Thursday, April 7, 2016

Wizard World St. Louis--fourth time's the charm!

Well, 2016 marks the fourth anniversary of Wizard World St. Louis, as well as my fourth consecutive trip thereto. It also marks the THIRD consecutive trip I’ve managed not to leave behind anything important, like, oh, I don’t know … MY ENTIRE BAG OF CLOTHES AND TOILETRIES!!!! Yeah … still a bit bitter about that one.

Anyway, we were very glad (indeed, blessed) that our pal Tim was able to come along for the ride again this year. He had an absolute blast with us in 2014 but had to miss last year due to some unforeseen (and pretty lousy) circumstances. Thankfully 2016 saw him in better circumstances, and with the band back together we journeyed to St. Louis for what was to be one of our best convention experiences ever! 

We maintained our yearly tradition of eating at Jack in the Box our first night in town. I loaded up on egg rolls and tacos, and let me tell ya, they were DELICIOUS! The remainder of our Friday night consisted of playing Cards Against Humanity at our friend Tom's house and drinking the unholy moonshine that still lurks in his freezer to this day. 

Finding a parking space took some effort. Turns out there was a hairstylists' convention in the America Center the same weekend as the comic convention, so there was an interesting mix of people with elaborate costumes and people with elaborate hair. I wonder if anyone was there for BOTH ... In any event, we were most assuredly there for the comics. 

Although Brett's and my hair were very much on point.

One of the headlining guests this year was Charlie Cox, who plays lawyer by day, vigilante by night Matt Murdock on the Netflix series Daredevil. Co-star Jon Bernthal (formerly of The Walking Dead), who plays the Punisher, was initially scheduled to attend but cancelled three days prior to the event, which is a shame because I had planned to have them both sign my copy of Daredevil #183. I got Cox's autograph; Bernthal's, alas, will have to wait.

It's still pretty awesome, though!
As part of my "Charlie Cox VIP Package" I got two Wizard World-exclusive Daredevil comics from one of their previous conventions. One was the regular edition and the other had a rare black-and-white cover. I received the comics as I redeemed my tickets at registration, and the Wizard World staff member offered to put the comics inside the free "swag bag" I got. I declined, saying I'd rather put them with my other comics where they'd be safe. In retrospect, what happened next is funny. At the time, though ...

I found a space where I could sit down and dig into my laptop bag full of comics. I selected a book 
that had a particularly roomy bag and opened it up, intending to slide the new comics inside with it. Now, this was the first time I had ever opened this bag; it was a blank sketch variant of a book I already had, so I'd had no reason to open it up before. Unfortunately, I soon learned that the bag was held shut by Tapezilla. We're talking some STICKY-@$$ TAPE. And naturally, I got the tape stuck to the cover of my brand-new, black-and-white, convention-exclusive, worth-a-quarter-of-the-cost-of-admission Daredevil comic. I IMMEDIATELY started to panic, and started to gently peel the tape back. I cringed as little bits of the cover started to peel off with the tape. And then I died a little inside as the other side of the cover got stuck to the tape, too. I ended up mangling the cover--HORRIBLY. And no, I didn't take a photo of it. In fact, I couldn't bear to look at it anymore, and gave it to our friend Cody, who drove up separately that day.

The first thing I did after the tape debacle was seek out Lou Ferrigno, who had just set up for the day. My buddy Ryan had paid me in advance to get a comic signed for him (the issue of Iron Man where Tony first takes on the Hulk in his Hulkbuster armor). Ferrigno was supposed to be charging $40 for autographs, which I coughed up immediately, but when I pulled out the comic he shook his head and said, "It's $20 more for a comic." That ... was a little disappointing. But soon I was off to meet Charlie Cox!

I think just about all of us ended up getting photos with Charlie. Cody, in fact, swiped a Sharpie off somebody's table and got Charlie to sign his T-shirt as he was being herded in for a photo op. Cody, I salute your audacity, even if I am a bit appalled at your petty thievery. 

Tim and I couldn't resist grinning like idiots. Mean mugging just
wasn't an option. :D 

I also got to meet James Marsters, most famous for playing Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Marsters was easily the nicest celeb I met that weekend, and his Wizard World "handler" was nice, too. I had wanted to meet Marsters at the inaugural Wizard World St. Louis in 2013, but had been low on funds. I mentioned that to his handler this year, and he said I would have been welcome to come by and say "hey" whether I bought anything or not. Not all are like that, as I discovered with Ferrigno, and neither are their handlers, as we would discover later. 

But for now, let's just bask in the moment!

I also got Marsters' signature on one of my mom's Buffy comics for her birthday. She was very surprised!

Best. Cover. Ever.
With the best caption ever. 

This year marked the biggest group of nerds we ever assembled, as Ed, Brett, Tim and I had brought Tom, Cody had brought his friend Keara, and our friend Meghann met us there. Although we went our separate ways across the convention floor pretty quickly, for one fleeting moment we came together to make use of Keara's selfie stick. 


That evening, Ed was in line to meet Doctor Who and Jessica Jones star David Tennant, who drew a MASSIVE crowd (as did fellow Doctor Who alum Matt Smith, who had also been a guest in 2014). Brett, who had a media pass, attempted to get photos of Tennant at his panel, at which point a Wizard World staffer told him he couldn't take pictures. Brett flashed his media pass, at which point the staffer said, "Sir, I'm in charge of the press here. No pictures." This struck as as counterproductive, as the whole point of having press at the event should be so the press can provide free promotion, and photos of the headlining guest would provide great publicity. But hey, nobody asked me, and since I'm no longer a journalist I have no stake in it regardless. 

I couldn't afford to get Mr. Tennant's autograph, but I DID
get this Wizard World exclusive signed by the wonderful
British artist Rachael Stott!

While Ed was in line, Tim and I hiked to Star Clipper, a St. Louis-based comic shop that had recently moved from the Loop to downtown. It was a half-mile from the convention center to Star Clipper, and we had less than an hour until it closed, but we portly fellows made the brisk walk in 30 minutes. I can't stress enough how nice the store is, and how nice the staff members are. I got some great deals on some great comics, and I convinced Tim to give Totally Awesome Hulk a chance (it's totally awesome). 

On Sunday, Tim and I got to meet Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage on Jessica Jones. He is a very big, very handsome man, and I'm excited to see him play Cage (I don't have Netflix, so I'm pretty much stuck waiting until the series FINALLY gets a DVD release). 

Sweet Christmas!

I also got lucky with a dollar bin Sunday morning. The guy clearly didn't want to lug everything back and was offering 50 comics for $20, so I loaded up. If I'd had more money, I might have bought a full 100. 

There was also a delightful assortment of cosplayers, including Sub-Zero and Frost ...

Just chillin' ...

These folks from Borderlands ... 

Few characters frighten me more than Tiny Tina.

This epic meeting of Xenomorph and Sith Lady ... 

"Buster, if you wanna keep that tongue, you'd better
keep it in your mouth!"

And this delightful assortment of characters:

Two Deadpools, Death, and ... a zombie pirate?

I also got to stroke Deadpool's unicorn, which was an honor most rewarding. 

"Nice, kid ... now stroke the horn."
On the way home, we once again stopped at White Castle, which ... isn't exactly my favorite part of the trip. But they have decent fish and chicken sliders, at least. And the good company always makes up for the "eh" food. 

When we got back to West Plains, we went to Brett's house to catch the season finale of The Walking Dead. Though ultimately uneventful (and cliffhangery), it was a pretty good episode, and I'm very excited to see more of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (and of course, I'm eager to see more of Lucille). 

Right now I'm planning ahead for Wizard World Tulsa, which is scheduled to have Michael Cudlitz, James Marsters, Sebastian Stan and Michael Rooker among others. I'm also thinking about Planet Comicon in Kansas City, but I most likely won't have enough money to attend that one so soon after St. Louis. 

Long story short, it was a great weekend spent with great people, and I can hardly wait until next year! 

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