Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con 2011 Coverage
Celebrity guests, artists, and fun in the California sun...
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After last yearís premiere event, I was excited to return to Anaheim Comic Con. One of the best ďlocalĒ conventions in Southern California, Anaheim Comic Con is one of the jewels in Wizard Worldís crown. The combination of the time of year (an April precursor to the summer convention season and far enough in advance of San Diego Comic-Con) and location means that a lot of really good guests attend, and thereís plenty for visitors to do between the con events and neighboring attractions, not to mention Disneyland immediately next door. Armed with my camera and a press wristband I got the scoop!
Like at most genre conventions, visitors to Anaheim Comic Con will focus mainly on the exhibit hall. The festivities began Friday night. Greeting the fans was a variety of sign in and ticket booths. Notably, this year visitors could buy their passes via Yelp for a substantial deal! After check in, there were several photo ops including a Comic Con backdrop and some cut outs. Beyond a large welcome arch was the main entrance to the exhibit hall. Prime convention real estate is always the area just inside the main entrance, and so it was here. The L.A. Film School had a large booth, along with the 3-D Film Festival organization and sponsor Soyjoy. Most interesting and fun, though, was the Acura/Marvel Studios booth!
While Anaheim may not be as big as San Diego, it does get some A-list companies. In the center of the booth was an Acura TL sedan outfitted with the latest in SHIELD technology. For the show, this included red and blue flashing lights and a roof-mounted sonic cannon. Signs and video monitors at the booth promoted the Thor film, as well as the car company. Attractive SHIELD agents were on hand to promote the organization, and enrollment was the name of the game.
After filling out a short form visitors got to pose (with optional sunglasses) for their own SHIELD photo IDs! On a side note, if youíre in PR or have a booth at a convention, about the coolest thing you can do is give photo IDs to fans. It may take some time, space, and money, but itís a memorable keepsake thatís fun and appreciated.
For toy and statue collectors, Anaheim attracts one of the biggest collectible companies in the world, Kotobukiya. Along with dozens of products for sale at great convention prices, there were also new and upcoming items on display. These included members of both DC and Marvel Bishoujo statue lines, Star Warsí Commander Cody, and the X-23 and Colossus Fine Art Statues. Koto even had raffles and special promotions.
The bulk of the exhibit hall can be divided into a few basic groups. Plenty of local and internet-based companies were on hand to sell their wares, from the newest action figures to vintage toys, bootleg DVDs, and great import items. Walking through the aisles, I saw lots of Green Lantern Classics, Green Lantern film figures, and new Transformers. Brave indie companies came out to sell their wares and advertise like Luckyandfluffy.com and Star Wars Kustoms. Fan groups filled out the back and sides of the exhibit hall, with cosplay/costumers (501st, Southern California Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, etc.), R2 Builders, and more. On display were several famous vehicles ranging from early racecars to iconic craft like the Batmobile, KITT, the Back to the Future DeLorean, and more. There was even a pet adoption area where you could play with some adorable dogs!
Special guests occupied a couple entire rows, where stars of film and TV (current and long past) spoke to fans, signed autographs, and posed for pictures. Again, thanks to its location Anaheim attracts some pretty big names across the board, as well as interesting characters. Just a few of the celebs included Adam West, Burt Ward, Carlos Alazraqui, Claudia Christian, Dan Fogler, Erin Gray, Ernie Hudson, Ian Ziering, John Schneider, Kevin Sorbo, Ray Park, and Tricia Helfer, but thatís just a small list of the attendees! It was great to visit with Lee Arenberg and talk about the amazing show Action.
On the opposite side of the hall was Artistís Alley, home to a wide array of professionals and amateurs. On hand were Bill Sienkiewicz, Dean Yeagle, Dustin Nguyen, Judd Winick, Phil Jimenez, Rob Liefeld, and many more. There was something unique wherever you looked, like Ben Paddon and JE Draft, the guys behind the free web comic series Jump-Leads and Barbarian Princess. And because the show isnít as overwhelming as San Diego you could actually talk to the artists and even get commissions; I got a unique Green Lantern headshot done by Ethan Van Sciver himself!
Beyond the exhibit hall Anaheim Comic Con offered a slate of programming upstairs. There a lot of the special guests held Q&As or discussed their works, ranging from the big actors to professional wrestlers and artists. Musical guests showed up too, from Jedi Elvis to rapper Lil Eazy E. Several of the big name comic book artists held panels discussing their works and the industry, always big hits with the aspiring artist crowd. Also separate from the main area was a large gaming section where Magic was played in TCGPlayer.comís Wizard World Series.
Anaheim Comic Con is really coming together to be a quality mid-sized convention at a great time of year. With the added incentive of Yelp discounts this year and the great guests, booths, and sponsors, itís got plenty for everyone. If you couldnít make it this year, mark your calendars for late April, 2012 and join me next time! You can see everything that happened at this yearís show (and get updates for next year) at the Anaheim Comic Con site HERE.
- Scott Rubin