Wizard World Des Moines–what makes a great Comic Con

Dumb and Dumber car Wizard World Des Moines 2015

What makes a great Comic Con?

Wizard World Des Moines combined all the right elements this past weekend to create a new annual Midwest destination tradition.  A mix of big name celebrities, comic book creator icons, fanboys and fangirls attending in costume, a variety of vendors, gaming opportunities, current genre properties, the unexpected, taking along family and friends (and meeting new ones and catching up with old ones) and taking in some good food.  And thanks to the success of its first effort, Wizard World will be back again next year at the Iowa Events Center, May 13-15, 2016.

If you missed it, check out our coverage at borg.com yesterday here.

A comic and pop culture convention is even better when your own favorite character seems to have his own theme at the show.  Take our own favorite, Green Arrow, for instance.  This weekend you could have met the artists for the three best Green Arrow series ever produced, including artist/writer Mike Grell:

Milton Bunce Mike Grell Wizard World Des Moines 2015 Zorro
Artists Milton Bunce and Mike Grell at Wizard World Des Moines 2015 Sunday.

And as luck would have it, Mike found a lost piece of original art he brought to the show, a cover prelim/rough for a 24-year old annual issue he created:

Grell WWDM 2015 cover rough annual 4   Green_Arrow_Annual_Vol_2_4

There’s no place better to pick up original comic book art than a Comic Con, whether it’s a sketch commission or original pages that artists bring to the show to gawk at or even purchase.  (Thanks for bringing this one, Mike!).

And there’s one of the other of the three major artists known for his Green Arrow work (he’s done Batman and a ton of other characters, too), Neal Adams:

Neal Adams Wizard World Des Moines 2015

…and the most recent Green Arrow artist of the big three, Iowa-based artist Phil Hester:

Phil Hester Wizard World Des Moines 2015

What more could a Green Arrow fan want?  A bonus: You get to have a nice chat with the actress who portrayed Dinah Lance on CW’s Arrow television series, Alex Kingston.

And other celebrities are set up at booths meeting fans, providing photos and autographs.  Brandon Routh walks by, you meet William Shatner, you pass by Robert Englund, Jewel Staite, and Billy Dee Williams, and snap a photo with the star of the classic TV series The Incredible Hulk (as well as guest star in several TV series since then), Lou Ferrigno:

Lou Ferrigno JA Bunce Wizard World Des Moines 2015

The “unexpected” is everywhere.  Want to get a tattoo at a Con?  You could have done so this weekend.  Want to thumb through boxes of low-cost comic back issues and find that missing issue you couldn’t find anywhere else?  How about picking up some superhero art prints from Ant Lucia or Greg Horn?  A great T-shirt featuring your favorite classic TV series?  Need to update your steampunk costume?  And then you look up and see the awesome furry “Mutt Cutts” car from the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels comedy Dumb and Dumber.

Finally, Wizard World Des Moines showcased some great cosplay–costumes put together by fans like you and me, whether they’re superheroes and superheroines like Batgirl and Robin, or movie interpretations like Indiana Jones and the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

Batgirl Robin Wizard World Des Moines 2015   Indiana Jones and Grail Knight Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

And as we all want to see, especially with this unusual big year for the Star Wars franchise, excellent interpretations of our favorite characters from a galaxy far, far away:

Darth Vader Wizard World Des Moines 2015  X-Wing pilot Wizard World Des Moines 2015  Han Solo Zorro Wizard World Des Moines 2015

…and even the Anthony Hopkins’ version of Zorro!

You can take family to the show, arrive with friends, or run into new ones again and again as you walk the floor.  Like our friend Jai Nitz, writer of several great titles, including Adventure Time, Tron: Betrayal, Kato Origins, Dream Thief, El Diablo, Grimm, and Toshiro.

Jai Nitz Wizard World Des Moines 2015

Wizard World Des Moines was unique for a couple of reasons.  First, it offered a table top gaming area, providing dozens of board games and other games for anyone to stop and play during the weekend, and it wasn’t off in a separate room–it was a visible part of the main hall.  This made it easy for anyone to join in and not feel intimidated.

Second, the biggest complaint of many a fan at every previous Con I have attended is poor access to food and beverages onsite.  Most shows, including the country’s best–San Diego Comic Con–use food as an excuse to push people into the city to check out the finer dining establishments.  Which is fine.  But that wasn’t the case for the Des Moines show.  You didn’t need to waste any time leaving the building for lunch or dinner–everywhere you looked you could find a variety of almost anything you’d want.  Wizard World Des Moines was quite simply #1 for concessions as Comic Cons are concerned.

Wizard World Des Moines Iowa Events Center

You can’t emphasize how easy it was to meet celebrities at this show.  Unless you just wanted to arrive early in line to be ahead of everyone else–you didn’t need to.  You could get through any line without the long wait times of other conventions.  Wizard World really had a good plan for the show, allowing you to spend a memorable moment with your favorite personality.

The staff was accessible, the showrunner was available for questions all weekend, and the line staff wasn’t pushy or rude.  Every Con promoter should strive for that kind of service experience.  The vendors were interesting, too, none of those irrelevant “commercial” companies you might find at any convention or expo, that seem to be there only to fill out the floor space.

Finally, parking onsite was convenient and cheap at only $7.

All around, it was a great first, big Comic Con for Des Moines, and for fans from all over the Midwest.

Next up for the region?  Kansas City Comic Con premieres this August.  Check back here at borg.com for updates as that show draws closer!

C.J. Bunce

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