Where the Nerds Are

Wizard World in all its glory.

I am a level 12 elf. I average 45 frags per deathmatch. I’ve got a signed issue of Darkness #2 in mint condition. I need to polish my d20. Is Cliffhanger dead? Generation 1 is far superior to Armada or War Within. If you know what I’m talking about, then that means you’re either one of us, or you’re dating a member.

We love volumes of comic books, video games at high speeds, big budget science-fiction movies, and cartoons from the 80s. By day, we are young professionals traveling on a rock, zipping through space at 67,062 miles per hour. But after hours, we give into our deepest fantasies and weirdest imaginations. We are called nerds. I am a nerd, and I love nerdy things.

There are places we like to congregate: LAN parties, arcades, D&D gatherings, huddled in the corners furthest away from girls at a party, lines at the latest (insert sci-fi/fantasy movie here), and at the stores purchasing the newest anime DVD. But there is one place that is the Mecca of geek mythology. That place is Wizard World.

Wizard World (sponsored by Wizard Entertainment Group) is a conglomeration of all things nerdy, particularly comic books. There are representatives from the entire spectrum of comic books, ranging from Top Cow and DC to the more independent companies like CrossGen.

Artists and writers are present to sign and pose for pictures with drooling fans while promoting their latest projects. Aside from the comics, there are vendors and dealers from all over the country selling modern nerdy memorabilia, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “X-Files” to the more obscure remnants of the 80s, like “MASK” and the Flash TV series. Here, a person can find bootleg copies of the latest Hong Kong action flick right next to figurines of their favorite fictional vixen. But if you think all this stuff is just for overweight, under-bathed single men with a hard-on for sci-fi, think again.

Much to my surprise, your modern-day nerd has changed. Today, your typical nerd dons a tank top, has long flowing hair, and a great pair of breasts. That’s right, the eye-wear sportin’ tubby boy of yore has been replaced with young, hip co-eds and “dudes.” The success of today’s superhero movies (“Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” “Daredevil”), sci-fi/fantasy films (“The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings”), as well as TV shows like “Buffy” and “The X-Files” have brought all things geeky into the mainstream. Now girlfriends are taking their boyfriends, and fathers are bringing the kids to comic book conventions. Wizard World is no exception.

When temporary roommate/Crunchable colleague Steve Spotswood told me of Wizard World a month and a half ago before its opening, I nearly wet myself. He told me about last year’s many guest appearances, comic book artists, vendors, and special events. I knew I had to attend.

After visiting the Wizard World Web site, I found out comic book greats like Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, and

Alex Ross were to appear. Also arriving were Kevin Smith, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the beautiful Allison Mack from the WB series “Smallville.” It was at that moment I really did wet myself.

After cleaning up and checking for further urinary incontinence, I quickly realized my three goals:

  1. Get into Wizard World free as a member of the press.
  2. Meet and interview the beautiful Allison Mack.
  3. Get Jim Lee and another big name artist to sign my comic books.

My mission was clear to me. At about noon on May 31 — the second day of Wizard World — I was inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It was inundated by people: men, women, children, nerds alike. As soon as I got to the press booth and signed in under the name Crunchable. I was good to go. Mission #1 accomplished.

I walked inside one of the convention center’s enormous ballrooms: it was filled with tables, booths, displays, posters, and platforms. People were gossiping about the latest Marvel projects, hype about all the celebrities who were to appear was growing, and countless salesmen from the East Coast were there to sell their nerdy products.

I spent at least an hour walking through the many columns of tables, exploring what the expo had to offer. The wide variety of nerdy paraphernalia was mind-altering, from He-Man toys, Todd McFarlane figures, bootlegs of movies not even out yet, cartoons and television series long gone now brought back to life on DVD, to a surplus of Buffy’s “Once More with Feeling” episodes for sale. After seeing all the vendors, I knew where my hard-earned money from work was going.

After about 45 minutes of wandering around the convention room with a yearning for comic books, I ventured over to the autograph booths. No surprise: there was a huge line. Several huge lines, actually. But for what? The lines were so big I didn’t know what they were for. I encountered a line that seemed to be for a WWE star. Several hundred people later, I found another line, but his line was much longer than the others. Then I saw people carrying pictures of the beautiful Allison Mack. It was obvious what this line was for.

After talking to one of the autograph line administrators, I discovered that I was in for quite a long haul. The average wait for a retarded fan was about an hour-and-a-half. But I still had to get something for the beautiful Allison Mack to sign. Being a nerd is so hard!

So after a brief break for lunch, I was on a hunt for a picture of the beautiful Allison Mack. This was much harder than originally planned. Every picture of her was sold out at every vendor I encountered. My last resort was to buy an issue of “Smallville”’s comic book version. By 2 p.m., I found “Smallville” #2 and I was ready to hit the autograph line … but there was a problem. They put a cap on the line. They stopped allowing people into the line because there was already over a hundred people waiting for Ms. Mack’s autograph.

After shouting a subconscious “fuck!,” I knew I failed my second objective. Oh well. There’s plenty more to see other than hot famous chicks, right?

I noticed the large displays of the big-name comic book companies. One of my favorites was Top Cow, the division of Image Comics responsible for hits like The Darkness, Witchblade, Tomb Raider, and Magdalena. Various artists and writers were present for autographs. A really cool moment was meeting Marc Silvestri and getting him so sign a comic book for me only a minute before he had to leave for a discussion panel.

It was also a pleasant surprise to see Brian O’Halloran, who played Dante in Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” as well as many other random Smith characters. He was signing his new Clerks Inaction Figure issued by the View Askew company.

Jim Lee has been a very influential artist in my life. He re-vamped the X-Men series and breathed new life into an old legend. His artistic style’s amazing. He created a scratchy and grainy texture to the human form that made his drawings stand out. It was his line of X-Men issues back in ’93 that got me hooked on comics. So it was very important for me to meet the man who got me addicted, like meeting my first crack dealer … or something like that. Once I found the DC Comics booth, I looked around for Jim Lee, but to no avail. After asking around, I found out he was gone for the day. “Sonofabitch!” my subconscious screamed.

After failing another mission, I really got discouraged. But after seeing all the wacky nerdy shit out there, I said “fuck it” — this time not subconsciously — and continued wandering. After what seemed like minutes, but in reality was almost several hours, I found a great assortment of comic books at really good prices. I scored some gifts for my Buffy-phile roommate and a co-worker, too.

I had an awesome time walking though the convention. It was cool to see the independent comics show themselves among the conglomerates, and I had fun buying all the geeky crap I shouldn’t have bought but did anyway. It was my first time at Wizard World, and I loved it. It was a good day to be a nerd.

Wizard World Awards:

Weirdest booth: Galactic Empire recruiting station. Composed of uber-nerds and fan boys of the Star Wars saga, they go to various conventions (Star Wars-related or not) to recruit new people into their “army” against the Rebel Alliance. What do they really do? Who knows. I was too scared to ask. I just assumed they were a cult and they scammed you out of your money by awing you with their mastery of Star Wars trivia and hardcore Jedi Knight costumes.

Weirdest object sold: A tie between “Anime Girls Gone Wild” and the Britney Spears/Anna Kournikova Sex Video on DVD.

Coolest Booth: Top Cow featuring Marc Silvestri plus poster for only a buck!

Coolest Object Sold: Action-figure of Dark Willow from “Buffy: the Vampire Slayer” Season 6 by Moore Creations.

Longest Line: waiting to get an autograph from the beautiful Allison Mack.

Nerdiest Costume: the gaggle of Star Wars characters running around, ranging from Storm Troopers to the Imperial Guard.

Most Entertaining Booth: the X-Box/PS2/Gamecube booths featuring newly released video games.

Article © 2003 by Rob Roan