Nashville, Tennessee is known as the "Music City." You can walk down Broadway past the legendary honkytonks and pass hordes of aspiring country music singers in a cowboy hat and boots with a guitar strapped to their back any day of the week. The weekend of Oct 18th– 20th the hordes turned into aspiring super heroes, villains, and bona fide zombie killers. That particular weekend Nashville played host to it's first ever Wizard World convention.
The Nashville area has seen its share of smaller fan conventions of various types over the years but Wizard World putting on a full scale Nashville Comic Con was more obviously designed for the mass public than the comic niche. The convention itself could not have been set in a better area. The new Music City Center is well located in the heart of Nashville and had very good parking options all around it. The guest list included mainstream media celebrities such as Stan Lee, Norman Reedus, Billy D Williams and Daniel Bryan.
Celebrity lines were typically pretty short waits aside from Stan Lee and Norman Reedus. Wizard utilizes VIP passes for most of the celebrities and the system seems to work well. Those that paid for the premium tickets were given priority, but even those that didn't still managed to get some face time with the stars.
The celebrities at comic con trend has drawn ire from the passionate comic fans, but seeing the turnout of this inaugural con and the type of attendees it drew, it's clear that this trend is here to stay. People are coming to meet Darryl Dixon and then presented with a wider variety of things they might like.
Darryl Dixon may be the most popular character on TV now. Norman Reedus's line regularly outstretched Stan Lee's line and a Darryl Dixon cosplay on the street got honks and yells of love from passing cars.
In this light, the free Walking Dead #1 handed out to all paid attendees is a nice way to allow all those fans to dip their toes further in the comic pool. They get a free comic and the cover artist, Mico Suayan, was on hand to autograph it.
Mico Suayan was located in artist alley amongst peers like Eric Powell (a Nashville native), Mike McKone (Endless Wartime) and Tyler Jenkins (Peter Panzerfaust). All these creators had their respective books available for sale at their tables which gave all those Darryl fans a chance to discover something else they might like. It seems a few may have tried Peter Panzerfaust as Tyler Jenkins sold out of the first collection on Saturday.
Tom Cook, former Filmation artist, looked to be another popular table in artist alley. He was selling a variety of Masters of the Universe prints and original drawings.
If Wizard World Nashville is indicative of all the stops on the Wizard World tour, then they may be serving a great function to the comic community. If The Walking Dead is putting asses in seats, then it looks like Wizard World is providing the chairs. They are giving people around America the chance to meet celebrities they watch with dedication. For those curious after seeing Comic Con coverage on tv or the web, they are giving them a small taste. They are becoming the fast food version of a real comic con. Does it serve in a pinch? Yeah, it'll do. Is it the best you'll ever attend? It can be, if you choose for it to be. People eat fast food. People attend these shows.
The Nashville show was successful enough that Wizard has already announced dates for a 2014 show. Maybe those that attended the show will spread the word. More importantly, maybe those that picked up a book while there will spread the word.