As I rode into the heart of Atlanta, with the Georgia World Congress Center coming into view, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness. Although Project Fandom previously covered both Wizard World Portland 2014 and the first annual Walker Stalker Con, I personally did not cover or attend either of those conventions; in fact, I had never attended any comic conventions before. However, I did have a plan, and I felt good about it. I would meet up with ProFan Rick, who would be handling photographer duties for us at the convention (he also happens to be Project Fandom founder Nina’s father); then, together, we would methodically tackle the entire convention with the vim and vigor it deserves. Well, I’m sure we’re all familiar with what they say about mice and men; my best-laid plan went completely out the window when, within a half-hour of walking onto the convention floor, I met Neal Adams.
You see, I happened to arrive a short while before Rick, so I was able to get checked into my hotel–let me stop for a moment. I stayed at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, one of three hotels Wizard World suggested; I never see hotels get mentions in convention coverage, but the way they handle these large crowds has to be commended. Plus, it’s just a damn nice hotel. I digress; I checked in and had time to hit the convention floor for a quick walk around before Rick was due to arrive, so I did. From the moment I set foot inside the convention, it was everything I thought it would be: a complete comic convention template: comics, collectibles, and cosplay: I had Batmen to the left of me, and Jokers to the right. It was immediately awesome. I could have just happily watched everything unfold, but I had a job to do, so I went to work taking notes, taking names, etc. Everything was going fine until this happened:
Now, I’m trying to trust that you know who Neal Adams is, but here’s a crash course: as a comic book artist and writer, Neal Adams is a member of both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. He helped shape not only DC Comics, but modern comics in general, and was instrumental in the fight for comic creators’ rights. Beyond all else, however, what I consider his most important contribution to comics is his role in co-creating the character of John Stewart. As a kid, I became a fan of Green Lantern, and the Green Lantern I knew–from television–was John Stewart. As I’ve grown older and learned more about civil rights history, American history, and the time in which John Stewart was created, my appreciation for the character has grown that much greater–so much so that I bought a copy of Green Lantern #87, John Stewart’s first appearance, and I consider my comic collection pretty much complete–so meeting a legend like Neal Adams was a punch in the gut, and as anyone who has met him at conventions will tell you, he couldn’t be a nicer guy.
After that, I was frankly in danger of being content with getting nothing else for the weekend, but that passed when Rick arrived, and we hit the floor again. This time around, we hit everything from the augmented reality of Norton’s X-Men: Days of Future Past “Take Control of your Future” tent to the retro nostalgia of the classic Batmobile, before rounding out our first night at Wizard World Atlanta 2014 by catching the first day’s final film in the film festival that ran all weekend long.
[pullquote]Saturday was a day filled with panels; panels out the wazoo.[/pullquote]Saturday was a day filled with panels; panels out the wazoo. First, we caught a great panel held by the “pop culture archaeologists” from RetroBlasting, where they talked all about old playsets and action figures. Next we moved over to the Sidney J. Marcus Auditorium to attend an excellent Q&A with James Marsters where he talked about everything from Buffy to Dragon Ball. This began a string of hours where we would not leave our seats for a moment. This run started with Marsters, and then went through a Boondock Saints panel with Sean Patrick Flanery, Clifton Collins Jr, and David Della Rocco where Flanery told some very funny stories and Rocco couldn’t hear anyone saying anything. Then we had the distinct pleasure of spending 45 minutes listening to Karen Gillan answer questions, thank everyone for complimenting her, and introduce the crowd to her father and his knowledge of custard brand names. She was just as charming and lovely as you imagine. This first lineup of panels came to a spectacular ending with “Michael Rooker vs. The Audience”. It’s simple enough; Rooker spends somewhere between a half-hour and 45 minutes playfully evading the audience’s questions with the quick wit of a veteran standup comedian. Frankly, if Rooker, his agent, Wizard World, or someone doesn’t get busy contacting HBO to get this filmed for a one-man show, they’re crazy because it’s supremely entertaining.
After a quick bit of snacking on pizza and hot dogs, our panel-palooza continued with a The Walking Dead fan panel, a panel on how video games can be educational, and a very enlightening panel with one-third of rap icon Run-D.M.C., Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. After this, we had a bit of time to kill before the event of the evening: the cosplay costume contest.
The night’s cosplay contest began with the introduction of those who would be doing the judging, with special guest judge Jason David Frank (Tommy, the green–and white–ranger from the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers). The costumes were incredible, the audience was full of energy, and the MCs were fun and funny. The environment was one of enjoyment and camaraderie where we were all able to walk away winners… although there were actual winners, too. I mean, it was a competition, after all. With that, our long Saturday came to an end.
Sunday was Stan Lee Day. No offense intended to anyone else, but Stan Lee is Stan Lee, and even with being a late addition to the convention, he was a huge draw for everyone… as well he should be. As I’m sure is true of anyone else who has seen Stan Lee do Q&A, I could sit and listen to The Man kid around with the audience for hours on end. Alas, we would have to make do with just 45 minutes; 45 amazing minutes.
Unfortunately, I had to check out of my hotel and could not attend the entire Sunday, which meant I was to miss out on a “Heroes Reunited” panel with Milo Ventimiglia and Robert Knepper. I was really looking forward to it because, not only am I a big fan of Heroes, but since I’ve been rewatching the series for our Throwback Thursday podcast, I’ve realized that age and understanding have allowed me to now watch Heroes and see why I liked it and just how well it really was done. It was a bummer to miss that panel, but it had to be rescheduled from Saturday (which happens and is totally understandable).
[pullquote]The man actually hugged me when I told him I had read Something Terrible.[/pullquote]Other than Stan Lee, there was one other person I really wanted to see on Sunday. Saturday night, in my hotel room, I had been going over the convention’s program and came across a name I had not previously noticed was listed: Dean Trippe. Now, you may not recognize his name, but Trippe is a comic book artist who has done many things, but what made me want to meet him was his very powerful, autobiographical comic Something Terrible. If you haven’t read Something Terrible, you should; it uses the comic medium to tell a heartbreaking story that actually becomes a tale of redemption. In my recent review of C.O.W.L. #1, I talk about the rare comic that is able to do something that changes how comics are perceived, and Something Terrible does that but with very serious subject matter. Anyway, I wanted to walk the convention floor just once more, hoping to meet Dean Trippe before I had to leave, and I did. Not only that, but the man actually hugged me when I told him I had read Something Terrible. Now that’s a great way to end an awesome weekend.
Oh, and because I chose to walk the floor once more for that chance meeting with Dean Trippe, I actually got to meet both Clifton Collins Jr and Milo Ventimiglia, so I’d say that made up for having to miss the Heroes panel later in the day.
Be sure to check back here on Project Fandom all week; we’ll be posting more in-depth reports on the panels, the booths, the film festival, and that great costume contest; all in our coverage of Wizard World Atlanta 2014.