One of the most disappointing things about this year is that, for the first time since it expanded to the Sacramento area in 2014, I, unfortunately, have to miss the annual Wizard World convention. Granted, there was some restructuring going on with the organization, and they initially announced that they had no plans to return for a fifth straight year. But then, it was later announced that Wizard World would, indeed, be coming back, and it is currently scheduled to take place at a venue not too far from my house. However, it also happens to fall on the same weekend that my brother is getting married, and, of course, that is more important. And, as much as I love going to conventions, I love my brother more, and I’m looking forward to the moment he gets to marry his truly wonderful fiancé.
OK, enough about personal matters. Prior to Wizard World announcing their return to Sacramento in a new venue, a new kind of convention announced that it would be taking its place during the month of June. It’s called Fandemic Tour, and the city of Sacramento had the great honor of hosting its first ever event. Spearheaded by former Wizard World CEO John Macaluso, Fandemic Tour is, essentially, set up in the same way as a Wizard World convention. There was a great setup for the Featured Artists and Artist Alley. Some of the usual convention attendees such as Neal Adams and Phil Ortiz were present, but there was also plenty of room for the other booths. Not once did it feel cramped in any way.
I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the persons on the Featured Artists list named Jerry G. Angelo. He was there promoting a film in which he wrote, directed, and starred called Warfighter. That interview will be published within the coming week or so.
One of my gripes about last year’s Wizard World Sacramento was having the celebrities placed directly across from certain venues, leaving little walking room for those wanting to check out the vendors. Fandemic Tour didn’t have this issue. The celebrity area was located in the far back of the convention center and had its own dedicated spot. This allowed those interested in meeting their favorite actors to have more space for the lines and also allowed those who wanted to explore the exhibitors more room to look at everything on display.
I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I always come to an event like Wizard World or Fandemic with the itching desire to spend money on something. There were several times in which I almost picked up a new shirt, but decided not to this time around. I was definitely eyeing a clever Silence of the Lambs-inspired shirt and came really close to getting it, but I refrained from doing so. The same went for any comics or movies. There were plenty of collector’s editions I wanted to get, but I simply didn’t. It’s a horrible thing for me to say, especially since I love supporting as many vendors as I can. But I came away empty-handed, with the exception of some free materials that were handed out at the Warner Bros. booth and at an artist’s booth. My goal for next year is to buy, at least, one item.
The scheduling for the inaugural Fandemic Tour was a bit odd. There were some celebrities who had two Q&A sessions. Some had their own the first time, and then the second time was with cast members from a certain show or movie. For example, Michael Rooker was given a half-hour solo panel, while Chris Sullivan and Sean Gunn were given an hour-long panel together. All three are in Guardians of the Galaxy. Later that day, on the event’s last day, all three of them were scheduled to do a panel together simply for Guardians of the Galaxy. Unfortunately, that panel was canceled at the last minute. I held off from going to the other two, because I figured it would be best to see all three together rather than all split up. I was a little bummed that it never happened, even though I had seen both Rooker and Gunn prior to Fandemic.
That was another issue that Fandemic had, although it was something that was out of their control. A lot of people canceled at the last minute. I felt sorry for a lot of the Walking Dead fans who wanted to get signatures from the cast members in attendance. Although some were able to make accommodations, all of the current actors on the show left Saturday because they had to go film the upcoming season. So that was a bit of an issue, but, again, it was something of which they didn’t have complete control.
On the positive side, the panels I attended were a lot of fun. I didn’t go to too many, and most of the ones I attended were celebrity Q&As. I missed out on Friday entirely, due to getting off work late. On Saturday, my girlfriend and I arrived as early as we could, claimed our tickets, and hopped in line to wait for the general admission people to be let in. Once we got in, we wandered throughout the exhibitor’s hall, which is always a blast to behold. We saw the original Batmobile from the 1960s Batman TV show, and people could take photos of themselves in it for $20 and enter to win a raffle for a drive in it. Of course, we went down Artist Alley and looked at all the cool artwork on display. We then made it over to some of the merchandise vendors to check out all the cool figures available to purchase.
The first panel we attended was the Jason David Frank Q&A. He had another one on Friday that we missed, so I was glad we got to see him on this day. He started off by disclosing that he had a lot of projects he was working on, but non-disclosure agreements prevented him from going into too many details. However, he did mention the BOOM! Studios graphic novel, Soul of the Dragon, coming out later this year. He then answered questions from various fans, a lot of which related to the Power Rangers franchise. He is a nice guy in real life, and made for an awesome interview when I talked to him prior to the show. Sure, a lot of the questions were pretty general, such as “favorite moment on Power Rangers” and so on, but he also had some nice words to give to people on just enjoying life and inspiring others.
After the Frank Q&A, we headed next door to a panel that was put on by the 501st Legion. I wasn’t too sure what the panel would be about at first, since the description was mostly about what the group does. The panel ended up being an in-depth look at how they get involved with the community and have opportunities to attend big events dressed up as certain characters from Star Wars. The costumes they have were incredibly realistic, and it shows that a lot of effort was put into them. The one big takeaway from it all was seeing how enthused each person onstage was about being a member, and each person mentioned that the most rewarding thing about being involved was making children happy. It definitely inspired me to consider signing up.
We had a two-hour gap before our next panel, so we just wandered the main hall. Then it came time for Robert Englund. He ended up running a little late due to photo ops, but that is OK. He was still an energetic presence, and always had a lot to say to his fans. Each question had an answer that ended up having an interesting story behind it. One person asked how many groupies he had after the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie, while another showed interest in having a Freddy vs. Pennywise battle. Englund expressed that something like that might work in graphic novel form, but maybe not in movie form. At the end of his panel, he gave a shout out to the movie Hereditary and the TV shows Legion and Penny Dreadful, and advised the audience to seek all three of them out.
Immediately after Englund was Bruce Campbell. Back in 2014, when I first saw him at a convention, he did it to where he brought people up and asked them questions, rather than having people ask him questions. It was a unique approach, and one I was hoping he would do again. He didn’t this time around, but that’s OK. His panel was still a lot of fun, as he caught some of the nervous fans off-guard when they fumbled their words, and started joking around with whatever they said. It started off with an unexpected phone call from one of the Ash vs. Evil Dead cast members, and put her on speaker to say hello to the audience. He did mention the cancellation of Ash vs. Evil Dead, which was announced two months prior to the show, and how he has retired from playing the Ash character. It also happened to be Campbell’s 60th birthday weekend, and the people at Fandemic surprised him with a cake during the panel.
On Sunday, we only attended two panels. The first was a Japanese cooking demonstration, featuring recipes from Manga Cookbook and Manga Cookbook Vol. 2. Although there weren’t any samples for audience members to try, it was still fun to watch the demonstration and listen to the host describe the background of the dishes he created.
Immediately after that, in the Main Stage room, was the Christian Kane panel. He made his way up to the stage, sporting aviator glasses and a bottle of Coors Light. He started off by discussing how The Librarians won’t be coming back for another season, but he enjoyed working with the crew. He did mention that he is in talks to work with the show’s creator, Dean Devlin, on another project, but couldn’t say anything beyond that. Some of the questions asked included favorite fight or favorite con job on the show Leverage, as well as if he had anything going on with his music career. Kane said he is working on another album at the moment, but didn’t go beyond that bit of detail.
In the end, the first ever Fandemic Tour was a blast, despite whatever issues arose. Unfortunately, the attendance did seem a bit sparse, and I’m wondering if that had to do with people debating between going to this or to Wizard World later in the year. The setup for both is pretty similar, and Fandemic still has room to grow. But I did appreciate what they had for the first year, and how enthusiastic and energetic the staff was. CEO John Macaluso gave high fives to everyone when the doors opened and always had a smile as he was doing it, or even when he was just walking around the convention. That’s the sure sign of someone who loves what they do, and wants to make sure everyone arrives and leaves the event in the same, jovial mood. I know I did.
The next Fandemic Tour will be September 14-16 in Houston, TX. Click here for tickets and more information.