I was out and about over the past four days, hanging out in Philadelphia with a few friends of mine for Wizard Con. I've actually never been to Philadelphia before, so my friend decided to take me out and have some fun. This trip was a present to me from my ever-loving boyfriend for my birthday, who ended up staying home to work the weekend while I had fun. He's so good to me. I took the megabus to get to Pennsylvania with my little carry-on suitcase, knowing I'd end up filling the suitcase by the time Con was over. My friends Eric and Patricia greeted me after I arrived at the station, and we were off to have dinner. Little did I know that Eric had planned for Pat and I to eat at the Ritz Carlton. How fancy!!! I didn't think I'd ever eat at a place as "ritzy" as that, but Eric and his friends were having a "Burger Club" event for their weekly Thursday outing, so he invited us to tag along. Since it was a private event, our price was $20-25, depending on the drink you got... and this meal included appetizers, a drink, and a nice juicy burger. The burger was cooked to perfection... not to mention, the fries were great! There was a raffle afterwards, and the irony of it was that all the non-Burger Club people won the prizes! Pat ended up winning a shirt, Eric (he's part of the club but he won anyway) won a Rachel Ray burger book, and I won the best prize of all - DINNER FOR TWO AT THE RITZ CARLTON!!! Pat volunteered to have dinner with me before Eric could say anything, so we reserved a dinner for two for the next evening.
Pat and I had a real Philly Cheesesteak at Campos in Old City, had ice cream in a Chinese food container at Franklin Fountain, went to some awesome comic shops around the area, and just enjoyed the town's scenery and what they had to offer on Thursday before the Con. We had some time to kill because the Con didn't start until 3PM, so we wandered to various thrift shops, stores, consignments, and alleyways, admiring the artwork on the walls, the architecture, and scenery. The weather, however, was very hot!!! I wasn't used to the humidity so I was constantly looking for something to have to cool down.
Once Comic Con started, we headed off to the Pennsylvania Convention Center via bus to browse what the floor had to offer. I paid for my four-day pass, so I ended up getting my limited edition comic book of The Walking Dead #1. I passed through the Artist Alley, but not everyone was set up yet. I did manage to meet an artist by the name of Amanda "Nen" Kilburn, who I ended up buying prints from since she was quite skilled. Her work was the first of a few to stick out from the rest of the crowd. She used watercolor to create the Shinobi Clans, and her art literally pops off the paper. I ended up buying her two geisha pieces for my ever-growing art collection.
I really do love meeting new artists, but I also love taking a look at what free stuff I could get. I got a few posters that day, along with new artwork and some pins. We later met up with Pat's friends Carlos and Adam, who were also New Yorkers. Both of them later joined us for dinner at the Ritz. Eric called to meet up with us in the evening as well. Pat and I ended up having a three-course meal while the guys just ate some sandwiches and dessert. I had crawfish tortellini, the skirt steak, and the chocolate creme brulee while Pat had the steamed mussels, the lamb, and the lemon torte. All in all, our bill came out to $138... and we only had to pay $15 each to cover the tax and tip. What a great day and night!
We all slept over Eric's place. The boys took the floor while the girls took Eric's room to sleep on the bed. The next morning, we got up around 9 to shower, get dressed, and have breakfast since the Con started at 12. I got ready and walked around to the back of the Con quickly because I had to get on the line to meet Stan Lee and get his autograph to sign my comics. The price for each person's signature was a bit steep, but you never know what will happen in the future. The wait was about an hour until he showed up. After that, it was smooth sailing and the line moved fairly quickly. He was a tiny man already at the age of 90. I couldn't believe he was still attending Comic Con for panels, photo ops, and signings! I'm glad to see he still has enough strength to walk around and travel.
Right after I'd finished getting my comics signed, it was announced that Norman Reedus was in the building to do signings. I thought about getting everything signed that day, but I felt I wasn't appropriately dressed since I had to wear my zombie shirt and Black Milk Invisible Zombie leggings, instead of my Mario ones. Bad choice on my part, but we'll get to that later. I met up with Carlos and Pat in the afternoon and apparently, they'd been buying things as well, so we all walked around and got a bunch of things... including Rohto eyedrops! I must have gotten at least 20 boxes of eye drops from this Con... and I was so excited because these particular eyedrops actually work. We went to Stan Lee's panel later to hear his thoughts about Marvel Comics.
Pat and Carlos ended up walking to one of the panels while I ended up wandering around Artist Alley again. I slowly looked through the booths until one of them caught my eye. There was a man sitting at his table sketching a photograph of my beloved Iron Man. I checked the banner for his name and found out he was Bob Layton. I also found out he was the original artist for the 1980's comics for Iron Man. I was looking at this work until he finally looked up at me and asked me what I was interested in. He had original pieces of Iron Man's sketches from the comic books and I stared at them in awe. We started talking about how he started to do work for Marvel and how Iron Man came about. We must have had a conversation for at least an hour because we talked about art and how he made a living out of it, how my life needed to be immersed in the art world, and how I could actually make money off of doing something I love to do. He was quite a lovely person and he added me to his facebook. I showed him my Gundam piece I did for Oscar two years ago and he told me I had talent. I just needed to practice more each day. Bob also gave me the pep talk about how I should be my own person and do what I love to do, because the more I let myself do something I hate, the more I will hate myself. He did have a point... but we'll get back to this another day. :)
After I left Bob at this desk, I felt a bit more confident about my thoughts and artwork. I couldn't believe the professional artist who created Iron Man said I had talent!!! I forgot what being an artist really meant. It was time to get focused again, but first... I thought I'd enjoy the rest of my day hanging out with other random people. I met some random cosplayers, other artists, and just people walking around the building. I met with my friends later on and we had dinner with a new person named Jeff at the Tavern on Broad, which was a bar/restaurant hosting an artist party with half off appetizers and drinks. We were so pooped by the end of the night that my body couldn't handle hanging out anymore, so I just watched the first episode of Dr. Who with Carlos and went to bed while Pat, Adam, and Eric hung out. I needed my rest, because the next day was going to be hell since I had to get up early to meet Norman Reedus.
I got up around 7AM to get to the Con by 9 so I could get in line early to meet Norman. On our way there, Carlos and I went to 7-11 and Starbucks while Pat slept and Adam went to Wawa for food. While walking out of 7-11, we randomly found Henry Winkler (aka "The Fonz" on Happy Days) on the street. He was very nice and gladly took a photo with us, after jokingly asking us for a dollar in exchange. He told us to come by his table later on. While walking back into the Marriot, we saw Kevin Sorbo (aka Hercules) standing on the side and chatting on the phone. We also got a little tip to go to the bar in the evening so we could find out where all the celebrities hang out. Carlos and I ended up splitting up so he could get to Holly Marie Combs' line while I ran to the Norman Reedus line. Here's where the trouble started.
Once I got onto the floor, I ran through artist alley because I really wanted to find a poster for Norman to sign (I was debating on spending the $80 instead of $40 for two signatures since this was the one thing I really wanted to do) but I couldn't find anything worth buying until I stumbled upon one booth in particular. I met a guy named Michael "Locoduck" Duron and his wife Toni and they had the cutest artwork! They had a few pieces I liked (including Daryl with a squirrel, Daryl and Merle, and the whole cast) but I ended up buying their print of the Walking Dead cast and I thought I might get it signed by everyone if I can find them. I was rushing, however, so I told Michael I'd come back to his booth later in order for him to sign my art.
I ran to the back at 9:45 to get in line to meet Reedus, but this volunteer told me I wasn't allowed to get on line since the current queue was for Reedus VIP members only. She told me I had to leave and come back later to see where I'd be placed. I left for a moment and came back, but decided to ask someone else for some information on where the general line would be, and I was directed towards the outside of the booth. People who'd already walked in started lining up, so I ran on line to wait. We did not move from that line for 2 hours, and Norman Reedus was late to the signing by an hour. On top of that, they were just letting all VIP members cut in front of us. Once we were finally able to move, they brought us to the second queue line, where we had to wait another hour. I started asking the security guards if we were even going to be able to meet him because 3 hours of my time was already wasted. He told me to wait patiently, but every single time we thought the general line was going to move, we ended up being cut by some more straggling VIP members.
We ended up getting to the first queue by 2:30, but not without problems. Two girls tried to cut me on line and said they have been standing there for quite some time, but I was behind the cosplayer dressed as Zac from Final Fantasy VII. They got sent to the back of the line and I ended up being pushed forward. Once we got there, most people were already tired of standing so we sat on the floor. This volunteer in front decided to be obnoxious and started waving a VIP badge at us screaming, "This is the pass you should get next time so you don't have to wait in that line. It's a little more money, but at least you'll get there!" I was furious and yelled back, "Then why don't you buy me a ticket and I'll get on that line?" He then said, "You need to get up right now or we're taking you off the line. It's a safety issue if you sit." Half the people on the line were sitting since we've been waiting there for 4 and a half hours already and a woman was sitting behind me. She attempted to get up, but not without complaining about the pain in her back from standing... and her husband was so furious that this man was taunting his wife that he had this particular volunteer kicked out of the Con. I was glad too because if I got to the front of the line and he was standing there, he would have gotten punched in the face by not just me, but every single person behind me.
It was already 3PM by the time we were finally allowed to get to meet Norman Reedus. I was agitated and annoyed, but once I finally got to meet him, my troubles went away because he was such a sweetheart. He gave me a kiss on the cheek, two hugs, and held my hand while we were chatting. I was beside myself and I was being such a fan girl (which hardly ever happens). I guess you kind of have a loss for words once you end up meeting someone you've wanted to meet for such a long time.
I ended up running to The Walking Dead panel and ALMOST couldn't get in. The lines were so long but I ended up getting into the panel courtesy of Pat and Carlos. I also needed a break from standing all morning. Half my time was taken away because of waiting on the line, but the panel with Michael Rooker (Merle), Jon Bernthal (Shane), and Norman Reedus (Daryl) was ridiculously funny. They were talking about their current work and answering questions about their thoughts on being killed off in The Walking Dead. I even got to ask Jon a question about his thoughts if Robert Kirkman left Shane alive after Lori passed on and had their baby. He told me that was a hard question to answer only because he was killed off so early, but he thought Rick would be able to take care of the child. It was nice to actually be able to chat and meet these people. They were so down to earth and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I went back to Locoduck's booth with Carlos because Pat wanted to stay in the Firefly panel and told Michael about the Reedus line. He felt bad and ended up giving me the art piece of Daryl and the squirrel for free! He was so nice about it too. I ended up buying a Ninja Turtles piece for Oscar and Carlos got a few Power Rangers pieces as well. I stopped by to say hello to Bob and around 7PM, the Con was closing up for the day so we went to have dinner at the Italian restaurant across the street. Pat was busy getting a photograph with Reedus, so she said she'd meet up with us later. I ended up having some bonding time with Carlos, and it turns out we were meant to be friends because he is such a great person. Pat came around 8:30 and we pulled up a chair for her to eat. I had this shrimp and crabmeat cannelloni with cream sauce and it was delicious! We went to the bar at the Marriott afterwards with Jeff and found out all the movie stars were hanging out there. This is what happened...
Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) and Ray Park (Darth Maul) were sitting behind us...
Charisma Carpenter (Courdelia) was sitting at the bar...
Brian Krauss (Leo) hanging with friends...
Caught Ray Park leaving the bathroom...
Creeped up the escalator to catch John Barrowman (Capt. Jack Hartness from Dr. Who) having ice cream!
After a long night of celebrity stalking, we went home and passed out. The next morning, we left early to get into the panel for Jon Barrowman, who was hilarious and easily one of my new favorite actors. He was talking about being openly gay and Scottish, his upcoming roles, and even where he keeps is weapons (he keeps them in his banana hammock!). After the panel, Pat stayed for another panel while Carlo and I walked around the floor and spoke to Gina Torres. She's a lovely lady as well! I ran into Bob once more and he told me to come back to him later on in the afternoon and he'd give me an impromptu art lesson. We left with Pat to have lunch with Eric at Federal Donuts. They sold donuts and chicken wings... it was quite delicious. After having lunch, Pat left with Eric to go to a luau while Carlos and I walked around the floor once more. I had my art lesson with Bob and he told me about dimensions, foreground, and how to color things in. We walked around a few booths to show me what he was talking about and he was also nice enough to give me one of his Iron Man prints for free. I gave him a hug farewell and told him we'd meet once again at NYCC.
The time was winding down to a close and I was about to leave. I was taking a few more pictures of the Bat Mobile... and guess who was sitting in it?! MICHAEL ROOKER! I had to get my camera out to snap a few shots and he almost walked into me when he was leaving, but he told me I was fine and didn't have to move. He also told me to have a great day... and I think that made my afternoon. I said goodbye to my new artist friends and trekked back to Eric's place to do some final packing and napping before my bus trip back home with Pat. It was nice to come back home to see my mom pick me up from the LIRR. I told her all about my adventures and the nice people I met. I think I may come back to Philly Con next year. All in all, my first trip to Philadelphia was a blast. I got free food, met new people, was given some inspiring words of wisdom, and even given some free artwork. That was a great birthday weekend. I can't wait for the next Con!