IntroductionThis is the first year for the Wizard World Portland Comic Con (WWPDX). I would have thought that this kind of event would have come sooner as Portland is actually quite a big town in the comic book industry. There are a lot of comic related people and groups that make their homes here such as publishers Dark Horse, Half of Top Shelf, Shadowline, and Oni Press. There are also the creators that live here and in the surrounding area like Brian Bendis, Kurt Busiek, and Jeff Parker among many others. Bowen Designs also resides in the area as well. You could throw a rock and chances are you would hit someone involved in comic books.
While the town isn’t massive, it should be able to support a large comic convention and get some easy access to talent to make it a good success. I saw some great things as well as some things that concerned me about this convention so lets get into it.
LocationThe Oregon Convention Center is the largest center of its kind in Oregon with over two hundred and fifty thousand square feet of convention space. WWPDX didn’t even use a third of the space in the convention center so it would be easy to expand if necessary. The convention is in a good location with food inside and out, and hotels nearby. With the Max (Portland public transport train) close by, getting to the convention and out is quite easy. You could also get to downtown via the Max easily for a night out as well.
Wizard World had a decent floor plan with comic creators and the Artists Alley on one side and the Autograph area in another. The other exhibitors were all throughout the convention floor and while some seemed out of place like the Martha's Merch a glitter light lady and the Speaker from Anything booth, most were comic centric and there were some good deals to be had all around.
ProsIf you wanted to purchase comic related items, than this was a great convention. There were a ton of dealers at the con, with new and old comic books, comic clothing, and much more. There were also some great prints by comic artists who would sign them there for you right at the spot.
There were some great cosplayers there by people who obviously put a lot of time and effort into their costumes. I saw some excellent examples such as a Futurama crew, Star Wars, X-Men, and various others. It was cool to see the kids also get into the mix and sport their favorite characters.
The convention floor was packed with lots of enthusiastic fans purchasing swag, meeting creators or celebrities, or just hanging out. There was a great vibe in the air and I saw lots of smiles and laughter among the fans. It seemed that everyone I ran into was having a great time on the convention floor, in the panels, and around the convention itself.
For comic fans, there were some great creators on hand such as Kurt Busiek, Chris Claremont, Mike Grell, Carlos Pacheco, Gail Simone, and Arthur Suydam to name a few. There were also small press creators and those new to the scene selling their wares and making new connections.
The definite fanbase winners were the appearances of Stan Lee and The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus. The photo op line was huge and there was another long line that had formed at The Walking Dead stars autograph booth in anticipation of their arrival. It was pretty nuts.
ConsMy biggest concern about the convention was the lack of publishers there. There were a few small press companies, but every large and small publisher was absent, even ones that were local to Portland. That just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It could be that the Emerald City Comic Con was the very next weekend and publishers had to make choices about costs or scheduling. Either way it was my biggest negative mark against the convention.
There were also some negative aspects of the cosplayers in my opinion. There were some cosplayers whom you knew were there for the attention and whose costume had little to do with comic books or characters and more to do with revealing their bodies for attention, which they were getting. Some of it just felt a bit slimy to be honest.
One thing that bugs me about most every convention are the actors that come to the con and post signs that say, “You must purchase an item to speak to the actor.” And “No Photo Area.” I realize that they need to make a buck and the convention organizers have contracts that these guests will make a certain amount of money or they will pay the difference, but it all left me with a bit of jadedness. You had to spend $55 just to meet Stan Lee or $80 to get a picture with him. I don’t see it changing any time soon but you already pay a lot to get into the con, and shelling out the same amount just to meet a celebrity seems odd.