It was a cold, brisk morning in Portland, Oregon. Coffee in hand, I made my way to the Convention Center. I couldn’t remember which door led to the event, so I followed a Jason Voorhes, a Tinkerbell, and a slightly pudgy Spiderman down the escalator into a sprawling open area filled with every character from every pop culture phenomenon, a make believe lightsaber duel and the sprightly voice of Kato Kaelin (Yes, that Kato) welcoming me into the universe known as Wizard World! I met up with Deja Fitzwater, a fellow con junkie and budding journalist who helped with interviews.
The Wizard World Comic-Con is held yearly in Portland (and other cities across the US) and is the very definition of pop culture; There’s table after table selling everything from action figures to jewelry, comics (hence the name), and literally everything in between. I even saw a movie quality replica of “Chucky” from “Child’s Play”, but at $500 it was out of my price range. The front half of the con is the celebrity meet and greet area where stars of today and yesteryear meet with their loyal fans, sign autographs, and take selfies. I forked over $40 to have Holly Marie Combs sign my “Dr. Giggles” photo- she’s a favorite of mine and I was happy to do so. Some other stars like Dylan McDermott from “American Horror Story” were upwards of $100.
Having the opportunity to meet your favorite celebrity is for me, a huge draw to Wizard World and cons like it. We spent some time with actor Chandler Riggs of “The Walking Dead” who shared with us what it’s really like to be a part of Wizard World:
“I really like the atmosphere and all of the people, really. It’s just fun to be at. Wizard World Atlanta was my first convention ever. I have been doing them periodically over the last ten years”, he said.
He mentioned that a few fans have cried when they met him, one girl fainted which made for a moment Riggs will never forget.
Speaking of unforgettable moments- let’s get back to Kato (yes, that Kato). He’s the official emcee of Wizard World, microphone in hand, offering a dose of whimsy and humor to all that pass through the doors of the con. From playing trivia games, to Kato-oke, there’s never a dull moment with this legend of pop culture.
The back half of the con is known as “Artist Alley” featuring some of the most incredible artists I have ever seen. There’s a barrage of art for purchase as well as an opportunity to meet notable artists like Phil Ortiz from “The Simpsons” and Tom cook, the animator of the 80’s Saturday morning cartoon, “Superfriends”.
Scattered around the con you can find “experience” booths: Virtual reality, photo backdrops, themed booths, and one booth with a llama..or it might have been an alpaca. Come to think of it, It was a unicorn. A personal favorite booth of mine is the horror themed “The Theatre of Horrors cosplay for charity organization” run by Brandy Dixon (dressed as the masked killer from “Scream). In addition to having some great cosplayers, the organization raises money for charity;
“After working on a film project in Seattle with multiple people from the original production of “Friday the 13th”, we were able to raise $40,000 for Shriner’s Children hospital.”, says Dixon.
Asked why she comes back year after year, Brandy said, “I like the people, and I am local here, so it’s like coming back to family. Wizard World is an experience you will never forget.”
Wizard World really is an experience. In the future,I’d like to see them bring in a wider variety of celebrities..and I have a few suggestions: (if you read my weekly column you can guess who I’ll say first)
Jamie Lee Curtis (I know it’s impossible, but still)
Cast from “The Goonies”
“Stranger Things” cast
“Back to the Future” cast
If you get a chance, go to Wizard World. I have barely touched on the abundance of immersive experiences and things to do during con weekend. I want to say a special thank you to Jerry and the team who produce and run Wizard World for going out of their way to make sure my experience (and everyone else’s) was a positive one. I’ve already marked my calendar for 2021 and cannot wait to come back!
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