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Pushing ahead with an aggressive move into new markets while retaining many of its most popular venues, Wizard World, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD) today announced the first iteration of its 2018 calendar, securing a total of 11 events, including 11 holdovers from successful 2017 shows. The company also announced that five events in Biloxi , Miss., Montgomery, Ala., Peoria, Ill., Springfield, Mo., and Winston-Salem, N.C. have been postponed from their originally scheduled fourth-quarter dates in 2017 to similar dates in 2018.

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Shino Asada (Sword Art Online)

Most noticeably here at Anime Pad is the Saint Louis date that is moved up to February hopefully it’s a blast as usual. Fans were worried at the end of last year’s con if Saint Louis would be on the chopping block. The PR team quickly came out a couple weeks after the con stating that Saint Louis was a very successful stop for another year.

The 2018 schedule, which will likely add some additional cities to be announced, is comprised as follows (*denotes new for 2018):

 

  • January 5-7, New Orleans, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • February 2-4, St. Louis, America’s Center
  • March 2-4, Cleveland, Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland
  • April 13-15, Portland, Ore., Oregon Convention Center
  • May 17-20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Convention Center
  • June 1-3, Des Moines, Iowa, Iowa Events Center
  • June 8-10, Columbus, Ohio, Greater Columbus Convention Center
  • *July 13-15, Boise, Idaho, Boise Centre
  • August 23-26, Chicago, Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
  • September 21-23, Madison, Wis., Alliant Energy Center
  • October 26-28, Oklahoma City, Cox Convention Center
  • Fall TBD, Austin, Texas, Austin Convention Center
  • *October/November TBD, Biloxi, Miss., Mississippi Coliseum & Convention Center
  • *October/November TBD, Montgomery, Ala., Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center
  • *October/November TBD, Peoria, Ill., Peoria Civic Center
  • *October/November TBD, Springfield, Mo., University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center
  • *October/November TBD, Winston-Salem, N.C., Benton Convention Center
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K-2SO

 

The rosters of celebrities and artists at each city are still being formed; to date, a few have already committed to several events, including New Orleans: Stan Lee (Marvel CEO Emeritus), Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Justice League); St. Louis: Bonnie Wright ( Harry Potter franchise), Michael Rosenbaum (“Smallville,” Guardians of the Galaxy 2); Cleveland: Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, Blades of Glory), Holly Marie Combs (“Charmed,” “Pretty Little Liars”); Portland: Rosenbaum, Wright. Additional celebrities and creators, as well as entertainment and programming schedules, will be announced closer to each respective date.

 

“The confirmed portion of Wizard World’s 2018 schedule combines many of the cities which have proven most attractive to fans with some new markets that we believe will embrace us similarly,” said John D. Maatta, Wizard World President and C.E.O. “In moving five of our more recently announced shows to 2018, we are better equipped to put on the kind of successful pop culture celebration that our fans have come to expect.”

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Wizard World Comic Con events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.

 

Wizard World Comic Con is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening at each show.

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WWE Randy Orton
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Wizard World Saint Louis 2017

Spikey blond hair, with a nice voice, and well dressed, Kato Kaelin is mic’d up on the PA system talking to attendees. He is the radio and entertainment personality guy that became famous after the O.J. Simpson Trial as a witness. He yells, “Hey, are you guys ready to enter Wizard World??” Wizard World the pop-culture event which is held in various cities across America. This edition is Wizard World Saint Louis 2017, at the America’s Center Convention Complex April 7th-9th.

This year there are some big changes from last year or previous years altogether. The Con short for convention is smaller. The big ball rooms aren’t being used this year for panels, the gaming area is half the section it was last year. Panels are being held in smaller adjacent rooms and artist alley while still impressive is missing a third of the floor area. Comments from attendees and artist lead you to believe this is both a plus and a negative.

While there is less booths and attractions, the ability to see and experience all the con is a possibility. Foot traffic has doubled and panels aren’t so overbearingly overlapping each other. Attendees can do the entire con in one day, versus needing all three days to experience everything. Instead of attendees literally having to run to another panel across the hall or debating over two panels which is better to go to. They can enjoy the con more and possibly hit every panel or Q &A Session.

The gaming section was huge last year with games unreleased in the US being playable. Wizard World doesn’t have any of those games or displays this year. The stage was much smaller and not plastered on a huge jumbo-tron screen. Attendees could still enjoy the smaller arcade station area with more older and some 8-bit games. The gaming tournament was still available, but on a much smaller scale; although it still had some of the top gamers from around the world.

Artist Alley was another world, Wizard World brought in some artist that connected with the fans. Artist that worked on projects that adults and young adults love still to this day. Steve Lavigne is the first employee of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and childhood friends with the creators. Kurt Lehner does a ton of art, but most recognized for his character design work on Disney’s TV show Gargoyles. Mat Nastos while an artist in his own right, is most known for is novel-writing and writing for Disney’s Phineas & Ferb. There is many more artist with fabulous art work in attendance.

Attendees were worried when many of the celebrity guest canceled from the con. The last couple weeks before the con Wizard World added some great celebrity guest. It was a saving grace for the fans and attendees. celebs such as Michael Rooker (Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy), Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek TV), Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things), Randy Orton (WWE Champion), and so many more.

Gene Simmons leader singer of KISS was a guest along with his own band. The addition brought in a niche audience and plenty of memorabilia. Simmons and his band would also perform at the Pageant for an extra fee. Attendees were a little perturbed, that the usual after-party was canceled. The large dance-off where cosplayers unwind from the biggest day of the con on Saturday.

The photo ops and autographs for the celebs was very different this year. Fans could enjoy a more intimate signing with celebs being more visible. Many reactions from passerby fans was all that was needed. Many squeals are being heard and “Oh, gosh!” Celebs like Michael Rooker are walking into the crowd just talking to attendees. The thought of being able to see and possibly touch the celebs was great. McLaughlin met many young adults, some even without a fee. Wizard World Saint Louis was another successful year, and they will be returning next year.

For more info on Wizard World click here.

For plenty of our interviews check out our YouTube page.

Maids, Masters and Manga at Anime STL

Goofy, fun, the thumbs up is his trademark, tons of enthusiasm are all words that describe Sam Coleman, a 25-year-old FV student, and KCFV radio DJ. Currently a communications major at Saint Louis Community College Florissant Valley campus, he’s pursing a career in voice acting. His on-air name is JazzHandss. It’s his call-sign right before he does an interview here at Anime Saint Louis. Coleman is dashing behind the booths set up for comic artists with all of the guest stars of Anime Saint Louis (ASL). “This is awesome,” Coleman said excitedly. Anime Saint Louis (ASL) is an everything anime/Japanese influenced cultural convention held every year in the Saint Louis region.

Jake Paque and Sam Coleman from STLCC
Sam Coleman (left) with Jake Paque (right)

Coleman was one of hundreds of attendees at the 2016 ASL expo that took place recently at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Embassy Suites Convention Center in Saint Charles, Mo. It barely contains all the fandom, cosplayers’ faces are lighting up bright when seeing some of their favorite characters others wore. Many of them jumped around, squeal as they enjoy each other’s company. Contact information was exchanged between many cosplayers. Groups of friends are showing up dressed as the entire cast of anime shows. Sports animes have a big showing such as Haikyuu!! and Kuroko no Basket. Other genres make appearances such as Marvel Comics characters, video game characters, movie characters, etc.…

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Kuroko from Kuroko no Basket

Even the hotel restaurants and cafes convert to the anime-themed festivities. The convention center has a small café offered a special meal deal for attendees of the event. Sweet and sour chicken and a vegetable rice bowl. Hot paninis, sandwiches, salads, chips and healthy sides are also available. Lunch time for all the attendees is a mass of anime characters eating and chatting. Some are resting in the Cosplatality Lounge, which is a media free, picture free, relax zone for attendees. Attendees also use the room to fix their gear and cosplay outfits.

The dealer room holds rows and rows of collectibles, t-shirts, anime DVDs, manga, Zoids model kits, cosplay outfits, and for some reason a Build-A-Bear booth. There were a couple of booths for one-on-one interactions with the guest stars Chuck Huber, Jake Paque, Elizabeth Maxwell, and Kara Eberle, all of whom voice act for different anime cartoons throughout the year. Most well known among them is Chuck Huber, one of the pioneers of American voice acting for animes. Huber’s work dates back to the 80’s with Dragonball, Dragonball Z, and Yu Yu Hakusho, when Funimation barely had money. Any panel the voice actors attend has the crowd roaring, especially when they can hear and talk to the character the voice actor portrays.

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Playing the Hello Kitty version of Sorry! with Maids and Tea

In the hotel itself the buffet area was turned into the Honey Tea Maid Café. This is the place where customers become masters and servers are maids. It’s an entirely different world taken from Japanese culture and animes. Teas of different varieties named after very popular anime characters and served on beautiful white china. With tea, guests receive beautifully arranged fresh fruits and desserts. Maids play board games with patrons between sips of tea. Then they have a segment every 30 minutes where the maids do a small concert and dance. Patrons cheer on their personal maid, howl and clap for their performance.

Finally, ASL has two giant rooms for games. The biggest room is for the attendees that want to face each other in board games and card games like Pokémon, Yugi-oh, Magic and Star Wars X-Wing. They even had a couple of booths set up to purchase more cards and the actual board games. The second room was for video gaming, where attendees enjoyed games such as DDR Stage, Street Fighter Five, Left 4 Dead 1-2, Rock Band 4, the new Pokémon fighting game, and tons of other old and new classics.
For more info, go to http://www.animestl.net.

Pop-Culture Explosion In Saint Louis

Bald, big arms, with a Navy Tattoo dedicated to his father, Benjamin Sawyer resembles Popeye the Sailor Man. He is a comic book artist and colorist that is in the rows and rows of tables and booths known as Artist Alley. He says, “Hello, check out my art and what can I draw for you today?” Wizard World Saint Louis’ Comic-con, is a pop culture event which is held downtown in America’s Center Convention Complex every year since 2013.

Sawyer, 36, of St. Louis, is just one of many artists and vendors selling services and items. While cosplayers roamed the isles and asked to take photos of each other, they could also purchase commissions, prints, comics, games, toys, clothing, custom lightsabers, shields, and etc.… In particular sections guests can play against each other in card games, board games, and board strategy games. Photo booths were in multiple sections of the floor just waiting for eager enthusiasts to swipe their credit card. It’s a social event unlike any other for people who love comics, movies, games, cosplay, anime, TV shows, and more.

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Screams can be heard as fans wait in line to see TV stars, chat a little, and snap pictures for a nominal fee. Jason David Frank an American actor that played the role of, “Tommy,” who took on multiple forms of Power Rangers. Also a real-life Black belt martial artist, he gives out a loud Kiai. Which is a martial arts shout that usually accompanies an attack or expresses confidence. Marvel is represented really well with actors Charlie Cox and Elden Henson from the Netflix show Daredevil. Mike Colter actor that portrays as Luke Cage, on the show Jessica Jones and the forthcoming Luke Cage show this September. James Marsters is letting fans have a good time talking to them, naturally a brunette, he has dyed his curly locks platinum blonde. He now looks exactly like he did on Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show as, “Spike.” More celebs and well-known artists are throughout the con.

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James Marsters and Roderick Wilbon

 

Panels were abundant and the major ones were with stars of Marvel shows, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. David Tennant the 10th Doctor and Matt Smith the 11th Doctor had the biggest audience. Panels are interviews essentially were press and fans can learn about the actor and their respective platform. Fans can also usually get in a quick Q & A, which is one of the highlights of panels. Super fans can pay a fee and sit exceptionally close to the stage. Saint Louis Community College’s own Deaf Communications Professor Eric Driskill interpreted the panels for the impaired, while cosplaying as a Trekkie. William Shatner portrayed Captain Kirk in Star Trek the 1960s TV show. His panel happened to be what Driskill looked forward too, and afterwards Driskill said, “It was great, he was funny!!”

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William Shatner Panel

New this year to Wizard World is the introduction of, “Wizard World Gaming.” They brought in video games recently released and some unreleased here in the United States. Stations were set up for guests to play video games such as Naruto Storm 4, Street Fighter V, and unreleased One Piece: Burning Blood, and unreleased Tekken 7. Old-school 8-bit games were even around for pc players. Some well-known gamers were there to help train guests and host tournaments for prizes and cash. Steve Scott, 29, born in Saint Louis that now resides in Calif is a Video Game Commentator and host for Wizard World. When asked about the new video gaming addition he states, “They spared no expense in putting this together for fans and guests, its great!!”

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@tasty_steve Gaming Host and Commentator for Wizard World