October 23, 2015 – October 25, 2015
Before Wizard World Tulsa, my convention experience was limited to the time I went about 8 years ago with my younger sister to a local anime convention inside a halfway crumbling janky-looking mall, in the pre-streaming anime days, when you had to buy dubbed DVDs from Sam Goody and Borders. I went more recently with my friend to Dallas Comic Con Fan Days for Saturday only, where I dressed up as a casual Wonder Woman lugging around three to four merchandise bags at a time, and not generally knowing how to do “hero poses” despite dressing as superhero.
Would I be able to stand all three days of full-blown convention put on by Wizard World in a different city four hours away?
Day One, I got to the Cox Convention Center in Tulsa just as the door were opening at 3pm. I didn’t take a costume this time, preferring to dress comfortably, but I did bring a back-pack with an empty water bottle. The convention was nicely laid out, well-staffed and brimming with excited volunteers. The building itself is very pretty inside and it’s hard not to go “ooh” and “ahh” immediately as you walk in.
I was super surprised to see a good amount of diversity among the convention goers and staff. Sometimes nerd events or conventions make me feel alone in a sea of white dudes but Tulsa was actually different.
The Exhibit Hall had plenty of seating and interesting booths to look at. My favorite booth was probably Gillywag’s Emporium focusing on Harry Potter-themed items. I bought two beautiful posters from artist Andrew Heath, he has such beautiful, minimalist, color-saturated artwork from all your favorite movies.
Getting there early also afforded me the opportunity to get great shots of the cars from TV shows and movies, such as Jurassic Park, Back to the Future (so timely as it was 10/23/15) and the 1960’s Batman television series.
What had me most nervous about the convention was asking cosplayers if I could take a photo of them. I didn’t want it to be awkward and I wanted to make sure my pictures did all their hard work on their costumes justice, but I was nervous the convention center would be sooo packed that I would endlessly be bumping into to people trying to get a good shot and thus wasting everyone’s time but I dunno, Tulsa was magical. All my shots came out beautifully and I’m amazed that people know how to pose themselves so flawless, while in costume. I couldn’t even strike a pose like that in my everyday clothes. Cosplay takes confidence, people!
I attended two panels on Friday, the first being “Are Fanboys Too Mean 2.0?” which probably started out with good intentions but quickly devolved into why some superhero movies suck and why studios make crappy reboots. I was hoping the panel would address why fanboys are mean to each other and maybe lightly touch on Gamergate, even getting my hopes up when seeing the panel was made up of mature men and women, in their 30’s and 40’s, but the topics was more directed at why fanboys get mad at the source creators for their favorite movies/shows.
The second panel, “The Female Superhero and Her Secret Weapon” fared a little better in my opinion as the panelists were all female creators, whom did a better job of staying on topic. There was a healthy dialogue with the audience on successful female characters. I particularly liked hearing from Stephanie Hans, a French comic book artist for Marvel, talk about how she was influenced by Lynn Varley’s work as the colorist on Frank Miller’s creation of the character Elektra in the Daredevil series.
All in all, it made for a pretty pleasant first day at the convention. The panels could have been better but I understand that since Friday had the shortest hours, Wizard World was probably saving the better stuff for Saturday and Sunday.
I arrived at the convention center on Saturday close to noon and walked around the Exhibition Hall, where I found out vendors were selling beer! Beer at a comic con? How is this possible? This is allowed? I love Wizard World Tulsa!!! I spotted the most adorable mother-daughter cosplay team walking past me, I love – LOVE that the mom was Peggy Carter and her daughter vintage Captain America, because, really, any mom will tell you their baby is the absolute love of their life.
My first panel experience of the day was “Women in Genre Fiction: Gender Stereotypes and Breaking Past Labels” which featured a panel of female writers. This panel was fricking amazing and even touched on the intersectionality of social issues that get crossed with feminism, for example, author Meg Perdue brought up the fact that the Ian Fleming Bond novels do not specify the race or heritage of James Bond at any time, he does not have to be intrinsically white in every iteration. The panelists discussed examples such as Sense8, Inside Amy Schumer, Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, and Mad Max: Fury Road as stereotype-breaking new works of entertainment. I also loved panelist Madalyn Singer’s, who is a transgender genre author, comments about writing in general, how writers have to appropriate; “We need to be observant.” The saying “write what you know” doesn’t lead to better gender and ethnic representation in books and shows.
Next, I went to the giant assembly hall to see the “Out of the Shire with Sean Astin” Q&A panel. Taking questions from the audiences I learned about Sean early acting days with his famous mother Patty Duke, and also got to hear how key scenes from the film Rudy were accomplished. It’s so great to hear when a celebrity is just as geeky and enthusiastic as the fans. Sean also mentioned getting offered his personal dream role of Twoflower from the Discworld series and how his favorite scene to shoot from The Goonies was when he got to kiss the female lead. Sean was also presented with a commendation from the state of Oklahoma for depicting acts of friendship, bravery and courage, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and cool.
I also went to the “Voices In Your Head: Justice League Edition With Kevin Conroy and Phil LaMarr” Q&A panel. Now, the Batman the Animated Series was my Star Wars growing up. That stuff was my jam, and remains so to this day. Kevin Conroy is my Batman, Mark Hamill is my Joker, Bruce Timm is my God and those versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl, my heroes, then, now and until the day I die. So yeah…..I was pretty excited!
Phil represented both fandoms with a Green Lantern t-shirt underneath a Planet Express work shirt and answered questions about Samurai Jack, Justice League, In Living Color and Static Shock. Dude has superb comedic timing and when prompted to recite Green Lantern’s oath did a version as Hermes from Futurama, “In brightest day, in blackest night, no villain shall escape my sight…until you file the correct the forms and paperwork”.
Kevin did not disappoint either, he re-told his beautifully humble 9/11 story which you can find on the Gotham Knight DVD Commentary and also gave some solid advice to an audience member that asked about how he struggle with alcoholism which runs in his family and how he overcame it. Kevin said, “we are all human, there are no superheroes, which is why they appeal to us so much” you’ve got to stop blaming other factors for your behavior and change for yourself and no one else. I was also very happy to hear Kevin drop a couple of f-bombs here and there, to add emphasis to his story, not to insult anyone, because it’s one of my own personal flaws, I tend to curse a lot, especially when I get excited telling a story. So hey, Batman and I have something in common!
After the panels, I grabbed myself a cheeseburger from the concessions stand and a beer and settled in for the Wizard World Costume Contest. Like, no lie, I’m sitting in the second row sipping from a tall-boy. My favorite were the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus but the female Droogs from A Clockwork Orange were so bad-ass. One lady had a (fake) chain belt that she was whipping around, I was like “DANG!” There were multiple Harley Quinns as per usual but the little girl sitting next to me during the show screamed out “AHH! I love Harley! Dump the Joker! He’s no good for you.” Kids, they get it, man. They really do.
Unfortunately I did not stay to the end, not because I didn’t want to, but because as it turns out, the carrying capacity of my bladder is just slightly less than a tallboy can of beer.
On the last day of Wizard World Tulsa I actually got to the convention kind of early, partly because I was terrified I would sleep past my check-out time at the hotel so I woke up super early and grabbed breakfast downtown. Afterwards I walked around to see more of the city until the convention started. Downtown Tulsa is very walkable.
On Saturday I kind of broke down and bought more stuff than I was originally planning to. I bought a Deathly Hallows necklace after eyeing them several times at Gillygoods Emporium. By Sunday, I was all in, like a gambler with an addiction. I didn’t go buck-wild but I did get a very cute Game of Thrones meets Pokemon t-shirt from Tee Turtle, a Black Panther t-shirt because he is my favorite Avenger, and a Dumbledore Funko Pop figurine. I know, I know….stuff I didn’t need but it was there….and I was there so….enough said.
While I was buying I did come across some of my favorite cosplayers of the whole con. I mean c’mon! These ladies of all ages were just killing it. The teen cosplaying as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim was so shy and sweet, her mom so excited I was asking for a photo. I mean, this is what fandom is all about, right?
Around noon I headed back to the assembly hall to see “Behind the Voice with Nintendo’s Charles Martinet”, I figured it would be good way to take a seat, chill a bit and wait for the coffee I had to kick in. What I didn’t expect was Charles’s boundless enthusiasm and positivity. Charles is the voice of Mario, Luigi, Wario and Waluigi, in every version of the Mario Nintendo games. Charles is so super likeable and upbeat, he answered audience questions and championed the idea of doing what you love, because then you’ll never work a day in your life. He made this jaded little 32 year old heart of mine grow in size because it’s never too late to pursue what you love, and you never know where opportunities will arise.
The last panel I sat in on was “Diversity in Comics; Illegal Alien Icons” with DC writer and university professor Jai Nitz talked about Mexican representation in the DC Comics world. This was one of my favorite panels because it felt like Jai was talking directly to me. Jai is bi-racial, white father and Hispanic mother, just like me! Jai looks completely Caucasian, just like me and his family can be traced in Texas, by way of Mexico, by way of Spain, just like mine. So when he traced the appearance of Hispanic characters like El Dorado, Vibe, and the recent Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle, I was like, “man this guy is in my head”. I love Blue Beetle because it takes place in El Paso, TX where all my family is from.
Jai wrote and updated the originally white character El Diablo into a Mexican character for DC Comics and now has seen that character reach mainstream through both the DC Lego game and also the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.
I really have to commend Wizard World for hosting panels that address the growing need for representation and gender equality in our fandoms. Sometimes I feel conventions are just sort of fluff entertainment and nothing of real consequence, so I was ecstatic to see Wizard World Tulsa address real life issues that I think about constantly.
Shortly after, I then sat in on Kids Costume Contest as the last part of my day before heading back home and yes, I’m female so I did “awwww” at all the teeny tiny Vaders, Links, and Buffy the Vampire Slayers but I was insanely proud of the girl dressed as Leonardo with her pigtails whipping back and forth. Girl, don’t let anyone hold you back in being whoever you want to be.
Supporting each other, letting our mutual love of our heroes propel us even further in better people, and teaching a new generation in believing in themselves and giving them to the confidence to be whatever they want to be. This is what fandom is all about.