Austin Gets the Geek Stamp of Approval
Wizard World Comic Con brings Lando, Lee, and the Centipede three to town
So Batman and Robin, Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca, and all three parts of the Human Centipede walk into a convention center ....
Don't let the name fool you. The Wizard World Comic Con isn't just about four-color pulp entertainment. The gathering of genre-friendly TV and movie stars, comic book artists, and pop-culture innovators is the brainchild of Gareb Shamus, founder of comics-industry magazine Wizard and CEO of Wizard Entertainment, and for the first time he's bringing the traveling geek show to Austin.
Up until 2009, there was a Wizard World Texas in Arlington: That was canceled while the Wizard team started working on expanding the small, four-convention calendar into a full-fledged year-round tour. When eying new venues and new locations, Shamus was drawn to what he called "the emerging pop-culture center that Austin has become." The look-tour bypassed Arlington, he said, "because we knew that we wanted to be in Austin. We didn't want to put on another event [in Arlington], knowing that we were just going to be moving it."
For many visitors, the big attraction is the list of celebrities holding panels and signing autographs. The eight shows this year, to be expanded to 15 in 2011 with a long-term goal of 25 nationally, mean more opportunities for stars to fit dates on the tour into their schedules. "If we only had one or two shows," Shamus said, "our fans would never get to see them." Batman star Adam West makes his second trip to Austin this year, accompanied this time by the Robin to his caped crusader, old chum Burt Ward. For the younger crowd, there are cast members from Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Hellboy. The big get for Shamus at the Wizard World Austin Comic Con is the trifecta of Lee Majors, Lindsey Wagner, and Richard Anderson, aka the Six Million Dollar Man, the Bionic Woman, and their boss, Oscar Goldman, respectively. "For us, that's unbelievable," he said. "Lee Majors hasn't done public appearances for 30 years, and for the first time ever, he'll appear with Lindsey Wagner." Is this a nostalgia trip? Absolutely and unashamedly so, Shamus said. "The shows really are a very emotional event for people. They get to meet people they grew up with – they watched them on television, and now they get to meet them live and shake their hand or get a photo or an autograph."
Not every featured guest is quite so family-oriented. Fantastic Fest 2009 favorite The Human Centipede (First Sequence) makes a twisted homecoming as actors Akihiro Kitamura, Ashley C. Williams, and Ashlynn Yennie (better known as the mouth, middle, and the, er, rear of the eponymous medical experiment) return for a screening, while the Zombie Girl herself, Pathogen director Emily Hagins, will hold a panel about her new film, My Sucky Teen Romance. As for the "comic" in "Austin Comic Con," industry legends like Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich and Elektra: Assassin artist Bill Sienkiewicz will mingle with modern superstars like hotshot cover artists Michael Golden and Arthur Suydam. There'll also be a cadre of local creators, like The Intergalactic Nemesis auteur Jason Neulander and Rachel Weiss, whose 6 Dollars, Please strip is a mainstay of The Daily Texan's comics page. "It'll be the biggest artist alley in the south," Shamus said. "You'll get a really amazing array of talent and creators that are going to come out and show the local market and the national market a lot of really cool things that make Austin special."
One of those talents is special guest artist Joe Madureira. After becoming a fan favorite in the late 1990s for his work on Uncanny X-Men, Madureira moved to Austin seven years ago to co-found Vigil Games. With the critically acclaimed Darksiders under his belt and Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online in development, his Wizard World appearance coincides with the publication of his collected creator-owned fantasy comic, Battle Chasers. As a creator often stuck at his desk, the size of the artist alley has excited him. He explained: "Because we are so damn reclusive, shows like this are the only way any of us actually stay in touch sometimes. It's always great to catch up."
Even before the 2010 event opens its doors, Shamus and the Wizard crew have already been talking about Austin Comic Con 2011. Madureira said, "There's always cool stuff for sale, people in costumes, lots of weirdness – Austinites will love it."
Wizard World Austin Comic Con runs Nov. 12-14 at the Austin Convention Center (500 E. Cesar Chavez). One-day tickets cost $30; three-day passes are $50. For more info, see www.wizardworld.com.