By Jared Cornelius
It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon and my fiancé and I have made the hour trek to enjoy the spectacle of Wizard World Philly. As we arrive at the convention center it’s clear to me the annual event has been going strong as costumed fans stroll down 12th Street. A fan cosplaying as Gambit exits Reading Terminal holding a bag of food. I always enjoy seeing the confusion of ordinary onlookers as a costumed characters from film, anime, and comics walk around outside the convention center. I pick up my pass and make my way back to the main hall, loud thumping music plays while the ambient chatter of hundreds of people makes for a sensory overload. Combined with the shear spectacle of the dozens of booths, toys, games, comics of all kinds overflow from booth to booth. Huge corporate sponsored booths from X-Men Days of Future Past, and The Purge: Anarchy occupy prime real estate by the entrance doors.
I walk through and I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to focus, with so many sights and sounds my attention is divided in a million different directions. I planned poorly for the event and had an idea of who I wanted to speak with, but not much of a game plan. I make my way to artists alley and run though who I want to talk to in my head, I say hello to Daniel Acuna who I complement about his current run of Uncanny Avengers, his translator relays the message and politely thanks me. Much to my surprise the next person I talked to was someone I was unfamiliar with.
Meet Sam Ellis, a kind gentleman from Spotsylvania Virginia, his booth catches my eye as it has Archer, Adventure Time, and Bravest Warriors on it, intrigued I go over and introduce myself. Sam graciously accepts my business card and interest and tells me about himself.
Sam Ellis: Yeah, so I used to work for a company called 70/30 productions and we made cartoons for Adult Swim like Frisky Dingo and the Xtacles.
Jared Cornelius: Small aside, I love Frisky Dingo and I’m sorry the Xtacles didn’t get picked up as a regular series.
SE: Sad boosh.
JC: Audible laughter.
SE: So me Neal Holman and Chad Hurt were working on Frisky Dingo when Adam Reed decided to pitch Archer and he asked us all to come up with artwork and we pulled our resources together and evolved the way Frisky Dingo looked into what Archer is now. We looked at a lot of old Look magazines, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, Mad Men and brought something together that not only pleased Adam but pleased us as well.
JC: The series has a decidedly retro look even though it’s in a modern setting you look at the backgrounds and a static design and it has a classic contemporary look, was that something you had a lot of input in?
SE: Moderately, Adam had the vision and he gave me, Chad, and Neal a lot of latitude in bringing in suggestions, but he had his idea in mind, like the car needed to be Mopar green, it needed to be the sexy sixties, but not Austin Powers. So I looked at a lot of 60’s Spider-Man comics, a lot or Romita, a lot of Buscema. I had a lot of 1940’s Look magazines all the way up to the 60’s and we brought those in as resources to familiarize ourselves with the time, because even though we had the internet, having resource material from that era helped us out.
Sam and I talk for several minutes, and as I interview him a crowd starts to gather to see what’s going on. We talk about some of his work for Frederator Books and in the interests of not breaking NDA’s I decide to cut off my recording. He was a genuine treat to talk to and we exchange information so I can do a more in-depth interview later. I ask Sam for if he’ll take a few pictures’ to go with the article, he again graciously accepts, he asks me to join him, but instead I ask if some of the fans who’ve gathered around his booth will pose instead. You’ll be seeing more of Sam later, but for now you can check out his webcomic, Robot Cowboy Samurai or watch an episode of Archer on Netflix.
Now feeling a bit of a stride I go speak with Ethan Van Sciver, who’s accompanied by his lovely wife and son. I tell him I’m from Bleeding Cool and I get a slight recoil. But he’s genuine and polite with me, he declines an interview as he tells me he doesn’t have a lot going on. I tell him I was a big fan of his Green Lantern run, and it’ll be one of if not the most well regarded takes on the title. I’m convinced he’s heard it a million times, but does perk up a bit when I tell him I was the book that made me start reading DC more and seems even more impressed that I read from Rebirth to The End. I thank him for his time and go on my way.
I then see legendary creator, Marv Wolfman, he’s wearing a baggy Hawaiian shirt and seems to be content talking with fans and signing autographs. I ask if he has time for a quick interview, to which he agrees.
Jared Cornelius: You’re a celebrated creator of comics, your run of Teen Titans is considered legendary, when people think Teen Titans I think Marv Wolfman is the first thing that comes to mind, along with Geoff Johns more recently. What’s it like to be a celebrated and beloved comics figure?
Marv Wolfman: God I wish my bank account could say that. I don’t think of myself as that, I think I’m doing the stuff I wanted to do when I was nine and I’m writing stories about superheroes beating up monsters and it’s exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid and it’s really what I think about. When people come over and tell me how much they like the material, it’s always surprising and gratifying and I never expect it, even at this stage and that’s not a joke. I’m just doing what I really like and I love it when people do that because it means that I’ve done something that’s somehow connected with them.
JC: I had heard rumors that there were talks of doing a Teen Titans animated feature from Warner Brothers, was there any truth to that?
MW: We did a script on The Judas Contract a first draft, but the feeling at Warner was the Titans really weren’t big enough at that point or big enough at all to warrant a movie of that sort and that’s why they generally center on Superman, Batman, more movie tie-in type things. Personally I’ve always thought the Judas Contract is the wrong story to do as the first movie, I would see the Titans as a trilogy with the Judas Contract being the middle story.
JC: The Judas Contract is such a heavy book with everything going on with Deathstroke and Terra, the betrayal. I hope I’m not spoiling that for anyone.
MW: You’re spoiling a twenty-seven year old story, it’s not your fault.
JC: Deathstroke in the modern day has become such a prominent character, he was heavily used in Forever Evil, he had a new ongoing series at the New 52 launch, when people think of Deathstroke, that’s another character they associate with Marv Wolfman, are you proud that he’s become such a major character in modern comics?
MW: Deathstroke is one of only two characters that I’ve ever created and I’ve created hundreds that came to me in one second, literally I’m not joking, literally one second he was completely there, the other character is Blade. How that happened I don’t know, but I knew their entire life in one second. So I always loved that character and I’ve always had special feelings for what they’ve done, what I’ve done with George, and how the people who’ve followed us continue to build upon, especially what they’re doing with Deathstroke on Arrow is just wonderful. He was one of my favorite characters and favorite villains who was given a lot of character and nuance when you didn’t do that with villains so I was real happy with what they’re doing with the character.
Marv was an absolute delight to talk to, I feel like I could’ve spent hours talking about his years at Marvel and DC, but I press on. As I make my way through artist alley, my fiancé’s eye is caught by a minimalist art style. I look over the booth, lined with a print from every popular TV show or movie you could think of, Army of Darkness, Star Wars, the Bob’s Burgers print was far and away my favorite. I approach the artist, Andrew Heath and ask if he’d like to talk.
Jared Cornelius: Andrew you’ve got a really wide variety of prints here, you were just telling me you’ve got some work up on Gallery 1988, could you tell me what you have going on and coming up?
Andrew Heath: With Gallery 1988 I just did the official Adventure Time Cartoon Network show with them and it went really well, I sold out of all my pieces for them. Right now they’re teaming up with Sony for the Ghostbusters 30th anniversary traveling show and I have a piece in there too. Right now I’m really focusing on myself and getting some stuff ready for myself next year.
JC: Have you seen any of the Philly Ghostbusters walking around?
AH: I spoke with one yesterday, but he said they don’t have a booth this year.
JC: What other work are you into, is this your primary thing?
AH: I travel with the conventions, but I also do a lot of freelance graphic design, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the game Flux, I’m currently in contract with them and will be designing a whole game for them.
JC: Do you have a website where we can find more of your stuff?
I make my way into the exhibitors’ area and again an utterly overwhelmed by the sights. So many toys, so many comics. I find a stand selling deep discount hardcovers and I begin pouring over each book in the booth, I end up with bargain priced copies of the Marvel Now! and John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus. The guy running the booth is a classic salesman, he tries to interest me in an Absolute edition of For Tomorrow, but I’ve got my prizes. After a few hours we make our way back to the hotel, content with my accomplishments for the day.
Saturday morning kicks off my favorite way, with food over at the fabulous Reading Terminal. It’s 10:30 so I can justify a Dinic’s roast pork sandwich to myself.
Full I make my way back to the convention center. For the purposes of another feature I’ll be writing about the con, I’ll skip most of the morning and give you a condensed version of the afternoon. There’s no question how big Doctor Who is, the convention was filled with fezs’ police box dresses, and even a Rose Tyler cosplayer. But the enormous lines to meet Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were astoundingly long, I have to believe hours. Also surprising was the line to meet Whoopi Goldberg was really long.
No celebrity seemed at a loss for fans, even the guys from Comic Book Men, seemed to have a steady crowd of a few people each. I don’t linger to long with the celebrities, I think it’s cool they’re there for the fans, but don’t really care to wait in lines to meet one or two people for a brief moment. The show room floor went from manageable to completely packed over the course of a few hours. The artist alley section in now really in full swing, Greg Capullo has an enormous line that’s wrapped around itself several times. At every turn I’m confronted with another amazing cosplayer.
I’ve made my way back to the exhibitor area and find myself digging for cheap comics, for a handful of dollars I continue my quest of obtaining the full run of Howard The Duck.
I find myself wondering how many people are buying swords at the show and marveling at the shear amount of Attack on Titan cosplayers. I find a booth selling classic video games and dig right in. They’ve got a copy of Super Mario RPG for $175 dollars with no frills, but I’m content to buy a cheap copy of Tetris and Darkman for the NES knowing my Retron 5 system is in the mail.
It’s now 3:30 and my feet are killing me, I’m hot and I’m hungry so I make my way downstairs to see what panels are going on. My first stop is a conversation with Christopher Lloyd, I hear him talking about One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but its standing room only and hot as hell.
I finally find a quiet room with a panel featuring voice actor Rob Paulson talking about creativity. The room is air conditioned and seats are plentiful and I relax. I know the convention goes way later in the evening, but I’ve had my fill, I head back to Reading Terminal to grab a smoothie and reminisce on the day. As always I was happy to speak with so many interesting and creative people, I was pleased so many of my fellow fans got to have an amazing show and enjoyed the spectacle. I’d like to thank all the creators who took the time to talk with me, and making it a great show.
Remember to be on the lookout for my weekly games releases on Live(ish) From The Games Shop where I tell you about all the hot new video game tapes you can buy. I also recap the latest issue of the Walking Dead in my column, Typing on The Dead. You can find out more about what I’m doing by following me on Twitter @John_Laryngitis where I don’t always take pictures of my food, just sometimes.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from New Jersey’s coast who got to use the term, “Nerd Herd” without irony this weekend. If you’d like to join a nerdy posse of some kind contact him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.