5 Ways to Wizard World
By George Rose
June 1, 2018
The time has come to settle the Battle of the Philly Comic Cons. In one corner we have the smaller Great Philadelphia Comic Con, which included my first press pass. In the other corner we have the larger Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, which included my first real celebrity interview. It was also on my friend’s bachelor party weekend in Atlantic City. So many Cons, so many celebs, so little time. You’ve been reading, you’ve waited and now the Comic Con war is over. Before we declare a winner, let’s look back at Wizard World weekend.
#1) PRE-CONVENTION PREP
My last convention in April consisted of mostly Power Rangers and smaller celebrities. The costs were kept low which meant the potential to achieve all goals was high. With Wizard World, the stakes were much higher. To help keep this concise, we will only be discussing the celebrities I targeted before the convention and not the long list of others that fell outside my radar. A month out from Wizard World - which was just after my last Comic Con spending spree - and we already had a large list to look forward to and one I was seemingly able to afford.
Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier, $80 autograph) was the main draw so I spent $100 to get a rare, vaulted Funko Pop of his from his debut Marvel movie. There was also Dave Bautista (Drax, $60 autograph) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis, $40 autograph) from Guardians of the Galaxy, both of whom had great Pops available between $10 to $15. We also had Billy Boyd (Pippin, $40 autograph) and Sean Astin (Samwise, $60 autograph) from Lord of the Rings, and I found $10 Pops for both. And finally, Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell, $80 autograph) from Game of Thrones. Her only Pop goes for $50 without damage to the box. Considering these reasonable autograph prices, affording this Con and the bachelor party was certainly possible.
Spending $200 on Funko Pops to get signed for another $360 is a decent chunk of change, but worth the outcome of six golden nerd trophies. However, my first press pass interview would also come at a price. I learned I was approved to tape a session with Thomas Ian Nicholas, star of 1993’s Rookie of the Year and the American Pie film series. I already had the inflatable microphone and cell phone for video, but spent another $50 to get a lapel microphone to tape behind my fake mic for better audio. $250 down, $360 to go. That’s not too bad.
Just kidding! Two weeks out from the event and Wizard World added MORE celebrities, which wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t just a Comic Con near Philly a few weeks prior. Last minute additions included: Sean Bean (Ned Stark from GoT and Boromir from LotR), which meant a $10 Pop and an $80 autograph; Elijah Wood (Frodo from LotR), which meant a $35 rare Pop and ANOTHER $80 autograph; Karl Urban (Eomer from LotR and Bones from Star Trek), which meant a $10 Pop and a $60 autograph; and Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca from Disney era Star Wars), which meant a $15 Pop and a $40 autograph. I had already committed $600 to Wizard World prior to these additions, which was another $70 for Pops and $260 for autographs. Tag on $35 a day for parking and you’re looking at a $1,000+ weekend. That’s a lot of money.
And that’s $1,000 before the bachelor party, lost income from days off work to attend and having just spent over $500 a month prior at another Philly Comic Con. I was $320 invested in Wizard World, committed to only one bachelor party this year, and preparing for $600 in autographs. Knowing how being hungover during the weekend was likely to alter events, I decided I should invest just a bit more into making sure the first day went well. Since Thomas Ian Nicholas has no character available in Funko form I had a custom hat made, something original I could have signed (hopefully for free) and cherish forever. Given my first year with press passes and his appearance in one of my childhood classics, I had a “Wizard World Press Pass Rookie of the Year” hat made. One last $25 purchase and I was ready to go.
#2) THURSDAY, MAY 17 - WIZARD WORLD DAY ONE
Aside from a few small celebrities, none of which had Funko Pops available, there were no big marquee names present on Thursday and less than a handful on Friday. The vast majority of my targets were only going to be at Wizard World on Saturday and Sunday. Thursday would be my day designated for my interview with Thomas and my shopping. Since I didn’t have to pack my shopping cart up with autographables, I decided to bring a few Funko Pops that I didn’t need to see if I could trade them with vendors. I heard that was a thing and wanted to give it a try.
The layout was different than the year prior with much more space going to the celebrities, which is unfortunate because I noticed less shopping than ever. Wizard World was always considered bigger than Great Philly Comic Con but, this year, the shopping layout was about the same size. There were still plenty of Funko Pop sellers but less of the fun, artistic clothing that I remembered in the past. Unique shirts that play with popular brands are a Comic Con staple and this year I only found one I wanted. Or it was the only one I could afford. Regardless, it was a really cool Thanos-inspired cereal box shirt called “Than-O’s.” I have a similar Loki-themed “Loki Charms” shirt at home so I thought it would fit my “cereal killer” collection.
One shirt down and I was ready for my interview with Thomas. I went up to his booth, informed him of my scheduled time to meet with him and he graciously accepted my request to film an interview. My brother held my cell phone, I attached the microphone and warned Thomas this was a weekend I was attending a bachelor party so I had themed my questions as such. I even started the interview by stating how he’s probably bored of the same old questions and his bad boy behavior in America Pie makes him an ideal candidate for discussing bachelor party antics. He went along for the ride and was kind enough to ignore the waterfall of sweat coming down my face. Considering I didn’t throw up all over him, I’d say the interview was a success.
To learn more about my interview experience, you can find me and video clips from Wizard World on my Instagram page under @RoseByAnyName. The short of it is that the wildest thing Thomas did at his own bachelor party (that he could reveal) was cause drunken madness while golfing. He also informed me that he hosted a friend-of-a-friend’s bachelor party at his house, as a favor to his roommate at the time. He laughed at my inflatable microphone and was thrilled to discover my custom hat made in his honor, although I still had to pay him $40 to sign it. He did, however, take lots of free pictures with me. Overall, it was an amazing experience.
After the interview I walked around the convention center to do some Funko hunting. It turns out that I am pretty decent trader. Case and point: I previously found a giant 10” Porg Pop (from Star Wars) at Target but the box was damaged. I purchased it for $30 (retail), knew the un-damaged value was about $60 because stores almost never have it, and traded it for a $45 damage-free Yondu Pop (from Guardians of the Galaxy) that I wanted. Spending $30 for a $45 Pop is great! I traded a $9 (retail) Target-exclusive Han Solo for a $20 Hulk Pop I wanted from Thor: Ragnarok, when he’s wearing a bath towel. The value of the deal was always a touch in the vendor’s favor, but that was ok because I had never spent more than half the value in the first place. With my first interview and trading complete, the first day ended a historic success.
#3) FRIDAY, MAY 18 - WIZARD WORLD DAY TWO & BACHELOR PARTY DAY ONE
On Friday the convention opened their doors at noon and I was hoping to get down to the bachelor party by 5 pm, which meant I’d have to leave Philly to get to Atlantic City around 3:30 pm at the latest. I was driving a friend with me to AC and he knew we were going to Wizard World first. Although he was excited, he isn’t a super nerd in the sense that he wasn’t planning on buying any autographs or purchasing collectibles. Since my shopping was done Thursday and the major celebrities I desired were coming Saturday/Sunday, we decided to get down to AC early and skip the Con. After all, me spending $35 on parking and him spending $45 on a ticket didn’t seem worthwhile considering it would end up being three hours of aimless walking.
#4) SATURDAY, MAY 19 - WIZARD WORLD DAY THREE & BACHELOR PARTY DAY TWO
Oh man, I was destroyed on Saturday. Once you turn 30 years old it gets a lot harder to drink your face off. I decided that I went hard on Friday in honor of my friend and I would recover peacefully on Saturday so that I may go hard with celebrities on Sunday. There was no way I was going to drive an hour from AC to Philly while hungover, no way I’d pay $35 for parking, no way I’d allow myself to meet Natalie Dormer or Sebastian Stan looking like a ratchet mess and no way I’d return to the bachelor party if I drove most of the way home by going to Philly. In an effort to save some money, I said I’d now only go on Sunday so there’s no way I’d be able to see all the celebrities and, therefore, wouldn’t have to spend as much. Fate could decide.
#5) SUNDAY, MAY 20 - WIZARD WORLD DAY FOUR & END OF THE BACHELOR PARTY
Here’s the thing about life: you can’t plan it. You can barely struggle through it. I rested all day Saturday because I planned to go celebrity crazy on Sunday at Wizard World. That was, I rested Saturday until one of the bachelor’s friends got into a fight with him. This meant I had to back the bachelor up when he was defending his right to party however he wanted, unlike the jerk friend who partied too hard at his own bachelor party and slipped his schlong into a stripper. To help prove that being too intoxicated is less of a crime than diddling a dancer, I decided to pull up my big boy pants and party hard with my friend on the final night of his adult freedom.
The thing is, my celebrity autograph fascination started two years back because I decided to pass on Carrie Fisher since I knew she’d be around a lot now that Star Wars was back on the big screen. She died two months later and ever since that lost opportunity I have treated celebs like shooting stars, these rare occurrences that must be seized whenever the chance passes by. You never know if/when these celebs will come around to Philly again so you go on a spending spree, or else they’ll die on you. The truth is, not every star can be a Carrie. Yes, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones and Marvel are epic brands, but there was only one Carrie Fisher.
When you have two conventions in less than a month, you have to ration funds. When one convention has dozens of celebrities, you have to limit the options. Sometimes the day chooses for you because of cancellations (Drax and Mantis both called out of the Con), time constraints (two celeb autographs with long lines at the same time can mean just picking one), or monetary constraints. There’s also the issues of autograph tickets. At Great Philly Comic Con, you paid for each celeb at their own booth. At Wizard World, you go to a special booth first to buy a specific autograph ticket before getting in line. So, if the celeb leaves before the line is up or you shit yourself because you’re still drunk, then you have to deal with a refund or losing money.
If I could only get one, I’d pick Sebastian Stan because I spent $100 on his Pop. But isn’t that sexist? It’s 2018. If I’m buying only one, it certainly can’t be from a straight white guy. Ok, I’ll get Natalie Dormer’s. I decided I’d make a pit stop for one autograph to say that my weekend wasn’t a total fail. Except, one $80 autograph is really $115 because of parking. $115 for one autograph, plus finding parking and forcing my friend to pay $45 for a ticket just to watch me fall asleep in line suddenly didn’t seem worth it. All weekend I juggled the idea of spending money on a bunch of celebs and I had at one point considered limiting my bachelor party experience. Just one mile from the last exit to take me home, I decided to cancel on the Con. There was no celebrity that was more special than my friend and no autograph worth pissing my pants in line for. For the rest of the drive I wondered if I made the right choice but I knew I’d never know.
After dropping my friend off, I went home to my own fiancé who was thrilled I returned early and saved hundreds of dollars by skipping Comic Con. He asked what I wanted to watch on TV while I rested and I said anything Disney. Animated movies make me happy and I couldn’t stomach the idea of seeing a real celebrity face. My fiancé, however, isn’t a nerd. He likes history, World War 2 in particular, and takes anything I want and finds the most obscure version of it to torment me. Instead of a Disney classic, my non-geek guy picked a historical drama about the life of Walt Disney because I wasn’t more specific when I said “a Disney movie.”
On any other day his choice would have started a playful fight. On this day, his choice to watch “Walt Before Disney” was one of those moments in life when God reveals Him/Her-self to let you know you’re on the right path. How so, you ask? It stars Thomas Ian Nicholas as Disney. I’m fairly certain my fiancé has no idea who Thomas is and he certainly didn’t remember that I interviewed him days before. I don’t need him to care about such things, those are my hobbies and he has his own. I do, however, appreciate when God chooses my man as a vessel to deliver me secret messages. For the first time, I didn’t fight with my fiancé for picking a historical drama. This time, I watched it with a smile on my face knowing this was the sign I needed. It seemed I was a better friend and press than I was a fan, and God seemed to be saying that was the right decision. Next time, the celebs won’t be so lucky. As for which convention was better, there really is no answer. In April, I had my first press pass and got tons of autographs. In May, I had my first interview and Funko trading experience. Both were great for different reasons. All I can do now is learn from these Cons and start saving for the next. A little more time and a little more money are going to go a long way.