Stan Lee, John Cusack coming to Comic Con in Des Moines – DesMoinesRegister.com

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Enjoy this timelapse and experiences the atmosphere at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines 2016. You never know what super hero or character you’ll se next!
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register

Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines just leveled up!

Comic book icon Stan Lee and actor John Cusack are officially coming to the Iowa convention this weekend, Wizard World announced Monday. 

Lee, the 94-year-old creator of now-iconic comic characters like “Spider-Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” ”X-Men,” “The Fantastic Four” and “Iron Man,” will appear Friday and Saturday. He’ll be signing autographs, posing for photos and hosting a Q&A Saturday that will be open to all general admission attendees.

Just an hour after the announcement, the excitement around Lee’s appearance was already palpable at Mayhem Comics, Cards and Games in Clive, said comics manager Katie Manchester. 

“Stan Lee is a major figure in the history of comics, so it’s pretty amazing that he’s coming here to Des Moines,” she said. “It’s such a cool and special opportunity for anyone who is a fan to meet him, listen to him and take a photo with him, a guy who has done so much for comics and the comic book world.”

RELATED: ‘The nerds won’ — How Des Moines landed comic con

Manchester said that store managers are expecting Lee will draw so many comic fans to the area that they are adjusting their ”convention game plan.” 

“He loves his fans,” said Manchester, who met Lee at a different convention. “And he inspires people to get excited about his work and comics in general.” 

Also Saturday, Cusack will be making his Wizard World convention debut. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Cusack will sign autographs and pose for photos. An actor for more than three decades, Cusack is best known for his work in “Say Anything …” “High Fidelity” and “Being John Malkovich.”

Cusack represents the company’s mission to continually broaden its reach further into the pop culture zeitgeist, said CEO John Maatta. 

“I think our core is comic and action heroes, but beyond that core anybody in greater pop culture is someone that we would find interesting to have as a guest,” Maatta said. “I think our fans have very broad interests and appreciations when it comes to pop culture and we want to serve them as well as those interested in comic and action heroes.”

PHOTOS:Saturday at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines 2016

Lee and Cusack mark the biggest names to appear at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines in the three years the convention has visited Iowa. The other larger name who was scheduled to appear, Charlie Sheen, has backed out due to scheduling conflicts, according to Wizard World.

After a well-received first year in 2015 that featured celebrities such as Brandon Routh, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson of “Ghostbusters,” Jason Mewes of “Clerks” and Lou Ferrigno of “The Incredible Hulk,” Wizard World offered fewer and less-exciting celebrities last year. Attendees to the 2016 convention voiced their concerns and complaints, and Wizard World listened and put in the time and energy to acquire headliners this year, said Maatta. 

“It’s tricky to get talent to come,” Maatta said. “But we recognize that people in Des Moines, just like Philly and just like Chicago, want to meet and greet the biggest stars. And I believe every city should be treated equally in the attempt to get big talent. We try to do that and I think you can see that with what we put together for Des Moines.”

The weekend will also feature professional wrestler and Iowan Seth Rollins, who will do a Q&A with general admission attendees Sunday. Rollins, who was the subject of a lengthy profile in the Register, has recently made his return to conventions after suffering a knee injury last year.

Also appearing are: Jon Heder, who played the titular role in “Napoleon Dynamite”; Holly Marie Combs, a cast member of “Pretty Little Liars” who is best known as Piper in “Charmed”; Superman himself, Dean Cain from “Lois & Clark”; horror movie superstars Robert Englund, who embodied Freddy Krueger, and Kane Hodder, Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” series; Emma Caulfield and James Marsters from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”; Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Deanna Troi on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; WWE superstar Alexa Bliss; Cas Anvar from “Assassin’s Creed”; Barry Bostwick from “Spin City” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”; Micky Dolenz from “The Monkees”; and Charles Martinet, who voices Mario in Nintendo’s “Super Mario Bros.” games.

When Wizard World launched in Iowa in 2015, the company signed a three-year deal with the Iowa Events Center. This year marks the third year of that deal, and the company and the venue are in negotiations to continue that relationship, Maatta said. 

“Coming back depends on a lot of wild cards and a lot of variables,” he said. “But I like Des Moines and I hope it is part of the tour every year.”

In addition to autographs and photo ops, many of the celebrities appear on panels or host Q&As, which are open to anyone with a general admission ticket. Other programs — all of which are first-come, first-serve — include in-depth discussions with comic artists, gaming competitions and cosplay tutorials. The Wizard World costume contest hits the stage Saturday night and is must-attend for anyone interested in cosplay, a portmanteau of “costume” and “play” that describes the culture of people who like to make and dress up as their favorite characters. 

Wizard World also hosts “Artist Alley,” a specific wing where comic book artists and writers have wares for sale and are available to answer fan questions.  

Artists appearing this year include: Phil Hester (“Green Arrow”), Ant Lucia (“Wonder Woman”), Danny Fingeroth (“Spider-Man,” “Iron Man”), Barbara Slate (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Archie”) and Clinton Hobart (licensed Disney artist), among others. 

Wizard World Des Moines runs from Friday to Sunday. Celebrities do not appear every day, so check WizardWorld.com for more information on who will be appearing when.


If you go …

  • Wizard World Des Moines
  • 4-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. 
  • Iowa Events Center, 730 3rd St.
  • Ticket prices and packages vary, visit WizardWorld.com for more. Kids ages 10 and under are free! 

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