Wizard World Philadelphia 2009: Under the Hood

This weekend I went to Wizard World Philadelphia. My dad joined me.

Dad’s yet to debut in the Marvel Handbooks, so let me tell you about him.

My dad doesn’t remember how many times his hair has caught fire in his decades of working on car engines. He’ll do anything to avoid a haircut, so this happens a lot. I remember trying to immortalize one of these incidents in crayon when I was very young. Having only heard about the mishap at dinner the night before, I envisioned the blaze encompassing dad’s entire scalp. In the drawing he stood very still, with a posture only maintained in doctors’ offices and elementary school doodles. Atop his head raged a brush fire larger than his own torso. Despite these dire circumstances, his mouth was a straight line, not a panicked O. I went to a Catholic school, so my teacher probably assumed I was illustrating the Pentecost and had gotten carried away. My classmates knew me for drawing monsters and mutants and superheroes. That particular recess, I was simply drawing my dad.

We have the same name, but our hands don’t match. I’m a writer, or I’m trying to be. Soft, pale hands. My dad has worked at our family’s garage since he was seven. He has calluses older than me. My dad’s hands are permanently etched in black from working with tools I’m often hard-pressed to identify. They are a worker’s hands. They are hands that fix things and hands that wave away tips. They are what I like to think of as selfless hero’s hands. I might be biased, but I’m not wrong.  I’ve always felt guilty that, as my dad’s only son, I didn’t turn out to be the same kind of mechanic he is. We both like digging in and figuring out the process of things, how they work. We just don’t have the same medium. Dad’s always known that and has always supported me in my interests. I’m very grateful for that. It’s why he remains my favorite audience to write for. I think about that early scene in my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  George and his father at the dining room table. “Pop, you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy.” 

Despite our mutual understanding, it’s not always easy for an artsy kid like me to find common ground with my wrench-wielding dad. Luckily, comic conventions exist in a parallel dimension between our two worlds. And this one is just a train ride away.    

I arrived early on Friday to get my press pass and line up a sketch from Kevin Maguire. Dad still had to wrap some things up at the shop before he could take the afternoon off. I had some time to attend to my own adventures. After scouring the 50% off bins and talking to Joe Kelly, I decided to explore the convention floor. Really scour the place. While my dad doesn’t read comics on a regular basis, he’s still interested in the culture and will often ask me about the rapid changes of status quo. His favorite television show these days is Big Bang Theory, which he has me decode from time to time. I wanted to find something he’d really get a kick out of. I knew he’d be spending his own time rifling through musty longboxes trying to complete my Aunt Nancy’s run of Millie the Model, a Marvel series she read back in the 60s (He did end up finding some 42 issues, which he’ll be parceling out to her for several birthdays and Christmases to come). He’s always looking for things to buy for other people. I wandered for a while, bumping into my college screenwriting professor who was taking his kids to their first convention. There were a lot of families mulling about this year. It’s a hopeful sight. Maybe these kids will catch the bug, and this whole thing can continue on indefinitely. I don’t know about you, but even if it does slow the foot traffic, I think strollers are a much better obstacle than hand carts loaded with back issues. People sharing books with their family and friends rather than hording them away in their basements.   

By the time my dad arrived I was able to lead him to a booth just beyond Lou Ferrigno. I’d found a toy vendor with matchbox cars. One was from Hogan’s Heroes, which he plays on a loop down the garage. And next to that was a police car from The Andy Griffith Show. He smiled and gathered them up. He also had some good finds of his own. He found the six issues of the Chuck comic for a dollar a piece. But the matchbox cars? That was all me. I also ended up carrying all of this as he prowled the aisles for Beetle Bailey collectibles. 

“Where’s Deanna Troi? She’s supposed to be here right?”
“Marina Sirtis? I think she canceled.”
“The guy from Miami Vice is here?”
“Edward James Olmos, Dad. He’s in Battlestar Galactica.”
“The new one? I didn’t watch that. They forgot the funny.”
“Can you take my picture with Michael Hogan?”
“Was he in that too?”
“Yeah, but he had an eye patch.”
“Okay, I could see how that would be funny.” 

We left with armfuls of 60s comics about a model named Millie, backpacks full of toy cars and trade paperbacks, Lantern shirts slung over our shoulders (blue for me, green for Dad). We thought about getting Mom a shirt. But she thinks we’re crazy. 

Paul Montgomery Jr. writes from Philadelphia.  Find him on Twitter or contact him at paul@ifanboy.com


  1. A good ol’ time with Dad and comics; good stuff.



  2. I’m sooooooooooo jealous of that Maguire sketch!!! I have no idea who I would have gotten him to sketch for me, if given the chance… probably someone from the JLI years.

  3. I love this article. My dad is kind of the same way, and we’ve always struggling to find common ground for conversation. He would hate a convention like that, but he and I always have "It’s a Wonderful Life" at Christmas. Nice to know that movie is a universal.

  4. this was great 🙂

  5. @Paul: Thats a very good and sweet article. It makes me miss my step dad.

  6. Awwwwwww. thats all i can say.

  7. Warm and fuzzy

  8. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    All the cons that I’ve been to (Chicago and San Diego) have been with my father.  While he doesn’t particularly like comics, he does enjoy pop culture, so there was always something for him to do.  In San Diego, we both gave blood together, which was a really nice way to spend time between panels and dropping vast amounts of cash in the show room.  The one time my mom joined us, the only thing she found that she liked was a Kyle Baker single issue of THE BAKERS.  She hasn’t really clamored to return.

  9. Lovely. I would love to have even this much common ground with the old man!

  10. Killer sketch and that autograph…so jealous

  11. I’d love to see a documentary film on this, a grown man and his dad finding common ground at a comic convention. I’d watch it

  12. ditto Conor.

  13. Great article Paul!

  14. Maguire actually had a bunch on head sketchs pre made of a variety of characters.

  15. Had a great time at the show (Saturday) Paul.  My highlight was easily getting to meet Joe Kelly who couldn’t have been any nicer.  So many times you meet somebody whom you admire and they disappoint because they don’t live up to your expectations, I have to say that my expectations were exceeded.  If anybody was wondering, Deanna Troi, still easy on the eyes.

  16. I also dig that Maguire sketch – looks great.

    The fact that your dad picked up stuff for your aunt is very cool. One of the big things I’m looking forward to this year is going to the Baltimore con and finding stuff for my nephew. Hopefully I can wrangle a giant talking Spider-Man from someone there. It would make his 4-year-old head explode.

  17. Sounds like a good time.  I think my dad and I would have a similar experience at a con, although he would walk out with old, horrible Godzilla comics.  He loves anything that’s terrible.

  18. This was a reaally nice, sweet article Paul! Good Work!

  19. This is a fantastic article Paul!