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Non-Dice Masters Wizard World Cleveland Review!

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Hey there, everyone. I’ve got something different in store today. Last weekend I attended the Wizard World Cleveland comic convention. I know we are a Dice Masters site, but it’s safe to say that our audience does have a wide crossover in to comic books as well. So I’m going to give you guys a little review of this convention, and if you haven’t been to one, maybe by the end you’ll decide to give it a shot, even if you’re not a huge comic book nerd.

Let’s get this out of the way first…

Wizard World conventions are not just for comic book fans. Just at this convention, there were actors, actresses, professional wrestlers, video game score composers, special effects designers, costume specialists, old movie props, in addition to comic book writers and artists on site. As far as booths that had things for sale; there was plenty of artwork, old collectible toys, replica weapons from comics/anime/movies, signed photographs, fudge, board games, Legos, multiple steampunk costume vendors, out of print movie posters and soundtracks… There really is something for EVERYONE. Yes, there are comic books and graphic novels for sale. And it’s a great place to meet some comic book creators but it’s not just for comic book fans. And SO many of the vendors/guests that are there are very friendly with kids. My two oldest both received items that were for sale for free simply for being there. One artist gave my son a keychain because he impressed them with his knowledge of all the different character-keychains they had on display (he picked the Mega Man keychain… it made me proud.) And another vendor gave my daughter a German lobby poster from Disney’s Cinderella, just because she was dressed as Cinderella. It is a super kid-friendly environment.

Now, the event. It was a 3-day convention, Friday-Sunday. Before we even went to the convention, we made a quick stop at my local comic shop. I know, I know, “what are you doing going to a comic shop on your way to a convention?” But, I hadn’t bought any of my regular comics for close to a month. (Just the way bills and paydays fell) So I picked up everything that had been collecting in my “pull list”. At my comic shop, they also had the Yu-Gi-Oh! Dice Masters starter set sitting behind the front counter. I can’t dive headfirst in to every set of Dice Masters that comes out… but since I write for a Dice Masters website, I figured I should at least get every starter set. I figured I would pick it up sometime this weekend, so why not buy it from my local shop to support them? So I bought it. My first impulse purchase of the weekend. NOW, on to the convention…

The three days blur together, so instead of giving you day-by-day happenings, I will just give some overviews.

Family Photo!
Costumes. Day one was just me and my oldest son having some one-on-one time. He was Wolverine, and I was Cyclops. Day two was a family affair, and we knocked it out of the park. I was Godzilla, my pregnant wife was Mothra, my daughter (Abigail, who you may know from the podcast) was a little Godzilla wearing a tutu, my oldest son was King Kong, and my youngest son was a baby Godzilla. On the third day, once again I took just one child for one-on-one time, but this time it was my daughter. She wanted to be Cinderella, and told me I needed to be her prince. I don’t know how many of you have daughters out there, but I know that this will not last forever. There will come a day where she doesn’t want me to be her prince. So I’m taking advantage of it now.
Other great costumes we saw included Venom, Groot, Hawkgirl, a couple of Lokis, many Wolverines, even more Batmans, and an infinite number of Deadpools, Harley Quinns, and various Doctors. There were a bunch of anime characters I didn’t recognize, and a bunch of people just dressed in generic steampunk garb. But the winner of the costume contest? Belle.
Now, I loved my Godzilla costume. I loved all my family’s costumes. (especially my wife’s since I made the mask and wings myself. #humblebrag) What I didn’t anticipate was how many people would stop me and ask to get their picture taken with me. It was cool, but no joke, it happened about 50 times. Not exaggerating. It was exhausting getting my wife’s attention, telling her to stop because someone wanted a photo, pose, then keep on going. The costume was hot and bulky. And it made it difficult to tend to my kids if they needed something, so that burden fell on my wife… my pregnant wife. I will most definitely wear my Godzilla costume again, but maybe not when I have all the kids and a pregnant wife with me. It was all worth it though seeing how excited my kids were being up on stage for the costume contest with everyone cheering and taking pictures. My daughter would just randomly yell, “ROAR!” throughout the day, because that’s what Godzilla does. And my son would beat his chest and yell, because that’s what King Kong does.

An example of a Monster Factory
monster.Photo courtesy of Abigail.
Gaming. They had a series of about 15 tables set up with 4 full shelves of board games you could sit down and play at no cost. I saw some groups playing King of Tokyo (a personal favorite), more classic games like Sorry, and many collectible games like Heroclix, Pokemon TCG, Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, lots of MtG, but no Dice Masters. A few tables would have a single person sitting at them with a sign, saying “come learn how to play ____”. Maybe If I didn’t have my family there with me, I would be willing to kill 2 or 3 hours sitting with a sign for Dice Masters, hoping to get people to play. But not this weekend. On Saturday, we played Candy Land, and on Sunday my daughter and I played Monster Factory. I had never played Monster Factory before, and it was recommended by one of the workers there since I had a young child with me. It was a lot of fun. I had a good time, and my 3-year-old daughter needed next to no help playing. I actually went to purchase from a vendor that sold games right across from the gaming area, but it was $30. There’s no board, no plastic components, just a bunch of cardboard squares… for $30. I will try to find it cheaper… And they had video games set up with a Smash Bros for Wii U tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Again, that’s another thing that would be cool if I didn’t have kids with me. …or if the kids were a little older we could all play. But not with 2 and 3-year-olds.

Autographs and Sketches. I understand charging for autographs as a comic book creator. I really do. I would HATE to see someone get my autograph for free, turn around, and sell the item on ebay to make money. They don’t care about my work. They are just using my signature to make money. If (when) I become a comic book writer, I would give free autographs if I personalize it. Not personalized, $2. That said, let’s run down the creators I met and got things signed by or commissioned sketches from.
Two of the comics signed by the great Tom DeFalco
-Tom DeFalco- He’s super cool. He signed Amazing Spider-Man #434 and 435, Spider-Girl #81, and Spider-Man Unlimited #1 and 2. At first, I asked if it was him, since he is a comic book writer, it’s not like I can recognize his face in an instant. He joked with me for a few minutes about how he wasn’t Tom DeFalco. The real Tom DeFalco was back home halfway across the country working on some novel that has a deadline four months from now. The real Tom DeFalco doesn’t have time to come to conventions. The poor fool is back at home working, and this guy’s is just impersonating him signing fake autographs and making money. Cool guy, great sense of humor. I told him how much those comics impacted me and asked him a few questions about them since he didn’t have a line of people wanting to talk to him… just me. He answered my questions, and signed all the comics I brought, “To Randy”. He does one autograph for free, but charges $1 for each additional autograph, then donates that money to a specified charity… but I don’t remember the charity. That’s more than fair. I usually only bring 1 or 2 comics to get signed by someone, but this time I really couldn’t narrow it down. ALL 5 of these books are very important to my comic fandom as a whole. So I paid $4. Well worth it, and a super nice guy. (Spider-Girl #81 was also signed by artist Ron Frenz on site.)
-Jai Nitz- I hadn’t met him before, but he is actually a personal friend of my sister. After this weekend, I’d consider him a friend of mine as well. He was super nice, down to earth. I picked up his award winning graphic novel, Dream Thief, which he wrote. Because my sister was there as well, it turned in to just a couple of friends standing around talking. It was very comfortable and he was incredibly approachable. He shared stories of traveling the country as a writer, never really having a job outside of the comic industry, how he thinks Karen Gillen is one of the pure prettiest people on earth, sharing funny stories of our significant others, and just comics in general. He’s a good guy, and if he’s in town again or I go down to his neck of the woods, I will hit him up to grab a drink. Really good guy. Check out his work. Buy Dream Thief.

-Marc Sumerak- He’s written many different Marvel characters over the years. We purchased a graphic novel that he wrote some stories for titled Mini Marvels. It’s just a bunch of stories geared towards kids, with some really funny, clever writing. My kids already love it. We talked about a few different things he’s written, including Marvel Age Fantastic Four. Marvel went back to the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby scripts for the early Fantastic Four comics, wrote some new dialog and totally re-illustrated them, and released them under the “Marvel Age” heading. He said it was phenomenal being able to work off of old Stan Lee scripts, and it’s one of the coolest things he’s been able to do. I told him how my daughter’s favorite character of all time is the Thing, and I really like him as well. It turns out that the Thing is his favorite character to write. So there we stood, discussing the character of the Thing for about five minutes. How he is one of the few pure hearted characters in the Marvel Universe with very few flaws. He has his moments of doubt and anger, but deep down he has a real unselfish heart of gold. He likes how Ben Grimm is the only non-relative member of the Fantastic Four, but he’s the one that holds the family together most of the time.
Cyclops Surfing by Craig Tucker
-Craig Tucker- Here’s an artist that we got a commissioned sketch from. I love the work. He said he really enjoyed drawing it, and we talked about the “chibi” art style, and its rise in popularity. I mentioned how I thought it was in part because of Skottie Young’s popularity lately and he agreed. We talked about Young’s artwork for a while. When I went to pick up the sketch we commissioned, he laughed, saying he didn’t recognize me because I wasn’t wearing my Godzilla costume from the day before. He then told me how he and Marc Sumerak (remember, the writer we just mentioned above) worked at Sea World together when they were younger, and would have to wear costumes like that all day, sweating their butts off, giving people hugs and taking photos. I later went back to Marc and told him what Craig had told me. He laughed and told me all about it as well. While he was working for Sea World he got an offer from Marvel, and he’s been there ever since.
Prodigy by Edward Kraatz II
-Edward Kraatz II- Not much to say about this guy. He’s just a freelance artist who was doing commissions. He was really cool, and I like his style. I commissioned him to do a sketch of a Marvel d-lister, Prodigy, for me. My other Prodigy sketch (from Norm Breyfogle) is a full body shot, so it’s cool to have this bust image to put next to it. I think he did great job on the hardware around the eyes, and where the cape connects to the costume. This will fit in nicely with my Slingers collection of commissioned sketches.
-Rob Liefeld- I didn’t meet Rob. I wanted to. I wanted so badly to have him sign my copy of New Mutants #87, the first appearance of Cable. Cable is one of my favorite characters of all time, and despite Liefeld’s history of shady artwork, I still wanted this issue signed. He charges $20 per signature. $20 for him to scribble on my comic book cover in sharpie. But wait, there was some other information on his sign… if you have New Mutant #87 (like I said, the first appearance of Cable) or New Mutants #98 (the first appearance of Deadpool) he charges $30 to sign those issues. Are you freaking kidding me!? I paid $12.50 for New Mutants #87 a few years ago, and it’s one of my top 5 or 6 famous/important comics that I own. And he wants to charge me $30. I want it signed, “To Randy” so I can keep it in my collection, and pass it down to my oldest son, Randall III. Yes, I’m Randall II, and my father is the first. This way, all of my dad’s CDs and sports items that he’s gotten signed over the years that say “To Randy” will come to me when he’s gone. Then it will all be passed on to my son when I’m gone. It’s this great idea I have of this ongoing collection of stuff signed “To Randy” that 2 generations from now, Randy V will wonder why he has all of these crazy CDs, comic books, and sports items signed “To Randy” from people he’s never even heard of... I think it’s cool...Where was I… Right, Rob Liefeld. I didn’t get his signature and definitely lost some respect for the guy charging that much for a signature, then charging even more to sign his most popular work. I think I held him in higher regard than most comic fans, because I can appreciate the characters he created and some of the writing he’s done, and not let his lazy artwork affect my overall judgment of his abilities. But this encounter has knocked him down a peg or two in my eyes.

Photo Ops. I’l keep this one brief. Wizard World does a great job with their Photo Ops. Within a minute of having your picture taken with a celebrity, they hand you an 8x10 glossy picture. If there’s any defects or someone blinked, then you have time go get a retake. As for who we got our pictures taken with, my daughter and I got a photo with WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler; while my wife and youngest son got a picture with Billy Boyd, Pippin from Lord of the Rings. We both had great experiences and both celebrities were great interacting with our kids, trying to be welcoming even though the kids were both shy. High marks for Dolph Ziggler, Billy Boyd, and the Wizard World Photo Ops team in general. Excellent.

Overall, we got a couple of sketches done, got a couple of prints for the kids, bought a few graphic novels, picked up a month’s worth of comics that had been sitting at the shop for me, a new Dice Masters starter set, a few celebrity photo ops, and the kids got a couple of freebies from vendors. Oh, and I bought my wife a necklace. Here are the spoils of victory.

My wife's new necklace...
she likes Lord of the Rings
It was a great weekend, my kids loved being in the costume contest and having people cheer for them on stage. And they also enjoy just walking around seeing everyone else in costume. Wizard World conventions are becoming a staple of family togetherness for us, and we plan to continue the tradition for years to come. My wife and I are already brainstorming about what to dress our kids up in future years as we keep having children: The Ninja Turtles with her and I being Casey Jones and April, various Pokemon with us being Ash and Misty, we can always do a group of Marvel heroes or villains, the possibilities are seriously endless. Already looking forward to next time.

I know this article is a little long, but I didn’t want to break it up in to 2 parts, since it’s not really Dice Masters related. If you read the whole thing, please give me your thoughts on comic cons in general, if you’ve specifically been to a Wizard World con, or if you have any comments about my experience. Thanks for taking a break from Dice Masters to read this. Roll on.
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  1. Stephen Mitchell imported's Avatar
    Nice write-up. I don't get to visit many big cons. I live in Syracuse, NY so none of the big cons are within driving distance and the investment to get me and the 3 kids out to one is over my head. That being said, there's one in Albany every year on Father's Day weekend and Syracuse has a con that is trying to grow.

    I love going for the cosplays and would love to go as Grifter someday. The kids always dress up (gotta get the most out of those Halloween costumes)! The small ones that I've been too have been a lot of fun, just for the atmosphere alone. I'd love to get to a bigger one someday like New York or San Diego. Definitely on my bucket list!

    That's disappointing to hear about Liefeld. I own New Mutants #98 and always thought it would be cool to get him to sign it. Well, I guess that's not happening. I realize Liefeld is taking a capitalist approach and the only reason he can charge that much is because people must be paying it, but still. If I EVER sell my novel I won't charge to sign something that's personalized. I get people ebay things, so if they just want my signature odds are they're looking to profit so yeah...I would charge. But personalized? Yeah, that means the merchandise is staying with the fan or it's a gift and there's no reason not to sign for free.