Wizard World Tulsa 2015: Too Legit (and Sick) to Quit

Last year, I attended my very first Con (Wizard World Tulsa, you can read all about it here). I had a great time then so I was quite excited when I learned they were coming back this year. The lineup wasn’t nearly as interesting as the last one, but this time did come with Bruce freakin’ Campbell, who I figured was worth the price of admission all by his own bad self. I even talked my wife into buying a ticket.

I had hoped to actually dress up this year. I think I could make a pretty stellar Doctor (the Fourth One played by Tom Baker with the long scarves). Started working out how to make the outfit and everything. Then I got strep throat. That was about four weeks back. I woke up feeling fine then on my way home for lunch I got all wonky feeling. By the time I got home, I took off my pants and went straight to bed. Hardly moved from it for several days.

Once better, I was so swamped with backlogged work and stuff I hardly gave old Tom Baker another thought. Just when I started to measure the lengths of my scarves again I came down with the same symptoms – sore throat, loads of mucus, and coughing, etc – I figured it was strep again but the doctor (not The Doctor, mind you) said it was a nasty virus going around instead. Like all good family men, I passed it to my wife, child, and the visiting in-laws. We spent the week lying on the couch, moaning and covering the floor in used tissues.

I missed the Thursday night press party because of it (much to the annoyance of my +1 who was really looking forward to schmoozing with a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger) and all of Friday’s shenanigans. The wife had bought tickets for Saturday and we decided to risk dying on the vendor floor and make a go of it.

This was her first con and unlike me, who skipped any attempt at Tom Baker and stuck to his tried-and-true Fantastic Mr. Fox/The Usual Suspects mash-up tee, she nailed a wonderful little Princess Luna from My Little Pony cosplay. I annoyed her by acting all superior by running down how the whole con thing worked throughout the day and we eventually got inside.

Due to our withering shades of wellness, we had planned out our activities pretty well. I was locked in to Bruce Campbell at 5:30 while she wanted to see a Hobbit and demanded we hear Sean Astin at 2:00. That gave us plenty of time to check out the vendors, gawk at costumes, and (hopefully) not pass out on the floor.

We got their a bit early, so I whisked her through the entrance and onto the vendor floor. It appeared there were quite a few more kiosks set up this time over last year and certainly a lot more people crowding it. This made for a not-too-pleasant browsing experience as the aisles were small and very full of people. Still, they had a lot of cool stuff and it’s exciting just to be on the floor walking amongst all the freaks and geeks. While there, I bumped into a buddy of mine with his wife and he jokingly said, “Look at all the nerds,” to which I replied, “Are you kidding? These are my people.”

The extra people seemed to consist mostly of families. I noticed a lot more children running around this time over last year. My wife noted that she saw some deals advertised on Groupon and similar places which undoubtedly brought the mom-and-kid crowd. The wife also allowed me to take a number of photos. Being a rather plump, by himself, bearded, 38-year-old man, I felt a little too pervy trying to ask folks to let me take their pictures last year, but with my cosplaying wife by my side, I got several good shots.

Now it was time for Sean Astin and I started taking us to the conference room all the big stars performed in last year only to quickly realize they were now talking somewhere else. Somewhere smaller, upstairs. The room was a decent size, bigger still when they opened up the back, but it was more compact than the big hall they used last time and the back section contained no chairs. Leaving many to sit cross-legged on the floor.

Sean Astin was lovely. He told great stories, interacted with fans, made us laugh and cheer – in a word he was exactly what you want a celebrity to be at a Con. Unfortunately, he had to rush through the last ten or so fan questions because some local state representative decided he needed to give the actor an official Oklahoma commendation, something I’m sure Mr. Astin could care less about and us fans even less so.

Post-talk, it took forever to leave the room as there was only one doorway that led downstairs to the rest of the action. Bottle-necking us even more were the legion of fans wanting to get into the room for the next event. I hope next year they realize what a good thing they had with the original room and leave this one for the smaller acts.

From there it was another run through the floor, a chow down on some overpriced chicken, again having to sit on the floor. (What this Con needs is more seats!) Then we slipped into the middle of Kevin Conroy and Phil LaMarr’s talk (they are the voice actors for Batman and Green Lantern on Justice League – a show I’ve not watched but will not because Kevin Conroy has the silkiest voice I’ve ever heard). We weren’t the only ones slipping into that talk just to get good seats for Bruce Campbell, but from what I heard, we should have all come earlier and listened to their entire session.

Campbell finally arrived and he was as marvelous as I expected him to be. And worse. Coming out in a bright mustard, lounge-lizard suit, he worked the crowd like a pro. Telling jokes and working his swarm charm like the Bruce you know and love. He gave five bucks to the “laziest bastard in the room” (the person who had traveled the least amount of distance to get there) and another to the person who traveled the farthest. He skipped right over the line of folks dying to ask their questions and instead answered anyone who raised their hand or just shouted something out.

Ten minutes of this and some loud music came over the speakers. Bruce pretended to not know what it was about and pretended still to not comprehend why some ’70s era Vaudeville-by-way-of-Moscow cheap mentalist was doing on the stage. The schtick was that management had doubled booked Bruce and this Yakoff guy and they’d both just have to live with each other performing together. For the next half hour, Bruce played sidekick to the world’s worst psychic finding objects in the audience for the magician to guess at and practically sexually harassing a poor girl dressed as Black Widow.

It was obviously some Andy Kaufman-style performance art and viewed from a distance might be wonderfully funny, but up close it just got old quick. It’s a bit like how one can laugh at the idea of Andy Kaufman reading The Great Gatsby to an audience, but actually being there must have been really obnoxious.

Finally, the magician left the stage and Campbell took a few more questions. Pulling a ten-year-old girl on the stage, he bantered quite effectively with her until the mom piped up and then the requisite sex jokes came in. Funny, but a little creepy with a minor sitting right next to you.

There really were some wonderful Bruce Campbell moments in his act and I’m glad to say I saw him, but this overheated sick boy could have done without the performance art.

After Bruce left, the wife and I were both done in and made our way to the car. Overall I had a better time at the last one, but it was fun to take my wife and she rather enjoyed herself. We’ll definitely go again next year, I just hope they improve the space issues and that I’m not running a fever.

Mat Brewster

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