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Kansas City Comic Con 2015

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The Kansas City Comic Con 2015 will be held at Bartle Hall in downtown KC from August 7-9  and this years show has a full agenda. Celebrities such as Pam Grier from Jackie Brown, Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Colin Baker from Doctor Who, and Ksenia Solo and Rick Howland from Lost Girl will be there signing autographs and taking photos. Meeting the Hollywood legend Pam Grier is worth the price of admission by itself, not discounting all the other media guests that will be there. But this is a comic con so you know thats not all.

Cosplay, gaming, tattooing with Ink Fusion Empire, creators, artist, vendors- the Kansas City Comic Con will be an adventure most definitely. The celebrities and other events and attractions are always a big attraction but the comic cons are really about the comics and the creators and artists and this year at Kansas City a hot of creators and artists will be present for fans and aspiring comic book creators to meet, greet and talk shop.

James Aaron who has been doing the Star Wars and Thor books will be there. Tommy Castillo who wrote Tales from the Crypt among others will be there. Ryan Ferrier who penned Sons of Anarchy, hometown hero Ed Lavallee who created the amazing Popstar Assassin, and tons of other artist and creators will be in Kansas City. Don’t sleep on the con. Get your costume together and get down to Bartle Hall for three day f fan and festivities.

To get tickets or register or for more info-

www.KansasCity-comiccon.com

Mad Science! Interview With Writer Oliver Mertz on his Sci-Fi, Horror Comic

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Oliver Mertz, is the DC based co-creator of the First Law of Mad Science. The hit indie comic couples chilling horror with inventive speculative fiction to create a world full of compelling characters and big ideas.

In the story, super-scientist George Baker rocks the world with his newest invention; cheap retinal eye implants called “cyber-eyes”. But as the technology runs amuck, George and his family race to solve the problem before a global pandemonium ensues. The journey launches them into ancient civilizations, other-dimensions, and subterranean cities where they face robots, cults, monsters, and more. It’s a helluva ride.

Mertz and crew have a current Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of a 164-page trade paperback compilation along with a new 68-page anthology. I had a chance to speak with the Mad Science writer about the work and his comic writing.

 

Mad Science co-writers, Oliver Mertz and Mike Isenberg rock out in lab coats.
Mad Science co-writers, Oliver Mertz and Mike Isenberg rock out in lab coats at a comic con.

So how long have you been making Comics?

 Mike [Isenberg] and I first started writing First Law of Mad Science at the end of 2008. We wrote for about a year and half before we even approached an artist. It was our first comic and we had a lot to learn about writing before we felt we had anything worth anyone’s time. We started working with [artist] Daniel Lapham in 2010 and have been self-publishing ever since.

One of the biggest obstacles for new comic writers is finding that perfect artist pairing. How did you hook up with Daniel?

You’re right. If you don’t find someone to collaborate with who wants to make the same kind of art as you, it can be pretty clear on the page. Mike and I found Daniel online, on Digital Webbing. We put out a post saying that we were looking for an artist and asked for samples. Of all of the artists that replied, Daniel was the best. It was clear that he came from the same place as us creatively and that he had the same influences. It’s also fitting that we met Daniel online being that Mike and I write over Skype. We’re completely a product of the digital age!

A page from First Law of Mad Science illustrated by  Daniel Lapham.
A page from First Law of Mad Science illustrated by Daniel Lapham.

Most comics are written by one person. What’s your and Mike Isenberg’s writing process like? Do you ever bump heads?

Mike and I both have our strengths and weaknesses. I love to write long, natural sounding dialogue while Mike likes to cut it down to the bare minimum. It’s fun to brainstorm and cobble together a rough outline. Then, I’ll flesh out the script. After that, Mike takes an editing pass. We go back and forth like this until we both feel like we’ve got something. It’s also nice to have someone to call you on something if it’s not working. Sometimes I can get caught up in an idea, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make the cut. Really, brutal honesty is the only way we can create something worth a reader’s time.

What are some of your influences as a writer and comic creator?

Garth Ennis. Preacher rocked me when I was younger and that impression has stayed with me. Warren Ellis as well. Transmetropolitan is an all-time favorite. And more recently, I’ve been reading the trades of Mind Mgmt by Matt Kindt. That book is just so darn elegant.

Your current Kickstarter campaign builds on two previous successes. Could you describe your experience with crowdfunding?

It’s amazing! We launched issue one of First Law of Mad Science on Kickstarter back in 2010. Kickstarter was still pretty new and not everyone was familiar with crowdfunding at that point. Essentially, we went online and presented ourselves. We said, we’d like to make a comic and we need your help. And shockingly enough, people supported us.

It’s not hyperbole when I say that it changed my life. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for that support. From there we started going to cons, meeting other creators, and becoming a part of the small-press community. I love being a part of that community. Kickstarter allowed us an entry point into the world of comics. It removed a financial barrier that indie creators didn’t used to be able to get past.

Even with things like crowdfunding, independent comic creating is often a labor of love. Is that true in your case?

 It really is a labor of love. We put a lot of time, energy, and our own money into creating First Law of Mad Science. It’s because, for us, there is no other option. We love telling this story and want to share it with readers. We do things like Kickstarter to help offset some of our up front costs, but we’re committed to making this comic no matter what. I love making comics and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What obstacles do you face as an independent comic creator?

There are loads of obstacles. Money is a huge one. It costs a lot to produce comics, especially if you’re a writer and not an artist. We pay full-page rates to all of the artists we work with. They are doing the hard work of bringing the story to life, so they need to be paid, even when we, the writers, are not. But that means we can only produce so much given our funds.

The other big obstacle is getting our book out there. It’s hard to get noticed when bigger publishers already have everyone’s attention. I’ve found the best thing to do is to continue to make the best book possible. It takes a while but little by little, people notice and pick up on quality.

If you could write for any character, real, fictional, living or dead, who would it be?

I’d love to continue writing our characters! I’ve never really seriously thought about writing someone else’s characters. It would be a nice challenge to take on an established character but what I really like is getting to know the characters that we create. It’s incredibly satisfying to build a three-dimensional character. It’s even more satisfying to see how that character behaves in your story. I suppose this urge comes from having studied behavioral psychology at university.

R.A.I.Ch.E.L., one of the Mad Science characters, on a T-Shirt available as a Kickstarter perk.
R.A.I.Ch.E.L., one of the Mad Science characters, on a T-Shirt available as a Kickstarter perk.

Can you give an example of how your behavioral psychology education has informed the characters in your book?

 I’m really interested in the difference between how people see themselves and how others see them. For R.A.I.Ch.E.L., the robotic daughter of super-scientist George Baker, she is at odds with the world. The world is completely accepting of her as a marvel of science. Furthermore, they see her as a novelty. She, however, is incredibly powerful, smart, and strong. She’d like to be recognized for it, feared even. It’s that disconnect between how she sees herself and how others see her that makes for interesting drama.

Ultimately what can indie comic fans expect from First Law of Mad Science?

A good read. A satisfying mystery. A globe-trotting adventure. We tried to create something that we would like to read. So if you like sci-fi comics and enjoy horror comics, you’ll like First Law of Mad Science.

To support Oliver and company, as well as grab a copy of First Law of Mad Science volume 1, “Work Until Your Family Is Sad”, check out the new Kickstarter campaign. The team can found on twitter at @FirstLawComic, online at www.firstlawofmadscience.com, and in person at the Boston Comic Con, Baltimore Comic Con, and New York Comic Con later this year.

Artist Profile- Ellis Ray III

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Ellis Ray III is a talented St. Louis artist who hits all the Comic Cons in his area as he builds his rep in the comics world by networking and drawing relentlessly. He was front and center at Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis 2015 repping for his city and holding it down. He has fun at the comic cons and with his artwork, constantly improving and refining his craft and style. He has worked on a couple of books but is looking for a project that will take him to the next level. His work speaks for itself but check it out here and check out what the man has to say in this Gr1nd exclusive-

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What made you want to become an artist?

Cartoons. Plain and simple. Everything from Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera to Ghostbusters, GI Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I used to trace the characters out of comics and coloring books and then started drawing them without assistance.

What projects have you worked on?

A few stories for local anthologies like Ink and Drink comics and Stache Publishing. Also some storyboarding with Bruton Stoube. Few years back, I worked with a couple friends to self publish our own comics under the name eSquaredCOMICS with Eddrick Bedford and Tony Baker II. It was a lot of fun but ultimately we all kind of wanted to do something else, so we disbanded.

What comics did you read growing up?

I really didn’t read comics as a little kid like everyone else. I was so stuck on cartoons and movies. I didn’t buy my first comic book until freshman year of high school back in 2000. It was Ultimate Spider-Man #2. I was hooked.

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Who are your favorite artists today and why?

Frank Quitely, Chris Samnee, Rafael Albuquerque, Olivier Coipel, Tonci Zonjic, Eduardo Risso, Ronald Wimberly, Sara Pichelli, Annie Wu, David Aja, Stuart Immonen, John Romita Jr and Sr, Cameron Stewart, Ivan Reis, Bryan Hitch, and too many more to list. I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it for a long time, I could go all day. I don’t think I can go through the “why” for everyone, but they are all amazing storytellers and illustrators.

What is the comic con scene like?

Fun. Exciting. It’s a great space for you to be unashamedly enthusiastic about whatever geeky thing you’re in to. You can meet artists and creators of your favorite comics and shows. You see and meet people who are just as passionate about nerd stuff and it’s awesome.

What or who inspires your work?

A lot of artists inspire my work. I’d like to say people like Alex Toth, Hugo Pratt, Jordi Bernet, Joe Kubert, Otomo Katsuhiro, Frank Quitely, and Moebius. These are the artists that I’ll spend time studying. It took me years as an artist to find these guys, excluding Frank Quitely who I dug since I first saw his work on New X-Men back in high school.

Describe your style?

My style has gone through the wringer. But I think  today, I’ve embraced the style that I have the most fun with which is a bit cartoony and closer to a Ligne Claire style. I tried emulating amazing artists like Alan Davis, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Lee because its hot artwork, but I wasn’t having fun being trying to emulate their style. I get very bored very quickly and can loose interest easily.  Sounds terrible, but I like being able to get my idea out in a clear and straight forward manner without doing a lot of extra stuff.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m trying my hand at creating my own stories. I’ve never been that much of a writer, but with the last few projects I worked on, I got a shot at it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to get better at so I figure there’s not a better time to do it than now.

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What is in the future for Ellis Ray?

Hopefully working on a creator owned project that can keep itself afloat.

How did you perfect your trade?

Drawing daily. Even if it’s with a ballpoint pen on a napkin. Reading a lot of comics and watching good movies. It’s important to be able to tell a good story, probably  more so than drawing a pretty picture.

Check out his site and follow Ellis on social media-  http://ellisray3.com

http://www.twitter.com/ellispart3

http://www.instagram.com/ellisray3

http://ellisray3.tumblr.com

REVIEW Nailbiter Volume 1: Small Town Slasher Serial Killers

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Buckaroo Oregon breeds serial killers like restoration London bred rats. It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody … and everybody seems to know a serial killer. The town has made its stained mark with sixteen, popularly referred to as the Buckaroo Butchers, and the most famous of the blood-soaked bunch is Edward Charles Warren aka Nailbiter.

The story opens with a SWAT team beating down the door of a rundown house. Inside sits the titular killer amid a macabre display of broken bodies. A twisted, satisfied smile marks his blood stained lips as he gnaws on the finger of his latest victim. But as quickly as he is nabbed, Warren beats a murder conviction and returns to small-town life.

Why does Buckaroo produce so many serial killers? And what role does the Nailbiter play in it all?  Elliott Carroll thinks he’s figured it out. But when the FBI agent goes missing, it’s up to Nicholas Finch to pick up the trail. As an Army investigator his specialty is torture and interrogation. And as the killing starts again, Finch seems like the perfect guy to choke out the truth.

That’s the setup in Joshua Williamson’s Nailbiter volume 1: There Will Be Blood. Williamson does a killer job plotting a grim story full of interesting twists and turns. He scatters numerous red herrings along the blood stained path of the latest butcher. The story moves at a neck breaking pace and just when you think the killer has been discovered, Williamson rips off the mask and the twisted tale goes even deeper into the grave.

Throughout, the grisly story is balanced by a sense of fun and inventiveness. The reader is introduced to some of the past butchers like the Book Burner, a bullied child who burned down libraries with the people still inside. Williamson also plays with the genre, with a few funny references to other serial killer franchises, like Silence of the Lambs. And like Hannibal Lector, William’s Nailbiter killer is the perfect mix of creepy and charismatic, if not a Chianti drinker.

Writer Joshua Williamson introduces the Book Burner, one of Buckaroos butchers.
Writer Joshua Williamson introduces the Book Burner, one of Buckaroo’s butchers, as Adam Guzowski cranks up the heat with atmospheric coloring.

The Nailbiter creative team comes together with the swagger of a jazz group, musically creating tension and tone. Dialogue, art, color, and sound all play off each other without missing a note in between. The art by Mike Henderson, flows nicely, especially in the big action set pieces. His framing is evocative and spooky, with masked killers appearing and disappearing from panels like ghosts. Meanwhile Adam Guzowski’s colors capture the heat of burning buildings, the eery mists of the Oregon forests, and the spine-tingling darkness of a graveyard at night.

One of the more effective set pieces takes place in a basement morgue with a dim light on the fritz. The panels alternate between dark and light, providing tension as Finch and local sheriff Sharon Crane, his partner in the investigation, are oblivious to a masked assailant popping in and out of the looming darkness.

Investigators Finch and Crane deal with a corpse in a basement with a flickering light.
Investigators Finch and Crane deal with a corpse in a basement with a flickering light.

And what would a horror story be without those sounds that send a shiver down the spine? John J. Hill’s lettering is one of the best surprises. In many comic books the sound effects come across as an afterthought once the art is turned in. Hill, who also designed the book, keeps the creaks, snaps, and pops woven seamlessly throughout. One of the best examples is on the first page as the SWAT team pounds down the door of Warren’s slaughter shack. It was a rare occasion where reading is enough to leave the boot stomps echoing in the reader’s ears.

Designer John J. Hills kicks down the door with the brilliant use of comic sound effects.
Designer John J. Hills kicks down the door with the brilliant use of comic sound effects.

The first volume comes to a satisfying conclusion, pulling back the curtain just enough to tease who might be behind the latest string of serial killings in Buckaroo. But of course it could be another one of Williamson’s skillful sleight of hands. You get a sense that he’s building toward something, but if the comic writer knows, his mouth is stitched shut. The reader will just have to continue the series, but with a ride this sweet and scary, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Like many Image trade paperbacks, the first volume of Nailbiter: There Will Be Blood can be picked up for a bargain price of under ten bucks. There is also a collected second volume as well as ongoing monthly single issues for readers that can’t wait for the latest serving of a good gore splattered mystery.

Red Skull in Battleworld

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Red Skull in Battleworld

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Vile Villains Loose on Battleworld! Your First Look at RED SKULL #1!

Hushed whispers cut across Battleworld. One of the most vile villains in history still straws breath. But how can this be? He should be dead! And yet his legend grows even stronger. Today, Marvel is pleased to present your first look atRED SKULL #1 – a brand new Secret Wars limited series from rising star writer Josh Williamson (NailbiterBirthright) and artist Luca Pizzari (Amazing Spider-Man Special)! The Red Skull should be dead. Banished by Doom to the Shield long ago. If the zombies haven’t gotten to him, the Ultron robots or Annihilation bugs should have! And yet word has reached the other side that he still lives, quietly amassing an army, prepared to strike!

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Now, a team of unlikely villains – Magneto, Winter Soldier, Lady Deathstrike, Electro, Moonstone and Jack O’Lantern will venture beyond safety to find the truth for themselves. Only problem – nobody ever comes back from beyond the Shield alive! Witness the horrors of Battleworld in a new way as Williamson and Pizzari unleash RED SKULL #1 on the masses this July!

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Spooky Sequel to Out of the Blue Anthology Accepting Submissons

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Stache, a small-press comic publisher, announced a call for short works for a new horror-themed comic collection. Planned for Halloween, the anthology will be a spooky sequel to 2014’s Out of the Blue. Marta Tanrikulu, Corey Fryia and Marcus Muller are returning as editors with Claire Connelly (The Long Year, Black Eyes) providing cover art.

“The first volume collected some very fine stories under an umbrella theme of strangeness. Having an anthology championed by a supportive small publisher allowed the contributors to have their work made available both through online marketplaces digitally and in print, as well as directly to fans at conventions and local comics shops. I’m excited to be involved again in putting together a sequel that will entrance people like me who enjoy scares and surprises, especially around Hallowe’en,” said Tanrikulu.

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A page from Deliveries from the first Out of the Blue

As with the first volume, royalties will benefit The Comic Book Project, a child literacy initiative.­­ “Stache’s mission is to get people to experience the fun and personal fulfillment that comes from making comics,” said the project manager for Stache. “With ‘Out of the Blue’ we are excited to team up with The Comic Book Project and inspire the next generation of comic creators.”

A page from Demoniac, one of the shorts in the original Out of the Blue.
A page from Demoniac, one of the shorts in the original Out of the Blue.

In addition to having a scary slant, strange stories with twist endings will be favored. Preference will be given to works with no previous publication, followed by those with very limited or digital-only publication, or published in a language other than English. Submissions should be complete and in full color or tones. (Black and white comics will be considered only as a stylistic choice deemed essential to the story.) Submissions of finished short comics will be accepted from July 10 through July 31.

To submit, email a low-resolution version as an attachment or secure link to the editor at spcanthology@gmail.com. If the work was previously published or accepted for publication, please state where. A short biography (~50 words) for each creator is also requested with each submission. A copy of the completed book will be provided to the creators.

The original Out of the Blue may be purchased from Amazon or directly from the publisher. A digital copy may be downloaded from Drive Thru Comics.

 

Sons of the Devil #1 Review

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Sons of the Devil Review 4 out of 5 stars

The new comic from Image, Sons of the Devil # 1, written by Brian Buccellato and inked by Toni Infante is a brutal story that looks into the life of Travis Crowe, a man just trying to figure out who he is. With the premier issue of this creator controlled comic, Brian Buccellato sets the tone early with super ultra violence a la The Clockwork Orange within the first couple of panels. We learn that Travis was taken as a baby and during the abduction a caretaker was smashed viciously by one of his abductors. All is not clear through the first issue but from what we can see it looks like Travis is in for a hell of a surprise when he goes to the orphan group meeting that he is required to go to due to his problems with the courts.

You see Travis has an anger problem and he has resentments and he has questions that he wants the answers to. The fist issue is just an introduction to the character and storyline but a lot of foreshadowing is taking place. Setting up the reader for future issues to learn more of the back story and what is going on in the overall big picture of Travis’ world. Brian doesn’t give to much away but leaves the reader wanting more. He creates suspense and intrigue and the art  keeps the story moving along with the images that portray what is going on in Travis’ life and all the conflicting and intersecting story points and plot lines.

The book has almost a Charles Manson like quality and I am interested to see where he goes with this. The images bring to mind Helter Skelter and The Shining. The tension is tick and the suspense created keeps the reader on the edge of his seat and wanted more. We should jab expected noting less from New York Time Bestselling writer Brian Buccellato. He has proved his writing acumen over the years writing comics for the majors but like so many before him he has come to Image to do the stories that he wants to write. His original stuff that doesn’t have a place at Marvel or DC.

At first glance and read the book is interesting, violent, and bound to draw attention due to the graphic nature of the material. The promo material bills it as a psychological horror story about Travis and I can definitely see that. The comic incorporates aspects of detective work, how orphans feel and horror. A unique and interesting combination that works amazing in the book. It was an easy read and the art worked sequentially to tell the story if you are into these type of book definitely check it out It’ll be worth your while.

Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis

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Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis

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Wizard World was in St. Louis and everybody knows that Wizard World is about the celebrities. The headliners for this show in Hustle City were George Romero, Tara Reid, Jason Mewes, Giancarlo Espositio, and more. It was Dawn of the Living Dead, Jay and Silent Bob and Breaking Bad all together and rolled in one. I even got a photo with Jason Mewes. I’m a big fan of his and has followed his career since Clerks. The lines for the celebrities were long and many Wizard World attendees were taking the opportunity to get autographs and take selfies with the stars. But Wizard World is much more than the celebrities.

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A lot of people think comic cons are just about the comics. That might have once been true but these days comic cons like Wizard World are major multimedia and entertainment type events. It was wall to wall people in St. Louis and the locals came out to represent in mass. The comic con kicked off with a VIP party at the Hard Rock Cafe at the historical Union Station. On Thursday night comic conners got an advance notice of what the weekend was going to be like as Christian Kane and one of the tattoo artists from Epic Ink. There was a short Q and A and then Christian Kane played performed some of his song as the Kaniacs went crazy. The Levity actor has his own fan crew and one of the ladies there said she had been to 74 of his shows. Dedicated indeed.

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On Friday Wizard World opened at three pm. It wasn’t that crowded at first but later that night the people started rolling in and on Saturday the crowds would come. George Romero and Jason Mewes had long lines at their booths and were working the crowds but more celebrities would be rolling in. Walking around and taking in the sights at a comic con can be a little surreal. With all the people in costumes, all the vendors and the creators plus artists there is a lot to see. Its not all about the costumes and celebrities and comics though other things are going on at Wizard World. Namely business.

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Action figures, toys, t-shirts and  costumes are in abundance as many vendors are there hocking their wares. And at a comic con people are coming to buy. Wizard World is a good excuse to spend money for people. They come to escape and journey into the world of movies and fantasy and the absurd. That is why so many people dress up. They want to be someone else and leave the routine of their life and act like they are in a film, playing a role like the celebrities that are signing autographs and taking photo ops.

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The people in costumes must feel like stars because if they have a good costume everybody there is asking them to stop so they can photo. Just like the celebrities, the cosplayers are in high demand. But despite all the distractions when it comes down to it the comic con is really about the art. The celebrities and the spectacle of costume goers is nice but the mainstay of a comic con, even a Wizard World comic con is the artwork of the artists. Artist’s alley was w as bumping as conners commissioned piece of art, met the creators and artists and bought independently produced comics.

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Another big highlight of Wizard World was the panels. Highlights included Everything Doctor Who, Falconry, Walking Dead panel, Adventures in Middle Earth, Night of the Living Dead panel, Game of Thrones panel, Mall Rats panel, The Rebirth of the Sword, The Life and Times of Tara Reid, Breaking Bad panel, and of course the obligatory costume contest. But the highlight of the panels was the Falconry: The Ancient Art, which was held everyday and was packing them in as the trainers carrie and few there cards around.

That was Wizard World St. Louis 2015. Be sure to check out a Wizard World comic con coming to your town soon.

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