The id of wizardry, weird and wonderful

Posted: June 18, 2007

The Vindiola Brothers swaggered into the Convention Center yesterday after tying on cloth masks and draping pastel capes over their T-shirts and shorts.

People gawked, smiled, and snapped pictures of the duo. But one onlooker had the audacity to shout: "Who are you supposed to be?"

A more elaborate Spider Man and two Ewoks who had walked by earlier were a lot easier to recognize.

The real-life brothers, Rigo, 25, and Brennan, 14, of Drexel Hill, didn't miss a beat. "We're the Vindiola Brothers - Neighborhood Super-Heroes," came the reply. Never mind that only moments before they had ripped up lime-green and baby-blue sheets and concocted creative personae.

At the Wizard World Philadelphia comic-book and pop-culture convention, it was anything goes. Fans dressed in outrageous attire were as much an attraction as the famous comic-book illustrators and characters who signed autographs.

More than 25,000 people attended the weekend event, which started Friday, said Drew Seldin, spokesman for Wizard Entertainment, the sponsor and publisher of magazines about comics, pop culture, video gaming, toy collections and anime.

Headliners were Brian Michael Bendis, a creator of Marvel Comics Ultimate Universe; Hayden Panettiere, the invincible cheerleader in the hit TV series Heroes; and the original Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferigno, who said a Hulk movie sequel would begin shooting next month.

Among the thrilled fans was Jason Farrell, who stood in line yesterday for about four hours to get 75 autographs from his favorite comic book illustrator, Michael Turner, who has illustrated covers for Captain America and other comic-book series.

To be fair to the other fans, Farrell, 27, of Perkasie, asked Turner to sign only 20 comic books at a time and then returned to the back of the line.

"His artwork is very awesome - the way he draws his characters, the emotions he shows," said Farrell, who starting reading comic books at age 9 and never looked back.

Also standing in line were Chris Avery and his two sons, Tyler, 13, and Matthew, 11, who had come 235 miles from Inwood, W. Va., for a Father's Day outing at the comic-book convention.

"I've been a comic-book fan and collector for 25 years," said Avery, a police officer, whose hobby has rubbed off on his children. "Michael Turner is fantastic," said Tyler, holding a stack of comic books to be signed. Turner has also drawn covers for the new Silver Surfer, who is featured in the new film Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Other fans wanted more than a signature. Glenn Harpootlian, 28, of Holmdel, N.J., brought a sketch pad and asked illustrators for impromptu pencil drawings. "Everything's getting framed," he said, noting that he had gotten about 25 original drawings to hang in his basement den.

Meanwhile, costumed fans strolled through the Convention Center and posed for pictures. Paul Sposato of New York City was a Sith Lord from Star Wars with a red-and-black face and an evil stare enhanced by red-and-yellow contact lenses. He is part of the New York Jedi, which offered instructions at the convention on how to properly wield a lightsaber.

Becca Wurzler, 23, of Milford, Del., said she wasn't in costume, though several people had asked her to pose for photographs. "I like wearing a corset," said Wurzler, who was also wearing purple streaks in her hair, a black-lace skirt, striped hosiery, and lace-up boots. "I guess it's a compliment," she said.

The long-haired and bearded Gil Cnaan, dressed in a white robe and sandals, said he was supposed to be Jesus, who appears in several comic books, including Silent Bob and Testament. "I'm getting a lot of comments," he said. "People are saying, 'Forgive me,' and, 'Hey Jesus,' and, 'I have you on my dashboard,' " he said.

Only in Wizard World.


Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com.

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