Wizard World Whiplash

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For the last five years Wizard World has brought comic con to St. Louis. Overall the cons have had their ups and downs. Unfortunately this year was more down than up. Let's break down the con for 2017.

The Good

Wizard World packed in some star power this year with guests such as Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter, Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder, Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols, Sean Gunn and Michael Rooker from Guardians of the Galaxy and The Weasley Twins from Harry Potter, James and Oliver Phelps to name just a few.

Overall the show was super kid friendly with magicians, balloon artists, face painting, and meet and greets with Disney characters and superheroes. In fact there was an entire Kids Zone designated for kids programming during the entirety of the con.

The cosplay was on point. I saw everything from The Princess Bride, to Star Wars, to favorite DC and Marvel Superheroes and even caught a glimpse of the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus. The cosplayers came out to have fun and were always happy to snap a photo with you.

And as always the fans were fantastic. I always meet the coolest people at cons and Wizard World St. Louis was no different. Everyone is always so polite and eager to talk about their fandoms and share stories.
But this year, fans also talked about how different things were from past years and what other cons are a bit better than Wizard World St. Louis.

The Bad

Numbers overall were down this year. Friday afternoon seemed like a ghost town compared to previous cons. On the plus side, it meant short wait times for autographs during that time. Things picked up on Saturday, but the general feel of the con wasn't the same electric energy it's been in the past.

The con overall has lost its focus. It used to be primarily centered around comics, superheroes, and sci fi/fantasy tv and movies. This year there was everything from dance crews to opera singers to comedians and ventriloquists and even rock singers which drastically changed the atmosphere. It felt like a con and it didn't all at once. And the constant droning from the entertainment stage really messed up the atmosphere.
During the bigger panels on the main stage where most of the bigger celebrities answered Q&A, there was something missing. They had the giant screen setup, but they weren't projecting the panel onto it. So for those sitting in the back, it was really hard, if not impossible, to see what was happening on stage. Why bother to setup a giant screen if you aren't going to use it?
But sadly these by far weren't the biggest disappointments of the con.

The Ugly

There were some huge missteps this year. Half the guest list canceled and the lineup wasn't finalized until a day or two before the con. Fans were left confused about reimbursements and having to repurchase photo ops and autographs because of the constant changing guest list. It was enough to give participants whiplash.

The vendor floor was about a quarter of what it has been in the past. There were some amazing artists and even classic TV and movie vehicles to see as well as authors selling books. However, there was a distinct lack of merchandise in general. There were only a couple comic vendors and one or two t-shirt booths. There wasn't much to look at on the show floor. After an hour or two, I'd seen the whole floor twice over and was sick of it.

The number of panels was also down from previous years, so there was limited choices on what to attend. This was due in part to the small number of celebrities in attendance as well as fewer panels on fandom, popular TV shows/movies and other nerd culture that's typically explored.

But even worse than that, everything was just utterly disorganized. Staff members gave out misinformation and different stories depending on who you spoke to. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the con they weren't answering any questions on any of their social media pages. Many panels started late, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes and signings and photo ops were also delayed as much as 30 minutes. As a frequent con attender I expect to wait, but I also expect things to start as close to on time as possible. I'm willing to forgive one or two late things because stuff happens, but this was a habitual problem throughout the weekend.
Overall Wizard World St. Louis did not have the same vibe as past cons and was a bit disappointing. It's left me wondering about the future of this con with respect to St. Louis. With attendance down and general vendor and star participation on the smaller side from previous years, it's hard to say if this was just an off year or if this is a new trend. I love comic con and hope to see it continue in St. Louis. However if this year is any indication of future years, I may have to bow out. Here's hoping next year returns with more punch. St. Louis does know how to comic con, we just need the right amount of star power, vendors, and panels to make it happen. Maybe next year St. Louis will be given that chance.