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Strange Observations
From WizardWorld Los Angeles 2007

He's a real writer.
About a week ago I’m banging out a treatment for a script I pitched to this big time Hollywood Producer the day before, knowing full well there’s no way in hell this guy is ever going to call me back on the project, when I decided a well deserved break was in order. A little online poker and maybe an episode of Battlestar Galactica but first a quick scan of my e-mail to see if there’s anything there worth distracting me. That’s when I came across this little nugget it in my inbox.

“For the first time ever, I've received an invitation from Wizard to be on the press list. Are you interested in going? Would a Fanboy Planet press pass suit you?”

- Derek McCaw

Ye, Gods! The Wizard himself had contacted my old friend Derek and now he was passing on the invite to me. Fate had smiled upon me. I wasted no time in shunting the unfinished treatment to the realm of the “to be completed projects” pile and took a minute to consider Derek’s generous offer before I replied.

Let’s see, a whole weekend shot, no pay and if I was lucky I might get out with having spent no more than two hundred of my own dollars. I figured, “why not,” but just to be sure I decided to check the rest of my e-mail for a better offer first.

Wizard World Los Angeles is just one in a series of conventions that bills itself as “the most widely attended tour of pop culture events across the country.” The con is run by the same group that publish Wizard: The Magazine of Comics, Entertainment and Pop Culture. With stops in LA, Chicago, Philadelphia and Texas, over 125,000 fans attended last year. As cons go, this was one of the biggies.

I wrote Derek back and told him I was in. Why not? I like pop culture as much as the next guy.

Friday, March 17th. First day of the con. I overslept. This can’t be good. According to follow up e-mails I received I’m supposed to check in at the press booth by noon. I didn’t get up until 11:30 and the convention center is at least a half an hour drive on the 101 from where I live assuming there are no cars on the freeway. Did I mention this was LA? Oh well, no sense in rushing now.

After a hearty breakfast I arrived at the Los Angeles Convention Center by12:30 ready to rock. Surprisingly, the drive wasn’t that bad for a Friday afternoon and parking was relatively painless until I was told there was a $12.00 parking fee. I’m starting to regret not having negotiated for an expense account.

Lots o' Marvel --
which you don't get at Comic-Con owned conventions.
Inside the convention center I quickly locate the press booth and check in. No lines, no waiting. Good for me, but this can’t bode well for the promoters. Still, it is the middle of the workday. Most conventioneers are probably still toiling at work. Lucky for me, I don’t have a real job.

12:45. First order of business, get a feel for the room. Best way to get the lay of the land is to start at one end and work my way to the other. By1:00 I’ve gone through the entire room. Hmm, what’s that tell you? If I didn’t know better I’d say the convention floor is smaller this year than it was last year. Most noticeable is a lack of representation by DC Comics. How can you have one of the largest comic conventions in the states and no DC booth? Marvel Comics is here in full force. So where’s their number one rival, DC? Has the universe reset around us and wiped them out of existence?

I decide to ignore the big pink elephant in the room and make my way to the celebrity autographing area. What would pop culture be without our out of work celebrities looking to wring every last dollar from their fading notoriety? The first shining star I see is Lou Ferrigno, the one and only Incredible Hulk. No surprise he’s here. He’s local and let’s be honest, what else does he have to do these days?

Across from Lou are the only other two celebrities in the room. One is an ex-Playboy playmate and the other is an out of work actor who used to have his own TV series. I can only hope there will be more celebs tomorrow.

I’m starting to get hungry. I could leave the convention floor and grab a bite to eat and a frosty cold one or I could check out artists’ alley. I go for the alley. Most of the folks who are here look familiar. As I make my way down a row of artists, I’m having flashbacks of San Diego’s Comic Con. Fortunately they’re quickly quelled by the fact that I can see the back wall three rows over.

Okay, so maybe the con is a little small this year; in some respects that’s a happy change from the likes of the San Diego Con which is overwhelmingly huge. Just the thought of that quarter mile long convention center gives me the shakes.

The other comforting thing about the this convention floor is that there’s plenty of room to move around, I don’t have to shout to be heard and best of all I’m not walking behind fans who have been clustered in a stuffy room all day eating pretzels and hot dogs, who figure it's okay to fart because it’s so noisy no one will ever hear it. Damn them!

But of course, we shop here.
By now my money’s starting to burn a hole in my pocket. I decide to check out the dealer tables. No shortage of dealers on the floor. More folks I recognize from San Diego. Some I know from other local conventions and a few I know personally because they’re owners of local comic shops. Golden Apple is here. They’ve been around for as long as I can remember and remain a staple in the LA comic scene. If you don’t know who they are look them up on line. They’re sort of the west coast’s answer to Mile High Comics.

I decide to make my way over to the Marvel booth where no one wants to talk about DC. Makes me wonder, what they’re hiding? Lots of signings and giveaways can be found in this pocket of the Marvel Universe. The lines for autographs and sketches are reasonably short and from the looks of it the fans are pretty happy about that.

Hey, I all most forgot to mention… I ran into Marv Wolfman walking the floor. We spoke for a few minutes, made pleasantries, then Marv quickly came up with an excuse to leave. Which saved me the trouble of coming up with one. (I’m kidding, Marv’s a great guy. I’ve run into him on and off many times over the last ten years. Even took him to lunch once, but that’s a story for another time.)

By late afternoon a few more “celebrities” have showed up and unpacked their pics ready to sign autographs for a nominal fee. The most unusual was Pugsly from The Addams Family. She looks the same, only older. The most alluring was Brande Roderick from Baywatch Hawaii. Guess who I spent more time talking to?

Then came the big unveiling. Platinum Studios Comics debuted their new KISS 4K Destroyer Edition Wizard World Los Angeles exclusive. To celebrate the launch of the book, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were on hand to sign copies and lucky me, I was there. The great thing about having a press pass is that I don’t have to wait in line twenty feet back from the booth as Gene and Paul pose for pictures.

They hold the World Record for biggest comic book.
After the unveiling I stationed myself next to Gene as legions of KISS fans were escorted to the booth one at a time. While this was going on I had the opportunity to ask Gene a few questions (which I’ll get around to transcribing as soon as I have a chance) and just bask in the glory that is KISS. That is until got tired, and then I left.

While all of this excitement was raging on the dealer floor, upstairs in one of the meeting rooms, Ed Brubaker, the man who really killed Captain America was lecturing to a roomful of wide-eyed comic fans with one question on their minds… is he really dead? Wish I could give you the answer to that. All I know is that it remains to be seen.

A quick stop off at the press room for a free soda (ahh, the perks of being in the press) a camera reload and then it was back to the floor. By now it was after five o’clock. Where did the day go? I headed over to the International Fight League (IFL) booth to watch a few of the fighters weigh in and prepare to mix it up in the mock ring. Truthfully, I really went to watch the IFL girls in their skimpy bikinis. Either way it’s all good.

Once more around the room, a few quick goodbyes and I’m gone.

Not bad for a Friday afternoon. I have a feeling the real fun begins tomorrow. I expect there will be more celebrities on hand. Mostly I’m looking forward to seeing Kristen “Veronica Mars” Bell and Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes on NBC. I expect it’ll be crowded by tomorrow afternoon. Just to be safe I’ll dig up my gas mask before I head back.

Jeffrey Berman lives in LA and is a mildly successful screenwriter that you’ve never heard of. But with a little luck by this time next year you just might.

Jeff's Gallery 1

Jeffrey Berman

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