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Philadelphia Comic Con 2012 brought Thor, Star Trek and more this past weekend

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This weekend I had my first experience with Wizard World Comic Con, a convention for all things comic- and it was pretty wild.

I wasn’t sure what I expect at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philly but as I got closer and saw so many oddly dressed (I use that term loosely, as some people should NEVER EVER leave the house in what they had on), I knew it was going to be interesting. I dressed as Super Lecki (which is to say I wore my glasses sometimes during the day.)Christine with Anthony Michael Hall.

Everyone had to check in and wear a wristband, and then we were let loose in the convention hall. There were sections where all the celebs were in their booths for autographs (which you have to pay for)- sometimes up to a hundred dollars.

First on our list was Melissa Joan Hart from the ABC Family show Melissa and Joey and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She was cute, and I just said hello. Across the way was Kristy Swanson (original Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Amber Benson (Tara from Buffy the TV series), who were both very cool. Then I walked over to Mark Metcalf, who played The Master on Buffy (TV) and Neidermeyer in Animal House. He was very fun to chat with, and said his favorite episode was when he killed Buffy and remarked, ‘I like your dress,’ before dropping her into a puddle. He is currently working a stage show of Hamlet in Houston, as his background is more of a theatre actor.

Diane and I then got in line to meet James Marsters, who played Spike on Buffy. I was very excited over this, as Spike was my favorite character for the entire run of the series. He was very friendly and said his favorite episode was the musical. James’ band just came out with a new record and he's been working on some new acting projects.

Meeting Jason Priestly was very cool The 90’s icon from Beverly Hills 90210 (the original one, not the recent remake) has been acting and directing on the SyFy show Haven (which is shot in Nova Scotia)  He said his favorite 90210 episode to work on was when ‘Donna Martin Graduates!”- because it was funny. Jason was having a great time and seemed truly delighted to meet his fans. Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead.

Then we waited to see Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead, which I was thrilled to do- after we got close; he had to go do a photo op (boo!) but then came back and couldn't have been nicer.

Reedus said he loves being on set and his favorite ‘Dead’ ep to film was "Chupacabra" (Season 2, Episode 5). Norman was also still signing and chatting with fans right up until the 7pm close and long after the other celebs have left. This guy loves his fans. He also smelled nice and not like a zombie killer at all (ha!) during our photo op. Stay tuned for the next season of The Walking Dead…and the prison….

There were so many great people we talked to – Erin Gray, of Buck Rogers and Silver Spoons fame, created her own company, Heroes for Hire.  Charlie O’Connell and Elina Madison were so excited to chat about their new movie, Huff, which screened Friday night to a great response. Huff is a twisted take on the Three Little Pigs – a horror movie like no other. Director Paul Morrell and producer Terry James were very excited to chat about Huff- so follow them on Twitter to see when the next screening will be  @HUFFMovie.

All five Star Trek captains were there, but we couldn’t get near them for love for money! I did get to chat with Dean Cain, who said he was glad to be in Philadelphia again- ‘having done some damage in this town!”

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I also got to meet Anthony Michael Hall. My brother and I grew up watching The Breakfast Club, and my brother and my mom can pretty much quote Weird Science.

It really was fantastic to see the actors in regular street clothes and to talk with them about their lives. After the conference, Cooney, Vallee and I headed to the GeekNation party, Clare Kramer of Buffy and Bring it On was truly a delight to interview as founder of GeekNation.com. The party brought out the nerd herd, but celebs and fans alike had a great night.

I wonder whom I should dress as next year?

Joe's thoughts:

This year Comic Con got a little too commercial for my liking. Back in the day, all of the guests would take a picture without batting an eye. It’s kind of like when a band you’ve been following forever gets big and everyone starts liking them. What happened to my Comic Con?!!  I understand that celebrities aren’t there for their health, but to charge $499 dollars to have your picture taken with all five Star Trek captains is nuts. If this practice continues, Comic Con is going to become so bastardized that they will lose touch with their fans. In saying that, money makes the world go round, and there didn’t seem to be any shortages of that going around during the weekend. So what do I know?.Lou Ferrigno photo: Joe Vallee Sr.

Some of the actors and actresses there (who won't be mentioned) got a little testy when we were taking photos. My response to this is 'Why are you even here?' One actor expected a Getty Images photographer to pay HIM for taking his picture. Really?  

Don’t worry. Not all of them displayed this attitude.Lou Ferrigno is always cool. I grew up watching him and I've seen every episode of 'The Incredible Hulk'  about 200 times. We have a mutual friend, so he's always generous with his time. He doesn’t always say much, but if you get him talking about certain subjects, the floodgates will open and he’s always insightful.

While I managed to get a chuckle or two out of Dean Stockwell, he was extremely reserved and not too chatty, unlike his character of Al on Quantum Leap. On the other hand, his former co-star Scott Bakula could not have been nicer. This is a guy who makes a concentrated effort to spend considerable time listening and talking to every fan there (although fans are paying big money, it's still hard with the volume of people around).

Scott hails from St. Louis, so I had no choice but to give him a hard time about the Cardinals being no-hit the night before as well as last year's playoff series with the Phillies. Ironically, the last time Scott was in Philadelphia was 1993, when he sang the National Anthem at Veterans Stadium for a Phillies World Series game. We talked about baseball pretty much the whole time. It’s a good feeling when the people you grew up watching on TV don’t turn out to be jack asses when you meet them in person. Ferrigno is great, so was John Schneider when he was there last year, and Bakula was aces too.

Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) seemed to be really enjoying himself as well. My friend's two -and-a-half-year-old is a major Star Wars fan, and he was playing with her also signed a picture. Let’s be honest: any chance you meet somebody who was in Star Wars is kind of a religious experience for the sci-fi geek in all of us.

The weekend absolutely ended on a high note. In one of the most random happenings of the day Sunday, I attempted to get a comic book signed by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. When I missed his signing time (something the Wizard World team also has to handle better) because of a scheduling mishap, I was pretty miffed to say the least. So I walked towards the booth of a company who appraises comic books, and Lee's representative happens to be right there!  He takes me back to the booth where Stan Lee was, I ended up meeting him and he signed my book! He was great. So much energy for being almost 90 years of age!"

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Cooney’s commentary:

I had heard great things about previous Comic Cons, and I was excited to be able to check it out this year. Surprisingly, our press passes provided no special access to the celebrities that were there. In fact – people seemed to be less comfortable talking to us – but once they could see that we were not trying to make them cry – they opened up a bit, and we were able to sneak away with a few interesting tidbits.

Each celebrity was tucked behind a table, and most of the higher profile folks had some kind of handler with them – it wasn’t always clear if they were a manager, publicist, or just a hired hand. There were two aisles of celebs, and then a bigger setup for the headliner. Yes, Mr. Thor himself from The Avengers, Chris Hemsworth.

I’m so naïve – I assumed your ticket got you in the door, and then you were going to a bunch of meet and greets. Well… sort of. All the celebs charged for their autographs! Personally – I think this practice is outrageous. I can understand how a D-lister might rely on these appearances as a source of income – but why does an A list celebrity need to charge over one hundred dollars for an autograph? Bruce Campbell's Q&A.

Don’t they understand that their fans pay for the movies and DVDs they are in, which guarantees strong opening numbers that allow them to get more money throughout their career? I realize there are other business folks in on this model – and it probably won’t go away any time soon – but I refuse to pay. I was able to say hi and get some pictures, for others, I had to be stealthy to snag a photo.

Vampires were one of the highlights of my Comic Con visit. In addition to meeting Kristy and James, we also met Sam Trammell of True Blood (Ok, technically, he’s not a vamp, but he representing the show). He shared that the first episode is a knockout.  As an avid Vampire Diaries fan, it was a thrill to meet Paul Wesley and his wife Torrey DeVitto. He portrays Stefan Salvatore, the brooding brother involved in the love triangle. She plays a local doctor who knows his secret. They are an adorable couple.

In the afternoon, I relished the idea of sitting down for the Bruce Campbell Q&A (we had been walking around for hours). He stars in the hit series Burn Notice, and of course, he has legions of Evil Dead devotees. Apparently a handful of people in the audience had Evil Dead tattoos. Bruce brought everyone up on stage, and the audience cheered for the best tattoo. Bruce tolerated some goofy questions from the audience, but my favorite part was when he responded seriously to an aspiring director.

“Do not imitate anyone,” Campbell told him. “Do not imitate Quentin Tarantino, do not imitate Sam Raimi, Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg. Create your own style based on what’s appropriate for the material.”

Sean Patrick Flanery first gained notoriety for playing the Young Indiana Jones. He’s had a varied acting career, and now also teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at an academy he owns.  His booth was next to his Boondock Saints co-star, Norman Reedus, who was a great sport. Greeting fans with a smile, Reedus looked like he really enjoyed speaking with everyone. He mentioned that he’s been swinging an ax on set –  can’t wait to see how that plays out in the show.

So how did I complete my Comic Con experience? I bought a t-shirt – with the word Zombie in over 15 languages from www.simplyzombie.com. I look forward to all the new shows and movies coming out this summer.

Christine Tarlecki is a P2P writer from the Phoenixville area and can be reached on twitter and FaceBook under engchik, and at engchik@comcast.net.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com  

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com 

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