So, that title isn’t too optimistic. At the end of the day, it was a good experience, but it wasn’t without its issues. I’d never been to a Wizard World show before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Considering Wizard has been putting on shows for years, I expected a well-oiled machine, even if this was their first foray into Richmond. I had been to the VA Comicon in Richmond, so surely it had to better than that, right? Right?! Why was I making the +2 hour trip to Richmond? One reason: to meet Jason David Frank, the original Green Power Ranger. After crossing meeting Stan Lee and Adam West off my bucket list, that left one person I wanted to meet. My Power Rangers fandom has been covered at great length, so this should come as a surprise to no one. This as the closest Frank appearance in years, so I talked Special Forces into joining me, and we made the trip.
We got to the Greater Richmond Convention Center around 10, just as the show was starting. We didn’t prebuy tickets because we didn’t want to pay the online fee. This meant that tickets at the door were $55 for one day. That’s more than twice the Sunday price for Baltimore Comic-Con. Surely, I’d get my money’s worth, right? Or so I thought. We walked into the showroom and started to make the rounds. We were done by 11 AM. There just weren’t enough booths to fill up all the space.
The first thing to know is that this is more of a pop culture show than a comic convention. This meant that there were only 2 comic vendors, and they were selling the kinds of books that would’ve been on Wizard‘s Top 20 List 20 years ago. Stuff like Venom #1 (not Agent Venom, but the original brain eater) and old issues of Uncanny X-Men. The rest of the vendors sold toys and collectibles – several of whom I’d just seen in Baltimore the earlier in the week. They seemed so pressed for vendors that there were some decidedly non-Con companies there, like Lasik and Adam & Eve. The local CW affiliate was there, promoting this fall’s new shows and giving away temporary Flash tattoos. Artists, like Neal Adams, Arthur Suydam, and Kevin Eastman, were scattered amongst the vendor booths.
At the back of the room were the celebrity autograph booths. In addition to Jason David Frank, there was Ernie Hudson, Sean Patrick Flanery, Giancarlo Esposito, Dean Cain, Ron Pearlman, Batista, Michael Rooker, James Marsters and Lou Ferrigno. Oh, and the guy who plays Slade on Arrow. On top of the admission paid to get into the show, you then had to pay extra for autographs and photo ops. These prices ranged from $30-100, depending on the celebrity. I was amazed by how much Dean Cain thought he could charge for an autograph, and I wasn’t alone, as he didn’t have much of a line all day. Oh yeah, Harry Kim from Star Trek: Voyager was there, and he didn’t seem to have much demand either. I mean, he’s one of the lesser characters of the most hated Trek show. What do ya expect? Cameras weren’t allowed in that area, as they wanted you to pay for pictures, so we didn’t linger there for long. Seeing as how my prepaid photo op with Frank (another $55) wasn’t until 6:30, we had to find some way to kill the next 7 hrs. We were gonna have to go to some panels.
Usually when I go to cons, I avoid the panels because they take up valuable showroom time, and most are recapped online anyway. Lately, I don’t even look at the con programming, since I have no plans to take part in any of it. This time, however, we had to go to some panels just to kill time. The first one that caught our eye was a 30-minute preview of Gotham, courtesy of Fox. It seemed odd to me that they would only show us 30 minutes of a 45-minute show, but free is free. The panel was from 12:00-12:30, and they didn’t get started until about 12:10. Before it starts, they tell us they had plans to show the whole pilot, but Fox had pulled it from them the day before. So, we’d now be watching a 20-minute preview sent by the network. What we ended up getting was a 10-minute future DVD featurette about the show and nothing else. People started leaving the minute we were told it wasn’t the pilot, but more people left during the featurette. I don’t believe that the Wizard World staff ever had the whole pilot because the pre-printed programs already mentioned that it was a 30-minute preview, which wouldn’t have been enough time for the pilot anyway. I think they always meant to show the featurette and just covered it up by saying Fox pulled the pilot from them.
Once the Gotham thing was done, we went back to the show floor and made the rounds a few more times. Mainly, we’d stop by the CW booth to see if they had their prize wheel out again. It was at this time that I finally talked Special Forces into doing Sci Fi Speed Dating. If you’ll remember, about a year ago, TLC had a special called Geek Love, about sci-fi speed dating – an event that took place at SDCC and the New York Comic-Con. I guess the guy decided to expand, as here he was in Richmond, VA. We had passed his table several times, and he’d called out to us. I couldn’t do it, ’cause ya know, married, but SF was fair game. Once I agreed to finance it (it was free for women, but $20 for men), he finally agreed to do it. When I heard that it was $20, I blurted out, “These better be some top shelf women!” The speed dating host tried to shame me and replied, “And what if they aren’t?” My answer should have been, “Then I want my money back”, but I knew what he wanted to hear. I said, “Well, I guess that’d be alright, too.” Ugh. Anyway, when Mike was done, I asked him how it went. All he could say was “It was stupid! It was dumb.” So, I don’t really know what happened behind those doors…
While he was in speed dating, I went to the Adam West and Burt Ward panel, commemorating the release of Batman on DVD and Blu Ray. It was your standard Q&A, complete with stupid questions. One kid asked how many Batphones were used during the filming of the show, while some other folks asked Mayor West questions. No real juicy tidbits came out of it, but it was good to see them in a panel setting since I didn’t get that when I met them at Monster Mania last year.
After that, we went to the Jason David Frank Q&A session, which was really good. He’s engaging and great with his fans. Like any Q&A, the questions ranged from good to stupid, but he had great answers and stories for all of them. He told us how he’d been invited to Neverland Ranch, but that it was OK because he was over 18. And he told us about how Amy Jo used to get calls from prisoners. In all, it was the best panel of the day.
When it was finally time for my pic with Jason, I was really nervous while I waited in line. Would I smile? Would I pose with my Morpher? I met him and he shook my hand. The pics were an assembly line, but he was nice and gracious the whole time. I told him it was an honor to meet him and shuffled off to pic up my print.
You didn’t come for all that exposition, though, did you? You probably came for cosplay pics. Well, here ya go!