Even in years past, Wizard World Chicago has seemed simultaneously long and short, with long days filled with panels, merch, cosplay and after parties. It seemed like we’d just gotten off the Saturday mega-party train when it was already Sunday.
Weary though we were, we weren’t about to miss out on the great lineup of folks on the roster for Sunday’s panels.
That’s why we shambled through Donald E Stephens Convention Center remarkably early for the late night we’d had to catch none other than Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, at his first convention appearance since his voyage to actual space. Now, if you’ve seen The Shat before at any other convention, you know that he’s one of the most feisty guests you’ll find on the roster, with a sharp tongue and a sharper wit he often uses to skewer everyone from the moderator to the attendees and everyone in between. It’s in good fun, and to be honest, it’s part of what makes his panels as entertaining as they are. He generally has great stories to tell and even some Hollywood gossip to lay out before his time’s up.
Of course, what’s a better story than telling someone about the time you got to go up into space? Understandably, Shatner spent a lot of time on this subject. What was surprising about this panel, at least to those of us who’d seen him before, was how much he’d seemed to have been impacted by the journey. Shatner spent a lot of time talking about the realizations he’d reached while off planet, and how seeing the Earth from a distance had made him appreciate it even more. He spent quite a while talking about the impact of climate change, and the extinction of species, and what that would mean for future generations.
When a baby’s crying interrupted his monologue, he encouraged the child’s mother to come up and show off her infant, in what seemed like almost a benediction. “The most beautiful sound in the world” he said as the baby’s cries slowly subsided. Asking for the little girl’s name, he declared that “she could be the next Simone Biles” and encouraged everyone to think about what kind of world they were leaving behind for her generation. A truly softer side, if you ask us, but one we can definitely believe and appreciate.
If you want to save the world, you can do it through cosplay, as it turns out, and that was the topic of the next panel we checked out. Ivy Doomkitty, Papa Bear Cosplay, one half of Thousand Faces Cosplay and Knightmage put on a great panel about how to channel your love of cosplay into something more. Each of these successful cosplayers works with multiple charities, both by doing character appearances at places like inner city outreaches and children’s hospitals, as well as selling photographs and autographs and donating some of the proceeds to their preferred charities.
The group also discussed how to get involved with charities when you’re starting out, and how to vet them to ensure they’re above board. As it turns out, there are a lot of great ways to get involved with charity as a cosplayer. Knightmage has been involved with Make-A-Wish in cities around the country and likes to find a local charity wherever he’s travelling to participate with. Ivy Doomkitty and Thousand Faces cosplay both focus on animal charities like Kitt Crusaders and Pollinator Partnership.
Knightmage told a particularly moving story about a young kid with cancer that had gone into remission, disqualifying him for a second Make a Wish wish within a certain time frame. When the cancer came back, they were not only able to arrange his appearance as Batman, but actually bring the child to Los Angeles to meet with Christian Bale as Batman after a ride in the Batmobile, and set up a detective’s mystery for him to solve.
One of my favorite things about the historically accurate romance rag Outlander is that it’s made rabid fangirls out of Boomers and beyond. This TV drama has some of the most dedicated, knowledgeable fans since Trek, and they showed up in force even on the last day of the convention to lovingly recite lines from the books and shows and grill Duncan LaCroix about just about everything from his costumes and dialogue to his accent and more.
LaCroix was an incredible sport, and told plenty of juicy behind the scenes stories. He also set the record straight for anyone who thought the role was too serious for silly pranks, recalling a time when he had to come on set calling out emotionally for another character and instead decided to just go for broke and yell for “Jimmy! Jimmy! JIMMY! JIMMYYYYYYY!” until the entire cast was nearly in tears.
Next up, it was morphin’ time, and Jason David Frank, who’s somewhat of a Wizard World staple and has served as both judge and host of cosplay competitions here was up for a panel of his own. Not just an actor who picked up what would later become an iconic role, Frank is actually somewhat of a superfan of the Power Rangers franchise, and quite knowledgeable on the subject. Still, at this panel he seemed a little disjointed and a bit bitter about a host of issues from Hasbro and licensing to the direction the show’s taken at certain points.
Jason David Frank is currently working on and starring in a project that he thinks will do full justice to the Power Rangers oeuvre, though, with Legend of the White Dragon, in which he’ll play the titular character, the extremely powerful and somewhat transformed White Ranger.
Rounding out our time with Wizard World Chicago 2021, we decided to get comfy for some local ghost stories. In previous years and iterations of this panel we’d found ourselves confused as it seemed to skip around, but host Mary had a solid grip on her plan and was very thorough, covering everything from the Iroquois Theatre to Bachelor’s Grove cemetery. It was a lot of fun learning about some haunted places we’d not heard about prior and some we had, and we hope she’s back with even more next year when Fan Expo Chicago heads into town.
And that’s it!
We had a great time of it at the panels and on the floor, and we’re ready for more.
Stay with us as we continue convention coverage in 2021 with Chicago TARDIS in November and C2E2 in December.