Wizard World Sacramento 2017 Review: Great Guests and Even Better Panels

Ever since making its way to Sacramento in 2014, I’ve had the pleasure of covering each Wizard World convention. That was actually the first time I had attended an event of its kind, and I was completely blown away by how much of a nerd nirvana it turned out to be. Whether you are into movies, television shows, comic books, or anything pop-culture related, there was something for everyone at the event.

I’ve always looked forward to each one, but, to be honest, I was a little let down by the 2016 convention. I’m not saying it was an entirely bad experience, but it felt like it was lacking what made the first two worthwhile. This year improved some of the issues I had with the previous year, such as beefing up the guest list and doing away with the gaming section. I understand gaming is a part of pop culture, and Wizard World was trying to incorporate it into its program, but it took up a giant section of the Sacramento Convention Center last year, and didn’t seem to fit in with what the rest of the event was trying to promote. It almost felt like a competition with the Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3, which had taken place the week before last year’s Comic Con.

OK, enough about the 2016 event. This year’s, which ran from June 16-18, was a total blast. Despite having to walk 20 minutes from my car to the convention center in 106-degree weather, I was able to arrive shortly after the doors had opened for the first day. I made my way to the press registration area, got checked in, and was then escorted to Kevin Sorbo’s booth for an exclusive interview, which you can read.

Once the interview wrapped, I wandered through the main exhibit hall for a bit, checking out a lot of the vendors and seeing the cosplayers that were present. In terms of vendors, this year seemed much smaller than it was in the past. Normally, the celebrity area would be at the end of the convention center, while the vendors were all in the center. However, this year’s merged the celebrity section with the vendors, so it was all basically in one area. Not that that was a bad thing, mind you; it was just noticeable how there was less here than previously.

Looking at all the vendors, I kept telling myself to not blow my budget. It’s actually one of the toughest things to say to yourself at these conventions, because a lot of them have great artwork, cool collectible figures, and, of course, comic books. That’s just in addition to the celebrity photos and signatures, if you were looking to purchase those, too. I’m comfortable when it comes to talking to famous people, but I’m not one to spend money on a photo or autograph.

One vendor that caught my eye, in particular, was selling bootleg copies of movies and television shows that weren’t available on DVD or Blu-ray. I noticed that it had an old Fox show called Brimstone, which was on for one season before the network did what it’s most famous and pulled it off the air. I recall it being a great show, but I haven’t seen a single episode since the ’90s, so I don’t know if it’s as good as it was when I was watching it in middle school. I refrained from purchasing it, since revisiting your childhood can sometimes be a dangerous thing. I also spotted Walt Disney’s controversial Song of the South, and almost purchased it, so I could finally watch it, but decided to hold off on that, too. On the second day of the convention, I went back to the booth and came across the “despecialized edition” of the original Star Wars trilogy. Of course, I purchased it. Side note: I watched a little bit of the unaltered version of Return of the Jedi, and it looks and sounds lovely.

Friday is the shortest day, as always, so I spent most of it just getting a feel for how the event was going to be this year. I ended it by attending a panel on kickstarting your creativity, which focused on how artists can boost their momentum when they get stuck in a rut. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, painter, or some other type of creator. The tips they gave, such as switching from typing to handwriting for the novelists out there, were helpful. Even though I haven’t quite dabbled in the fiction-writing field yet, I’m sure I can use the tips they gave for writing reviews and other articles.

The second day of the convention was more jam-packed with people and panels, which is usually the norm for any of these events, since attendance tends to spike on Saturday the most. Going through the schedule, I came to realize that there were too many things I wanted to check out. In years past, I would hop from celebrity panel to celebrity panel to take photos of the actors and actresses in attendance, since that is off limits at their booths. This year, I decided to take pictures of the celebrities whose panels I wanted to attend. So, I missed out on getting pictures of some of the people there, but I’m OK with that. It felt calmer in this approach.

The celebrity panels can be a bit redundant with people asking similar questions about a favorite episode of a certain show on which they worked, how they got involved with a certain project, and so on. But the thing that makes them worth checking out is the people themselves. Michael Rooker, for example, decided to make his panel a little different by walking through the audience and seeing what questions they had for him. His responses were usually quick, one-worded, and full of sarcasm, which drew a big laugh from everyone.

I had to miss part of Rooker’s panel, because it intersected with the Charmed reunion panel with Brian Krause and Holly Marie Combs. I never got into the show, but my girlfriend is a fan, and wanted to check it out. I should also mention that this was her first Wizard World convention, and she was awestruck by just about everything.

The Charmed panel then intersected with Val Kilmer’s panel, so we had to duck out early, only to find out that, unfortunately, Kilmer canceled his panel, and decided to just meet with fans at his booth. I was disappointed, since I was really looking forward to seeing his panel and possibly asking him about working with the late Powers Boothe on Tombstone, but I respected his decision to cancel it.

Other celebrity panels I checked out were Kate Beckinsale, Kevin Sorbo, and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reunion that featured James Marsters, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, and Emma Caulfield. Beckinsale’s mostly had people asking about Underworld, but I made sure to mention the extremely overlooked Love & Friendship, when I asked her a question. Sorbo’s was fun, even though he repeated some things he said during my interview. I’ve only seen up to season three of Buffy, but the panel was worth checking out, too. And, yes, there were some spoilers, but that’s not going to stop me from continuing the series when I eventually do.

Of all the panels I checked out, though, the two most intriguing were on the final day. They explored the psychology aspects of the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises. Surprisingly, the Star Wars had less attendance, but was held in a bigger room than the Harry Potter one, which had a lot more people show up. Both were held by Dr. Janina Scarlet and editor Travis Langley, and focused on how certain characters dealt with topics such as bullying, losing your friends and family, and adapting to other new changes. I’m interested in purchasing the book they have on the psychology of Star Wars now, after attending their panel. Scarlet mentioned that she is currently working on a book called Harry Potter Therapy, which will be available later this year.

In the end, although this year’s Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con felt smaller in both the size of the event and the attendance, it was still one of the most fun things to check out this year. I think what might have been the reasoning for the small attendance was due to the fact it was Father’s Day weekend, and the ticket prices might have been a bit steep for some people. A full weekend ran for $70, while individual days varied between $35 and $50 when bought in advance. At the door, they tacked on an additional $20. But I still had a blast overall. In addition to buying the bootleg versions of the original Star Wars trilogy, I won some posters for Dunkirk and The Lego Ninjago Movie, as well as buttons for the upcoming It remake, while playing a game at the Warner Bros. booth. The only comic book I purchased was the second volume of a miniseries called The Twelve, which I didn’t realize was split into two, so I have to pick up the first volume, since I didn’t see it at the same booth. I also purchased an X-Files T-shirt that was designed in the same way as those old Detective Comics issues, and ran across some great cosplay, too.

I look forward to the next time Wizard World comes to Sacramento.

David Wangberg

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