Friday, March 20, 2015

Wizard World Raleigh 2015

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Location: Raleigh, NC
Dates: March 13-15, 2015
Venue: Raleigh Convention Center
Guests: More than a dozen television celebrities and a small number of comic industry guests

Overview: Wizard World has been expanding the number of conventions they hold in recent years and this was the first time they brought an event to Raleigh. The Raleigh Convention Center is a beautiful and relatively new facility that is ideal for these events with a large open basement that is perfect for the main vendor floor, a ground level floor with meeting rooms for small groups and panel discussions, and an upper floor with huge ballrooms perfectly designed for packing in crowds to listen to the latest news from beloved celebrities.

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The convention featured many celebrity guests. William Shatner entertained a large ballroom filled with fans with stories of driving at one of the Nascar tracks near Charlotte, NC as well as tales from Star Trek and Boston Legal and memories of recently departed Leonard Nimoy. The seemingly ageless Cassandra Peterson talked about her varied career from being a dancer in Vegas where she received career advice from Elvis Presley, to learning to cook while singing with a band that was touring Italy, to the creation of the enduringly popular Elvira. Sean Astin opened his panel by reading a passage from the first Discworld novel by renowned author Terry Pratchett who passed away only days before. He then shared about becoming friends with Terry while filming the movie adaptation of The Color of Magic where he had the opportunity to play Twoflower, his favorite Discworld character. Kevin Sorbo was on hand to talk about Hercules and Andromeda and goof around with dinosaur puppets from Dakota and Friends. John Schneider was there to sign Smallville photos for comic fans or Bo Duke photos for the many fans wearing orange Dukes of Hazzard t-shirts.

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The first Wizard World in Raleigh had a big premiere in store for fans with the first ever US convention appearance of Tenth Doctor David Tennant. Tickets for his autographs and photo ops were expensive, but that didn’t appear to limit the number of people waiting in his lines. The Wizard World team handled the crowds well and kept the lines moving smoothly giving every fan their chance to meet the Doctor face-to-face. David was a real entertainer during his panel, answering fans questions with kindness and humor.

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Of course, Wizard World does use the phrase "comic con" in their name and a few comic industry guests were in attendance. Two in particular would appeal to Aquaman fans. Peter David was there and happily signed a copy of his Aquaman #1 from 1994 for us. He enthusiastically chatted about how much he liked the recently released design of Aquaman for the upcoming movies. He definitely sees the similarities to his Aquaman and he is pleased to see the return of that version of the character. He said his only disappointment was that Aquaman didn't have a harpoon hand. Also on hand was animator Tom Cook who worked on many classic cartoons during the 1970s and 1980s including Scooby-Doo, Fat Albert, He-Man, She-Ra, and…for the Aquaman fans...Super Friends. Many fans who stopped by his table commented that looking at his drawings was like revisiting their childhoods. We had a pleasant conversation with him and picked up a Super Friends print for ourselves as well as an original Skeletor sketch for a friend who is a big fan of He-Man.

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There were many great costumes on display with multiple characters from the Marvel Universe movies in view down every aisle and around every corner. DC characters were represented by a few dressed as Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, and TV's Arrow. Amazingly the first costume we saw at the con was Aquaman himself and we hoped that meant we would see many others throughout the weekend. We did see a truly stunning Aquawoman costume on Saturday, but unfortunately couldn't get a photo ourselves. However, thanks to the world wide web, we were able to find a photo of her in costume on Twitter and Instagram where she goes by Jenna Say What.

We also met two fans who were wearing Aquaman t-shirts. Neither was familiar with the Shrine, so we gave them cards with the web address and waxed eloquently about the great fan community Rob has built. We hope they visit the site soon.

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In closing, we must mention an unexpected and truly amazing event. The city was holding its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday and after the parade the local Raleigh Pipe Band came into the main lobby of the convention center where they stood holding the Vulcan salute and followed it up with an emotionally powerful rendition of Amazing Grace that reverberated throughout the convention center. Fans packed around the players just as if we were all attending Spock’s funeral. You can read about it and see a video at their website: http://raleighpipeband.com/news/

All-in-all, Wizard World Raleigh was a big success and we hope to see it return next year!

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Thanks once again to Shrine Correspondents Darrin and Ruth Sutherland for their awesome con report!


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