This is part 2 of the review of Wizard World Atlanta Comic Con that covers the events that took place on Sunday, December 5. Please see part 1 of the review for coverage on Saturday, December 4 as reported by Atlanta Video Gaming Lifestyle Examiner Cecilia Holman.
When I arrived on Sunday, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Cecilia Holman had told me that the convention was small, and that the majority of it was held in a large room while the panels were off in smaller rooms. I walked in and felt the familiar sense of a convention, but things were somehow different.
The vendors, artists, exhibitors, and featured guests were all in one room! At first, I was slightly intimidated. Where should I go first? I decided to start at the right of the room where the dealers were and work my way around.
Dealers were selling everything from t-shirts and collectables, comics and accessories. Artists were selling prints and originals, and they were autographing work for their fans. Well-established comic book artists and local artists were in attendance, and it was a great mix of talent.
The featured guests’ booths were in the middle of the room. As I made my way over there, I was stopped by a fellow Netherworld Monster and “Walking Dead” zombie alum Ryan Kightlinger. I looked around to see that I was smack dab in the middle of a horde of “Walking Dead” zombies, from extras like me to featured extras, such as Melissa Cowan who did an amazing job as the torso zombie “Bicycle Girl”, to Chandler Riggs himself who plays Carl Grimes, Rick’s son.
I had the opportunity to speak to Chandler about his role on the show. He very humble and mature for an 11 year old! Fans will be happy to know that Chandler does read the comic. I asked Chandler’s mom how he was handling playing such a dramatic role, she said, “Chandler and Carl are a lot alike. Chandler is being forced to grow up fast in a similar way as Carl; both of their worlds have changed dramatically in such a short time.” I mentioned to her that Carl’s character gets very dark, and she said that if the show continues to be successful and it reaches that point in the story, the producers have said that they will work with Chandler to make sure that he is comfortable with the things his character is doing, and they could adjust if necessary.
Fans of the comic book are quite familiar with the detour the show has taken. While the show is undeniably groundbreaking (who would have ever thought there would be an hour-long zombie drama on primetime television?), it is in many ways a different story than the original graphic novel series. The show has introduced many new characters, while some of the old characters have been left out. The storylines are different. The television show refers to the zombies as “geeks”, a reference never made in the graphic series. Nevertheless, the show is wildly popular and deservedly so. The acting is phenomenal, both from the human and zombie actors, and the special effects are incredible.
It’s not surprising then, that “The Walking Dead” panel at Wizard World Atlanta Comic Con was filled to the brim. The panel featured 14 actors, including Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes), Melissa Cowan (Bicycle Girl and various other zombies), and many other featured zombie extras including Sonya Thompson, Larry Mainland, Alyssa Courtney Gruhn, and Charles Casey, who all appeared on the cover of “Entertainment Weekly”. The moderator of the panel said that it was the largest Comic Con panel to date.
The actors on the panel talked about their experiences working on set in the Hotlanta summer heat wearing layers of latex and make-up. Cowan, who was in a special effects bodycast for her role as Bicycle Girl, said that it felt like it was 150 degrees outside, though it was only a mere 100 degrees! But that she would do it again in a heartbeat. The actors marveled at how big the show had gotten, and all admitted that they never expected the show to be such a hit. Philosophical conversations suddenly broke out, and one actor said that they believed that the zombies were a metaphor for the way society is currently surviving our day to day lives. Instead of killing zombies, we have to pay bills and maneuver through tough economic times. Then of course, the unavoidable question came: “If the zombie apocalypse were to happen today, what would you do? Who would be eaten, and who would survive?” The actors all varied in their responses, though one said that she thought it would be cool to be a zombie and get to stuff her face all day!
After the panel, the actors returned to their fan tables. I got an autograph from Melissa Cowan, whom I had had the pleasure of working with on previous sets. It was really great to see a once fellow “background actor” achieve some well-deserved success. And although I had worked with her before, I didn’t realize that she was “Bicycle Girl” until I saw her at Wizard World Atlanta Comic Con. The make-up team and special effects crew really did an amazing job!
Zombie fan-girl tangent aside, I did do things other than follow the zombies around. I spoke with Vivica A. Fox, who guest starred on “Drop Dead Diva” when I was working on set this spring. She was really sweet, and talking to her was like talking to any really, extremely, beautiful and intelligent woman. I also saw Henry Winkler, which was surreal. He was standing outside of the protection of his covered table and was taking a picture with a small boy while talking to the boy’s father. Although he is best known for playing The Fonz on “Happy Days”, I couldn’t help but see him as the principal in “Scream” and the coach in “Waterboy”!
While this wasn’t a big convention for cosplayers, I was able to snap several shots of people who were doing their costuming thing. Miss Marvel, Flash, and several Ghostbusters were all in attendance. The Ghostbusters fit right in, as Ernie Hudson (“Winston) was a guest at the convention, and the Ecto 1 car was on display in the exhibit area.
Other exhibits included a Dolorean Time Machine replica from “Back to the Future”. It was placed there by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The replica looked like it came straight out of the movies; there was even a pink hoverboard propped up against the car. A spot-on replica of K.I.T.T., the “Knight Rider” car was also on display. It was built by actor and musician George Francis, who has also built a General Lee and a Hazzard County Sheriff squad car from TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard”.
Wizard World Atlanta Comic Con was small but impressive. It was the perfect blend of panels, guests, vendors, and exhibitors. Wizard World produces conventions all over the U.S.; see below for the 2011 schedule. I will definitely be back for the 2011 Wizard World Atlanta Comic Con, and this time I hope to be able to attend both days!
2011 Wizard World Convention Schedule:
January 29-30 – New Orleans Comic Con
February 26-27 – Miami Comic Con
March 18-20 – Toronto Comic Con
April 29 – May 1 – Anaheim Comic Con
May 21-22 – Big Apple Comic Con “Spring Edition”
June 17-19 – Philadelphia Comic Con
August 11-14 – Chicago Comic Con
September 17-18 – New England Comic Con
September 24-25 – Big Apple Comic Con
October 28-30 – Central Canada Comic Con
November – Austin Comic Con
December – Atlanta Comic Con
TBA – New Jersey Comic Con
TBA – Cincinnati Comic Con
TBA – Cleveland Comic Con
TBA – Nashville Comic Con