As we walked in, our hearts beating fast from excitement, we see a bunch of people lining up to get through security and to get their wristbands. The happiness radiating from the crowd was palpable. Once we passed security, we went into the main downstairs area to explore. We walked into a huge room with vendors and art at every glance, and costumes unlike any we’ve ever seen. All the vendors in the room were to the right of the main entrance and the celebrities to the left. There was a stage in the middle for the DJ and some shows to pass time, as well as pop up food stands around everything pushed back on the walls. It was one humongous room but the crowd made it feel like a small town in a Star Wars movie. Even though upstairs was a little different, some would say it was the best part of the whole event. There were no vendors and only vending machines for food. No art or trinkets being sold, only a screen in the middle of the floor showing times of upcoming panels. Since upstairs is where all the panels are held, that’s where a lot of people were waiting. After going up the escalators, we found ourselves in a sea of people, pushing their way to get into the auditorium where Mike Colter, the actor who plays Luke Cage, and Simone Missick, the actress who plays Detective Misty Knight, had their Q and A.

Everyone was really friendly and happy to be there. Their excitement and love for the convention really shined through their costumes and makeup. The love for cosplay and movies, as well as anime, was swimming through the air.

King of Wakanda, ready to fight.

It was amazing being surrounded by people who share a love for classic pop culture and who have an even deeper love for doing what makes them happy. We interviewed some girls dressed as Starfire and Raven from the Teen Titans Series. “For the most part, I will admit that I did buy the wig and the morph suit,” said the girl dressed as Raven. “I was gonna make a morph suit, but it was probably gonna ride up.” The girl dressed as Starfire then jumped in, “Mine took a solid week I think,” she explained. “I made all of it. All of it is sewn.” ThenRaven’s cosplayer said in a tiresome voice, “Mine took a day because I stayed up until 2 am because of these [points to details of her costume]. They were really tedious to make, surprisingly, out of styrofoam cups, balls, ribbon, a lot of hot glue, and this cardboard-ish material.” This interaction demonstrated the dedication and lengths fans will go to for events such as Wizard World. Though costuming is a major factor to Wizard World, there is even more to this convention.

Wizard World is mainly known for two things: its vendors and its panels. First, there were vendors selling corsets of all different varieties. Then there was the art which ranged from hand-crafted wands to Pokeball terrariums. Next, there was a stand with dozens of samurai swords lined up. Some vendors are solely dedicated to single franchises such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Marvel.

The Joker and his son Deadpool

Others display an array of little trinkets from many different series. Authors are also among the vendors, selling their own original work. One such author, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson was selling her book DC Comics Before Superman, a collection of reproduced and repaired comics from the 1930s including each comic’s history and a history of DC Comics itself before the franchise blew up. Furthermore, the author’s grandfather is Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson who started DC Comics. The list goes on and on of all the different stands. Moreover, there are Q&As to attend on the second floor. On Saturday, there were Q&As with the cast of shows such as iZombieVampire Diaries, and Luke Cage. Luke Cage is a series following a man with super strength and unbreakable skin. The Q&A was held by the actor who played Luke Cage, Mike Colter, and actress Simone Missick who plays Detective Misty Knight, an independent and strong-willed character who overcomes all the obstacles she faces. Fans asked questions about Mike Coulter’s stunts, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and where Luke Cage stands after Infinity War), and the show’s future as Netflix has canceled its next season.

Most of all, however, fans were deeply appreciative of the show’s representation of African Americans. One fan opened up a discussion about the struggles of being an actor as a minority. Another simply showed her deep appreciation of being represented in a show with black superheroes in the superhero world dominated predominantly by white men. This goes to show the importance of diversity in a series and the positive impact it has on minority fans who feel they can cosplay as someone like them. The Luke Cage panel was especially important to these fans and contributed to much excitement at Wizard World.

Wizard World is an amazing experience for anyone who is a fan of anything within popular “nerd” culture. It derives a sense of community to anyone who attends. The vendors and the panels are worth it by themselves. Seeing all of the different costumes and the level of creativity is also a major highlight of going to Wizard World. For anyone who feels like they are the only crazy fan of a show, series, franchise, anime… Wizard World will make you feel sane and at home.

Story and photos by Ava Nicol, Isabella Brown and Jacklyn Leo. This piece originally appeared on JRNOLA’s website.

JRNOLA was officially formed in 2017 to change the face of journalism, addressing the underrepresentation of women and people of color in professional media. JRNOLA empowers high school students by positioning them as credentialed members of the media, teaching journalism through live event reporting. Our students aren’t just learning about journalism; they ARE journalists.

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