What happened at to Wizard World Philadelphia?

Wizard World Philadelphia is usually packed with surprises and this year was no different. For starters, DC Comics pulled out of the convention. So did all of the other major publishers (Marvel, Image, Dark Horse and Top Cow) as well as con staples such as Kevin Smith’s View Askew T-shirt booth.

The floorplan that Wizard had posted before the event was vastly different from the floorplan that exhibitors and attendees navigated over the weekend. Aisles were huge as booths were stretched thin to fill the exhibit space. And, unlike past years, there was no carpeting in those mammoth aisles to ease the sore feet of attendees.

And, in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to alienate the exhibitors and attendees who insisted on supporting the convention, badges were nixed in favor of paper wristbands. Exhibitors were expected to wear their wristbands for the entire weekend. According to Wizard, the move was made to prevent scammers who would switch badges outside the convention center and send new people in. But, we soon found out that, if we asked, we could get a handful of replacement wristbands. I had a pocketful all weekend. If I had wanted to (I didn’t, of course), I could have run the exact same scam that Wizard had hoped to prevent with the wristbands.

The wristbands, to me, seemed to say, “We’ve lost all the major publishers, now what can we do about the rest of those pesky exhibitors?”

And it wasn’t just exhibitors that Wizard was trying to chase away. Take the case of the Evil Inc reader who donned a handmade Marvel Girl outfit and headed for Saturday’s costume competition. She says she was told that they had instituted a limit of 25, and had allowed 39 — but that was as far as they were willing to go. She competes every year. The 25-person limit was completely new to her. So Marvel Girl sat out while others — including a couple in nothing more elaborate than jeans-and-a-T-shirt competed in the event.

As you might expect, the absence of top publishers and a pretty sorry pre-con promotional push made for a low turnout — made even more stark by the huge aisles and the sparse floorplan. Friday and Sunday were desolate. Saturday was very good, but the crowd disappeared at 4 p.m. — which made for a long slog to the 7 p.m. finish line.

I tweeted before coming in on Sunday: “I’m prepping for the last day of Wizard World Philadelphia, really hoping that it’s not the Last day of Wizard World Philadelphia.”

“Wizard World” responded that they’re not going anywhere and that they’re gearing up to announce next year’s Philly dates. But didn’t Wizard World LA and Wizard World Texas both have pre-announced dates — and weren’t both either cancelled or “postponed” earlier this year? I’d love for Wizard World Philly to rebound. I truly love having a major convention that I don’t have travel/hotel expenses for. But I’m skeptical.

Partly, I’m dubious because of another announcement from Wizard. They’re teaming with Big Apple Con to have a New York presence. If Wizard has a NYC presence — and if the publishers have abandoned Wizard World Philly — I have to conclude that it’s just a matter of time before my backyard con becomes a fond memory.

When I got to the show Sunday, fans had made up T-shirts: “R.I.P. WWP.”

I sure hope they’re wrong.