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Masks, Capes, and Claws: Wizard World ‘09

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When I first arrived at Wizard World, I must admit I was slightly underwhelmed. Sure, there was plenty to see – the event coordinators for Wizard Wizard World 2009World had transformed the Philadelphia Convention Center’s Hall A into a gypsy market of science fiction and fantasy, complete with shopkeepers peddling merchandise, rows of celebrities, an outfit of aspiring and established artists, and even a sidewalk artist. Still, it was hard not to dismiss Wizard World as the poor man’s Comic Con.

On Friday, I met up with Joe Vallee and Chenoa Greene, who were covering Wizard World for Yo Philly! Our intention was to get face-time with some of the celebrities attending the event. As we navigated aisles choked on either side mostly with Star Wars paraphernalia, the small scale of Wizard World became more and more apparent. Hall A is the largest exhibit hall at the Philadelphia Convention Center. It has a room dimension of 370ft x 360ft or 135,000 square feet. Unfortunately, its size highlighted the copious amount of floor space still available at Wizard World.

Because of this, it didn’t take us long to reach our goal, where we managed to speak with Kristanna Loken, Emma Caufield, Lou Ferrigno, Peter Mayhew, and Edward James Olmos, all of who were quite pleasant. Emma Caulfield revealed her feelings about the Buffy remake rumors to us, and Lou Ferrigno provided some great footage for Yo! Philly. But after shaking hands with several celebrities and giving the show floor an once-over, we felt satisfied that we had experienced all Wizard World had to offer and went our separate ways.

It wasn’t until the next day, when I returned to the convention center in an effort to be thorough, that I realized what Wizard World really represented for Philadelphia.

On Saturday I met up with Troy D. Patterson, a friend who was attending Wizard World as an exhibitor, playing producer to two artists: Gus Finklestein (http://www.gusfink.com) and Ken Marcus, both local Philadelphians. As we made our way back to the artist tables, we bumped into Shaun and Michelle Oliphant, and their son, Shaun Jr. Shaun Sr. was dressed as Marvel superhero Luke Cage, sporting Cage’s 1970’s look with an unbuttoned yellow dress shirt, chain belt, and black jeans. Shaun’s son, who couldn’t be older than 5, maybe 6, rocked a Green Lantern outfit. Every time another superhero wandered by – and there were plenty, including Thor, Captain America, Superman, Spider-man, and even a bloodied she-Wolverine (Wolverella?) – the father and son dynamic duo shared a moment of camaraderie with them that was unique to Wizard World.

Shaun Oliphant (Luke Cage) and Shaun Oliphant Jr. (Green Lantern)No matter what its scale, Wizard World is something special and necessary for any Philadelphian whose life had been touched by superheroes and comic books, like Shaun and Shaun, whose father-son relationship will be shaped and no doubt defined by their shared love of all thing superheroes. Wizard World will no doubt become one of their fondest memories.

As for me, watching Shaun and his son interact with other fans dressed as superheroes made me realize that Wizard World isn’t about the event, it’s about the people who attend.