Stan Lee, ‘Trek’ captains highlight Wizard World con

Stan Lee arrives at the premiere of "The Avengers" in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. "The Avengers" will be released in theaters May 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Stan Lee arrives at the premiere of "The Avengers" in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. "The Avengers" will be released in theaters May 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: June 01, 2012

This is the year Wizard Philly becomes the most attractive, star-studded, event-driven comic/sci-fi convention east of Comic-Con in San Diego.

"This will easily be the biggest Wizard Philly ever", says John Macaluso, CEO of Wizard World, Inc. "This is by far the most activities and most starpower we’ve had at any of our conventions — ever."

Indeed, in a summer where "The Avengers" has already grossed more than a billion dollars by taking a bunch of huge, individual franchises and bringing them all together, Wizard seems to have taken the same approach.

That is, celebrities who in years past would have easily found themselves the con’s biggest draw, now find themselves part of an overstuffed treasure chest of true A-list talent certain to excite fans.

First, there is Stan Lee — creator of "The Avengers," "Spider-Man," "The Hulk," "Iron Man" and dozens more — making his first Wizard Philly appearance, as are one of "The Avengers"’ stars — Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor — and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

Shatner is looking forward to coming to the City of Brotherly Love.

"I started coming to Philadelphia in the ‘60s and ‘70s because there was a great interview show emanating from the city", says Shatner. "Some memorable moments would be (going to) Bookbinders, the great restaurant that no longer exists and walking the streets of Philadelphia on warm summer nights. It’s a great city with some wonderful people and I’m looking forward to coming back."

Wizard Philly 2012 will also boast a historic first gathering of all five "Star Trek" captains from the five TV series in the iconic franchise: Shatner, fellow "Trek" superstar Patrick Stewart ("Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “the Next Generation"), Avery Brooks ("Captain Sisko" in "Deep Space Nine"), Kate Mulgrew ("Captain Janeway" in "Voyager") and Scott Bakula ("Captain Archer" in "Enterprise").

"I am looking forward to coming back to Philly," Bakula said. "A long time ago I did a tour in Shenandoah and sang the National Anthem at a Phillies-Toronto World Series game (in 1993) and have always been well-received.... I’m looking forward to meeting the fans."

Fans of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will be able to meet numerous top names from that franchise as well, including "movie Buffy" Kristy Swanson, James Marsters, who played fan-favorite Spike; Clare Kramer and Mark Metcalf, who played two of the show’s most popular villains, Glory and The First, respectively and Juliet Landau, a star of the show’s spin-off "Angel".

"I have fond memories of Philadelphia because I shot ‘Mannequin 2’ there," Swanson said, "We shot in Wanamaker’s at night because they were closed then. The crew made sure to hook me up with the best Philly cheesesteaks — either Geno’s or Pat’s. So I can’t wait to meet people and I’m bringing a bunch of mini-’Buffy’ posters and wooden stakes that I’ll be signing."

Metcalf says he is looking forward to two things — cheesesteaks and the fans.

"This will be my first con in Philly," he said. "I used to drive down to Philly and get one cheesesteak at Pat’s and another at Geno’s. I used to get one in one place and walk a bit, then eat the other. So part of the reason I’m doing this is so I can enjoy that taste test again."

"I didn’t like to do cons at first, but you soon realize people have so much passion for and connection to these characters. It’s not bad to be adored for a weekend. It’s nice. it’s pleasant."

Kramer said, "of course I love Philadelphia. The history. The architecture. The people. Everything." In addition to her own personal signings and appearances, Kramer will be hosting the "Five Captains Panel" and will be moderating the Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth panels. She will also be doing the "(beta) Launch of ‘GeekNation,’ which she described as “your destination site for all things geek." The site will launch with 8 podcasts and 6 different shows and Kramer will also be hosting a party at Field House near the Convention Center to help promote the launch.

Local publisher Zenescope will help sponsor the party, which will be Saturday night and may include some special guests.

Zenescope’s Editor-In-Chief Ralph Tedesco says his booth "will be having appearances all weekend long. Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha and I will be some of the writers signing all weekend. Anthony Spay and Eric Basaldua will also both be signing limited edition convention exclusive covers that they did just for the show. Of course the Zenescope Booth Girls will be there as well! We’re at booth #303 so stop by!"

He’s also impressed by the lineup

"I’ll be lucky to get a chance to meet anyone but I wouldn’t exactly mind saying hi to Shannon Elizabeth (“American Pie").”

Other stars scheduled to appear include: Katrina Law ("Spartacus: Vengeance"); Dean Cain ("Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman"); James Hong ("Blade Runner"); Hayden Panettiere ("Heroes"); Jason Priestley ("Tru Calling"); Paul Wesley ("The Vampire Diaries"); Erin Gray ("Buck Rogers"); Anthony Michael Hall ("Weird Science"); Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch”); comic book superstars George Perez and Greg Horn and the WWE’s CM Punk, Amy Dumas and Gail Kim. And former Daily News graphic artist Brad Guigar, creator of the comic strip "Evil Inc." will be in Artist’s Alley so say hello.

Wizard World runs through Sunday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (1101 Arch St.). Tickets are available at wizardworld.com/philadelphia.html.

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