Spencer: Last year’s Wizard World Philadelphia 2014 (which I covered in explicit detail here on the site) was my very first ComicCon, and it was a fantastic experience, so much so that it may be hard for other cons to top it. Also a disadvantage: I was only able to spend one day (Saturday) at this year’s Wizard World Philadelphia, as opposed to four last year. Ultimately the two years ended up being vastly different experiences, even if there were also a surprising amount of similarities. There was one lesson that this year’s con drilled into my brain even more than last’s, though: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. With only one day I could never do everything I did last year, but I think I made the best use of the time I had. It was a pretty terrific day.
With time being such a precious commodity, I ended up structuring my day around three core sets of celebrities (and even that was a torturous decision — I passed up a Hayley Atwell panel and a Kevin Conroy autograph to meet Dan Slott, for example). The first were David Tennant and Billie Piper, a.k.a. the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler from Doctor Who. I didn’t get to meet these guys — it was super expensive and booked solid by the time I decided to attent — but the friends I traveled with had VIP passes, which not only got them pictures with Tennant on Sunday, but admittance into an exclusive Q&A panel. I happily tagged along as their +1.
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s watched Doctor Who, but Tennant and Piper have incredible chemistry, and appear to be close friends, and thus the panel was an absolute treat to watch. I mean, their affection was palpable, and on more than one occasion Tennant was able to answer questions asked of Piper (and vice versa). Early on a fan used the term “crap-ton” in her question and Tennant latched onto it like a leech, and it quickly became a running gag throughout the rest of the panel, but my favorite moment came when a fan asked if either actor had taken anything from the set. Tennant hadn’t, but it turns out Piper’s taken quite a bit, including a ring that belonged to Margaret the Slitheen. They never were able to clear up whether the ring belonged to the actress or the character, but it did lead to Tennant’s fantastic retort, “I’ve never fingered a Slitheen’s ring!”
It took several minutes to calm down the audience after that one.
Dan Slott (of Superior Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man and Silver Surfer) was front-row at the panel, as befitting one of the world’s biggest Doctor Who fans, and got the opportunity to show off a bit himself, correcting Tennant on some Doctor Who trivia he misremembered when answering a question. That was actually something that seemed quite prominent throughout the panel — it’s been nearly ten years since Tennant and Piper worked together on the show, and they were getting more than a bit rusty on the minute details of the job. What shone through loud and clear, though, was Tennant and Piper’s fond memories of being on Doctor Who, the deep friendships they forged along the way, and the appreciation they have for the fans who love them so much.
And it was certainly clear how much the fans adored Tennant and Piper. The first fan to ask a question had it fully written out for a friend to read because she was too busy sobbing in joy. A couple cosplaying as the Doctor and Rose were visiting the con on their honeymoon. The last question came from a very young boy cosplaying as Tennant’s Doctor — it was a striking likeness, and the crowd went crazy for him. I can only imagine how that boy will look back on that moment — I’m so happy for him.
Next up was Dan Slott:
Before I could meet Slott, though, I saw him in the “Marvel: Inside the House of Ideas” panel with Spider-Man 2099 scribe Peter David, Spider-Man 2099 and Fearless Defenders artist Will Sliney and Marvel’s Manager of Talent Relations, George Beliard. This was supposed to be a Q&A panel, but there wasn’t really all that much to ask or even tease — every question about Marvel’s post-Secret Wars future was met with a strict “no spoilers” policy, so the panel quickly devolved into each creator just telling stories and chatting about their career.
Fortunately, that was phenomenally entertaining. Beliard raved about the variant covers coming in, and Sliney recounted how working on Spider-Man 2099 has made him famous in his home country of Ireland (Miguel O’Hara is half-Irish, so an Irishman drawing a half-Irish Spider-Man made the national news — I believe he even met the Prime Minister), but David and especially Slott stole the show. I truly believe the two of them would have sat there and told stories all day if they’d been allowed — the moderator actually had to interrupt Slott on more than one occasion when his stories started eating up too much time.
I felt a bit bad for Peter David, who mentioned his landmark run on The Incredible Hulk a few times on the panel and ended up fielding several questions about the Hulk from fans who had quite obviously never read his run. Interestingly enough, he did mention that he got the job writing The Incredible Hulk because literally no other writer at Marvel would touch the character at the time. Prior to that he had only written a few issues of Spider-Man, a job he landed because he had been nice to an assistant editor who was suddenly promoted, and a job David lost just as quickly due to jealousy. In what ended up being the funniest story of the panel, Slott recounted how he got started at Marvel by lying, getting a job as a college intern when he wasn’t even in college and later being refused a full-time job because “he hadn’t graduated.” When he came clean, editor Tom DeFalco told him “Never do that again.” He also mentioned how he got into his first Marvel retreat because a few writers dropped out and they didn’t want the buffet to go to waste.
After all the spoiler hubbub, Slott was able to divulge a few juicy Silver Surfer tidbits. First up, we can expect to see the Surfer and Dawn appear in upcoming issues of Groot and Guardians Team-Up. Slott’s still finding it weird to see somebody else write Dawn — this is the first time — but he’s enthusiastic about her portrayal. The next bit of information is much more sensitive, so I’m labeling it with a MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT: During Secret Wars, while almost all the Marvel characters are trapped on Battleworld, Surfer and Dawn will be left in what was once outer space, now reduced to nothingness by the final Incursion, and it will be Norrin’s job to rebuild the universe. What changes will he be tempted to make? Will he recreate Galactus? Bring back planets he helped destroy? It really does sound like a fascinating story.
After the panel I rushed to meet Peter David, who signed my Young Justice trades, and together we lamented that wonderful series’ untimely demise. Next was Slott himself, who was just as upbeat and chatty in person as he was on the panel. He spent a while debating Philadelphia’s best cheesesteaks with his assistant and the fans in front of me in line (he ended up going to Jim’s, and I was oddly proud, as I’ve been there a bunch of times), but I got him refocused on comics with the first book I asked him to sign: Silver Surfer 11. Slott seemed really happy that I brought it, and spoke about how he and the Allreds plan to do at least one epic, oversized, mind-bendingly experimental issue like it every year. He thanked me for liking the title even if it was a “Doctor Who ripoff” and went on to discuss how he sent some issues to former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies (who apparently enjoyed them). Slott also complimented me on my Flash t-shirt, and together we freaked out about the fact that Grant Gustin followed him on Twitter. In the end, I can’t emphasize how much fun it was to talk to Slott. He’s just a jovial, outgoing guy who immediately put me at ease, and I wish I could have listened to his stories all day.
Next I turned my attention to the final celebrity on my agenda: Stephen Amell, Arrow‘s Oliver Queen/Arrow. I’ve been watching Arrow since the first episode and have been following Amell on Twitter for quite a while, but it wasn’t until I saw that he’d be appearing at Wizard World that it clicked in my brain how much I like the guy. I obviously don’t know Amell, but he just seems like a stand-up guy, and everything I saw of him at Wizard World seemed to reinforce the idea.
First came his Q&A Panel, and it took me several minutes to get used to Amell’s voice — my respect for his acting chops immediately skyrocketed when I realized how much he lowers his voice to play Oliver Queen. I was also amazed by how Amell handled himself throughout the panel. He couldn’t have been more professional, as he was very clearly looking to keep the panel running on time, but yet he was also determined to answer every single question. Not once did Amell say “I don’t know” to a fan — even when faced with strange, unanswerable, or repeat questions, Amell gave it some thought and replied with the best possible answer he could come up with.
Really, I could probably just rave about Amell for the rest of this article. He has this low-key energy to him that’s just very calming — he’s chill, genuine, and down-to-Earth, yet obviously filled with enthusiasm for his work and his fans. He talked about his hopes for Oliver Queen (he should smile!), his attempts to get Constantine re-picked up after its cancellation, his charity work, and even brought his mother on stage! He also collapsed into a fit of laughter when a young boy got in line just to repeat a story John Barrowman had told at another Con about how David Ramsay (who plays Diggle) claimed his farts didn’t smell and Amell replied, “Prove it — fart in my mouth.” Cursing Barrowman all the way, Amell was forced to admit it was true.
The most heartwarming moment of the panel (no, the day) came when a very young boy in a red hoodie approached the microphone and told Amell “I’m sorry, but I like Roy more than you,” and Amell, in this astoundingly calm voice, reassured the boy that it was okay to like other characters more than him, that Oliver doesn’t have to be everybody’s favorite character. I’m still genuinely impressed by how legitimately sweet, heartfelt, and non-condescending his response (which you can see in full here) was.
After the panel I was able to get my photo taken with Amell, and man, it was like a conveyer belt. I kind of resent how perfunctory the whole process is, but I can’t deny that even just getting to say “hello” and “thank you” to Amell and get a photo with him was pretty amazing, even if it barely lasted 30 seconds. I wish I looked better in the photo itself (it’s not my finest moment), but man, I still look at this thing with a lot of pride.
In last year’s write-ups I know I griped quite a bit about how crassly commercialized Wizard World was, with these kind of lightning fast photo ops being my biggest target of ire. I admit now, though, that I may be biased — a few years ago I got to spend a whole day working with my favorite band and actually managed to form a bit of a relationship with them, and after that I suppose any other sort of celebrity encounter falls short. But what I came to understand Saturday after watching fans interact with Slott, Tennant, Piper and Amell is that the fans at Wizard World aren’t looking for that — and, really, they aren’t even looking for a quick brush with fame. They just want to meet the people who mean so much to them and tell them how much they appreciate what they do. I still find these ops just a tad bit mercenary, but in the end they’ve brought a lot of people — including myself — happiness, and who am I to argue with that?
So I don’t regret prioritizing these three celebrities one bit, but it did cut way down on the time I could squeeze in between appointments to spend on the floor itself, and especially in Artists’ Alley. Actually, Artists’ Alley was a bit of a bummer for me this year anyway, as many of the creators present were ones I already spoke to last year, and I didn’t really have anything new to ask them or get signed (I suppose I could’ve chatted up Van Sciver about Convergence 0, but I’m not that masochistic). I also realized that I have a bit of an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to the booths. Last year I methodically worked my way down every row from front to back, but there just wasn’t time for that this year, and it made it hard to focus on any of the booths knowing I could be missing out on something cool somewhere else. I ended up buying very little in the way of souveniers: besides the first issue of Archie vs. Predator (which I haven’t had time for yet but I can’t wait to read), all I picked up were these silly, yet really fun nametags:
After a while I actually got a little anxious because of everything I thought I was missing, and eventually I just had to stop, calm down, and give myself permission to miss things. The day became much more fun when I accepted that I couldn’t do or see everything, and instead of agonizing over the booths I was missing, I could just enjoy the ones I did get to. It lifted a weight from my chest, and I enjoyed the rest of the day so much more. In fact, this freed me up to do more of what might just be my favorite part of ComicCon: find some really cool cosplayers.
Actually, my only real regrets are missing out on snapping photos of my two favorite cosplayers of the day, a Rocket Raccoon and “Sharknado.” Still, I think I found a pretty impressive set of cosplayers:
Next year I will definitely have to be more diligent and make it to all four days again (or perhaps even make it to a different con — I’m still jealous of you meeting Scott Snyder at C2E2, DeLaney), but for now, I think I made out pretty well with the time I had available. Hey, looks like I learned some time management skills — who would’ve thought I’d learn usable life skills at ComicCon?!