Sunday, November 12, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Wizard World Texas 2006

Okay. Still no part three on the Hellblazer Episode Guide.

Mind you, there is a good reason for this.

Somehow in all the hustle and bustle of Halloween, a rush of unexpected job interviews and all the work I was doing on The Hellblazer Episode Guide, I somehow forgot that Wizard World Texas was happening this past weekend.

Funny how these little things just slip your mind when you’re busy, eh?

Actually, I know exactly why it slipped my mind. Despite being possibly the biggest convention in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I have only ever been to Wizard World once- the very first year it was held.

The second year I had planned on attending but my manager at the time quit the day before the convention. This left me as the only person capable of opening and closing the store that weekend. Not only did I have to miss the convention – I also had to work the open to close shift for four days in a row.

The third year, I was in little mood to make merry in a geeky fashion. My friend Sam had died the week before. And not even the presence of Summer Glau of Firefly fame was enough to take me out of my funk.

I confess I was somewhat worried about this year. Not because I was afraid of being unable to attend but because there didn’t seem to be much worth getting excited about this year. The first Wizard World Texas – oh that was the stuff of legends. Paul Dini, Kurt Busiek, Paul Jenkins, George Perez and Kevin Smith – all great writers and all among my favorites.

This year, there were only two major professionals I cared much about meeting. One was Ed Brubaker, whom I place at the top of the short list of the people at Marvel who are doing anything worth reading these days. The other was George Perez whom I spent a pleasant half-hour chatting with three years ago at Wizard World Texas. I’ve gone to conventions for less, but given how Wizard World has a reputation for being as huge as it is the idea of going to Wizard World for just two guests was anathema to me.

Well, let me let you kids in on a little secret. Often times, all the fun in a convention is there for the making. It isn’t about what pros you meet or what swag you buy or what exclusive Uber-Kewl Limited Edition Promethium Sketch Cover of Ultimate Redundancy #1/2 you get just for walking in the door. It’s about the people you meet and the experiences you share with your fellow fans.

With that in mind, let me tell you the tale – with photographic accompaniment where appropriate – of the places I’ve been and the people I met. And how this column wound up being about something more than a list of Top Ten Things To Do At Wizard World When You Are Broke.

I arrived at the Arlington Convention Center an hour early and lined up for entry into the grand hall. Good news! George Perez, ready to meet and greet his public, worked his way down the line before the doors officially opened. I already had a few comics autographed by him the last time I was at Wizard World but I still got him to sign my program.

I ran into George again later that day at the booth for The HERO Initative (AKA The charity formerly known as ACTOR) where he was doing sketches. The price was a bit rich for a librarians’ salary but it was still heartening to see so many fans supporting the cause and getting nice Starfire sketches in the bargain.

A rare sight: critic and artist, together and at peace.

Of course even on a librarians’ salary, there is much fun to be had in looking at the plunder you cannot afford. One such place for such plunder is Vividvision - makers of many cool toys and collectible holographic prints. I’m not much a die hard Trekker or Trekkie or – whatever name the folks who love Star Wars have, but those who are will doubtlessly find some colorful wall decorations here.

Oooooh... shiny!

And speaking of decoration, I caught the beauty below as I was walking past the booth for The International Fight League. You may wonder, as I did then, why such a thing would be appearing at what is mostly a comic convention. Well, riddle me this - what else does Gareb Shamus run besides Wizard Magazine?

No, she isn’t one of the fighters. I checked.

I wondered even more why, when I asked about said business, they told me about a fitness training camp they offered as well as their shows. I know I have the look of a hardened criminal but I’m much more at home with a sword or a longbow than my bare fists. Shame that ‘romantic highwayman’ is not a viable occupation these days.

What is a viable occupation is "peddler of Heroclix" – a role I briefly assumed this week after discovering Strikezone Online. If you have a bunch of old cards or game-pieces to clear out of your closet or are looking for that one special card, they are by far the best dealer that I have ever dealt with. Not only did I make an amount of money considerable enough to not worry about my sundry expenses at the convention – I made enough to pay rent!

This may, I believe, make me the first person in recorded history to ever walk out of a comic book convention with more money than he started with.

La pièce de Danger Dans la miniature

Now that I had money, I decided to set about sharing my wealth. I first decided to pick up a little something for my girlfriend. Christmas and her birthday are coming up swiftly, after all.

Oddly enough, my girlfriend does read my column so I can’t go into any great detail about exactly what I got her. But I will say this much. If you have a need for a graphic designer and illustrator capable of working miracles under unusual conditions, I can think of no one artist I could recommend more than Mr. David K. Wong.

Wong At Work

And while I was wandering about the Artist’s Alley, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was someone I was a fan of, whose name I did not hear advertised in connection to the Con. Jennie Breeden – author and artist of The Devil’s Panties.

I’ll say briefly that the comic (which, her flyers point out, is not Satanic Porn) is one of the most witty, honest and damn funny things out on the Internet. I’ll go into more detail in an upcoming column once I clear my plate. Who knows? I might even be able to get Ms. Breeden to honor us with an interview.

Deceptively innocent-looking, isn’t she?

And with all this talk of porn, I should perhaps mention that the Suicide Girls did NOT grant me permission to take pictures of them for this article. Those who wish to see such pictures are advised to go to Google as I would like to maintain the illusion of being a wholesome family entertainer for a while longer and not directly link to a most adult website.

This is the best you’re going to get from me.

The lovely lady above is Katherine – an employee with Anime Pavilion - a most excellent Anime shop, though I think their place at the convention would be more accurately termed a pergola than a pavilion. I think pavilions have awnings. Perhaps they have one back home in Virginia? I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that apart from myself, Katherine was one of the few people I saw who bothered dressing up in a festive manner for Wizard World.

Sadly, that is all of the pictures I got of Wizard World. I had the misfortune to have all my batteries die twice. And even the batteries the kindly gentleman with the deadlocks and his friend with the camera gave me wore out all too soon. So let me conclude with a list of people to whom I owe my thanks and offer a thumbs up for a most unconventional convention.

Horrorwood - Not to be confused with Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood but just as cool. This is a suspenseful tale of Cold War era terror in the Hollywood studio system. Not a book for the kiddies, in other words.

Ape Comics - publishers of Horrorwood and many other fine quality comics.

The Hero Foundry - a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring the youth of today through tales of heroism and the donation of comic-books to schools and libraries. A worthy cause I would support, even if I weren’t a librarian and a comic-book reader myself.

Jester Press - Publishers of the excellent horror title Night.

Coastline Comics - They provided me with the perfect book with which to explain to a young artist "Who is Black Canary?"

Cenikor - a local DFW charity devoted towards helping drug addicts fight their addictions, their booth was perhaps the most unusual one I found at Wizard World. Still, anything to help a worthy cause.

Big World Comics - a wonderful local comics and figures store, even if they didn’t have the Jack Knight figure and statue I was looking for.

Krazy Comix - another large dealer in comics collectibles, who told me of how it was near impossible to find the Jack Knight figure and statue that I am looking for.

Comics and Hobby Connection - this home-business offered friendly service, a fine selection and to track down the Jack Knight figure and statue I’m looking for.

Caricatures Etc - run by local artist, fixture of the DFW Con-scene and triple-threat “Myk” Friedman, this is yet another wonderful place to get custom artwork that is inexpensive but never cheap.

koops comics - a dealer in classic old comics who made me a great deal on an old Conan book as well as one of the few people who recognized my Jack Knight costume, Koop is a scholar and a gentleman. He even let me have a large Target bag to carry off some of my goods when my backpack proved too small for the task!


Everyone mentioned above, obviously.

Ed Brubaker, with whom I talked about Hellblazer and a story that never was.

Steve Epting, who was quite nice about signing my program and not doing a skech.

All the staff and volunteers of Wizard World Texas 2006.

All the staff of the Arlington Texas Convention Center

All the people at the Wizard Trivia Contest, who gave my library two new Manga.

All the kids who wanted to look at my Heroclix. There is hope for us all, yet.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.


  1. Great coverage of the whole show. I wish I'd had more time to spend up there. If it's in Arlington again next year, I'm sure I will.
    Btw, George Perez has that maddened look in his eye like he could start gnawing on you as soon as the picture was done.

  2. I think he had wisely been avoiding the convention center food.
    And it's been in Arlington for four years now... judging by the lower and lower turn-out, I dunno how much longer that may last.