So Wizard World finally decided to stick a Comic-con in Madison and see how it goes. Now mind--I've been going to cons since 2008, butI've never been to Comic-con, so seeing that there's one now pretty much in my backyard. I had no excuse. I had to go see it. I also took my 10 year old son and his friend, because kids 10 and under were free. Couldn't pass that up.
Size: So, obviously, Comic-con is larger. Much, MUCH larger. I don't know what the final total was, but I can easily see 10,000 people alone being at the con.
Venue: They held most of Comic-con in the large Alliant Center exhibit hall, which is pretty big until you realize what it really is: A gigantic Dealer's Room. I mean, big, big biiiiiiiiiiiiig Dealer's room. And I've been to Chicon, and that was pretty huge. But at the same time, they had things in there that you wouldn't necessarily find at a regular con's dealer's room. For instance, they had a gaming area towards the back where you could do board and card games. I had read in the programming that they would have Pokemon card battles, but I didn't see anyone playing it, so I was disappointed. But the boys and I had a rousing game of Clue, so it actually turned out all right.
The rest of the floor was devoted to dealers, comics...and celebrities.
Celebrities: So this is something that I absolutely have not experienced before. When I first started going to cons, most were all literary, so there were many places that had my favorite authors right there. In fact, the very first person I met at my very first con was Nisi Shawl, where I proceeded to have my very first fangirl experience (and startling her in the process, I'm sure). But most of the cons I've been to have been literary, and my celebrities--famous authors--were mostly down to earth folk who were easy to approach, and love hanging out in bars.
Comic-con is so very different. It's a pop-culture con, so no literary folk. Heavily media oriented, particularly film and TV shows. And they had stars. William Shatner and Edward James Olmos stars. And we saw them all from a distance. Because the difference between authors and celebrites are a good $50 to get even close to a celebrity.
That had to suck for them. Because for the most part, you had to pay to even get in line to talk to them. Which worked I guess if people are watching your show, or if people still love you. But if you're a nobody, or worse, a has been, well, no one pays to see you. I saw a lot of celebrities sitting there, looking bored, playing on their phones. (Omigosh, George Wendt. For the longest time I was trying to figure out why the heck George Wendt from Cheers was there. I learned that he had actually done a lot of cartoon voices, but come on. George Wendt? Really?)
That said, I was able to wave at Ernie Hudson. And shoot, I totally missed Billy Dee Williams. But really, ain't no way was I going to pay to get up close to them. Which is sort of sad. But I did get to see Shatner and Olmos.
Panels: So Panels were held in the meeting room portion of the Alliant Center--meaning one large room and two smaller rooms. Which means the panels were pretty much held one after another. I actually liked that. Single panel programming made it easier to attend. The panels with the celebrites were short--only 1/2 hour long.
We got in line for the first panel, which was Edward James Olmos. I was thinking that would be packed, but surprisingly, all of us was able to get in with room to spare. I really enjoyed Olmos's session. He talked about not just Battlestar Galactica, but also Blade Runner, West Wing, and other shows. And he also talked about the value of diversity in shows and even a bit about how BSG was used to explore racial tensions, which could be used in Ferguson (I was deeply, deeply impressed by that. Even Olmos gets it).
After Olmos's time was up, Shatner was next in the same room, so we basically stayed put. Which was awesome. Okay, yeah, I did feel a litttle bit sorry because I heard the line for Shatner coming into the room was twice as long. But NOT SORRY ENOUGH.
Besides, they showed Shatner's session on a big screen TV in the food area, so it all worked out in the end.
Shatner. Well. What can I saw. With Olmos, he and another guy sat on stage across from each other and talked in an interview format and also took questions from the audience. Shatner came out and dragged a stool out to center stage, where he talked to the audience--well, monologued the audience for most of the session. But he's a showman, first and foremost, so while it wasn't much about Star Trek, and more about this motorcycle he's building he still had us rolling in laughter.
There was a moment thought that I considered to be my favorite part of the day. As I mentioned, I had brought along my son and his friend. So whereever I went, they had to go with me. This included Olmos, which neither of them had heard of (because no I did not to show my son the rebooted BSG. What's wrong with you?). So while I was listened to an engaging, thoughtful commentary on race in media, they were bored as rocks.
My son, on the other hand, did know Shatner from watching the old episodes, so he was quite excited. So he clapped and cheered when Shatner came. Then he started talking, and he's talking about UFOs and riding his motorcycle in the desert and hallucinations and quantum physics and so on, and at about a good seven minutes into his monologue my son, my beautiful, darling son, heaves a sigh and says in a whisper loud enough for everyone around us to hear: "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT."
Which, let's face it, we were all thinking that.
The evening panels were more indicative of ones I was used to. Attended a hilarious comedy show put on by Cthulu's Comedy Collective, and I checked out the costume contest, which was fun. Speaking of which:
Costumes: I like this part of science fiction cons. The ones I go to are usually geared towards serious discussion (and there are a few who outright discourage wearing costumes). So was neat to go to Madison Comic-con and satisfy that part of my inner geek. Not just seeing all the awesome costumes, but participating in it myself along with my son. It's not everyday that I get to dress up as a delinquent catholic school cat girl.
But the costumes were phenomenal.
Of course, many selfies:
And of course, Dr Who.
The boy was in heaven. There was a moment when we came to an intersection in the exhibition hall right at the same time as two other Dr Whos and a walking Tardis. My son and the other Dr Whos all looked at each other, then whipped out their sonic screwdrivers and pointed them at each other. I'm still trying to decide if that was a geeky Dr. Who thing or a male thing in general.
Also, for some reason, a whole lot of Harlequinns. Which is interesting, because none of the movies have featured Harlequinn. But a lot of women apparently like dressing up as her. Huh.
Overall: I had gone to Comic-com with low expectations and left pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. Would I do it again? Hmm. I don't know. The steep membership (or weekend pass, however they call it) and all the add-ons you have to pay for to get like VIP access to events to me wasn't that much worth it. I'm not a big TV person, so I didn't care much about the celebrities who were there, and the ones I did know, I was like 'meh' (well okay, I was bummed I missed seeing Billy Dee Williams, but even there I would've seen him from a distance.) Also, there was the fact that there were TOO MUCH PEOPLE. There were no quiet places for introverts like me to go and recharge. I also missed my standard author hangout at Barcon. In fact, the Comic-con pretty much shut down after 9pm. There were several bars that hosted afterparties where you could get in free with your wristband, but by then, I was so burnt out, I didn't want to hang out with a bunch of other strangers at a bar blasting loud music. I just wanted to go home. And finally, yeah, the comic-con felt pretty...commercial. Many of the emcees were obviously not from Madison, and they were pretty blatant about it. It got irritating after a while. Most of the panels were celebrity based. There were only a few panels that had local people--the aforementioned comedy troupe from Milwaukee, for instance. (Okay, Milwaukee isn't considered local to Madison, but I'm not complaining).
That last reason, though, is something that absolutely can be fixed. I think the good thing about the WizardWorld comic-cons is that they conform to whatever cities they're in by the use of local volunteers. For instance, I know at the Chicago Comic-con, there is a whole group of authors who appear as special guests, and the panels are more numerous and diverse--heck, they even had a few panels that discuss diversity in fandom. So if I do go back, I wouldn't mind going in as a volunteer panelist or something. The thing I liked about Madison Comic-con was that it pulled in a bunch of people who aren't necessarily into the local con scene, but want that con experience. And if they come back next year, that might actually boost attendance at the local cons. Win all around. So yeah, I'd go back to WizardWorld Madison Comic-con in 2016.
Especially if Jesus comes again.