By Meghan Sullivan
If you were anywhere in the vicinity of the convention center March 7-9, you might have noticed an abnormally high number of people in costumes. Wizard World rolled into town with a Comic Convention. And they brought some big names too – Stan Lee, Norman Reedus, William Shatner, James Marsters, and Chris Hemsworth.
Now, I had my doubts about this convention prior to its coming. Wizard World is actually a for-profit company (don’t get me wrong here – I have no problem with people and companies trying to make a profit) and some of the pricing and extra required tickets (some very expensive) for certain privileges rubbed me the wrong way. I should note that I did talk to several people who were actually pleased with, and more than willing to spend the extra money for, these opportunities because it provided a guarantee to see the celebrity that drew them to the convention in the first place. And then there was the hub-bub about fan groups not being to have tables in the exhibit hall. But, as a geeky girl living in the Sacramento area, I try to support any event that increases our city’s geek credentials.
I was pleasantly surprised with some aspects of the convention and very disappointed with other aspects.
The panels and moderators for the big names (Stan Lee, Chris Hemsworth, etc.) were fantastic. The panels I saw were mostly just a series of fan questions, but the moderators were skilled enough to side-step tricky questions and/or expand upon ones that provided more interesting discussion and anecdotes. Chris Hemsworth was adorable telling stories about his Avengers cast (Chris Evans sent a text to his co-stars to meet up and actually said “Avengers Assemble”), his brothers (surfing and doing stupid, dangerous stuff in the bush in Australia), and more.
As with most conventions, the exhibit floor was overly crowded and claustrophobic at times. Additionally, I felt like the tables and booths were not organized or grouped as well as they could have been. I also would have liked to have seen more artist alley booths and of course tables for fan groups. However, given the limitations of the convention floor space that was available some of this can perhaps be forgiven.
I wandered into a smaller panel on Sunday afternoon that was billed as being a discussion of craft, career, and the comics business with comic artists. While I have no doubt the artists on the panel are talented and skilled, the panel itself was a joke due to very poor moderating. The moderator had not done appropriate work to prepare. In fact, this moderator actually displayed images that were NOT by the artists on the panel – MULTIPLE times! That is not okay in my book. The discussion and conversations just stalled out each time that happened.
Overall, the convention seemed to be a success. In fact, Wizard World will be returning to Sacramento next year in June and will be utilizing the entire convention floor. That bodes well at solving some of the issues present at their inaugural Sacramento Convention. Let’s just hope next year’s convention improves the smaller scale programming options which should also help draw the crowds away from the exhibit floor and the main room.