Every year since its inception, Nola Nerd Couple have enjoyed going to the Wizard World con in New Orleans. Besides the Star Wars Celebrations, I had never been to a con before. In fact, I would credit the New Orleans Wizard World con for jumpstarting my love of cons. The thrill of meeting television and movie celebrities, comic book writers and illustrators, the plethora of trinkets, statures, comics, toys, books, jewelry, and other random assortments of all things nerdy, the cosplay, and the simple pleasure of being around other people who are as geeked out as you are makes going to cons one of my favorite hobbies.
A few months before the Wizard World con, I usually stalk the website daily to see what new celebrity they add. I was pretty excited when the con added Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith, and Karen Gillan from Doctor Who, and debated on whether or not I should buy a VIP pass. However, I had already met all three of them at different cons (Jenna in London!), so I ultimately decided it was not worth it (especially since Matt and Karen eventually cancelled).
As I continued my daily stalking, I suddenly see Chris Evans from Marvel’s Captain America! And Jeremy Renner! And Hayley Atwell! And Frank Grillo! Are your freaking kidding me?! I immediately looked at the VIP options. The Platinum VIP included lithographs, autographs of each, a group photo-op, first seating at the panel, and a 3-day pass to the con. Though expensive, I figured this was a once in a lifetime chance, so YOLO, right?
A few weeks before the con, they added Anthony Mackie to the lineup and Platinum VIP holders got the upgrade to meet him for free! Score! Now my pass would include Cap, Hawkeye, Agent Carter, Crossbones, and Falcon. I was definitely in MCU heaven. The icing on the cake was the directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Civil War, the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, would be at the convention and they would sign and meet people for free! This was shaping up to be an amazing con.
On Friday, January 8, Kurt and I met his sister Natalie at our house and made our way to the con. Captain America is Natalie’s favorite, so she was probably more excited than I was. She had the Gold VIP, which meant she got an autograph and photo-op with Chris Evans. Since almost no celebrities would be at the con on Friday, we used it as a shopping and exploring day.
I randomly met my friend from high school, Bunny, in the VIP line. She also had the Platinum VIP. After we mutually squealed over how excited we were and got our passes, we entered the con. They moved the con to Halls G, H, and I at the New Orleans Convention Center. Instead of making people line up in the entryways and hallways in the front of the Halls, they had the ticket booths inside the front of Hall G. I cannot comment on if that made traffic flow more smoothly than last year, since last year I only had a Saturday pass, but there were not lines of people out in the front (last year, we had to wait outside for a bit, the line was so long). I think it made more sense to have the ticket area here. One thing I wish Wizard World would do is either allow for early pickup on the Thursday (like MegaCon in Orlando) or mail out wristbands and badges ahead of time (like Star Wars Celebration). In fact, we could not even pick up the Saturday ticket for Kurt’s mom on Friday. It just seems like with all of the wealth of Wizard World, they could allow the manpower and energy to alleviate long lines (I overheard one person say that he waited in line for 43 minutes and he preordered his passes).
One of the amazing art booths that first caught my eye was Audra Olivias Attic. She took old paintings, like you would find in a thrift store, and painted fantastical elements in them. I really wanted to splurge on a painting, but I had a $300 budget for the weekend and knew I couldn’t blow a chunk of it in one purchase. Instead, Bunny and I split the cost of a buy two get one free print deal she was doing. She had so many original prints including an awesome Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, which is one of my favorite characters from a book, and a cat in space with a Tardis.
I found a shop that was selling some Legend of Zelda merchandise. If you did not know, the Legend of Zelda from Nintendo is one of my obsessions. I have a variety of merch from dolls, to statues, to clothing, to jewelry, to prints, to anything else that catches my eye (including all of the games on their original platforms). I wound up buying a giant Link, a smaller Link, a Link in a Deku mask, and a wallet.
We decided to meet the Russo Brothers, as they were only at the con Friday and Saturday, and we knew Saturday would be a busy day. I bought a nice Civil War print for them to sign, not realizing that they also had different nice Civil War prints for free that they would sign. The line took around 45 minutes, but it was worth it because not only were the autographs free, they would talk to you, take pictures, take videos, and generally just be great guests to meet. I have no problem waiting in lines when the celebrities are so accommodating and friendly and you could not ask for two nicer guys. Kurt was really excited to meet them because he considers The Winter Soldier to not only be a great comic book movie but one that holds up well against movies like Three Days of the Condor and other political movies of the seventies. When he told this to the Russo brothers, they said those movies were the ones that inspired them while making the Winter Soldier.
Saturday was pretty much a perfect day. Kurt, Natalie, Kurt’s mom, and I got there about 7:30am. The Captain America panel was set for 10am, but we wanted to make sure we got great seats, and we weren’t sure how long Kurt’s mom would have to wait to get her Saturday only ticket. Since I had a Platinum VIP, I had first seating at the Cap panel, plus three extra tickets. Even though we arrived so early, we were still around thirty people back from the first person in line. Natalie had two second seating tickets that she was not going to use since I gave her a first seating, so right before they started letting people in at 9:30am, I went to the very back to the General Admission line and found a nice couple and gave them the tickets. They were definitely surprised and excited! We wound up getting great third row seats on the end, with a clear shot of the whole stage.
The Russo brothers moderated the panel and as luck would have it, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner sat directly in front of us. People from the audience asked questions and the Russo brothers did a great job of clarifying and taking over to expedite answers. Anthony Mackie was the biggest surprise, not just because he could answer any question with the eloquence and smoothness that any New Orleans native can design, but he was so hilarious, I actually got tears in my eyes at one point from laughing. Way to make New Orleans proud! Jeremy Renner seemed a bit over doing press, but he was still charming and affable with a dry wit. Chris Evans looked like a little schoolboy, adorable and smiling. Frank Grillo had amazing hair that Bunny eventually got to touch and swears had no product in it, just natural bouncy pompadour style, and Hayley Atwell was simply gorgeous with a great smile. She gave some of the best, most intelligent answers on the panel.
As soon as the panel was over, we ran to Chris Evans’ autograph line. He was only there on Saturday and had very limited signings, so we wanted to get him done first. I actually had two Chris Evans autographs, because I wanted him to sign my photo-op; however, all of the single photo-ops were after his signings. I was incredibly bummed because I had nothing else for him to sign, so I quickly bought a great Captain America: Winter Soldier mini-poster. I was scared that they wouldn’t let Kurt come with me since he wasn’t a Platinum VIP, but they didn’t mind since he did not have anything separate to sign and we were together. Chris was so nice when we met him. I thanked him for coming to our city and asked him if he had any time to enjoy it. He said the con consumed his whole time in New Orleans, so he didn’t have a chance to really explore. I told him whenever he had a chance to return, New Orleans would welcome him. Great little thirty second chat.
Since I was Platinum, we were able to immediately go to Hayley Atwell’s line. She was splendid. She told us that she loved New Orleans and I remarked that it was my favorite city in the world, and offhandedly said Edinburgh was my second favorite. She put down her pen and we had a nice little conversation about how cold Edinburgh can get in the winter but how beautiful it was. After being delighted by her, we immediately got into Jeremy Renner’s line. He was wearing glasses (if you haven’t noticed, I am a sucker for a man in glasses) and was incredibly personable. We asked him if he enjoyed New Orleans, and he stated that he loves the city and has been here many times. Kurt mentioned how sometimes he enjoys it at night, but regrets some of it in the morning, to which Jeremy laughed and agreed. As I left the line, a big crowd of people were gathered as close to Jeremy’s table as allowed. I overhead one man remark, “You don’t understand, this is an A-class movie star. He’s been in award-winning movies!” It is true…Jeremy has done fantastic work in The Town and The Hurt Locker. It’s cool that an actor of this caliber takes the time to meet with fans for a comic book movie.
Anthony Mackie was in a different area, so we ambled over there. Kurt was most excited to see him because he has a personal connection. Kurt used to work at a NOCCA school (not the main campus, but one that was affectionately known as Baby NOCCA) with Henry Hoffman in New Orleans, who taught a drama/theater class. Henry taught Anthony Mackie at the more famous NOCCA and Henry and Kurt would often talk about what Anthony was doing and they would kind of follow his career. When we reached him, we told him we were from New Orleans too and then Kurt proceeded to tell him about Henry. Anthony and Kurt immediately bonded and Anthony was super excited to talk about Henry. Anthony said when he was in Henry’s class, he thought much of what he taught sounded bogus, but as soon as he got into acting, he realized everything Henry said was on point. Kurt stared a sentence about a classic Henry line, and Anthony finished it. It was pretty cool to share a moment like that.
It was then time for my photo-op with just Chris Evans. As I’m waiting, one of the volunteers kept exclaiming that there was no kissing, hugging, etc. Of course, when it was my turn for the photo, I turned to Chris and told him I’m sorry, but that the volunteer told me that there was no kissing. He laughed and Cap and I took a great picture together.
We then met Frank Grillo. He was also extremely nice. I love that every person we met seemed extremely friendly and appreciative of his or her fans. It makes for a great experience and one that we thoroughly enjoyed.
After some lunch and some more sight-seeing, we took our group Captain America picture. Because of the layout of the actors, you could either stand next to Chris or Jeremy, as the other three were seated on chairs. Because I stood by Chris Evans on my solo photo-op, I decided that I wanted to stand next to Jeremy. Photo-ops go pretty fast, and Jeremy was the closest one to us, so I immediately said hi to everyone and stood next to him. A couple of seconds tick by and Anthony turned around and stated, “C’mon, mama, you gotta make room for him!” I realized that Kurt (who was wearing his Hawkeye shirt and thought he would stand by Jeremy) was not on my other side between me and Chris, but still waiting to get in the photo. So I said in a singsong, slightly whiny voice, “But *I* wanted to stand next to Jeremy Renner!” The whole lot of them started ooooooohing and cracking up laughing. Jeremy got the biggest smile on his face while Chris looked a little jilted. The photo came out fantastic, and you can still see the big smile on Jeremy’s face and Hayley mid-laugh. As we were walking out, Kurt told Jeremy, “I’m not jealous,” to which Jeremy laughed and hit him on the upper arm.
We decided to meet the Russo brothers again to get them to sign our Captain America: Winter Soldier Blu-ray and the poster that Chris Evans signed. It was about an hour wait, but worth it. Hopefully, I can get some more signatures on my Winter Soldier poster.
My one downside was that I was one of the first ones to meet Chris Evans thanks to my Platinum VIP and Chris was just signing his name. I guess by the time he reached the Gold VIP people, he added “Cap” to each signature. My two pieces don’t say “Cap” on it. That bums me out quite a bit. Maybe one day I can re-meet him and bring my two pieces and beg him to write Cap on them.
Even though we already met her, I wanted Jenna Coleman to sign my Doctor Who poster. She is just adorable and so sweet. We told her we met her in London once and we were thrilled that she came to New Orleans and wished her luck on her new show.
I also met Jamie Kennedy at the con. I loved him in Scream and Scream 2 and Romeo + Juliet. He had a great photo of Romeo and his boys, and Jamie played Sampson, with the great line, “No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir!” Naturally, I had to get him to sign it. Casper Van Dien was right next to him and Kurt wanted his autograph from Starship Troopers, so we went to him next. As Kurt is trying to figure out which picture he wanted autographed, I said, “Whatever you want, Kurt.” Well, Casper thought that was the best line ever and repeatedly told Kurt that he was a witness to me saying that and that he needed to take full advantage of me telling Kurt he can have whatever he wants. It was pretty great end to a pretty perfect day.
On Sunday, we simply wandered around and bought more art. I had some comics I wanted signed, so we met Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who co-write a New 52 relaunch Harley Quinn comic series. We also bought an amazing print of Harley and the Joker getting married that I want to hang in our bedroom. They were incredibly sweet and we talked a lot about the con and how great it was. I then met Greg Horn to get him to sign my Star Wars #1 variant. He was a little brusque and signed with french fry hands and also charged $20, which I thought was a bit much, especially since most of the other artists signed for either cheaper or free. But, I understand that this is his livelihood and I really wanted my comic signed, so I didn’t mind too much. Lastly, we met Christos Gage and Ruth Fletcher Gage. Besides being writers for the amazing series Daredevil, Christos does work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics and Kurt bought every different issue he had at the table, which Christos signed right there. Ruth was actually in the middle of speaking to a friend of a friend for his podcast Thinking Outside the Longbox. I didn’t mean to interrupt, but somehow I started talking about how I am a social studies teacher, and she mentioned that her graphic novel, The Lion of Rora, was, and I quote from the website, “Based on true events, it tells the story of Joshua Janavel and the Waldensians, the first people in European history to rebel against their ruler for the purpose of religious freedom.” A graphic novel history book that talks about religion? Right up my alley. I immediately purchased it and she and her husband wrote a nice inscription. We talked about teaching, Civil Rights, Congressman John Lewis and his graphic novel March, how students don’t realize the world is bigger than their immediate surroundings, and other topics. They were truly a joy to talk with and I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual discussions.
Finally, we had accomplished everything we wanted at the con. The Platinum VIP was expensive, but I felt so at ease and not rushed during the con, so I think it was worth every penny. The spread out layout meant there didn’t seem to be crowded lines and bottlenecking (though I’m sure some people might’ve felt differently) and there was a good mix of artists and merchandise dealers. I did feel that the comic book sellers were lacking and I didn’t see as much jewelry as usual, but I did buy some cute bracelets from Kitsch and Crossbones (I am definitely buying a Bucky one soon!). In fact, the only real complaint we have about the con was that the artist alley wasn’t very well marked. Unlike the vendors, there were no hanging banners denoting the rows. Besides that not many artists had their location number in an easy to see location making it hard to find some of the the artists. However, this is a small complaint for a nearly perfect weekend.
Here’s some of the awesome cosplay we encountered throughout the con. If anyone knows who these great cosplayers are, please let me know so I can give them credit!
In all, I’d say this is definitely in my top five favorite cons I have every attended. Bring on January 6, 7, 8, 2017!