GEEK SQUAD: Top 10 Things @ Wizard World

Photo by DDC95

BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT I spent the last couple of days in the realm of geeks, aka the annual Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, snapping pix of cosplayers (geeks in costumes), listening to celebrity Q&As and surprisingly deep lectures on certain aspects of high nerd-dom, talking shop with other geeks, searching numerous retail stands for comics and statues, and walking around the floors of the Pennsylvania Convention Center in my quests for the correct rooms. In short, it was awesome. Here is a list of the top 10 things at the con.

1. The Shopping. I spent hours walking the maze of vendors throughout the giant show room pricing the different statues and flipping through the long white boxes filled with half-priced graphic novels. A few statues and mini-busts (statues of the torso up) caught my eye. I had to decide between buying a $60 and $100 bust of the Hulk from the storyline Planet Hulk (where he wore gladiator gear), a $55 Mr. Fixit bust (the gray Hulk when he acted as a Las Vegas bouncer), and a $50 Beta Ray Bill bust. I ultimately went with the Beta Ray Bill and the genetically created humanoid horse alien in a modify Thor’s costume sits on my shelf. For those unaware, Beta Ray Bill is one of the few beings worthy of holding Thor’s hammer and Odin gave him his own hammer which is called Stormbreaker. There were also some Green Lantern, Superman, Aquaman, and other statues that I wish I had the money to buy. In particular, there was a giant Spider-Man (in his Iron Spider outfit) statue that would have set me back $500 if I had that kind of money to begin with. As for the graphic novels, I only bought one Impulse comic. Impulse (a member of the Flash family) is one of my favorite heroes and the comic was only three bucks. I was also checking out the three volumes of “Batman: Knightfall”, the graphic novel that introduces “The Dark Knight Rises” villain Bane. My search for the first “Sandman” graphic novel proved fruitless.

2. The Celebrity Q&As. The James Marsters Q&A was just amazing. Marsters is one of the biggest geek icon actors on the planet — he’s like the Lance Armstrong of the nerds — with roles such as Spike from Buffy, Braniac on Smallville, John Hart on Torchwood, and Piccolo in Dragonball Evolution. Marsters begged fans to try and embarrass him, which led to some hilarious questions. The first fan gave Marsters a choice between a music or a personal question. Marsters choose the personal question and was promptly asked when his last threesome was. Without missing a beat he said it was 2004 and that it was good, much to the howling delight of the audience.

3. The Panels. I also enjoyed the panels about how to get into the comic book business and the inner workings of the industry. Artists were advised to always keep working on their craft and copy a variety of comic pages in order to learn how other artists draw certain things. When creating a portfolio artists should draw comic pages and not just pictures so the company can best see how their work transfers to comics. Drawings of Spider-Man and Wolverine by themselves don’t prove that you can draw a comic. The advice for writers was get something published first, whether it is a comic book or novel. Self-publishing is frowned upon and companies don’t consider that publishing because the writer hasn’t proven themselves gatekeepers of publishing. Philly-based crime novelist and comic writer Duane Swierczynski told the audience that Marvel and DC look for writers who have proven themselves in one way or another before they will listen to a pitch. As for the comic scripts themselves, the writers say the amount of details depends on the artist they are working with. The writer might just say “fight for three pages, have fun” or they might go into detail depending on how well they know the artist and what the artist prefer.

4. Meeting Carlo Pagulayan. I had no idea who Pagulayan was until he named some of the books he worked on, including “Planet Hulk”, my personal favorite story arc of the last decade. I have read my copy of the graphic novel about five times, yet I had no idea who even drew those fantastic images. It was honor to meet him.

5. Stan Lee’s Q&A. Stan “The Man” Lee created such characters as The Hulk, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, X-Men, and countless others. He also regularly makes cameos in movies made out of his characters. The still-vigorous 89 year old, chose to stand up for the majority of his Q&A. Asked if there were any characters that his publishers or editors did not believe in that went on to become iconic, without missing a beat Lee said Spiderman. He said that the publisher had no faith in Spider-Man for two reasons: First, people are afraid of spiders. Second, Peter Parker is a geek, a loser with girl problems that flies in the face of everything they expect a hero to be. Lee was forced to debut the character in a dying book, Amazing Fantasy, in order to get the character to appear at all. The publisher stuck with his theory that geek heroes would not sell until the sales figures for Amazing Fantasy 15 came in. Thus was born Spiderman.

6. The League of Heroes. TLOH is a group of cosplayers organized by professional wrestler Eric “The Smoke” Moran who also runs Brothers Production, a small production studio for fan films. Fan films are usually short film created by fans of comics, TV shows, video games etc. TLOH’s costumes (Doctor Strange, Wonder Man, Bane, Superboy) looked like they walked off the pages of the comic books (War Machine, Captain Marvel (Shazam), and Batman). The fan film they debuted, “The Legion of Injustice” (available on youtube) was better than many professional comic films. The film was a simple set up of supervillains Lex Luthor, Bane, The Joker, Cheetah, Sinestro, and Ra Al Gul deciding to team up again to take out the heroes. To their credit, they all agreed that every time they team up like this they get their asses kicked.

7. The “Batman and Psychology” Panel. Psychologist and so called “Superherologist” Travis Langely pointed out that the legal definition of insanity is knowing the difference between right and wrong. As such, Batman and many of his villains (including the Joker) are not insane. However, he said, it is possible to be psychotic without being insane. Also discussed: does Bruce Wayne suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

8. Buffyfest 20th Anniversary Q&A. I have always been a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan and I made it a priority to show up at the “Buffyfest 20th anniversary Q&A.” The panels featured Kristy Swanson (Buffy from the movie), James Marsters (Spike), Amber Benson (Tara), Clare Kramer (Glory), and Mark Metcalf (The Master). The questions were typical Buffy-related queries with a few odd ones put in. The cast was asked how far in advance did they know they were going to die and how did they prepare. James Marsters was expecting to be killed off every week because he was only supposed to last five episodes and Mark Metcalf was told that he got to kill Buffy but not that she will come back and kill him. Asked if they took any of the props home after the final episode was shot, Clare Kramer revealed that she really liked Glory’s underwear collection and took it home.

9. The “Vampire Lore” Panel. Here the discussion focused on vampires and how they represented the concept of “The Other.” Historically, vampires were a group of outsiders blamed for all of society’s troubles. The recent trend of vampires being nice and friendly (“they sparkle”, as fans of Twilight will know) is attributed to society finally realizing that humans are the problems.

10. The Star Trek Captains Reunion. For the first time all five Star Trek captains — William Shatner (Captain Kirk, the original gangsta of Star Trek captains), Patrick Steward (Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager), Avery Brooks (Commander Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine), and Scott Bakulan (Captain Jonathan Archer from “Star Trek: Enterprise,”) — under one roof. All the captains are amazing actors who were not afraid to answer any questions. There was also an emotional moment where a fan told the story of how she is getting a kidney thanks to all the friends she made online on Star Trek websites. The cast and audience were both humbled by the story, with the cast saying that it is the fans that make stories like these possible as well as the shows themselves.