by: Oliver Layco
Ahhh, the sweet sweet smell of convention halls. There’s a certain air about attending comic conventions that have well expanded beyond the realm of comics; or it could be the heated masses of thousands of bodies in a confined space. Either way, conventions are special yet they still retain a sense of individuality between each one. Sacramento would gain its first major comic convention when the Wizard World Company would kick off their 2014 year in our fine city. With a major convention and major stars coming to the show, I would have expected them to rent out our whole center; however, that was not the case and it was their biggest flaw. Everything felt more cramped than it should have. There was also the weird rule of VIP’s were only allowed to stand in certain areas to wait for celebrity sightings. I’m sorry, but if certain people already paid for a closer experience with someone, the rest of the crowd should still be granted some sort of leeway to even catch a glimpse of our idols. Looking past these two easily correctable flaws, Wizard World captured the essence of conventions and then some.
As for the exhibit hall, I can say I’ve been spoiled in terms of what to expect. When I did look past comparing it to NYCC and SDCC, it was actually good for what they had. They had a good assortment of posters, figures, shirts and all the usual suspects. In terms of exclusives, that was a tad underwhelming even if I looked past the other cons I’ve been to. Another set of items I wish they had out were more displays and movie props and the like. Yet, I can see why they couldn’t include everything given the size of the space. This is another reason they should utilize the whole convention center next time around. In the end, I did cave and buy three new posters of the Lord of the Rings to hang on my walls. With the exception of where non-VIP’s were allowed to stand, I was able to get glimpses of my childhood. I was able to stare get a look at Norman Reedus, Michael Rosenbaum, James Marsters, Lou Ferrigno, and Jason David Frank. For those not familiar with their real names, these are one of the Boondock Saints, Lex Luthor, Spike, The Incredible Hulk, and none other than the Green/White Ranger. They all seemed friendly from afar, but I have to say Jason David Frank was the nicest because he stood on a table to greet us and just made us think he genuinely cared about us. After all this, it was onward to the panels!
With the lineup of their panels, they definitely should have known the room would fill up with people lining the walls standing. The panels I saw today included the likes of Ralph Macchio, Jon Bernthal, Stan Lee, and Chris Hemsworth; each panel would last for about 30 minutes. First up was Ralph Macchio who came on for the 30th anniversary of The Karate Kid. He was as friendly as I expected him to be in person. While I wasn’t the craziest fan of The Karate Kid growing up, his time as Daniel-san still left some sort of impact on me. Then just seeing him and hearing the influence it had on him growing up was great. He was very candid about his roles in the trilogy, My Cousin Vinny, The Outsiders, and apparently a Korean soda commercial.
Next up would be Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead and The Wolf of Wall Street fame. Immediately he came off as a relaxed person who would be willing to answer anything. With Walking Dead being the reason most people know about him, most of the questions were geared towards that. By the time those questions kept coming, I could tell he was tired but he still kept up the positivity. There would be welcome breaks where he was asked about The Wolf of Wall Street and his other works. Other than that, it was all Walking Dead. It’s still crazy to think that even though his character’s been dead for two seasons now, he’s still having an impact on the fans and in the show.
Next up was probably one of the greatest panels I’ve been to; it was none other than Stan Lee! It was announced earlier that he was feeling under the weather so he may not stay the whole time, but by the end of it he had to be pulled off by his moderator! For a 90 year old man, he had the most lively and energetic personality I thought possible. He emphasized his bad hearing and eyes and would just make everyone in the audience feel like kids again. While everyone I listened to today appeared happy, he was the most sincere and real celebrity I’ve had the pleasure of hearing speak. He covered everything from how Atlas became Marvel to his disdain for D.C. comics. Any chance he had he would say those letters were blasphemy or that he would’ve done them better. He just provided a level of insight I didn’t think possible and I wish that everyone would have the privilege of listening to this legend talk. He talked about greed is what really drove him since he really wanted to keep his work and that’s how he created all our characters. Or how the burning guy was so good that they cast him to play Captain America. Surprisingly he did dish out which Marvel films weren’t exactly what he thought them to be. He gave safe answers so he didn’t completely knock them, but he singled out Daredevil and The Fantastic Four as some of the weaker ones. Either way, most fans can agree those weren’t up to snuff but its different hearing it from The Man himself. He probably could have gone on forever, but alas he was time came up and the crowd roared with approval.
Finally, one of The Avengers would step out and was immediately greeted with thunderous applause. First off, he is one of the celebrities I’ve seen that is exactly as big as he looks on screen. He is a very daunting and intimidating figure, but he gives off an extremely down to Earth vibe. Before he came out the line for questions was forming immediately. As for the questions he answered, they mostly related to Thor simply because that’s what brought him his current fame; and he acknowledged that when my friend asked that very question. We would learn repeatedly that surfing is something he did with his family while growing up and continues to do when he gets the chance. It also turns out that story of Chris Evans having The Avengers cast assemble on a random night was indeed true. He also touched on his relationship with Tom Hiddleston and how special it is to him. I mentioned this before, but he was so genuine and honest with us that it really was special to hear him talk.
All in all, it was a well done convention and I’m glad that Sacramento is getting a crack at it again next year. Hopefully everything is ramped up so it can accommodate the bigger crowd, bigger booths, and bigger stars. Conventions are a unique place where everyone involved in that culture can revel and let everything hang out without being judged or looked at different. It’s an extremely opening environment that can be contagious. I know for sure I’m going to keep going to as many cons as I can as long as I’m able.
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