Originally known as Wizard World, Philadelphia Fan Expo has kicked off its three-day celebration of all things geek culture this weekend with a tremendous bang. Laying somewhere in between the corporate landscape of San Diego and the small-town vibes of Zapp Con, I found myself having a tremendous amount of fun, not just with all the events and panels to attend, but with the atmosphere of Fan Expo itself.
Getting it out of the way first, the Expo did wind up having a very streamlined and organized alley for the major film and television stars in attendance at the convention. While I’m sure that alley will grow heavy with traffic as the con progresses on into Saturday, its more than prepared for heavy crowds. There was a healthy mix of icons tied to special events and general signing booths as well, diversifying the portfolio of amazing people you can meet.
In much the same vein, Artist Alley was laid out in a way that didn’t create a vacuum track for the big comics creators, thus leaving the smaller guys in the dust. I found myself perusing the independent booths and chatting with some amazing creators, all the while spending time with the likes of Dan Slott, Jim Shooter, Mike Hawthorne, Sean Lewis, and Jeremy Adams. Everyone who was at the con creator wise wasn’t just there to collect a check.
I spent a very long time chatting with Mr. Shooter, who like everyone else was more than gracious to spend their time talking with fans whether they were paying for something or not. They brought a strong sense of passion, community, and warmth to the convention that took me by storm. The Comic’s Culture by in large has become somewhat fractured and distant in the week of modern social media, global pandemics, and burgeoning sociological issues in the wake of intense fandom developments. However, there is something very, very humanizing about getting to spend time mellowing with fellow comic book readers and spreading love for the medium in a real, tangible setting. There was nothing separating ‘manga’ from ‘comics’ or ‘indie’ from ‘superheroes’, it was all just comics. In that regard, Philadelphia Fan Expo was able to capture the magic of small-scale local cons.
In terms of things to do outside of meeting creators, the con has really diversified its events. For someone like me who is only in attendance for the comics that built this convention, I’m happy to say we don’t wind up lost or minimized by the giants of gaming and anime. While I attended small panels dedicated to legends like Jim Shooter, Bob McLeod, and Mike DeCarlo, those who were in attendance for gaming would have panels and areas designated for those specific interests. There are anime showings, voice actor panels, and a Japanese themed arcade that brings both anime and gaming together. Everything is hoisted up and given its own space to breathe and exist, bleeding into one another in almost perfect fashion. There’s so much here for cosplayers as well, the convention having a dedicated alley for them as well as contests, photo ops, and more. Every aspect of geek culture melts together in the vendors market, where some very wonderful exhibitors bringing their best stuff to market. You can expect a detailed list of vendors to look out for in the future both online and at cons coming from yours truly after this weekend.
Cons can be taxing, and many will be happy to find that the areas designated for some R&R are well-placed and roomy. There is a collection of food vendors and tables to chill at, but the con also has a family section that allows those with kids at the convention to space necessary to wrangle themselves together for a long day. Families should definitely take advantage of some of the deals and discounts that are available for children, as there were a lot of events that anyone, of any age, could attend and have fun with.
All and all, my first taste of Philadelphia Fan Expo was nothing but positive. It has just the right amount of earnest love behind its goals as a money making machine to be both big in scale, but a person in its atmosphere. I couldn’t be more excited going into day two.
Sights and Sounds: First Impressions of Philadelphia Fan Expo 2023
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