Look, we know it certainly seemed like anyone and everyone who has ever even glanced in the general direction of a comic book was at HeroesCon this past weekend. But appearances can be deceiving and some 2,680 miles west of that particular gathering was another congregation of celebrities, cosplayers, and comic pros at Wizard World Sacramento 2015! All-Comic was there to take it all in, scour for great deals, and okay fine, I wanted to meet The Fonz! Ayyyy!
This is the second year Wizard World has come to Sacramento and it is run like a well-oiled machine. This show feels capital-B Big despite the attention that Charlotte was receiving, but that’s because it’s a different kind of convention, on cut from the same cloth as your modern-day SDCC where the entirety of geekdom is being embraced. Video games, movies, toys, absolutely phenomenal cosplay, and yes, even a dash of comics was the name of the game at this show. It felt grand in scope while still feeling completely manageable while traipsing the comfortable, clean interior of the Sacramento Convention Center. It’s a great venue and they made a point to keep the layout very navigable given the size of the crowd. Staff and volunteers were polite, Cosplay Is Not Consent signs were prominently displayed, and lines were at a minimum for the most part until you wanted to purchase a ticket in order to meet/get autograph/take a photograph/take a (ughhh…..) “selfie” with one of the many stars appearing. I won’t get into the full list, but if you’re interested you can find the guest list here.
By far the biggest takeaway from the show was the sheer number of children attending. There were a substantial amount of families attending and the show and its organized certainly made a point to ensure a family-friendly setting with a nicely spaced out show floor, a plethora of different pop culture icons, a video-game pavilion, mini-games, and an altogether welcoming ambiance. From what I overheard countless times, this was many attendees first convention ever and their enthusiasm was infectious. It was certainly heartening to see the sheer number of kids get excited not only at the prospect of seeing what was ostensibly 30 aisles of toys, but be legitimately thrilled by gazing upon cosplayers of their favorite characters. Sure, they weren’t buying comics per se, but plenty were just so enthralled by the very notion of a comic convention and becoming aware of this shared geek experience. Wizard World put on a great show for literally every member of the family and made sure there was something there to entice each one, be it Malcolm MacDowell, WWE Divas, getting a tattoo from any of the big name artists, hard to find back issues, or Funko pop figures. And the cosplay on display was stellar with stilted Titans and Predators looming large overhead; definitely a strong showing.
With that level of accessible fun in mind, it’s fair to say that this show is not entirely as comic-book focused as we at All-Comic might have preferred, especially after this month’s comic-focused Special Edition: NYC. This is not to say that is was bereft of some big name comics professionals; far from it in fact. Gracing our collective Sacromentan presence were; Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Paolo Rivera, John Layman, Humberto Ramos, Ramon Villalobos, Danny Fingeroth, Greg Horn, Steve Leialoha, and a host of others. Talking to a few creators throughout the convention, there seemed to be a consensus of it being a little slow for them because the crowd tended to be a mix of a handful of longtime comic fans and many not particularly well-versed or interested in comics. I even heard people asking Paolo Rivera who he was! Blasphemy! He was beyond gracious and humble however, I can assure you and was there on behalf of the Hero Initiative signing Wizard World Sacramento exclusive cover editions of The Walking Dead and doing sketch cards for that great cause. Ramon Villalobos gets a special shout-out for taking the time to chat and giving me a sneak peak at the full art from the first two issues of E is For Extinction. Spoiler: It is going to be hot as hell, make sure to check it out. If you want to attend a convention to meet some creators without having to deal with unbearably long lines (unless you want to meet Neal Adams), this is a great show to check out.
If you’re into going to cons for collecting original art, this is likely not the show for you. There were no vendors selling OA and not every artist was doing sketches or taking commissions. Some certainly were, don’t get me wrong, but perhaps not at the level of other shows you’ve attended. The two pre-show commissions I’m sharing here are strictly to make you jealous:
Wizard World Sacramento had a huge slate of panels and being hosted in the Sacramento Convention Center meant comfortable rooms with great audio for whatever you were hoping to sit in on. In the grand scheme of things, most panels were more comics-adjacent than they were comics-centered and hell, far be it for me to besmirch the good name of Robert Alfonso Ribeiro, but it wasn’t this attendee’s priority to miss out on a Howard Chaykin panel for Cousin Carlton. Chaykin’s “Graphic Design in the Service of Narrative for Comic Books” panel was a particular highlight where many a youngin’ required earmuffs. Chaykin is a natural orator and teacher, albeit one of colorful language, and hearing his perspective in such an intimate setting was a real pleasure. You may not agree with everything he says, but you’d be a fool to dismiss the passion he has for the craft of making comics.
In all, an efficiently run show in a comfortable atmosphere that caters to welcoming a whole menagerie of fans, especially kids: what’s not to like? Sure, if you’re a diehard comics-worshipper, attending for more than one day would definitely be superfluous unless a certain must-see creator was one day only. But, if you’ve never been to a convention before and are in the Northern California area, this is a great show to dive into and see what all these costumed fools get so hyped about. Bring mom! Bring grandpa! Bring the kids! Just not to Howard’s table!
Wizard World Sacramento will be back at the Sacramento Convention Center next year, June 17th-19th 2016. Information here.