Last weekend (October 2-4, 2015 depending on when you're reading this) was the first annual Wizard World Convention for Fort Lauderdale, FL. Wizard World is a whole franchise of pop culture conventions (comics, movies, TV, games, toys, etc.) that has been gaining a lot of steam over the last couple of years and now has a grand total of 23 conventions on their yearly slate. This was the first year for the convention in the city of Fort Lauderdale (with another one scheduled for Orlando later in the year as far as Florida is concerned) and I had the privilege of attending on behalf of Moviepilot.
The unfortunate part is that due to a series of circumstances, I wasn't able to attend for very long. I missed the press party that they had on Thursday night and ultimately I was only able to spend a few hours at the show itself on Saturday. However, I was able to get a sampling of what the convention had to offer the eager attendees.
As a self proclaimed veteran of the Wizard World conventions (having been a former regular attendee of the Philadelphia convention and a one-time attendee of the Richmond, VA show before moving closer to the equator) I can attest to the high quality show that Wizard puts on.
First year shows tend to be a little smaller in terms of attendance and venders because awareness is lacking for the city that it debuts in. Those who are familiar with Wizard World (like myself) tend to know how to seek them out and locals will hear about them closer to the date of the show. That said, the show was a little small compared to its veteran Philadelphia and Chicago counterparts but that's not to imply anything negative. Word of mouth will spread and the convention will start to soar like the others because—like the other Wizard World Conventions—it was not lacking in its exciting reasons to attend.
Wizard World Convention regular celebrity guests like Sean Patrick Flanery (pictured above) of The Boondocks Saints, Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), James Masters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Lou Ferigno (The Incredible Hulk) and the iconic William Shatner (Capt. James T. Kirk himself of Star Trek) all made their grand appearances, as did other great guests like professional basketball legend Dennis Rodman, The Lord of the Rings' Sean (Samwise) Astin and Christian Kane of The Librarians and Leverage.
Lots of great, legendary comic book writers and artists were set up in the Artists Alley, as well, such as Rob Liefeld (co-creator of Deadpool) and the stellar and always wonderful Neal Adams (you've seen his work even if you don't know his name...I guarantee it) whom I've had the privilege of meeting before.
Wizard World Conventions have become known for offering limited edition reprints of #1 selling comic book phenomenon The Walking Dead #1 with new covers exclusive to each show—with paid admission—and Fort Lauderdale was no different. Artist Julian Totino Tedesco, who worked on the cover art for Fort Lauderdale's book, was on hand to meet and greet the fans and sign the book for you (which I, of course, took advantage of with the copy that I obtained through my wife's admission). I also had him sign the copy I picked up a couple of years ago in Philadelphia because I wasn't able to have him do it at that particular time.
The other big experience for me was that I got to finally meet actor Adrian Paul (best known as Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod on the popular '90s TV series Highlander – based on the cult classic film) and he was one of the nicest people I've met at a convention. The introduction was so impactful that it inspired me to write an article about why I love Highlander so much, despite its glaring flaws as a franchise overall. That article can be found here if you're interested.
It should be pointed out that one of the big attractions from the weekend (of which I am incredibly bummed that I missed) was a sword demonstration by Adrian Paul on Saturday night. I have no doubt that the experience was amazing and really wish that I had been able to attend. My only hope is that Mr. Paul remains on the Wizard World circuit and that I can catch him at a later show.
Guests were not the only big attraction at Wizard World Fort Lauderdale. The venders area, though a little small compared to other shows, was not lacking in its diversity. Upon walking in, one could partake in a very impressive interactive display promoting Toruk: The First Flight (a Cirque De Soleil show based on James Cameron's Avatar) and browse a small ocean of comic book, toy and custom merchandise retailers.
The Florida Chapter of the 1701st Star Trek Fan Group was on hand and I got to interview a couple of them briefly for the fandom article that I am incorporating into my 'Fifty Years in the Final Frontier' series celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary next year. They were nice people and I look forward to spreading word of their group as that series of articles develops.
Another popular exhibit was the The Walking Dead photo booth where attendees could get their picture taken with incredibly convincing Rick Grimes and walker cosplayers. I seriously had to do a double take on the guy dressed up as Rick. As you can see above it was that good.
All in all, it was a good show. Again, being that it was the first year in Fort Lauderdale it was a little smaller than some of the other shows on the circuit but hopefully word will spread and next year will be much bigger and better. Wizard World is a fantastic series of conventions and they always bring their A game to the shows that they put on. They provide the best guests along with the greatest assortment of things to see and do. It's just always a blast and a privilege to be a part of the excitement each time I get to go.
My only regret is that I wasn't able to spend as much time at this one as I had hoped. Also that Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) and Jon Bernthal (soon to be starring as the Punisher on Season 2 of Netflix's Daredevil) had to cancel. I would have loved to have been able to walk away with some news on both of their shows but what can you do?
Well, that's it for me this time around. Not the most comprehensive coverage but hopefully it was enough to get you excited to attend your closest Wizard World Convention....or travel to one. Make a vacation out of it. They are some of the most fun I've had. So with that, I will leave you with this picture of my daughter as the world's cutest Supergirl ever. She was a major hit while we were there (with both attendees and guests) and Melissa Benoist has her work cut out for her on this fall's new TV series.