predator poster, or a bootlegged DVD featuring all of the season two episodes of the U.K. cartoon Danger Mouse… And these fans have no qualms with pushing their way in, and you out, of the primo space in front of the booths. It’s best to carry pepper spray to combat this type of behavior. Remember to aim for the eyes.

As I browsed one of the booths a woman came up to me and asked, “Do you know anything about Star Trek?” To which I immediately replied, “Lady, you’re at a comic book convention. Most of the people here can recite entire episodes of Star Trek as flaming baseballs are thrown at their heads. Push on, woman, and talk to someone else.” She was a bit dazed but seemed to have gotten the message.

I managed to pick up a mint copy of Famous Artist Norman Rockwell: Nazi Smasher, the pilot episode to an as yet unaired revival of the 1960’s series Time Tunnel, several fan-made Batman productions, a few issues of Naked Apes in Color magazine, several Alien movie related toys, a book, and the script for the next George Romero movie entitled Dead Reckoning.

Every year there are the fans that dress up as their favorite comic book or movie characters. This year there were a plethora of girls dressed up like they were students from Hogwarts, men dressed up like The Punisher, and several company-sponsored costumes related to movies or toys. Some people may think it a bit odd that people dress in this manner. I tend to agree. But still, girls who dress up in these costumes really know their comic book trivia. And is there anything more attractive than a girl who knows the difference between Kal-El and Jor-El? (Said girls please write to me care of the Fort Wayne Reader.)

Best of all were the C or D list celebrities in attendance at the Con. Most of these celebrities were on their way out decades ago but still cling onto the hope that the next cell phone call will be from Quentin Tarantino offering them up a part in his next film. Alas most of these “stars” will quietly fill out their days on the convention circuit charging anywhere between $20 and $50 an autograph. At this convention, not only was Buck Rodgers (Gil Gerard) there, but also Buck’s girlfriend Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), The 1970’s Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferigno), Lt. Boomer (Herbert Jefferson) from Battlestar Galactica, and The Beastmaster himself Marc Singer.

I finally worked up the courage to go over and say “hello” to Singer. But as I approached his booth, I realized that the Beastmaster I had known growing up had changed. It wasn’t the addition of wrinkles, droopy skin, or slightly graying hair. It took me a while to notice just what it was. Then I realized that the lion, ferrets, and eagle featured in the movie alongside Marc were not in attendance. Everyone knows that these animals were the real stars of the movie. So I turned and I walked away in disgust.

Is there anything better than spending an entire summer day locked away inside a convention center with the smell of moldy old pulpy comics? I don’t think so. I can’t wait until the convention returns next year.

(With regards to Tim, Sean, Alex, and Clark Faurote whom all collectively shared their mini-van with me as I tagged along on their trip to Chicago.

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