The Great Philadelphia Comic Con is a rising force in the mid-Atlantic convention scene, as proved by the impressive show assembled April 22-24. The program was packed with over two dozen panels and as many celebrity guests, including Robin Lord Taylor and James Frain from Gotham, and a rare appearance by Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Power Ranger. Other guests included Denise Crosby, Garrett Wang, and Robert McNeil from Star Trek, Caroll Spinney (aka Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch), and Ray Park, best known as Darth Maul!
For those planning to make the trip next time to the Expo Center in Oaks, PA (“Upper Providence” on GPS), here’s a sample of what to expect. There are dozens of vendors and artists, including some big names like the legendary Neal Adams, offering a variety of merchandise and chatting with fans. It’s good to shop around first, since several vendors offer similar items at different prices. I found heavily discounted trade paperbacks, clearance rate Bronze Age comics, and reasonably priced rarities. Not all vendors are comics-related; there’s also TV and movie memorabilia, and even training weapons for cosplay and role-playing.
The autograph and photo op areas were extremely fan-friendly, allowing more time spent with the celebs than most of the bigger cons. Prices for add-ons and concessions were moderate, and customer service at registration was really accommodating. There was a strong turnout by some excellent cosplayers, and a full panel schedule complemented by gaming and speed dating areas, so there was always something different to do.
Being a completist, I was able to fill some gaps in my Bronze Age Marvel collections, especially Doctor Strange (featured in the last post) and the Incredible Hulk (the Crossroads storyline and John Byrne’s run). Since I don’t collect for monetary value, but because I actually enjoy reading comics, it’s worthwhile to buy trade paperbacks to follow complete storylines cheaply. Some trades have material no longer available in other formats, such as The Unauthorized Tarzan shown. I also opened my wallet for some pricier items, including some very early Mad paperbacks to add to my substantial collection.
The panel guests brought great energy. This was especially noticeable among the Power Rangers Time Force cast, who were enthused to be together again and reminisce about the show. Erin Cahill, who played Jen Scotts, remarked how honored she was o be the first female leader in the Power Rangers franchise.
The same high energy was taken into a physical dimension with Ray Park, aka Darth Maul (Star Wars) and Snake Eyes (GI Joe). A martial artist first and an actor second, Park could hardly stay in his chair, constantly bouncing up to show some moves. His base discipline is shaolin kung fu, though he admires Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and includes jeet kune do among his other disciplines. Both the Darth Maul and Snake Eyes parts were offered to him unexpectedly. In the case of Star Wars, he accepted without even knowing who he’d play, as he was just happy to be in the prequel, hardly expecting to be the face of its marketing. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson were great to work with in fight scenes, and he was allowed to create much of his own fight choreography, trying to bring as much realism as possible. One of his moves was actually thought up as a joke, bringing in some ballet and other dance disciplines.
The actors trained with aluminum poles for light saber scenes, since this has good weight balance, which begs the question: how practical are light sabers anyway?
A comic con wouldn’t be complete without a cosplay contest. The contestants excelled both in realism and creativity. Here are just a few:
Hilariously, the Batman kept dragging dead Superman around everywhere.
The Hawkgirl’s jet pack, a nice retro look from DC Comics Bombshells, was a really elaborate design. She was among the winners (as part of a female duo). Here are the rest of your winners:
It was a great way to close out the convention. Be sure to check the official convention website for the full list of this year’s guests, and watch for updates for next year’s event.