Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday
Wizard World Cleveland – getting there and back again
First off, i want to mention my travel to the show. As i mentioned in Part 1, due to parking lots being booked and the arctic temperatures in Cleveland right now, i tried out Uber to get me to the Cleveland Convention Center. For my inaugural trip i opted for uberSELECT service, which is one of four options available to riders, in this case an upgraded experience.
It could not have been any easier.
Using the Android app, i requested a ride from my home in Lakewood, and for the destination i simply had to input “Cleveland Convention Center.” As soon as i hit “done,” a car popped up on the map and said let me know Phil would be there in 8 minutes. Stunningly accurate, i was able to see Phil’s Yukon as it made its way over, and sure enough it arrived exactly on time as indicated.
Phil, and his vehicle, were very nice. He asked if i’d used Uber before, and since i hadn’t, he gave me a promo code for a discounted ride. We chatted a bit on the short drive, and he said how much he likes being an Uber driver, and told me about how both the driver and the rider can rate each trip. So if either party rates the other below three stars, the app will avoid pairing them in the future.
Phil got me to the show in 14 minutes, and brought me right to the front entrance. The ride cost $10, which at the end of the day is pretty good considering i had the upgraded service. Special event parking would probably cost at least that, and granted i still had to get a lift home later, but since i would have had to park several blocks away on top of it this was a real bargain.
For the trip home, i selected the standard service, and Cedric arrived with five minutes at the Convention Center Entrance. Cedric is a Vietnam vet who worked as a taxi cab driver in Cleveland for many years and now is an Uber driver. He loves it, and we chatted the whole way back about different routes through the city and about how cool Uber service is. The ride home was $16.62, a little more due to no promo code this time and also there were surge rates in effect, presumably due to the weekend event.
For tomorrow and Sunday, i’ll definitely be taking Uber trips to and from Wizard World. While overall it’s probably a bit more than parking, i don’t imagine it’s that much more, and for the convenience alone it’s totally worth the cost. Plus, i’m a big ol’ geek and if i’m honest i thought it was just plain neat to use the app for a ride.
For the start of the weekend convention, i had a few priorities heading inside. First off, i wanted to get lots of photos, particularly of costumed attendees, for The News-Herald Media Gallery. Frankly, i was a little surprised at the scarcity of costumes i saw. When i went to Gen Con, i think there were more people in costumes than not, but standing in line to get onto the floor i didn’t spot too many people dressed up. With the frigid temperatures in Cleveland, i was expecting at least a few Captain Colds, Mr. Freezes, Killer Frosts or some Hoth-geared Lukes and Hans.
The other priority for me was picking up some loot! A big part of conventions are the vendors on the floor, who offer all sorts of stuff from comics, toys, games, collectibles, t-shirts, swords, steampunk accessories, and in the case of comic cons, lots and lots of artwork.
For the first couple of hours, i snaked my way around the convention floor, holding back from accumulating a ridiculous amount of cool stuff. It would not have been hard to drop a crap ton of money on all manner of items. One of the most abundant items that many vendors had were Funko Pop! figurines. i don’t know what it is about these vinyl figures, but i like ’em. There’s so many of them! The first one i ever got was from my friend’s son this past Christmas, and at this point they’re starting to pile up into an actual collection.
i couldn’t tell you how many different figures are out there, but it’s easily over a hundred, with characters from film, TV, comics, games, sports and more. Since i didn’t want to go overboard – which would be very easy – i made just a couple of careful decisions and picked up Mirror Universe Spock and Silver Surfer. One day, these will eventually adorn my home office but for now, they’ll stay in their box. For adding to their ranks, i’d like to pick up Mega Man, Dr. Doom, Ghost Rider, Magneto, Avengers 2 Vision, Black Suit Spider-Man, Punisher, several Batmans – including Rainbow Batmans!! – Shazam, Deathstroke, Rocketeer, Glow Baymax, Sheldon Cooper, Hannibal Lecter, Disco Skeltor, Captain Kirk, V for Vendetta, Ash from Army of Darkness, The Bride, The Dude, The Crow, Count Chocula, Cthulhu, Commander Shepard (if they make a FemShep version only), one of the 13 different Stan Lee versions, Clockwork Orange…wow that’s a big list. Okay maybe not all of those, but you get the idea – these things are addictive.
Since i restrict my comics collection to digital versions these days, i wasn’t too keen on rifling through the sea of longboxes on the convention floor. These days, my physical collection is very small, consisting of only a few books i consider special in some way, like Detective Comics #241. Since Neal Adams is at Wizard World, i might see if i can find Mister Miracle #19 and have him sign it though. He only did some inking on that book, and it’s far from anything he’s known for, but i’m a huge Mister Miracle geek so that would be a great addition. Speaking of good ol’ Scott Free, i hope them make a Funko Pop! figure of him and Big Barda – those would be auto-includes for my burgeoning collection.
In other Mister Miracle news, i came across this gem at one of the better booths that had a ridiculous amount of rare comics for sale. Holding this in my hands gave me chills, i’ll admit. Entirely created by Jack Kirby, The King of Comics, i would love to own this, but $75 is too rich for this blogger’s blood.
As for other pop culture obsessions i have, both Star Trek TOS and Mega Man popped up fairly often in various forms at different booths. One artist in particular, Andrew Heath, creates retro-style prints of various characters, shows and so forth. While checking out his work, he mentioned a special offer on his prints, so i picked up both a Mega Man and Star Trek print for $15. These are destined for framing and display along with the Pop! figures, and if i’m honest, whatever else i pick up over the weekend.
The other notable swag i came home with was a freebie given to all attendees of Wizard World Cleveland, an exclusive Greg Horn illustrated cover of The Walking Dead #1. TWD is insanely popular, both the comic and the AMC show, so this was a great giveaway for fans who came to the show. Greg Horn has a booth there as well, so i’m thinking i’ll pony up the $20 he’s charging for a signature on this one.
The official start of the show
An overhead announcement around 4:30 p.m. let everyone know that the official opening ceremony would start soon, so i immediately headed to where it would be held to make sure i could get right up in front.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was there with Wizard World CEO John Macaluso as well as Lou Ferrigno, and Cleveland Browns mascot Chomps, to officially get the convention underway.
Macaluso told the gathered audience that Wizard World was proud to put on their show in the city where Superman was born, which got a great round of applause. He said they were already convinced it was a great decision and would be back again for sure.
Mayor Jackson spoke about how it was terrific to have a show like this in Cleveland, also mentioning how it’s the birthplace of Superman.
Ferrigno, always a fan-favorite, said how exciting shows like this are for the big stars who are guests, because they get the opportunity to really connect with fans on a personal level. He mentioned how he lived in Columbus for a few years in the ’70s, and that he thought Ohio is a great state with passionate fans of pop culture.
Together, the three of them cut the ribbon to officially start the show, and the audience gave a huge round of applause and cheers.
But what else is going on at Wizard World?
After the ceremony, i took another circuit of the exhibition floor to look at more cool stuff, get more photos and stop by Booth 227 where the people behind the comic and web show Cyanide & Happiness and clothing line Any Means Necessary were set up.
Shawn Coss, who i spoke with last week to preview the convention, was there with the rest of the crew selling merchandise and doing sketches for fans.
The guys gave me a great compliment about the write-up and thanked me for reaching out them, which is always nice to hear! That always gives me a chuckle though, too, because the people who share their time with me are really doing me the favor!
i was happy to see so many people gathered around their booth, and i picked up a t-shirt myself to support them and also because Shawn is just a great artist and i really dig his work. It reminds me of another terrific Cleveland artist, Derek Hess, whose work was wildly popular in the ’90s and has since gone on to have his work displayed permanently in The Louvre!
Away from the exhibition floor
Taking a breather to upload my photos and realign myself, i checked out the program for the convention that i’d stuffed in my bag on the way in and hadn’t looked at since.
i must say, i felt pretty dopey looking through it, because there are so many great panel discussions and stuff like that going on and it hadn’t even crossed my mind at that point.
Thankfully, i had only missed a couple of things by this time, although the panel discussions for World War II and Comics, and How to Write Comics would have been cool.
One that was just about to start was called To Be Super-Powerfully Diverse, so i rushed up to Room 4 to check it out. The panel consisted of Tony Isabella, creator of both Black Lightning and Black Goliath and who is also a native Clevelander; Abdul Rashid from AHR Visions; and another creator whose name i unfortunately didn’t catch.
The discussion was very interesting, and the panel noted how happy they were to see that the audience itself was diverse. The general consensus from the panel was that, according to Isabella, comics has “a new status quo, and it’s not going back to all white male heroes.”
Part of the discussion was about a trend in comics to revamp or re-envision existing characters in more diverse ways, and they referenced things like the new female Thor, Sam Wilson (The Falcon) taking over for Captain America, and the retcon of original Green Lantern Alan Scott that made the character homosexual.
“I’d rather see new characters, with new names,” Isabella noted. “Going forward, you’re going to see more diverse characters in comics. No one is stopping that train.”
That is an issue i’ve thought about myself, and touched on back when the female Thor was first announced. On one level, i agree with the panel that new characters would be cool. But at the same time, it seems to me that it is very, very difficult to establish a brand-new character against the backdrop of decades worth of established, iconic characters. Which isn’t to say it’s not worth trying, but i think it’s very hard for audiences to accept new characters, and given the tough market for comics, for a new character to stick around long enough to get established.
After listening to the discussion, i think what does work for comics characters is when creators utilize the history to help establish new characters. For instance, no one believes Sam Wilson will remain Captain America forever (although…why not?). Eventually, Steve Rogers will return to the role, but by then, i think The Falcon’s stint as the star-spangled Avenger will help invigorate that classic character and give him a new prominence.
Likewise, female Thor may one day put Mjolnir down and the classic Odinson will return, but by then, i hope she has established herself enough to become a new hero with her own identity. Personally, i’ve never really enjoyed Thor to begin with, but the current book featuring the female version is one of my favorites right now. So, she can remain Thor as look as possible if you ask me. It’s actually amazing to me that this relatively new character has already become a stronger, more defined female hero than the watermark of all female superheroes – Wonder Woman.
A good portion of the talk focused on current Ms. Marvel, the Muslim teenager Kamala Khan. The point was raised that perhaps the character could have had her own superheroic identity, but again, i think it’s helpful to establishing her that she was given a recognizable name to start her career. Yes, one day she will likely evolve into a different hero, but i think if she would have come out the gate as a brand new character, she might not have had the staying power she’s enjoyed thus far.
An interesting point that was made, too, was that it’s great to have characters who are racially diverse, or gay, or from various religious backgrounds, but that it’s important not to let that define them completely. One of the audience members pointed out that, for example, not all Christians or Muslims are completely devout, so it can be awkward when these sorts of characters are so strongly defined by their faith, or sexual orientation or whatever. That made a lot of sense to the panelists, who agreed and took it a step further.
They talked about how superheroes are role models, and a crucial part of that is making sure they are not perfect in every way. What they meant is that the best heroes always have flaws, because that way it allows them a better chance to resonate with fans who can realistically aspire to emulate them.
Isabella used Superman as an example, and how his ’80’s era revamp was necessary because up until that point, he was basically invincible (i still think he’s too powerful to be reasonably relatable). Since nothing could hurt him or really pose much of a challenge, it started to turn readers away because how can you hope to be like a hero who has absolutely no drawbacks, flaws or foibles?
“You can have a positive role model without them being so perfect that no one can aspire to be like them, because they’re so far beyond you,” Rashid summed up.
The panel ran a little late and had to wrap up quickly to make room for the next group, but all three panelists encouraged the audience to stop by their booths over the weekend to talk more about the topic.
And that’s a wrap
The first day of Wizard World Cleveland was winding down, and likewise the battery on my phone was nearly kaput so i thought i’d better summon Uber while i still could.
Heading into the rest of the weekend, i planned out my time a little better and there are so many great panels and workshops on Saturday and Sunday. This is a good thing also because it’ll help keep me from dropping more cash on stuff…but i’m not gonna lie, i will be getting more stuff for sure.
On Saturday, i definitely want to hit up
- NASA and the Science of Superman
- Boldly Going with William Shatner
- From Cap’s Shield to Agents of SHIELD to Groot!
- Bruce Campbell Versus the Audience
- Gender Equality in Geek Culture
- Cleveland, Home of Siegel, Shuster and Superman
- Marvel Vs. DC: The Battle for Super Cinema & TV
And finish off the day with the Wizard World Costume Contest, with special guest judges Jason David Frank – the Green Ranger, Robert Kurtzman, Knightmage, and Griffin Cosplay.
Sunday is a shorter day, and the conventions “official” closing is Saturday night, but there’s a couple of things i want to attend like
- Cleveland’s Own Resident Superhero – Apama! Umm, What’s an Apama?
- Wizard World Kid’s Costume Contest
Here’s where YOU come in
Are you attending Wizard World Cleveland? Do you have photos to share, or a write-up of your experiences?
Why not Take a Shot and share them here at The Long Shot?
As i mentioned a few weeks ago, i’m really hoping to expand this site and include other contributing writers, and right now i’ve got some geeky prizes to give away for just such people. Check out that link, or click on Take a Shot at the top of the page and see what happens next.
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Thanks for reading, and see you at Wizard World!