Wizard World Portland 2017
– Jen’s take*
*Jen is a bad person who hates everything and is generally sleep deprived and high AF on paint fumes while attending cons, so her experience may or may not be an accurate interpretation of how crappy things are. Whatever, nobody’s gonna read all this anyway.
TL:DR – Wizard World Portland sucks, don’t go. Or rather, don’t PAY to go.
We’re not super worldly as conventions go, but there’s a certain level of quality we’ve come to accept as the baseline, and this was nowhere near it. Here’s a handful of why:
Most civilized conventions give you badges. They even mail you your badges in the mail, so you don’t have to show up early and wait in a line for an hour to trade in your paper ticket for a real one. Wizard World gives you a crappy wristband. Wizard World gives you a crappy wristband you’re supposed to wear for 72 hours, tight on your wrist, without taking it off. Gross and uncomfortable, also potentially embarrassing depending on what else you plan to be doing the rest of your time and what sorts of people you hang around. Maybe you’re not out to your friends or coworkers as a nerd and you don’t want to be answering questions about what Wizard World is or explaining why you find it fun to do things like walk around town in a giant Mandragora costume in your free time.
This is not a crappy 90s dance club; I don’t want to wear a wristband. I get that it’s cheaper, but I’ll pay an extra buck or two just to have a badge. Actually I probably will be mad about that too, but whatever, anyway, wrist bands suck, get badges like 99.9% of the rest of the conventions.
But really, what was the point of any kind of badge or band? We didn’t even trade in our tickets on Saturday for wristbands, because I was in Iron Man and it would have been a huge pain in the ass to take off the pieces required to get to my bare wrist when the guy refused to accept putting it over the single layer of fabric over my wrist in the spot that was accessible. I’m not a damn criminal trying to trade my wristband with somebody outside to them save some bucks and I don’t really appreciate a person’s complete inability to make a reasonable compromise based on blind adherence to a policy. It’s called customer service, and you lost two customers for life on the off chance you’d lose the price of 1 day of admission.
(Speaking of customer service, the Reynold’s booth on the show floor was the polar opposite of Wizard World’s customer experience and made me a fangirl for life for saving me frustration and replacing some product right at the booth, and given the northwest’s lack of options for buying resins and whatnot, I’m glad that they’re awesome).
But back to Wizard World being terrible.
Since we were tired and cranky, we got assholey with the guy for Wizard World’s ridiculous policy (sorry) and then cut off our noses to spite our faces and decided to turn our tickets in the next day when we were less pissed off. This meant we couldn’t go onto the show floor and look at booths and idk buy stuff, but apparently we were perfectly okay to go into panels, because while there was bag checking, security wanding, and snippy “WRISTBANDS UP!” greetings outside the entrance to the show floor, on Sunday nobody was checking for credentials at the panel rooms, so anyone off the street could just wander in and enjoy a free show.
HI GUYZ WELCOME TO RAISINS:
Speaking of greetings at the entrance to the show floor, the greeters at the inside of the entrance to the show floor were trashy. Not the greeters themselves, but damn, man, it’s 2017, do we really need bikini clad eye candy at the doorway? It would have been marginally less offensive if there was a dude there in a speedo alongside the ladies for a little gender equality, but still, really? This is a market that has a widening demographic (children, ladies, and POC are growing consumers of comics and games), and not everyone wants their comic con experience to look like the local strip club. If you feel like you absolutely need half-naked people to attract convention goers because your con sucks so much without sexualizing everything, go ahead and throw some dudes in speedos and some kind of diversity in there, then you can at least pretend you’re trying to be progressive. I don’t know what to do for the kiddos, how about a furry mascot in a Wizard World bikini? Brilliant. You can thank me for that idea later, Wizard World.
I NEED A DRINK:
Sadly the Raisins girls at the doorway were probably the most entertaining part of the show floor. It was the usual array of artistic copyright infringement, overpriced bad food, awkward celebrity booth interactions, and local oddities (Unipiper, Back to the Future car, and familiar costumes from previous years and conventions), but it was very sparse.
There were two entertainment stages kind of just thrown in the middle of things where people could wander up and catch a show, but it was more weird and disjointed than cool, when you have belly dancing going on 5 yards away from the magic show you’re trying to pay attention to. There was also beer garden smack in the middle of things next to children running around, and I’m pretty sure a couple of times I saw beer from said beer garden making its way around the con in a pretty egregious OLCC violation (it’s apple juice, officer, we swear). I was actually interested in checking out the beer garden in our Disney costumes partially because it’s funny to see Ariel downing booze, and partly because I’m an alcoholic, but Prince Eric correctly pointed out it that was 10 am on a Sunday and no amount of alcohol was going to improve Wizard World anyway.
WINNER WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER
We happened to wander by one of the entertainment stages where the end of the children’s costume contest was going on. They built up to the announcement of the winner– “…everybody wins! Yay!” — and half the crowd wandered off in disgust. Personally I’m fine with an exhibition style parade of cute kids in costume, but don’t call it a contest and give everyone a participation trophy. C’mon. Teach them that life is unfair early on!
Speaking of actual costume contests, apparently there was an actual one, and we didn’t even know about it beforehand. Not that we had anything worth entering, but it would have been nice to even know about it. Although, given the quality and organization of the rest of the show, I assume it would be run like a bar costume contest on Halloween where the chick with the largest boobs gets the most applause and wins a toaster for her “slutty ketchup bottle” or whatever the hell the normies are calling a costume now.
“F YOUR WORBLA!”
The panels, or lack thereof, were awful. I’m all about something for everyone, but there wasn’t a lot I had even a remote interest in attending. Personally I want panels with celebrities (including comic writers and developers; there was an AMAZING panel at NYCC about the Black Panther comic and inclusion), because I can’t afford autographs and I’m too scared to approach celebs at their booths. I’m interested in you know, comics and stuff, and uh…it’s a comic convention. I don’t want to hear panels run by people with about the same level of skill in cosplay as me telling people to go buy Worbla and Sintra and vacuum form tables and 3D printers and hundreds of dollars of tools and supplies just so they can learn to cosplay. “See guyz cosplay is so EZ omg!” I can get on YouTube for that, and better yet, I can feel free to express my disapproval of their vast budget without worrying about being thrown out of a con: “F YOUR WORBLA AND YOUR TOOLS AND YOUR BIG HOUSE AND YOUR HELPFUL FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND EVERYTHING YOU DO!!1111!! ……..but damn man, nice cosplay….”
The only redeeming panel for me was Kevin Conroy (that’s the iconic voice of Batman from Batman: The Animated Series, the best series ever, for you heathens). There’s always a great quote or takeaway piece of wisdom in panels, and this one was applicable to my previous ranty paragraph: “Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish your own”. It’s definitely a theme worth a later post.
Robin (Loren Lester) was there too, but Bats, man. I’ve had an age-inappropriate crush on Kevin Conroy’s Batman since…forever. Maybe I’m old (definitely), but how this panel was not even half full is beyond me. It’s nice to be able to get into a panel without waiting in a line for 2 hours, but if you’ve ever been a performer in a play with a half-full house that isn’t really engaged…it sucks. The energy on both sides is low and the experience isn’t wholly satisfying for anyone.
“Wholly unsatisfying” is probably a good way of summarizing things if you’ve read this far. Wizard World Portland 2017 just wasn’t very satisfying. From the archaic Raisins girls greeting people entering the show floor, to the half-full panels and paultry list of celebrity guests, to the poorly promoted events, to the lack of content, to the crappy plastic wristbands, it felt empty and cheap. For a “3 day” con, Friday was just some half day that didn’t even have panels or show floor access, and we ended up skipping it. We missed a lot of Saturday, but by the time we showed up in the afternoon, it was not very busy. Sunday was also very short, and felt empty the entire day.
For us, the wristband BS was enough to say never again, especially when you can just wander through the building in your cosplay and check out costumes (including scantily clad ladies, no need to enter the show floor for that), eat overpriced food in the restaurants surrounding the convention center (cough cough Burgerville sucks), and apparently just sneak into panels (and even the word “sneak” is an overstatement, since there was literally no one in charge at the panel room entrance monitoring who was coming and going). Given the lack of good conventions in the Portland area, and the bad timing (shortly before ECCC when we’re trying rush to complete big, stupid things that are competing in contests), I’d rather spend the money on things I actually have a positive experience with, like comics or crafting supplies.
Here’s hoping your con experience was better!