The only reason I planned a trip to Wizard World Comic Con Richmond (July 31-Aug. 2) was to get a photo with actor Sean Astin.

He ended up canceling on opening day for "personal reasons," according to the Wizard World website. Astin later tweeted he was "sick as a dawg."

For reasons I explain below, my husband and I decided to attend anyway.

The whole show felt hollow, but I did enjoy my fancy champagne julep the night before — and shopping the Wizard World vendors selling everything from custom LEGO figurines to bottled rattlesnakes to steampunk jewelry.

To prepare for our trip as a comic con newbie, I asked the blogosphere for tips. Among other things, James Moran of Long Island, N.Y., advised I wear comfortable shoes. I took his advice and wore the geekiest shoes I own: A pair of neon-colored running shoes.

Here's what else I learned from my first trip to Wizard World:

1. Next time, I won't buy advance tickets

I know event organizers don't like folks to wait until the last minute to buy tickets. However, twice on Friday I learned that it pays to do just that: Not only the crushing Sean Astin cancellation, but half-price Bill Maher tickets in Roanoke, too.

Note to Wizard World organizers: When five out of the nine marquee celebrity guests cancel your show (most at the last minute), paying in advance doesn't seem like a wise gamble, even with a $10 discount. And this isn't the first time there's been a slew of cancellations right before a Richmond show.

While my photo op with Astin was refundable, the daily admission ticket ($53 after fees) was not. Also, in order to get a cheaper hotel rate, I chose the nonrefundable version. *Sad trombone.* If there is a next time in Richmond, I'll make sure the celebrity guest I want is there the morning of the event, will pay at the door and will take my chances on a last-minute hotel reservation.

2. I would bring my toddler

Even though children under the age of 10 receive free admission, we decided to leave our 2-year-old with her grandparents. Why? I wasn't sure how many realistic zombies or scary vampires might show up at Wizard World. We didn't see any vampires (perhaps it was too early?), and most costumes seemed to top out in the PG-13 range. We did see a few infants and plenty of school-age kids dressed as superheroes and "Frozen" princesses. I saw dads and older sons bonding, too, including former Roanoker Bart Thornton, who impressed with his "Ghostbusters" costume (his proton pack was even signed by Ernie Hudson, aka "Winston").

3. If nothing else, enjoy the costumes

I didn't recognize half of the characters walking around the exhibit floor, but that didn't mean I wasn't inspired by all of the creativity. I learned how to make Shrek ears out of green craft foam and Dr. Octopus tentacles from gutter extensions, for example.

A trip that started out as a treat for me quickly turned into a nostalgic trip for my husband, who is a big "Star Wars" fan. He was thrilled to get a (free) photo with a Stormtrooper and the General Lee car.

See more photos from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, including headliner William Shatner.

Contact Stephanie Ogilvie at or 981-3352. Follow her on Twitter: @smogilvie.  

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