Wizard World – 3 day account (from a volunteer)

by: alex

Alice persuaded me to post on her site and so I thought I would start with a edited/altered version of my 3 blog posts from my 3 day volunteer span at Wizard’s March 26-28 Convention…if reception is not horrible, may post again.:)

I normally blog through my own sites:

http://therantguy.blogspot.com/ (daily)
http://autograph-guy.blogspot.com/ (infrequent)

Wizard World – Day 1 (Friday)

I arrived at 10:00 am and arrived only to find that the kiosk I was supposed to go to didn’t exist…that nobody knew how to sign in the volunteers and so we all had to sit around for a half hour until the volunteer coordinator arrived…then we had to sign in to get our wristband…which we have to wear the entire weekend (it’s not like a livestrong bracelet but rather like a hospital patient one (how exactly am I supposed to shower is beyond me)…and then got to work unpacking box after box after box (hundreds) of these card pack things that they give to people on entering…luckily I had my mini-leatherman.

Anyway…so half hour of waiting and an hour and a half of opening boxes and I finally got on the floor as the doors opened…

Assigned to Artist Alley (where the smart volunteer goes) my job was to wander around and make sure the artists are happy…get them water, watch their desk if they need to take a break, keep them company if it’s slow and make sure lines stay in control.

So, frankly, it was really cool…I did what I do best…wander around and talk to people…get water…and basically make everybody as happy as I can.

Most fun chatting with on day 1 (artists)

Chris Howard and Jeff Wasson (http://egestacomics.com/)

Chris (http://powie.fantunes.com/)

Cameron Stewart (Batman) – http://cameronstewart.blogspot.com/

Ken Wheaton (Popeye, Simpsons) – http://kenwheaton.com/

As for celebs

Met Ernie Hudson (black Ghostbuster)…he was nice and very personable…very cool guy…appreciated that I remember he was also in “The Crow”…signed with, at my request, the “If somebody asks you if you’re a God, you say yes” line. I had him sign a Ghostbusters poster.

Gil Gerrard (Buck Rogers) was awesome…he was wandering around in the artist alley and I literally turned around to see him…he was very gracious, totally cool…when I went to snag his autograph he kindly waited around for a bit just for me (he was about to close up for the night) and, again, was just a nice guy who joked around and was really fun to have a chat with. I had him sign a vintage Buck Rogers poster.

Erin Gray (Buck Rogers) was nasty…I mean NAS-TY…she got off the phone with somebody about some photo problem and was ranting about lack of professionalism over and over…she signed…gave me incorrect change (in her favor)…didn’t apologize for her mood…

I hesitate to point out that it’s not terribly professional to rant away while a fan (and convention volunteer) is standing there, and paying you, to sign something.

I won’t make it a permanent black mark…shit happens…and the poster looks awesome…but Gil Gerrard was definitely the highlight of my day.

Volunteer experience

Really fun…everybody was super nice…con wasn’t terribly busy…feet hurt (concrete floors are not the way to go)…back tightening up…but worth it.

Wizard World – Day 2 (Saturday)

Today was Saturday, the “busiest” day of the convention and I was attending as a fan with three of my friends

I have to say that I think we were all on the disappointed side of the spectrum. We arrived about 11am and were out the door by 1:30…having met everyone we wanted and gotten everything we needed.

Doug Jones (Hellboy 2) was really cool (he hugged me)…Jewel Staite was really sweet (if 30 seconds is enough to judge somebody, I’d say she and her character on Firefly have a lot in common)…

Basically, the problem is that it wasn’t very busy…it was just really strange to get in line to meet Jewel and to be done inside five minutes…

Does that make sense? It’s like going to the grocery store…I need Jewel Staite…check…Gil Gerrard…check…done and ready to head home. I certainly don’t want to wait an hour to meet somebody, but something is wrong when at noon on Saturday you meet the show headliner five minutes after lining up.

…If you were a comic collector, you’d probably have more fun dealing with your local comic store or picking up stuff via ebay (or buying stuff with zero markup from tdotcomics) than standing on concrete floors flipping through hundreds of comic boxes…

…the artists (who are very cool) can only do a limited number of sketches so it’s entirely possible that you could spend six hours waiting for Dale Keown to do your sketch (I remain baffled as to why he doesn’t just decide he’s going to do 15 sketches in a day, take money from the first 15 people who come by and then let people wander around and come back when he’s done…or, frankly, why he doesn’t just bring a pile of sketches and sell them)

…The celebs were pretty minor…I mean…there was like a whole row of skanks…now…it’s one thing to admire the fairer sex…it’s quite another to want to spend $20-$50 to have a playboy bunny sign a photo…and, frankly, seeing the Honky Tonk Man was really depressing (he didn’t look good)…

On the one hand…I ended up with a Ghostbusters signed poster, a Buck Rogers signed poster, a Serenity signed poster and a Fantastic Four signed poster to add to my collection…Jewel, Gil, Ernie and Doug were really cool to meet….

On the other hand…I expected more as a fan…I think that Wizard will have to do a much better job to compete with Fan Expo.

Wizard World – Day 3 (Sunday)

So, today was the last day of the Con…basically my volunteer experience was a retread of
Friday so here are the highlights.

- I got “creepy guy” thrown out.

There was this little Asian guy who was maybe 25-30 and who was as creepy as all hell. He was following the cute girls around. Taking their pictures. Sucking them into endless conversations and saying things that weren’t necessarily inappropriate but right on the line.

I talked to him for a bit and he said things like “I don’t mind people stalking me” when I suggested that he wander around and look at stuff rather than follow women…which tells you pretty much all you need to know.

Anyway, he left the artist alley but I saw him creeping out a woman in the autograph alley…with no volunteers present, I went back to my area to tell a captain that they needed to get the head honcho on the line and toss this guy and Spat agreed and tossed the guy.

- Got some cool sketches

Dale Keown, Cameron Stewart, Guy Dorian and a bunch of others did amazing sketches for me…very cool stuff.
- My feet hurt

I will volunteer again…but next time, I need to take more breaks (I took none on Friday or Sunday)

- Volunteer swag is kinda crappy

I am not disappointed because I didn’t do it for the stuff…but they gave me the 30-39 hour bag because I rock (I had only “earned” the 20-29 hour bag) an it’s still mostly meh…a couple crappy comics, a super girl action figure, a wresting action figure, some card games and a plastic carrying case…giving all of it away.

Wizard World – 10 Lessons

Here is what I learned…anything I say may or may not apply to other conventions…

1) I was WAY too worried about the difficulty in getting autographs

I thought there would be big lines, that I needed to space out the autograph hunting over three days to get them all. Here is how long it took.

Erin Gray – 1 minute
Gil Gerrard – 1 minute
Ernie Hudson – 3 minutes
Doug Jones – 3 minutes
Jewel Staite – 5 minutes

So, I managed to get the five biggest media headliners in less than 15 minutes of waiting in line. I assumed that Gil Gerrard would sign his name hundreds of times in a day rather than dozens.

2) Make a plan

If you are content to wander, then obviously this doesn’t apply. If you have goals, try to cover them first.

However, unless you plan on being at the con every single moment it’s open (and even then) you won’t do or get it all. I missed getting a sketch or autograph from Adi Granov, Phil Jimenez and Ken Lashley and I was there 18 of the 24 hours the con was open.

3) Fans can get screwed

On Sunday the con opened at 10am. At 9:30 the line to get a sketch done by Dale Keown was four people deep. Dealers (or their staff) had snagged the first few slots of his sketching day before the doors were even open.

As a volunteer, Dale agreed to do a sketch for me at the end of the day. A regular attendee wouldn’t have gotten that agreement (you’d have to line up and wait).

In other words, like everywhere else in life, access and relationships matter.

4) If you see somebody, get them

Adi Granov (artist) was supposed to attend all three days. He barely attended two. I thought “I’ll buy an Iron Man comic on Sunday for a buck and he’ll sign for free”…except he didn’t show on Sunday.

If they are there, go get your autograph and then you can wander around knowing you got it.

5) VIP passes may not be worth much

To the Anaheim convention the 3 day pass is $45. The VIP pass is $150. For that you get a bag with a bunch of stuff (that is nowhere near worth $105 and access to the floor first in the morning).

I saw zero benefit to being able to get on the floor quicker. Maybe in a really busy convention that means something but unless you get access to things others don’t, I saw no benefit to the VIP package at Wizard Toronto.

6) Con-itis is real

I am sure there is a term for it, but this is where you see something that you NEED to have even though you had never seen, heard or thought of it before the convention and, in all likelihood, will regret buying once it’s over.

I largely managed to avoid this by a) only having cash on me b) having no cash c) wandering around in endless loops figuring I had time to think about whether I really wanted X.

I can only imagine, however, what it would be like to wander by and think “This is the only time I will ever have the chance to get X”.

Just be sure to think about it with a rational mind. I dislike regrets and think you need to err on the side of avoiding them, but ending up with stuff that goes in the closet and never sees the light of day isn’t the answer either.

6) It wasn’t as geeky as I thought it would be

I admit, I thought it would be full of socially challenged nerds who would quiver at the sight of women.

And there were a few of those types (namely creepy guy) but mostly it was normal people who happen to have interests in the sci-fi and comic realms.

7) If you volunteer and don’t enjoy your section, bail.

I had loads of fun in artist alley. I can’t imagine programming, registration, line control or even autograph alley being all that interesting. The SWAG was not worth spending twenty hours volunteering in a section that wasn’t fun.

Now, my preferences aren’t yours (everyone else wants autograph alley or programming) and make sure that you give whatever section you get a chance, but if you hate it after the first day, the gift bag isn’t worth another day of non-enjoyment.

8) It was really nice to talk to people who don’t look at me like I am nuts

I never really thought I would enjoy talking about comics/sci-fi or what not as much as I did over the course of the weekend. It was really cool to be able to mention a film like “Spirited Away” and get a nod rather than a confused look.

9) Wear comfy shoes

Just trust me on this one.

10) See #9

Related posts:

Tdotcomics interviews FanExpo / HobbyStar
Does Wizard's Convention Model Make Sense?
Toronto March Comic-con 2012
Cosplay & Misogyny: 5 Notes for Tony Harris