Wizard World Philly 2014 offered fun and informative programming

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First Posted: 7/1/2014

With each passing year, the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con seems to grow and improve – the 14th annual event held June 19 through June 22 was proof of this progression.

The Weekender attended the pop culture convention on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and each day offered a wide variety of quality programming and recognizable celebrity guests. Our weekend began on Friday with an afternoon panel about the 75-year history of Marvel Comics with comic historian Peter Sanderson, moderated by fellow Marvel writer Danny Fingeroth. While some of the facts were common knowledge to hardcore readers, certain tidbits did stand out and kept the packed room entertained. Try as they might, they couldn’t fit the entire presentation into the 45 minutes allotted, but that’s to be expected when everyone in attendance is a fan.

The highlight of the day – and practically the entire weekend – was a hilarious Q&A session with three of the four stars of AMC’s “Comic Book Men” – Mike Zapcic, Bryan Johnson, and Ming Chen – and Troma Entertainment co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, who was accompanied by various Troma characters. While it may seem odd to pair these personalities together, what blended perfectly was their frank honesty and off-color jokes. Without TV censors to get in the way, it was refreshing to hear the Comic Book Men talk openly about the show and bust each other – and the audience – ruthlessly while Kaufman added to the overall zaniness with puns and fart jokes aplenty, presenting them with “Troma diplomas” at the end and inviting them to be killed on screen in an upcoming Troma film.

On Saturday, one of the largest Q&As of the day focused on two of the most popular guests in attendance – Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, stars of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The panel was an entertaining as the blockbuster film, taking some questions about their craft seriously and laughing it up the rest of the time. Mackie in particular was cracking jokes and enjoying the spotlight, and both seemed ready to slather on the Crisco and jump into the skin-tight suits again for future installments in the franchise. When asked if he would feel comfortable taking over for Captain America if Chris Evans left (as his character does in the comics), Stan eagerly replied, “Yeah, I’ll do it right now,” which was met with cheers and thunderous applause.

The “Guardians of the Galaxy” panel right after ended up getting split up due to the schedules of Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, and Michael Rooker, so the Weekender stayed for Bautista’s Q&A, which was a mix of interesting stories from the WWE as well as his budding acting career. Soft-spoken and largely hidden under his cap on stage, his disposition was quite different from his badass wrestling persona. He admitted to sobbing when he scored the role of Drax in the upcoming Marvel Studios film, a role he and his manager fought long and hard for. He compared the tattooed, green-skinned warrior to an “emotional rollercoaster” and joked that if Marvel “has any integrity,” they’ll let him eventually slay Thanos, a villain that plagues both the Guardians and the Avengers.

In a much smaller but just as informative panel, the creator of the Crow, James O’Barr, delved into the making of the comic and the original film, which he seemed to love as much as his fans (while despising the lackluster sequels as much as they do). As he still owns the rights to the character, he talked openly about the new Crow film, which he has creative control over and is overseeing through every step of the production. While no actors were mentioned to don the iconic black and white face paint, O’Barr did talk about how he chose F. Javier Gutiérrez to direct the film and emphasized that it would not be a remake, but rather a direct and gritty adaptation of the original graphic novel.

Saturday ended with a costume contest judged by a group that included Jason David Frank, the Green Ranger from the original “Might Morphin Power Rangers” TV series. He was just as colorful as the fans who walked onstage in their homemade costumers, taking pictures with them and interacting with their various personas, making it a fun and unpredictable event.

Before the Weekender departed on Sunday, we caught a final “Behind the Shells” Q&A with Sean Astin and Rob Paulsen, both voice actors on Nickelodeon’s popular “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series. Paulsen, whose voice was instantly recognizable to any cartoon fan, named Pinky of “Animaniacs” as his all-time favorite character to portray, proudly declaring, “Narf!” Astin, who voices Raphael and is best known for “The Lord of the Rings” films, freely admitted that he wasn’t a fan of the Turtles growing up, but his brother was, which gave him an appreciation for the series that carried over into his current job.