Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wizard World Sacramento 2015

There’s one place in Sacramento I find myself going to multiple times a year: the Sacramento Convention Center. Normally it’s for Sac Anime, but this time around I was there for Wizard World Sacramento, for the convention’s second year. So, how did it go? Read on and we’ll take a look at the weekend of comics and cosplay.

The convention ran for three days, although Friday was more of a half-day, as it officially began at 3. Of course, that did nothing to stop the attendees from showing up early and lining up to make the most of all the time they could. So when the doors opened, long but orderly lines of attendees made their way into the halls.
"Hot Fuzz" cosplayers

My first plan of action was to explore the con, and get a good idea of what was around. The main hall could basically be divided into three parts: vendors, artists, and guests, in that order.

The vendors were a good blend of the California convention usuals; there were some booths I’ve seen at nearly every con I’ve been to in recent years, usually selling anime and card game goods. But as this was a comic convention, there were several booths not often seen with both new and rare comics and graphic novels, collectibles, and vintage toys. Others sold autographed pictures, or pictures for the guests to sign.

The artist alley had several booths for industry artists, who were selling their books, doing commissions, and talking to fans. But there were also some booths for fan artists, who had some impressive pieces of their own to sell (and for less than the professionals, for those on a budget). A unique touch to the artist alley was body art, as the folks from Epic Ink, and other tattoo artists, were there as guests at a large booth for selling tattoos to convention attendees.
Jason David Frank getting a new tattoo at the Epic Ink booth

Finally, there were the guests of honor. Wizard World goes all out with the guests, and it shows in their lineup. They had Billie Piper of Doctor Who fame, Danny Trejo, Malcom McDowell, Manu Bennet, and Henry Winkler as some of the headliners, but the list went on to include Katie Cassidy, Alfonso Ribeiro, Jason Mewes, and even Power Rangers actors Jason David Frank and David Yost. Even that list leaves out a fair chunk of the guests Wizard World had in attendance, which goes to show just how many great guests they had.

Of course, there is a downside to all the guests: meeting all of them would not come cheap. Each autograph or picture ran upwards of $40, which, when coupled with the costs of tickets and rooming, would make for a very expensive weekend. Some guests would let people go through the line without purchasing anything to say hi and thank them for being there, though some required advanced purchase of tickets just to meet them.

While wandering around the con, I had my picture taken for the CONtv booth’s cosplay contest. I tried to download the app to give their prize wheel a spin, but I couldn’t connect to the convention center’s wifi, though I found that they were there in part to promote JDF’s My Morphing Life show.

An odder booth was one for Lasik surgery. Although I wear glasses, I’m not quite at the point where I want laser surgery yet, though it took a bit before they’d accept that answer. Another peculiar one was a booth for State Farm Insurance, though they gave out free bags for those who filled out surveys, which was helpful for carrying all the con swag I purchased.

Also, people recognized by Bill Nye the Science Guy cosplay, which was nice.
Sabine from "Star Wars: Rebels"
Doctor Girlfriend and Henchmen from "Venture Bros."
The Grand Curator from "Futurama"
Saturday came, and I was off to the con. The crowd was larger than the previous day’s, as most Saturdays tend to be. That was a day for seeing cosplayers, and there were plenty about. Naturally, there were several Doctor Who cosplayers, there for Billie Piper, but there were also some great ones from Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Mad Max, and all sorts of comics. I, myself, decided to cosplay as Elan from Order of the Stick, carrying with me Banjo the Clown, god of puppets.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" cosplayers

That brings us to a typical convention nuisance: the religious demonstrator. Each convention tends to have at least one person show up just to preach the word of god, which would be find if they didn’t do so into a megaphone and shout at us about being sinners. For instance, there was one person walking around, dressed as an angel and holding a cross, and that’s perfectly fine - she wasn’t bothering anyone, just sharing her faith.

On the other side of the spectrum, there was someone with a massive sign who spent the entire day facing the convention center and shouting that we’re all doomed to burn in hell for turning away from god. Considering he didn’t know any of us personally, that’s quite an odd assumption to make, and I recall there being a passage along the lines of “judge not lest ye be judged,” but I digress.

At one point, just for fun, while he was preaching, I faced some of my fellow congoers, held Banjo up on high, and proclaimed: “And yea, Banjo did declare a pie eating contest! And many pies were eaten, in his name,” and talked a bit about how worshipping Banjo increased your odds of rolling a natural 20 (without antagonizing the man with the megaphone across the street, of course). I think I did a slightly better job, since I had a few people calling out “Praise Banjo” when they saw me later in the day.

Back to the convention center, one other booth of interest was the Coke Zero booth, where they were giving out free samples throughout the day. The people at that booth would ask guests randomized true/false questions, or provide certain harmless dares (“do 20 pushups in under 30 seconds” or “talk to a group of strangers like you’re good friends”) for hand towels as prizes. It was a fun diversion for a few seconds, and on a hot day like that weekend, the free samples were appreciated.

Anger, Joy, Sadness, and Disgust from "Inside Out"
As the day grew to a close, I met up with some friends, who were cosplaying from Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, to get some photos. Afterwards, as we were getting pizza, the restaurant we were at showed some music videos on a large screen. At one point, some Michael Jackson songs began to play, and it just so happened that there was someone cosplaying as the zombie Michael Jackson from the “Thriller” video. He got up and began dancing (quite well, at that) to the song, providing a show with the dinner.

This, my friends, is the type of brilliant experience you can only get at a convention.

"Order of the Stick" meets "Game of Thrones"
Today is a good day to cosplay!
So now we’ve come to Sunday, the last day of the con. For me, however, this was the most important, if just for one thing: interview time. You see, I had spent a good amount of time trying to set up an interview with any of the guests I could, and while there were some unexpected obstacles, I managed to get some time with Jason David Frank. We spoke about the Power Rangers fandom, his MMA career, and even took some time to get serious and discuss overcoming depression. You can check out the interview below, in this video and article from G33k-HQ (another site I write for).

With the interview taken care of, it was time for some last-day shopping before I could wrap up the weekend. My budget had gone mostly into comics and cards, leaving not enough left for autographs or photo ops, but just seeing the guests around was a treat. That day, I was cosplaying Yaki from Magi-Nation, and three people there knew what I was cosplaying from - about three times as many as I had anticipated. (It’s a CCG from about ten years ago. I used to enjoy it greatly.)

So, how was the second Sacramento Wizard World? We’ll look at the good and the bad. Admittedly, it was very pricey, both for tickets and autographs, and having wristbands instead of badges is a nuisance for cosplayers and those going multiple days in a row. But for those willing to splurge, it had a lot to offer; the guests had some great panels, and there were several events going on throughout the weekend that gave each day something new to look forward to. The guests themselves were excellent, and all those I spoke to were a pleasure to meet. Wizard World has a solid track record for conventions, and this was a fine one to spend a weekend at.
Stryfe from "X-Men" 
"Game of Thrones" cosplayers 
"Star Wars" cosplayers

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