Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It Came From the Back Issue Bin! #15: The Wizard World Toronto Comic Con

The Direct Energy Center at Exhibition Place was host to the second annual Wizard World Toronto Comic Con. The Wizard World Toronto Comic Con, formerly know as the Paradise Comic Con, probably needs a new label.

It’s truly unfortunate and disappointing that Wizard Entertainment couldn’t have read the comic book landscape better and taken advantage of the Fan Expo’ short comings they displayed last summer. Fan Expo attendees were frustrated by line-ups and poor organization and were looking to this show as an alternative. The comic book guest list for the Wizard World Toronto Comic Con featured many recycled guests who have appeared at previous Toronto shows, including last year’s Wizard World. There really wasn’t any real A-List draws for comic book fans.

The Wizard World Toronto Comic Con was a Jack of all Trades show, with a little something for fans of all types, whether you were a Star Wars, Buffy, Battlestar Galactica fan, or even a WWE wrestling fan. However, the show tried to be too much to too many interests. I don’t really see the connection between Professional wrestling guests and a comic con, but that might just be me. Apparently it was as I saw many wrestling fans in attendance, gushing over their wrestling idols.

So, perhaps dropping the “Comic Con” and renaming the show to Wizard World Toronto might be warranted.

The price of admission was a turnoff to a lot of fans. The $38 admission price for one day (which could be obtained in advance for $33) was expensive, considering a lot of their celebrity guests also charged for autographs and photo ops. To the show’s credit, they did give fans a heads up on autograph prices so there wasn’t as much sticker-shock when they got there.

And then there’s the mystery of the disappearing guests. For example, Bruce Jones, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, and David Prowse all were removed from the guest list without any notice. While I recognize that most comic cons don’t want to advertize any cancellations, this approach always leaves a bitter taste in fans’ mouths, especially after paying in advance for their tickets.

However, with all of that off my chest, let’s move on to the many positives.

The comic guests that were at the show were absolute class acts. Francis Manapul, Leonard Kirk, Mike Grell, Jesus Merino, and Michael Golden, just to name a few, were more than happy to talk with fans and sign their comic books. I had fun chatting with the legendary Legion of Super-Heroes and Green Arrow artist, Mike Grell, who couldn’t believe that no one had yet tapped into a live-action adaptation of those beloved Legionnaires. Francis Manapul was a gentleman as well, displaying his artistic skills as he drew a black-and-white, water colour sketch for charity. It was amazing to see his art come to life and he was even doing short sketches for free!

The celebrity guests were also top notch in terms of their friendliness and approachability. Who couldn’t help but smile as Peter Mayhew did his Chewbacca cry at the request of a fan. Fans were also quite vocal in their appreciation of the Toronto Wizard World staff highlighting their friendly and helpful nature.

The Wizard World Toronto Comic Con featured several unique attractions beyond their celebrity guests:
- Toronto Roller Derby skaters raced around the Con doing a great job of promoting their events.
- You could get behind the wheel of the famous Delorian used in Back To The Future.
- Who knew there was an Ontario Chapters of the Ghostbusters association?
- And lastly, hats off to the 501st Stormtrooper Legion - Canadian Garrison, who patiently and tirelessly posed for hundreds of photos with fans of all ages.

All in all, the show was a success and that was echoed by the increase in attendance. Was it perfect? No. Can it be improved? Certainly. In fact, not only can it be improved, it can also teach the Fan Expo a few things.

--Jason Shayer