Wizard World Wows ’em in the Windy City
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Wizard World Wows ’em in the Windy City

12 Aug 2014, Posted by in ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
Wizard World Wows ’em in the Windy City
by Steve Woolf
Autograph Collector, November 1, 2004
If you’ve never been to a Wizard World Comic Sci-Fi Convention, you’re missing out on some great shows. Wizard World puts on four conventions a year around the country (Chicago, Philadelphia, Texas and Los Angeles) and draws fans from all over the world.I attended my fi rst one – Wizard World Chicago – August 13-15 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill. and wasn’t disappointed. The three-day show, which gave fans an opportunity to get up close and personal with the industry’s top players through panel discussions , Q&A sessions and autograph signings, set a new attendance record with 54,500 people passing through the turnstiles.

Headlining the show were writer/director/ actor Kevin Smith, who is currently working on the highly-anticipated Green Hornet; Joss Whedon, the ingeniously creative mind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Marvel Comics’ Astonishing X-Men; actress Amber Benson, who plays teen witch Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Kelly Hu, who starred as the leather-suited Deathstrike in X2: X-Men United and as the all-seeing oracle in The Scorpion King.

Fans also were treated to special previews from some of the hottest upcoming entertainment properties, including the movie Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, the NBC television series Father of the Pride and Blade: Trinity from New Line Cinema starring Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel.

The show also featured scores of the comic book industry’s top artists and illustrators plus many exclusive collectibles from industry leaders like Palisades Toys, Mattel, Wiz Kids and Master Replicas that were only available at the show.

Now on to the autograph guests! As you can imagine, the lines for celebs like Kevin Smith, Kelly Hu and Joss Whedon were very long. Anticipating this, show organizers set up a special ticket line, and the first 750 people received a voucher good for one autograph from the scheduled celebrity. The line formed early, and those lucky enough to get vouchers then had to wait in another line later in the day when that particular guest signer was scheduled to appear.

But that was the exception. All the other celebrities were signing throughout the day and the wait time to get them was relatively small compared to that for the headliners. Celebrity booths were set up in the “Signing Area” and “Artist Alley.” Everyone enjoyed seeing their favorites, which ranged from popular TV celebs, Star Wars personalities, gorgeous supermodels, wrestling stars and comic book characters.

Lou Ferrigno was a huge hit at the show. The Incredible Hulk was super friendly, happily posed for photo-ops and signed a ton of autographs. Ferrigno actually began his career as a world-class bodybuilder, gaining international fame when he became the youngest competitor (age 20) ever to win the coveted Mr. Universe title. Lou displayed a great selection of photos, books and posters for fans to choose from.

Fans also flocked to see actresses Rena Owen and Orli Shoshan, both of whom appeared in Star Wars. One of New Zealand’s most celebrated and accomplished actresses, Owen first felt the force as Taun We in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. She also appears in the upcoming Episode III as Senator Nee Alavar. Rena had a huge line of fans that waited patiently for an autograph and a photo-op.

Shoshan also attracted a lot of attention from Star Wars fans. Born and raised in Israel, Orli went to Australia at age 18 to pursue a modeling career before being cast as the Jedi warrior Shaak Ti in Episode II. She’ll reprise the role in Episode III. Orli was warm and friendly, and displayed a great variety of modeling photos as well as some awesome Star Wars shots that she signed at a reasonable cost.

Several other sci-fi crowd-pleasers also made appearances. Erin Gray, who played Col. Wilma on the hit TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and her co-star Gil Gerard, who portrayed Buck Rogers, both signed up a storm.

Making my way down the aisle I noticed fans getting signed photos from Herb Jefferson Jr., best known as Lt. Boomer in Battlestar Galactica, Jackson Bostwick, whose claim to fame is portraying the world’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel, in the long-running Shazam! TV series, Marc Singer of The Beastmaster and big Scott Schwartz, who played the bad-ass heavy in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Spider-Man and Oceans 11. Fans also enjoyed getting ’graphs from Glenn Shadix, who played Otho in Tim Burton’s sci-fi fantasy fl ick Beetlejuice.

Former World Wrestling Federation superstar Virgil enjoyed visiting with mat fans, and he was a popular signing guest the entire weekend.

At the far end of the convention center was Artist Alley. This was an extremely popular area of the show where fans had an opportunity to meet many top comic book artists and illustrators, many of whom drew specialty sketches for them.

Spicing things up even more in that area were several hot female celebrities that drew a lot of attention. One who made a big splash was Cleopatra of the Nile. Born of Egyptian parents but raised in Australia, Cleopatra looks so much like Salma Hayek that she was Salma’s stand-in double in The Velocity of Gary (1998).

The former beauty pageant winner has now become a comic book character, and her new comic (published by Baron Publishing) was unveiled at the show. Cleopatra was signing the cover of the premier issue, and told me that it’s like “Tomb Raider meets The Mummy.”

Also signing in Artist Alley were gorgeous Asian model Linda Tran and super hotty Dazza Del Rio. Multi-talented Dazza is an accomplished singer, model, comedienne, calendar/pinup girl and actress, and she appeared with The Rock in The Scorpion King. It wasn’t hard to see why her sexy photos, calendars, DVDs and posters were selling like wildfire! Guys lined up en masse to get a photo-op, a friendly hug and her fancy signature on a variety of items. Speaking of The Scorpion King, Kelly Hu – the actress who co-starred in the film as well as X2: X-Men United – made an appearance on Saturday for several hours and signed free promotional posters for a huge crowd of fans. So many people wanted to meet her that I couldn’t get close enough to snap even one photo for this article, that’s how wild it was!

For those of you that would like to attend a Wizard World show, the next one is being held November 5-7 in Dallas. For a list of scheduled guests and more information, visit www.wizarduniverse.com.

Autograph Collector Magazine

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