I was fortunate enough to attend Wizard World Raleigh, the first celebrity based convention we have had in this area of North Carolina. I specify “celebrity based” because, though Wizard World advertises themselves as a “comic con,” there is a bigger focus on the film and television celebrities than there is on comic books as opposed to the NC Comic Con, which is strictly comic book based. There were a few comic artists on hand to sign but there were maybe two vendors with comic books for sale. To put simply, there was a little more con than there were comics.
Friday had only a handful of celebrities available for autographs including James Marsters (Buffy), Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira, Joel Hodgson (Mystery Science Theater 3000) and Steve Gonsalves (Ghost Hunters), whom I actually didn’t see at all on Friday. It wasn’t until Friday night that William Shatner (Star Trek) was available for signings.
The pros of so few celebrities being there on Friday were that the lines were short. I spent about twenty minutes in line to meet and take a photo with James Marsters, who is, by the way, one of the kindest celebrities I have ever met. He took the time to talk to every single person that passed through his line. He gave out acting advice, took photos with people and, in one instance I saw, a stuffed moose and he delivered them all with a smile. Having been a massive Buffy fan since the show’s inception, meeting James Marsters was a bucket list activity and, considering that I graduated high school in that very same convention center, you could say I had two major life experiences under that roof as of Friday.
The big negative of there being so few celebrities there on Friday was that the convention charged people $45 to get in. That’s more expensive than most conventions charge for a Saturday ticket. Considering there were only 6 celebrities there, most people were paying to get in and spend all of their money on vendors only. The Saturday price of $50 was incredibly reasonable, being that every celebrity on the roster was there, but the Friday price really should have been much lower. The one cool thing was that every paying guest received a limited edition issue of The Walking Dead #1 comic.
Friday was a slow day and, therefore, easy to maneuver around vendors, so I did a little shopping. Many of the vendors had their prices jacked up really high and if the item happened to be related to a guest in attendance, the prices were doubled. There were a few shops that were very reasonable, however. These are the shops that got my money. I ended up buying a Battle Buffy exclusive Funko Pop for only $15 from one vendor, which is the best price I have been able to find anywhere. Other vendors were asking the better part of $40 for theirs.
A friend of mine got a photo op with Cassandra Peterson thinking it was with Elvira as she said it wasn’t mentioned she wouldn’t be in makeup. Maybe it could have been advertised better or maybe she misread, either way $50 for no makeup does seem quite high of a price to pay. Ms. Peterson was incredibly kind though, as she always has been. For that reason alone, I would not have complained about the price, only about the misinformation.
Saturday was slammed. Friday had only a few hundred people in attendance but Saturday easily had thousands. Luckily, the convention center is a massive building and there was enough room between booths and vendors for people to move easily. I had worried that Friday’s low attendance would mean that Raleigh would not have any more large conventions come to the area, but Saturday’s turnout boosted my hopes for others to come. This area desperately needs a horror convention as the closest one so far is Mad Monster Party in Charlotte.
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries), William Shatner, David Tennant (Dr. Who), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf) and Jason David Frank (Power Rangers) had the longest lines in the place, wrapping around their booths and down the hallways. Getting photos of them was nearly impossible as the conventions employees wouldn’t let anyone get close enough to do so, press pass or not, with the exception of the helper at Jason David Frank’s booth who let me get as close as I wanted. One employee grabbed my arm when I accidently stepped over a red tape line at William Shatners booth. Perhaps she mistook my obvious Nikon camera as a weapon in order to justify touching me but a verbal warning would have been sufficient. Hopefully she didn’t put her hands on any paying customers as the convention could have some major trouble on their hands as a result.
As a horror fan, I took the time to seek out Lowell Dean, the director of WolfCop, who was kind of wedged against a wall and difficult to find. He showed me some of the makeup and props from the film and took the time to autograph an 8×10 for me with his favorite line from the film. I was very thankful that Wizard World had brought him out as the convention really needed a little more horror representation. He did a showing of his film and a Q&A session that night that I hope had a good turnout as the film was a tremendous lot of fun.
There was some amazing cosplay on Friday and Saturday. I came upon the green Power Ranger (@primisis on Instagram), Ned Stark, the nurses and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill, Rick and Daryl from The Walking Dead and several other impressive ones such as a giant Invader Zim and Batman and the Penguin. The effort, and money, some of these people put into their costumes was just impressive but these conventions are the only place, outside of Halloween, where they can dress up as these characters without being judged. I watched as each of them were stopped every few feet to take photos with other fans.
The vendors seemed to bring out more goods on Saturday with better prices. I found a Cherry Darling figure from Planet Terror for only $10 and I picked up Lo Pan and Jack Burton Funko Pops from Big Trouble in Little China for just $25.
The Q&A lines were intense and even longer than the autograph lines. I was unable to attend any of them as I would’ve wasted a good chunk of my day waiting instead of keeping my eyes on the con itself. I did, however, overhear people talking about them and they seemed to really enjoy themselves. The David Tennant Q&A seemed to be the most popular but was only available to those who purchased a specific VIP pass for him.
As I had to walk quite a ways in the pouring rain on Saturday, I ended up in the convention for most of the day with soaking wet hair and clothes, resulting in a pretty bad cold, which kept me from attending on Sunday. I had every intention of meeting Sean Astin, hoping Sunday would give me a shorter line but that didn’t quite work out for me. Perhaps I will get another opportunity to meet him in the future.
My overall impression of Wizard World Raleigh was good. I wish there had been more guests than vendors and that the guests had been there all three days as opposed to the majority of them only being there one or two days. This would have shortened the autograph lines and made the ticket prices worth it. This would have also given them the opportunity to have more Q&A sessions on Friday, shortening the lines to those as well. I am sure, should they decide to continue conventions in the Raleigh area, Wizard World will work out those little kinks.
Those criticisms aside, I am happy to have a convention in this area and I hope this encourages more to come along.
Ann Hale is the horror editor for Pop-Break.com and a senior contributing writer, reviewing horror movies and television shows. She is also the American Correspondent for Lovehorror.co.uk and writer for Geekandstuff.com. Ann attended East Carolina University, majoring in English Literature. She is a collector of Halloween (the film) memorabilia and is a self-admitted opinionated horror nerd. You can follow her, her collection and her cat, Edward Kittyhands on Twitter and Instagram @Scarletjupiter