The con season has officially begun for 2013, and amazingly Wizard World Portland, or Portland Comic-Con, whichever you want to call it started the United States off. However, the reason it is so “amazing” is not the quality of the con, but just the simple fact that the
Wizard brand, a prevalent force during the 90s and some of the 2000s is still around, still kicking. However, that force is a “new company” and set a show a week before the well-established and fast growing Emerald City Comic-Con, the prevalent comic convention for the Pacific Northwest, and a con that some creators rave about as a destination. Wizard World Portland, very clearly to the organizers of Emerald City, set themselves in direct competition with Emerald City Comic-Con by setting themselves so close to the con, in terms of both position and scheduling, with only 5 days between the two and 3 hour drive. This competition, if a con-goer didn’t know going into Wizard World Portland wouldn’t be obvious … but knowing … it brings up lots of questions and a very different direction between the two cons.
Now I mention all this backstory and information to inform my words to follow, not to set that everything I’m going to talk about regarding Wizard World Portland will just be about the two cons versus each other. However, the first thing to really note about Portland, that
many comic book readers know is that has become home to more comic book creators than perhaps any other town/area outside of well London, New York, or Los Angles. Per capita there may be more comic book creators in Portland then there are professional pilots … though don’t quote me on that…
Portland is home to a huge list of creators and almost none of them were there Wizard World Portland. Of note Matt Wagner, a noted Portland comic book creator, was there for Saturday and Sunday, and Kurt Busiek, writer of Astro City, Marvels, and Untold Tales of Spider-Man. Mike Grell was also there, with it not being a long trip for him. Every other comic creator was brought in from further away with only some overlap with those who appeared there versus those who will appear at the upcoming Emerald City Comic-Con. Wizard World, having spun out of the well known magazine about the comic book industry, did not have as much presence from comic book professionals, as it did from media professionals. To compensate for scheduling the show so late, or perhaps because many comic book creators have made it known they support Emerald City over Wizard World, Wizard World tried to up their “star” power.
To look at their media guests: Norman Reedus, Michale Rooker, Bruce Campbell, James Marsters, Brent Spiner … and many more, over 20, and Stan “the Man” Lee, one can see the Wizard World experience has a specific focus. Their site shows clearly that focus is their media stars, and the opportunity to have a VIP experience. It’s a very interesting experience, and considering if you want that, even without paying the extra money to be a VIP, Wizard World Portland had that. People who went got to meet the stars they wanted, to talk with them easily, and even for Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker, who had the longest lines, they were available and fun. It either speaks very well for the convention, or shows that for a first outing they weren’t so big that lines were “outrageous”.
There were coordination issues for the first round of this convention, with the planned and advertised concert for Ghost of the Robot, clearly labeled on the Wizard World program, not being known about by volunteers or coordinators for the show. The band was selling tickets at lead singer’s James Marster’s booth, but not one volunteer or coordinator knew this. Also the line to get in Saturday looked like an elaborate domino layout throughout the outside of the con floor, with the end of the line able to oddly see and wave at the beginning of the line and volunteers trying to keep it all straight. Pretty normal convention problems, but the lack of knowledge by even higher ups as to where people or what events were taking place at the con was… odd.
For the comic goers there was much to enjoy. A free Walking Dead #1 reprint with new cover, CBLDF with a strong presence and a Nowhere Men #1 variant, and a few comic creator spotlight panels.
- Kurt Busiek was smiling and happy with his fans promising more Astro City coming up and more upcoming work, that he can’t announce just yet.
- Aaron Kuder was very happy with last batch of covers for Marvel Universe Vs. Avengers, though #1 was supposed to have the cast on a “world of blood. But they dirtied it up a bit … so it didn’t look quite like blood.” He also teased that he should be taking over Action Comics when Tony Daniel leaves and potential fill ins on Superman starting with issue 19. As he put it “DC likes to have Tony on a variety of things, so keeping him in one spot is hard”.
- Marat Mychaels, done with Grifter now, plans to continue to do work for DC but he really wants Nightwing. “I’ve talked to Kyle Higgins and we both agree I’d be a great fit for that book, but Brett Booth never misses a deadline so I can only hope at some point I get to be on that book.”
- Joe Keatinge is enjoying the success of Morbius and his plans for that book are very open ended due to the book’s beginning success. After finishing up on Glory with Ross Campbell, the two plan to continue working together, maybe a guest spot on Morbius if possible. As for Glory, “we were told we could have the book as long as we wanted, and in the beginning I had so many ideas we could go forever, but as we looked at the book and its future the stories we were talking about doing weren’t Glory, they were some other book, so we stopped when it felt natural to stop.” As for the future of Glory as a book without them: “Our last issue is an end, I can’t say more.”
- Greg Horn gave Chris Claremont a print as a present for all the inspiration over the years, and related that he still hadn’t received comp copies for his Hastings variant for Avengers #1, or even seen a copy to sign until a fan showed him one on Saturday.
- Gail Simone was happy, joyful, and eager to talk to fans. She was sparse on future details but had perhaps the comic quote for the con when asked about where in the United States Gotham City is actually located: “The DC Universe is not like the Marvel Universe, it’s not set in the “real” world. The DC Universe is its own world. I mean the DC Universe really exists … at least to me” she laughed.
Nevertheless was Wizard World a comic-con? It’s like asking if Comic-Con International is still a comic convention, and many say no now-a-days, with movies and TV dominating the convention, and Wizard World is very similar. Since it includes comic-con in the title, one would expect it to be more of a comic book convention with more comic book creators involved and more of a focus on them. Looking at their future shows this is not the Wizard World focus, which is fine. The Portland show was a lot of fun, and for those looking to meet and see media stars it was probably great no matter what the con was labeled. As a comic book convention it was an enjoyable first show with some problems, and one that should be interesting to see how it grows up next year, with the next show already scheduled for the end of January in 2014, making it for sure the first con of the year.