Back in the fall of 2014, when I saw that Wizard World, that latter-day arbiter of pop culture sensibilities, was having its first-ever convention in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 13-15, I thought, Cool. I had been to the Minneapolis and Chicago shows, traveling hundreds of miles to write about each (see here and here, respectively). Raleigh is only 45 minutes from my house.
When I later saw that William Shatner would be at Raleigh Wizard World, I thought, Sweet. Who better than the Captain to explore this strange, new world? I watched as more excellent guests were announced—Sean Astin, John Schneider, Kevin Sorbo. And when I saw Rob Liefeld, the creator of Deadpool, added to the list, I thought, Awesome! Liefeld is one of the hottest comic artists of the last twenty years. I need some more stuff signed by him.
And when I received an email on February 24 from Wizard World’s PR person telling me that Doctor Who’s David Tennant would be in Raleigh, I thought, Oh. My. God.
David Tennant! No offense to other guests, but this was huge. Poll after poll shows him as the most popular Doctor among Whovians (see here, here, and here). Tennant’s Doctor is charming, funny, and passionate. Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor, did the hard work of rebooting the twenty-year-dead series in 2005; Tennant presided over its expansion both in the UK and across the pond. Plus he is a rarity on the convention circuit. Raleigh would be, in fact, his Wizard World debut (his second appearance will be in Philadelphia this May).
I am a middling Doctor Who fan. My wife and daughter? Rabid. And their favorite, of course, is David Tennant. My wife makes and sells fandom-related jewelry, and she had another convention that weekend in Winston-Salem, about two hours away. Urban Dictionary defines fandom as “a cult that will destroy your life”; I prefer to think of it as the impetus for restructuring your life on the fly. Thus, after much wrangling and a pair of David Tennant VIP tickets ($399 each!), we settled on the following schedule:
Friday: My wife and me at Wizard World, our daughter at the Winston-Salem convention
Saturday: All of us at the Winston convention
Sunday: My wife and my daughter at Wizard World to see David Tennant, me at the Winston convention
Actually, my weekend started on Thursday, at the Wizard World launch party. It was held at the Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh.
Advertisements for the party indicated that celebrities (plural) would be in attendance, though the only one I saw was Kevin Sorbo, star of the 90s hit series Hercules. Still, we had a nice chat:
Kevin: There are a lot of people who have faith. All the polls show like 80% of people believe in God. We tend to skim over that, and Hollywood doesn’t put out movies that deal with that. And when they do, they sort of bastardize it. Look what they did with Exodus. Look what they did with Noah, for crying out loud. Why would you hire atheist directors to do something out of the Old Testament? It’s weird to me.
Me: The emphasis there seems to be more on special effects.
Kevin: Yeah. We went to a private screening of Noah, and my wife said, “This is like Transformers meets Water World.” Visually, it’s beautiful, but you’re like, does the Bible talk about Noah being schizophrenic, alcoholic, and hell-bent on killing his own family at the end?
Me: You’ve had a varied career, but of course you’re most known for Hercules . . .
Kevin: Yeah, that and Andromeda.
Me: Right. How did your role in Hercules come about?
Kevin: It was a typical audition through Hollywood. My agent called me up and said, “They’re casting five Hercules movies, and they want to see you.” I said, “I’m a big guy, but don’t they want some steroid dude with no neck or some bodybuilder who weighs 280 pounds?” He said, “No, they’re looking for an athletic-looking, sort-of decathlon, Joe Namath-type quarterback.” So I went and read. They called me back and called me back. Seven times they called me back. I was up in Vancouver, Canada filming an episode of The Commish, and they called me and said, “You’re Hercules.” I thought it was going to be five two-hour movies. Then, boom! It became a series, and it passed Baywatch to become the most-watched show in the world.
Me: Before filming, how did you get into the role? How did you prepare yourself to play a mythical hero?
Kevin: It was all in the writing. They made the character very 90s. It was a very Malibu sort of Hercules. He was very hip and accessible and approachable, very self-effacing. There was a lot of humor. The fight scenes were never very violent. Our spin-off show, Xena, was a much more violent show, killing guys. We never killed a guy.
Me: Speaking of writing, you did a book a couple of years ago. What was that like?
Kevin: It’s been great because of the number of speaking appearances I get. I did a dozen last year, and I’ve already got about eleven more lined up this year. It’s been amazing to get out there and do all the talking I’ve been doing about the book, which is about a health scare I suffered. I was the healthiest-looking guy in the world in the 90s, and I had three strokes and almost died. It took me out of the show [Hercules] for four months. We had to re-write everything.
Me: Which is harder, writing or acting?
Kevin [laughs]: I think writing is much harder. Writers take much of the blame for everything in Hollywood, so God bless them. It’s the toughest job around.
Me: How did you get started doing conventions?
Kevin: You know, conventions really didn’t kick off until about fifteen years ago. The growth has been astronomical. In the 90s, comic cons weren’t that big. They were around, but there wasn’t the publicity and the push and the hype. I got invited during the 90s, but I could do only one or two a year because I was in New Zealand ten months out of the year [filming Hercules]. Now, I go to a lot around the world. I’m doing two in April in Australia. I have one coming up in Belgium. I get invited to about five a month, and I go to six or seven a year.
Me: Are there things you won’t do for fans? Are there lines fans try to get you to cross that you push back against?
Kevin: Not really. Women have not exposed their breasts to me, but they have wanted me to sign the top of their chests. Some people get very nervous because they know you from TV, and now they’re seeing you in the flesh. It’s a surreal moment for them, and I get that because when I first moved to L.A., I started meeting some of the celebrities I used to watch on TV, and I was like, “Wow. That’s really him standing there.” For me, it was Anthony Quinn [who played Zeus in Hercules]. Meeting him blew me away.
The next night, Friday, was my night at Wizard World. It is often said that Wizard World, with its deep pockets and runaway costs, delights in squeezing out local conventions. See, for example, this article decrying “William Shatner at $199 an autograph,” which is ludicrously inflated. Shatner charges less than half that amount, and he has charged it for years.
What has changed, and not for the better, is the number of comic book artists who now charge for an autograph. Michael Golden charged $10. Dean Haspiel (who?) charged $10. Tom DeFalco gave one or two free signatures, but he charged after that due to, as the sign on his table exhorted, the miserable capitalists who sell his stuff on eBay.
And Rob Liefeld. When I saw him in 2012, he charged $20 to sign copies of New Mutants #87 (first appearance of Cable) or #98 (first appearance of Deadpool). Everything else was free. Now he charges $30 for any Deadpool item, $20 for any New Mutants or X-Force issue, and $20 for any book being witnessed by CGC. He’s still a cool guy, though, and he did not charge me for this picture.
I get that writers and artists are trying to make a living. A market exists for their autographs that they did not create and are merely tapping into. But their judgment—or is jealousy?—of collectors feels wrong-headed. eBay does not lower payments to creators (a buyer’s market does that) nor deprive them of ownership of their work (publishers retain this). Besides, CGC’s fees are rich enough. To pay an extra $20 for the signature hurts.
Perhaps it was this increase in signing fees that was responsible for the small crowd.
Or the fact that few celebrities showed up for opening night (aside from Tony Stark).
The dealer’s room was livelier, but what struck me most there was the dearth of comic book dealers. I counted two. The rest had toys, decals, T-shirts, etc. Curiously, there were also the Lasik Vision Institute and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, giving the dealer’s room a festival-in-the-park feel. I left without buying anything (or scheduling eye surgery).
I tried to buy a third David Tennant autograph ticket for Sunday, the day my wife and daughter would be there, for my daughter’s friend. But they were not selling any more tickets until Sunday morning—possibly (as it turned out, they didn’t have more then, either). “It’s the first time we’ve worked with him,” said the apologetic young woman, “and we’re not sure what to expect.” Translation: they had under-prepared. Wizard World has remedied this (sort of) for Philadelphia, making David Tennant photos and autographs available only to VIP ticket buyers. It’s an imperfect solution: a limited quantity of tickets at a cost that prices a lot of people out of contention. But at least they won’t run out by the first day of the con.
So my daughter’s friend lost out. My wife and daughter, however, racked up, each of them receiving (1) any item autographed, (2) a professional photo-op, (3) a David Tennant collector’s card, (4) other Doctor Who stuff, and (5) a limited edition Walking Dead comic book with a black-and-white sketch cover by Dean Haspiel (so that’s who he is!). And they got into the Tennant Q&A, which, we found out, was open only to VIPs because the room was so small. (My question: why didn’t they rearrange the rooms? It’s David Tennant. You can bump the Harry Potter fan fiction panel to a snack bar table.)
If the crowd was meager on Friday, it had Hulked up by Sunday. There were 500 VIP ticket holders that day (600 on Saturday), plus who knows how many who managed to get a one-day autograph or photo ticket before they were sold out. My wife took over 100 pictures during the Q&A, enough to allow us to play a game called The Many Faces of David Tennant.
David ponders why the TARDIS isn’t cleaner on the inside.
David does his Gilbert Gottfried impression.
David whistles “Dixie,” because he’s in the South.
David tries to hypnotize the crowd but puts himself to sleep.
This is David Tennant, not David Bowie.
“Blimey, Rose! I told you to close the TARDIS door before take-off!”
Tennant is surprised at how popular Doctor Who has become in the United States—surprised but pleased. Asked about his acting career, he said he likes the variety of roles (in his new drama, Broadchurch, he plays a character as far from the Doctor as you can imagine). Whom would he cosplay as at a convention? “Someone with a mask, so I could enjoy the convention.” One questioner recommended that he try the barbecue before leaving North Carolina. This apparently led to a discussion of food in which he dissed American bacon (too dry and crunchy). Another asked him who he fanboys over. Answer: Marvel Comics, which he had recently toured.
After the Q&A came photos, and about an hour after that, the signing line started. When my daughter reached the table, she asked Tennant if she could record him saying hello to her friend (the one who got gypped on the autograph). Most celebs won’t do this, but in the absence of an advertised prohibition, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Astonishingly, he agreed! Then a Wizard World staffer stepped in and put a stop to it. Normally, I would rail against this, but the staffer had a point. If Tennant did that for my daughter, he would have to do it for everyone, which would slow the line to a crawl. The lesson for convention goers is this: guests aren’t being rude or aloof when they refuse some of your requests. The refusal may simply be a matter of convention policy.
So the inaugural Wizard World Raleigh was a success. Great city, great guests, friendly service—and the Doctor. One woman my wife talked to had driven eight hours from Alabama with her two kids to see him. On top of the arm-and-leg-ness of VIP tickets, this struck me as insanely devoted. “Would you do that?” I asked my wife on Monday as she stared out the kitchen window, a melancholy smile on her face. “Yes,” she said without hesitation. “Yes I would.”
Well-played, Wizard World. Well-played.
Rob Liefeld, Deadpool creator and Image Comics co-founder, appears at Phat Collectibles on Saturday, April 11th at 2:00 PM to send off the Merc with a Mouth in style! Co-hosted by Agents of Cosplay.
1201 S. Euclid Street, Anaheim, CA 92804
Rob Liefeld signs at Phat Collectibles on Saturday, April 12th at 2:00 pm! Liefeld said on his Twitter that he will give away 250 prints for FREE!
Deadpool is getting married! Issue 27 marks the big day and we are celebrating by having an in-store Wedding Ceremony! Industry legend and Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld will be in store to sign your comics and walk Deadpool down the aisle in their home city of Anaheim, California! Attend the biggest wedding in April, only at Phat Collectibles Anaheim Mega Store!
1201 S. Euclid Street, Anaheim, CA 92804
Rob Liefeld headlines biggest VA Comicon EVER Nov 23-24, 2013
Promoter of the VA Comicon in Richmond
Greetings, Comics Fans!
This is Brett at the VA Comicon. We are pleased to announce the return of the 2-Day VA Comicon on Nov 23-24, 2013 in a BIG way! We have partnered with Painted Visions Comics to bring the largest comic book show EVER in Virginia (10 times the size of our 1-day shows!) to the Richmond International Raceway Complex (Where they have the NASCAR races!), with FREE parking for everyone.
This will be a COMIC BOOK show, catering specifically to the fans who actually COLLECT comic books. ALL of our vendors sell comic books (only 12 vendor spaces left!), and ALL of our guests work in the industry. Spread out over 36,000+ square feet, each vendor will have a full 10×10’ booth to showcase the finest in new and vintage comic book collectibles.
Our guest of honor at the show is Rob Liefeld, the creator of X-Force, which sold more copies of the same comic than any other comic book ever. Rob is also the creator of DEADPOOL. Joining him will be Wolverine co-creator Herb Trimpe, Kevin Keller creator Dan Parent, Atomic Robo creator Brian Clevinger, He-Man artist Pop Mhan, GI Joe artist SL Gallant, FX’s Archer’s Character Designer Sam Ellis, Top Cow President Matt Hawkins, and the list goes on and on!
We will also have the #1 worldwide expert on vintage comics, Previous CGC president, and current head buyer for Heritage Auctions, Mr. Steve Borock to answer your questions about investing in comic books, and we will have several lectures about investment level comics.
Do you like Exclusives? Extreme VIP passholders (only 50 available!) will receive a Rob Liefeld Ltd 250 Exclusive Comic featuring the Ladies of Brigade (his new series!), a Ltd 100 Robert Crumb licensed T-Shirt, and a Ltd 50 Archer print by Sam Ellis, the character designer on the FX series! Two-Day adult passes are less than $20, and Children’s passes are less than $10. If you register to get a Vendor booth, you will receive a LTD 250 Top Cow Aphrodite IX comic book with a holiday cover by Fan-fave creator Randy Green! Other exclusives WILL be announced soon!
We want this show to be affordable! Other shows cost so much to get to and stay at, and get inside, there is nothing leftover for comics. We want to BUCK THAT TREND! We are less than 2 miles from I-95 and I-64. Hotels in the area average $65 a night. Flights, train tickets and rental cars are some of the cheapest in the country. There are even RV hookups for $25 on-site! Vendor booths are 10×10 and small press tables are 6’. We will be presenting this show in the round, which means there are no corners or endcaps. This show is going to be amazing. We can’t wait to see you there!
Promoter of the VA Comicon in Richmond November 23-24, 2013
All info on our one and 2-day shows is at http://www.vacomicon.com
Rob Liefeld and Marat Mychaels appear at Phat Collectibles on Saturday, June 29, 2013 to celebrate the release of DEADPOOL: THE GAME. Bring your game sleeves, your New Mutants #98, and all your great Liefeld work. Rob will be doing commissions, giving away 100 free copies of Deadpool to the first 100 people in line, and raffle off 25 original head sketches!
1201 S. Euclid Street, Anaheim, CA 92804
Via their Facebook page, Image has provided an early look at the creators set to appear at their booth (#2729) during Comic-Con International 2012 in San Diego.
As you can see above, featured guests would appear to include:
- Ryan Ottley
- Nick Spencer
- Robert Kirkman
- John Layman
- Charlie Adlard
- Ed Brubaker
Rob Liefeld signs at both Phat Collectibles locations this weekend! Saturday June 2nd at the mega store in Anaheim and Sunday June 3rd at the Huntington Beach store launching his three new DC titles Grifter, Deathstroke, and Savage Hawkman all starting at 1pm.
Rob will do free head sketches of Deadpool or Deathstroke for the first 50 people in line on Saturday ONLY!
1201 S. Euclid Street, Anaheim, CA 92804
16532 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
While they have yet to remove George Perez from the list (who announced via his Facebook page that he is cancelling his appearance this year), Comic-Con International has announced that their Special Guests list for 2012 is complete. The latest update contains 28 new names:
- Tim Bradstreet
- Gail Carriger
- Becky Cloonan
- Ben Edlund
- Steve Englehart
- Greg Evans
- Brecht Evens
- Rob Guillory
- Peter F. Hamilton
- Jennifer and Matthew Holm
- Lynn Johnston
- Joe Jusko
- Erik Larsen
- John Layman
- Jeff Lemire
- Rob Liefeld
- Katsuhiro Otomo
- Whilce Portacio
- James Robinson
- Ben Saunders
- John Scalzi
- Scott Shaw!
- Jim Silke
- Marc Silvestri
- J. Michael Straczynski
- Angelo Torres
- Jim Valentino
- Tom Yeates
Marv Wolfman, Rob Liefeld, Sterling Gates, and JT Krul sign on Wednesday, September 21 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.
On Wednesday September 21st, Collector’s Paradise Comics & Gallery would love to invite you to our beautiful new Pasadena store, for a signing of all signings, to commemorate release of several new exciting titles from the DC NEW 52 Relaunch and the TEEN TITANS GAMES HC. From 6pm to 8pm, we are proud to host four FANTASTIC Creators and great friends of the stores, and showcase their new books for all of you who can make it to t…he event:
ROB LIEFELD – Rob Liefeld had childhood dream to draw comic books. As a teenager, he fulfilled that dream and began working for Marvel Comics X-men titles and introducing the world to Deadpool, Cable and X-Force! In 1992 Rob, with his other artist friends, launched Image Comics with the debt of the popular Youngblood franchise. This year, Rob launched THE INFINITE with co-creator and writer Robert Kirkman, and is now returning to HAWK & DOVE with Sterling Gates as part of DC’s NEW 52 Relaunch.
STERLING GATES started at DC comics writing a couple of short Green Lantern stories, which led to a stint on Green Lantern Corps, and then a regular gig on Supergirl. With DC’s new relaunch, Gates is taking over the reigns of HAWK & DOVE.
JT KRUL – already a huge store favorite at Collector’s Paradise, JT’s meteoric rise to fame in the last couple of years has been fantastic to watch. Starting out at Aspen Comics where he took over writing of Fathom & Soulfire after Michael Turner’s untimely death, JT’s writing got noticed by DC Comics, who, after a few one shots and small assignments, gave JT his biggest break, relaunching Green Arrow and taking over Teen Titans. With DC’s relaunch, JT adds Captain Atom to his Green Arrow assignment.
We are also SUPER PROUD to host, for the first time in Pasadena, our dear friend, a Comic Book Industry LEGEND, Marv Wolfman, to commemorate release of his instant Classic Hardcover Graphic Novel – “Teen Titans: Games”, drawn by George Perez. Marv is a true legend of our industry, the writer of Crisis of Infinite Earth, co-creator or creator of a huge amount of most popular comic book characters, including : Teen Titans (with George Perez), Black Cat, Blade, Nova, Nightwing, Deathstroke, Bullseye and countless others.
319 S. Arroyo Parkway, Unit 4, Pasadena, CA
James Marsters, Billy Dee Williams, Adam West, Burt Ward, Claudia Christian, Walter Koenig Among Headliners At Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic Con, October 22-23 At Greater Columbus Convention Center
Superstar Artists Jeff Smith, Mike Grell, Rob Liefeld, Greg Horn, Phil Jimenez, Bill Sienkiewicz, Arthur Suydam And Many Others Scheduled To Appear
NEW YORK and COLUMBUS, Ohio, August 23, 2011 – North America’s largest pop-culture tour continues at Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic Con at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, October 22-23, with standout guests James Marsters, Billy Dee Williams, Adam West, Burt Ward, Claudia Christian and Walter Koenig headlining the list of celebrity attendees. The event will bring together thousands of fans of all ages and dozens of celebrities and industry professionals to celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, graphic novels, comics, toys, video gaming, television, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more.
Williams (STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, BRIAN’S SONG) will appear on Saturday, while Marsters (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Caprica”), West (“Batman,” “Family Guy”), Ward (“Batman”), Christian (“Look,” “Babylon 5”) and Koenig (“Star Trek,” “Babylon 5”) are scheduled for both days.
The lineup of superstar artists at Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic Con is impressive, with Jeff Smith (“BONE,” “RASL”), Pasqual Ferry (“Thor; Ultimate Fantastic Four,” “Ultimate X-Men vs Fantastic Four”), Mike Grell (“Green Arrow,” “Green Lantern”), Rob Liefeld(“Deadpool,” “Youngblood”), Greg Horn (“Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,” “Hero For Hire”),Phil Jimenez (“Amazing Spider-Man,” “Astonishing X-Men”), Bill Sienkiewicz (“Elektra: Assassin,” “Moon Knight”), Michael Golden (“Batman,” “Spider-Man”), Arthur Suydam(“Marvel Zombies,” “Army of Darkness”), Mark Texeira (“Wolverine,” “Spider-Man”) and Ryan Ottley (“Invincible,” “The Walking Dead”) at the head.
“We are excited to be adding the Wizard touch – and slew of celebrity guests and comics creators – to what has been a successful, well-attended event in Columbus,” said Gareb Shamus, Wizard World CEO.
Other popular celebrity guests scheduled to be on hand at the event include Gil Gerard(“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”), Robyn Griggs (“Another World,” “One Life to Live”),David Harris (THE WARRIORS, “NYPD Blue”), William Holman (“Bachelor Pad,” “The Bachelorette”), and Doug Jones (FANTASTIC FOUR, HELLBOY).
Children and adult attendees are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite villain, superhero or pop culture personality for the chance to win special prizes in costume contests. Event-goers may also try their hand interactive product exhibits and shop for collectible comics, movie and television memorabilia, toys and games at scores of dealer booths.
Mid-Ohio Comic Con is the eighth stop on Wizard World’s 2011 North American tour. Hours are Saturday, October 22, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; and Sunday, October 23, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are available in advance online at http://www.wizardworld.com/midohio.html at a savings over tickets purchased at the door. Advance adult single-day tickets are priced at $25 ($35 on site); weekend all-session tickets are $40 ($50 on site), and tickets are free for children age 10 and under when accompanied by a paid adult (limit two children per adult). VIP packages with special entry and exclusive items are also available on a limited basis.
About Wizard World:
Wizard World produces Comic Cons and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate graphic novels, comic books, movies, TV shows, gaming, technology, toys and social networking. The events often feature celebrities from movies and TV, artists and writers, and events such as premieres, gaming tournaments, panels, and costume contests. Wizard World also produces Wizard World Digital, an online publication covering new and upcoming products and talents in the pop culture world, and is distributed on a weekly basis to online and iPad users worldwide.
The full event schedule can be found at www.wizardworld.com.
***** SAVE THE 2011/12 DATES *****
October 22-23 – Mid-Ohio Comic Con
November 11-13 – Austin Comic Con
January 28-29, 2012 – New Orleans Comic Con
March 24-25, 2012 – Toronto Comic Con
May 19-20, 2012 – Big Apple Comic Con
June 1-3, 2012 – Philadelphia Comic Con
August 9-12, 2012 – Chicago Comic Con
TBD – Los Angeles Comic Con