Wizard World Casts Spell of Mediocrity on Saint Louis

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Wizard World Saint Louis 2015 Critical Blast

I have been to all three of the Wizard World Comicons here in Saint Louis, and I have mixed emotions about this one. The second year was better than the previous. I know not every year can always be better and at best it is all subjective anyway. Still, since this was only the 3rd time for the event here in St Louie, I was expecting it to be at least as good and as star studded as the others.

It seemed, though, as the year progressed leading up to this weekend, that the talent that was being signed, while good, was not up to the caliber of the previous two years. Again, I know this is all subjective but compared to who I saw was going to appear at the other WW Comicons throughout the country, the show here in Saint Louis was not getting those who I consider A-Listers. Maybe because this year it was being held on Memorial Day weekend and everyone had plans? I don’t know.

WETA Wizard World Saint Louis 2015Still there were a lot of reasons for me to want to go. Though there was not anyone whose autograph I desperately wanted to get, I still love to walk the vendor booths, see the cosplayers, talk to the artists and just get caught up in the sights and sounds of geeks-en-masse (myself proudly included in that number).

What was almost a deal-breaker for me was the cost of admission.

I have been going to Comicons and Sci-Fi conventions since the 70’s, back when admission was 5 bucks for the day and no one charged for an autograph -- just five dollars for the picture for them to sign. Most were just happy that someone came out to see them.

Fast forward to this year and the cost of a ticket for today, with the $11.00 processing fee, was nigh on 60 dollars. I think I was more mad about the processing fee costing another 20% of the ticket price than anything else. It was all done online, and I printed the ticket of at my house! At least Jesse James used a gun!

Still I was looking forward to going.

My friends and I got there about an hour or so before the show opened (about the same time as we did last year), and I was immediately shocked by how fewer people there were in line at this time -- much ,much fewer than last year.

As the opening time grew closer, the hall filled up, but still not to the multitudes of last year’s show. Was it the lack of guests? The ticket prices? Memorial Day weekend and people were traveling? Who knows -- but it was definitely less.

When the gates opened and we were let in, the booths inside the Edward Jones Dome were set up pretty much the same as last year, with the autograph booths set in the rear and the various rooms around the convention hall used for the panel discussions.

What was immediately noticeable was that many of the booths were  ones that were not there last year, which is always good to see, but some really did not have any real reason to be at a Comicon save for a venue to hawk their wares -- such as a Leaf-less gutter salesman!

A true test for me as to the number in attendance is how easy it is to move up and down and side to side the aisles. This year I had no trouble walking up to and looking at any sellers or artist booths. At times I could stand in the middle of the aisle and see everything at a booth without obstruction.

While there were several comic book sellers there, they were not the majority. As I sauntered past the autograph booths I never saw anyone with a line that was more than just a couple rows deep (last year I waited in line almost two hours for Bruce Campbell), and the whole space seemed wide-open. This included personalities, cast members, and wrestlers. (While the WWE champions were there, I thought it odd that Saint Louis’ own Randy Orton was not here.)

Mister Freeze Wizard World 2015 Saint LouisThe real treat for me are the cosplayers, and this year was no exception. I am always so amazed at the effort and skill that is put forth in the costumes that people come up with. And they dress up as everyone imaginable: characters from games to movies, comic books to TV and more! Why there was even someone there today made up as Bob Ross, the late artist from PBS TV! Even parents are starting to get into it, and they are coming dressed up with their little children. As with anything, you have some that are mere Halloween costumers and others that have you going, “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome!”

My personal treasures for the day was not seeing the “stars” but getting a chance to meet and talk to Artist Tom Cook who autographed a poster of the Challenge Of The Superfriends/Legion of Doom cartoon which he worked on, and to meet not George Romero, who made Night of the Living Dead, but John A. Russo, who as I understand co-wrote the screenplay of Night of the Living Dead with Romero. As if just having the same middle initial and last name and getting to chat in length with him was not cool enough for me, I got some actual dirt from the cemetery where the movie was filmed, with a COA and press card all signed by him. I am a happy man!

I am also happy that I also stayed within my budget. Not to say I couldn’t have blown it out of the water -- an autographed print of Superman by Alex Ross would have sunk it like the Titanic! But I was good.

Cosplay Wizard World 2015 Saint LouisIn contrast to last year, where each artist and booth had lines of people looking at their wares, this year I heard many of them hawking them like carnival barkers, and I suffered from many awkward moments of making eye contact with them while no one was at the booth and felt compelled to go over and talk to them. Like I said, it was a far cry from last year.

So all in all did I enjoy myself? Most definitely. Did I get my money’s worth? Well, that’s hard to say. I am really happy to have met the artists I did, to have seen what I saw, and to have gotten the goodies I did. But it would have been more palatable to do it for say 20 dollars to get in.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this Comicon next year. Will they charge less? Have it on a different weekend? Get other guests? I’ll just have to wait and see. If everything is the same as this year, then I will have to search my inner being to see if it is worth shelling out that much money again.

Again all this is subjective, and there may be others who thought this year was better than last. I just don’t think it was. It was good -- but not great.