WW Philly: A View From The Floor

The 2008 installment of Wizard World's Philadelphia convention has come and gone, and having had an evening to decompress, it's the perfect time for con-goers to catch up on the news they may have missed, take stock over whether those "Thor" back-issues were really worth what was paid in the heat of the moment, and generally assess how the whole thing went.

With Philadelphia a mere two-hour drive from the mainstream comic industry's homebase in New York City, Wizard World Philly is traditionally a kind of "backyard hangout" show where editors and creators from NYC take a train or bus down, hang a little bit later at the bar, and occasionally announce a big ticket project. This year's show fit that bill with rare exception. And while that meant Philly wasn't as big as the massive conventions in New York or San Diego, it does make it the kind of con where aspiring artists could sneak upstairs to the convention center's couch-filled lounge for a lengthy portfolio review with Vertigo editor Bob Schreck or see creators on the social scene such as Marvel's C.B. Cebulski, who seemed to be having a really intense discussion with Lou Ferrigno Friday night at the Marriott bar.

The show's layout conformed to that of the majority of the stops on the Wizard World Tour of cons, with the Wizard and Top Cow booths serving as an anchor for one end of the show floor with Aspen Entertainment's booth giving way on the other end to a Guitar Hero video game stage and the traditional "wrestler's row" of C-list celebrity guests. DC Comics brought a stripped-down setup of a backdrop and some signing tables that saw brisk traffic whenever show Guest of Honor and "Final Crisis" artist J.G. Jones was on hand for autographs. Marvel held down the opening area of the floor with their stalwart con booth including a "life-sized" statue of the Hulk to promote the character's upcoming film, their general mix of party jams like Kriss Kross' "Jump" (for the record: the Daddy Mac will, in fact, make ya) and their regular end of day game of "let's whip the crowd into an excited frenzy by giving away items they might or might not actually pay for under other circumstances."

Floor traffic over the weekend had its ups and downs. Friday's crowd was noticeably thin with the aisles relatively open but not entirely empty and many panel rooms feeling half empty for most programming. However, the watch word for Friday was "gear up for Saturday," and the second day of the show delivered on the promise with a larger number of fans, longer autograph lines and an active artist's alley. Surprisingly, this activity carried over strongly into the typically sluggish Sunday with what seemed a better than average crowd, particularly in the case of the line to meet "Battlestar Galactica" star Katee Sackhoff (who one fan said "was really cool and smelled really nice, too").

On Sunday afternoon, shortly before the show floor closed, Wizard's Senior VP of Operations Joe Yanarella took a moment to discuss the show. "Obviously, attendance looms large because more attendance means happy exhibitors, happy dealers, a happy artist's alley crowd and creative energy �" creative energy in terms of panels, in terms of floor excitement and activity," Yanarella told CBR News. "We're very pleased with the numbers we've had, the crowds we've seen. We don't have any numbers or information yet at 4:00 on Sunday, but Sunday today, which traditionally at some shows is a dying day, was incredibly vibrant with Katee Sackhoff and Garth Ennis only here on Sunday. So we're very happy about that."

In terms of attempting to raise the excitement level for Wizard shows, Yanarella copped to complaints that many conventions put on by the company year after year feature a repetitive guest list. "We treat very seriously any criticisms we hear of our shows, and one of those is that we need to diversify our guest list at times. And we're very aware of that," he said, noting that Wizard had hopes their June 26th to 29th Chicago convention would draw fans in with the likes of Warren Ellis, Alex Ross and a few soon-to-be-announced creators rarely scene at Wizard cons or cons in general.

On the retail end, Wizard World Philly was very much a back-issue show. A multitude of quarter bins and similarly bargain-priced retail spots covered the floor �" however, there were a few sellers specializing in current books and trends, including Jimmy Jay of online and convention only retailer Jay's Comics. "It's been a really solid show," he told CBR News. "I think this year, it being closer to New York [Comic-Con]. it was a little bit tougher for people to come out and do two big shows within about six weeks of each other. But other than that...it's been a very good solid show. It's not a blockbuster, but it's definitely worth being here."

Jay also echoed Yanarella's sentiments that new guests to Wizard cons helped to build retail buzz and up attendee numbers, citing "Ultimates 3" artist Joe Madureira as a buzzworthy draw early this year at Wizard World Los Angeles. However, no one single guest of the Philly convention seemed to generate that kind of excitement, although the Jay Comics booth did sell out of the copies of "Final Crisis" #1 they brought.

Of course, the best part of any convention floor is making the rounds in Artist's Alley, and while Wizard World Philly rolled along, we bumped into a few con regulars and a few rare faces, including...

Eric Battle

The former "Batman" and "Tales of the Unexpected" artist was selling copies of his latest series "Wild Cards: The Hard Call" from Dabel Brothers Productions. Set in the world created by and created with concepts from novelist George R.R. Martin and scripted by Daniel Abraham, Battle noted the six-issue miniseries "is not an adaptation. These are brand new Wild Cards stories, so for people who are already familiar with the Wild Cards universe, it's something new for them in between the novels."

Joe Quinones

While the indie artist has been making the rounds on the comics blogosphere thanks to his reinterpretations of Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" characters, Joe Quinones also working on raising his profile as he just sold a 52-page story for an upcoming anthology published by Devil's Due. In the meantime, Quinones is drawing a new cover for "Hack/Slash" and preparing a creator-owned series with writer J. Torres to pitch to a major publisher in the near future.

Tom Raney

Raney has few pages left on the first issue of "Secret Invasion: Inhumans" his Marvel event tie-in written by "Heroes" scribe Joe Pokaski. "There's an awful lot going on in it," was the best hint he could give as to the story's plot.

Art Baltazar and Franco

The co-creators of DC's kiddie series "Tiny Titans" took to Saturday with some flair in outfits they described as the uniforms of French Archeologists. Sketches from their table of the Teen Titans characters were a popular show commission, and they said Robin is most popular while Raven is popular with the girls. When asked how DC's providing of Free Comic Book Day copies of "Tiny Titans" #1 had made their show, Baltazar responded, "We're rock stars. We're real famous."

"I signed a whole bunch of them!" Franco added.

"Real famous," Baltazar continued. "Real famous. All I got to do is date Gwyneth Paltrow, and I'm all set."

"I don't like her, sir. I don't think I could hang out with you two."

"But you've got to date her to be famous. Either her or Jennifer Aniston."

"Well, that I could do."

Rick Leondardi

Leonardi was something of a phantom con guest as his late addition to the artist alley lineup saw him moving tables from Friday to Saturday (he took Joe Jusko's table after Joe took Amanda Conner's table after she had to stay home due to flooding in her Florida basement), but once he found his home, the artist had plenty of new pages on display for fans to check out. While Leonardi has been drawing a number of issues for "Superman" editor Matt Idelson, his next issues will be for DC editor Mike Marts with a two-part tale for Jim Shooter's "Legion of Super-Heroes" and a prelude special tying into "Rann/Thanagar: Holy War" written by Jim Starlin.

Leonardi had pages of both on hand, noting of Shooter, "He's also the guy that hired me way back in the early '80s. It's a real hoot to finally see a Shooter plot in the flesh. You notice that Dream Girl appears [on my opening splash], and I may have clipped off a few of her toes, but that's as cropping as much as Shooter would ever tolerate. He taught me so much, and at the time I thought it was rigid and pedantic, but it turns out that there's actually a very good reason for a lot of these rules."

The artist also teased that he's working on a pitch for a classic character revival with Marv Wolfman on script, which is working its way through the DC editorial approval system.

Shane Davis

Note to fans: "Superman/Batman" artist Shane Davis is not Patrick Gleason. So if you see him at the bar at a show, please do not mistake him for the "Green Lantern Corps" penciller (like this reporter did). When asked whether Davis has ever met his DC doppelganger in person, he said that he hadn't and was worried that meeting Gleason may have disastrous results as their atoms occupying the same physical space may cause an atomic explosion. In the meantime, Davis will begin working on Geoff Johns' "Rage of the Red Lanterns" arc in "Green Lantern" with inker Sandra Hope.

Jim Krueger

The writer spent the weekend dividing his time between the Dynamite and Marvel booths signing "Project Superpowers" (#4 is coming soon) and "Avengers/Invaders" (ditto #2). In a rare bit of creator physical fitness news, Krueger is spending much of his non-writing time running road races. "I did one marathon and one half marathon. The marathon in Florida and the half out in California, and that's been going really great."

Beyond the exercise game, Krueger has a graphic novel from the Fox Atomic Studios imprint coming soon.

Click here for a complete list of CBR's coverage of Wizard World Philadelphia.

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