A Better Time had By All: Andy Burns Returns to Wizard World

This weekend was fairly eventful for this Biff Bam Popper. Along with the release party for The Collected Biff Bam Boo at The Curzon here in Toronto, Wizard World made it’s return to T.O. for this year’s edition of Comic-Con. It was the second Wizard World event in our fair city following last year’s lacklustre debut and it seemed like organizers learned from their mistakes. So did I.

Last year I spent three days at the show and truthfully, it was overkill. Crowds were sparse, celebs on hand seemed non-plussed about being there and  a general sense of malaise from the vendors permeated throughout the room. Rather than commit a lot time this year, I decided to spend one evening at Wizard World, which was Friday. That gave me enough time to take in the vibe of the event, see what was being offered up and whether improvements had been made to the experience in Toronto.

Rather than start early in the day as was the case in 2010, Wizard World Toronto kicked off at 4pm and had a significant line-up of people waiting to get through the doors when they opened. Walking into the room, I immediately noticed it was a smaller set-up than last year, which was smart move by the organizers. There was still room to move around, but the event didn’t feel as barren as it did previously. Things just seemed better organized. It wasn’t the ridiculous mad rush of Fan Expo, mind you, but personally I was happy for that. It was good to be able to walk around and see who was where and what vendors had to offer.

One of my main goals when I go to a Comic-Con is to try and get a decent deal on books. I’ve shifted my comic book reading to more app based methods, but I did want to see if I could pick up the recently released The Mighty Thor Omnibus compiling the initial run by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for a good price. I did manage to find one vendor with copy, who had it on sale for U.S. cover price minus 30% with no tax, which was cheaper than picking it up via Amazon. So score one for Wizard World and me there. Sadly, on that first night the comic book vendors were not nearly as plentiful as I would have hoped. I’m actually lucky I managed to get what I was looking for.

Wandering around Wizard World when doors first opened did give me a chance to talk to some interesting folks, including Connor McCreery and Andy Belanger, part of the creative team on the great IDW comic Kill Shakespeare, which I’ve been reading on, yes, the IDW app. The guys were friendly, engaged and engaging, which is always nice to experience. Kill Shakespeare is one of the most unique comics I’ve read in a long time and well worth checking out, whether you’re a fan of the bard or not.

As a wrestling fan, walking around Wizard World, it’s always interesting to see who is on hand. Among the familiar names was the one and only Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, who was kind enough to answer a few Wrestlemania related questions for us. I’ll have that up closer to this year’s event, coming up in a few weeks. Also on hand were Virgil, Rhyno and Tony Atlas, who has some of the biggest arms I’ve ever seen in my life.

There were a lot of celebs on hand early, which meant fewer line-ups for the fans on-hand. Nicholas Brendon, best known as Xander from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, had a stready stream of people lining up for autographs and photo-ops. We spoke for a few minutes when he had a brief lull, but it was clear Brendan was nursing a fairly sore throat so I didn’t keep him too much. Funny to think that over the past couple years I’ve met my favourite vengeance demon and a guy who got diseases from a Chumash tribe.

After a few hours, I’d circled the room quite a few times and had had my fill of Wizard World. I did hear multiple fans walking around talking about what a great time they were having, which I firmly believe bodes well for the convention’s place in Toronto. After the auspicious debut in Toronto last year, things appeared more on track to what makes a good pop culture experience. While it has a ways to go before it offers up real competition to the Fan Expo (the lack of presence for film brands, Marvel and DC and toy creators was obvious), I’m looking forward to seeing what Wizard World has to offer when it returns next March.

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