Convention Spotlight: Wizard World Philadelphia

May 30, 2013-June 2, 2013


This year is “Year of the Con” for me… Yes, I planned my entire year of vacations around conventions. This weekend, I volunteered at Wizard World Philadelphia—the only con for me this year that doesn’t require any travel.

It was my first time attending Wizard World Philadelphia, and I figured the best way to experience it would be by volunteering.  Wizard World has a variety of comic and entertainment content, and guests plus WWE celebrity guests. I was most interested in John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Arrow), Giancarlo Esposito (Revolution), and Kris Holden-Ried (Lost Girl, Underworld: Evolution).

On Thursday morning, I arrived at the convention centre to do bag stuffing. Woo hoo! Actually, we had a really good time. There were so many geeks with so many different geek interests. Conversations started about anime, then covered classic cartoons, and eventually moved to Star Wars vs. Star Trek.  Of course, the standard “who would win in a battle between…” conversations also came up! I also saw Tony Kim ( talking with the show staff, and had a subsequent Twitter conversation with him about how I should have just gone up and said hi!

After lunch, as the box office opened, I was assigned to work line control between the VIP and the Day-of-Show lines. I mostly stuck to directing folks into the VIP line. In the course of my duties, I fielded lots of questions like, “Is this the John Cena line?” and “Really, the VIP line is this long?” I only had one person that was kind of cranky and, well, entitlement syndrome had to show up sometime. I also handed out plenty of those bags I stuffed that morning. I saw lots of John Cena attire, lots of Superman and Batman T-shirts (one family was split down the middle—Mom and one son with Batman, Dad and the other son with Superman), and a few great Supergirl costumes on really tiny little kids. My favourite T-shirt of the day was a Soylent Green ingredient label T-shirt.

Friday started at 8am with some more bag stuffing. I let one of the floor managers know that I had a couple of photo ops to get to later in the day, so he made sure I worked the celebrity area (Autograph Alley). This way when it was time to go, I just had to find someone to cover my post for the duration and run over and get my photos taken. To start my morning in Autograph Alley, I helped hang banners and otherwise set up lines and booths. I spent a little time manning Brandon Routh’s booth prior to his arrival, and then was moved over to Jason David Frank’s booth. Who knew the green Power Ranger was still so popular?!? Not me!

The floor managers are a bunch of genuinely nice and interesting folks, so there was always good conversation and camaraderie to go along with the work. It was a super long day, but I got my photo ops in with Giancarlo Esposito and Kris Holden-Ried, and enjoyed everyone’s company! The most unique cosplay I think I saw on Friday was a big guy with quite a bit of greying facial hair dressed as Kaylee from “Firefly,” complete with parasol and little buns on the top of his head. Jewel Staite even tweeted a pic with him ( I also took a few minutes to pop down to the panel rooms to say hi to Tony Kim before his panel on “WONDER WOMEN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.”

On the third day of Christmas… oh wait, it’s not Christmas, it’s just Philly Comic Con! First I helped clean up the lounge area briefly. I worked the General Admission line until after everyone that queued up was admitted. Then I was dispatched back to the Autograph area, where I worked Linda Blair’s table all day. It was a good day where instead of mastering the art of photo bombing, I ended up mastering the art of photo blocking! No unofficial photos in Autograph Alley!

On the fourth and final day of Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, it was all about me! That’s right, I went as an attendee for the entire day. I got to sleep in, wear cuter shoes, and didn’t wear my hair in a ponytail. The only things I truly had planned for the day were my John Barrowman photo op and trying to score some autographs on my volunteer shirt.

At other cons, I’ve had a tendency to be more about the programming than the show floor. So on Sunday, I decided to check out “FROM THE MICROSCOPE TO THE BIG SCREEN: CREEPY CRAWLIES IN POP CULTURE,” which was given by one of the floor managers, John Leavengood. John’s day job is insect taxonomist and evolutionary biologist. John talked about what pop culture insect portrayals were pretty much made up versus those that had some decent basis in fact, even if it might have been accidental.

I also saw a panel called “COMPELLING STORYTELLING” which was moderated by Tony Kim. It included four different writers who’d written for different media. They spoke about their experiences as writers and answered questions on topics from their thoughts on writer’s block to how your “elevator speech” needs to match the medium.

My last panel for the day was with Steve Kuniak, who talked about “THE GEEK CULTURE: WE’VE TAKEN OUR FIRST STEP INTO A LARGER WORLD.” Steve is a mental health counsellor working on his doctoral dissertation. He is actively working to have geek culture recognized as a distinct culture within his profession.

Volunteering at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con gave me a full and entertaining con experience. Even though my feet don’t thank me, I had a great time. Remember that thanks to the volunteers, you get to have a great experience! I fully recommend paying it forward.

Shelley Rossell is a Technology Manager for an East Coast US bank. In her off time, she is a sci-fi fan that reads too much fanfiction (along with some actual novels)! She is one of four panelists at, podcasting weekly about NBC’s show Revolution. Outside of fandom, Shelley is a paleo-eating CrossFitter, a volunteer with the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and a classic car enthusiast (mostly Ford Mustangs).