Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking Blog are please to present its review of Walker Staker.
The Walking Dead fans united (with credit cards and plenty of cash at the ready) at Walker Stalker Con 2015 in Secaucus New Jersey – and we were among them. We, along with the thousands of others, literally felt and must have looked like zombie hordes attempting to squeeze into the packed Meadowlands Exposition Center when Wayne and I took six of our seven kids for the last day of the three-day event which was touted as a “Zombie, Horror, and Sci-Fi Fan Convention.”
Now how does a whole family come to be fans of brain-dead, reanimated creeps who tear the flesh off of beloved story characters, many to whom you’ve become very attached each Sunday as you invite them into your home? That’s a story: Wayne et al. had been watching The Walking Dead since it premiered October 31, 2010. We were not even dating then, and my own brood and I had hardly heard of it nor did we have any interest. My children then ranged in age from 5 to 11 and at the time, you couldn’t even get my youngest to go near a Halloween costume store. So in the spring of 2013, Wayne decided to introduce the show to us – and from the first episode we were hooked; so much so, that we binge-watched the first three seasons just in time to pick up with season four as it aired the following October.
Just to solidify our entré into TWD fandom, that summer we attended Wizard World’s Comic Con in NYC – and got all starry-eyed when we rubbed elbows and took photos with many of the stars. Two years later we were thrilled when we came across another opportunity to see and do even more with The Dead at Walker Stalker Con – and we were raring to go! And although my two sons attended as “zombies” for their first go-round at Comic Con, only my youngest dressed up this time – in homage to the famed Norman Reedus’ “Daryl.” And he wasn’t the only one – people dressed up in some pretty outrageous costumes – some who were part of Walker Stalker and some who simply were enthusiastic attendees.
At first the experience at the Meadowlands was a bit overwhelming. We didn’t know where to begin. This was a much larger turnout than two years ago and it seemed like too much was crammed into one space. People were lined up to get in and then lined up within the venue. There were lines for autographs, lines for photographs, lines for food (very expensive and not great food, I might add), and lines for the bathroom. There were tables everywhere and artists/vendors spread throughout the exposition center floor. When we finally got our bearings, we saw that one line – with hundreds of fans wound like twisted coils throughout much of the venue – was for those waiting just to get close enough Norman Reedus for an autograph. Reedus is possibly the most beloved of all of the characters on TWD.
If you wanted merchandise, there was everything from Pop! Vinyl characters to T-shirts to jewelry to katanas for sale. Several artists were on the floor selling prints of their incredible drawings and paintings, two of whom were creating original art on the spot. Their talents were utterly mind-blowing. Of course my kids never want to leave anywhere without some souvenir or memorabilia, so we spent a good deal of time (and money!) there.
When we followed the hordes downstairs, we discovered they’d made a makeshift expo area in the parking garage. There were endless lines to sign up and pay for photo opps (the bigger stars were down there). You’d pretty much have needed to both mortgage your house (some photos were nearly $500) and have had an extra week’s worth of time if you wanted photos and autographs of all the big stars of The Walking Dead. Since we’d had great luck at Comic Con, including photos with Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker (RIP Merle), as well as with Chandler Riggs, we instead opted for a photo with Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) this time.
My stepdaughter, Sarah, wanted nothing else but to meet and take a photo with Steven Yeun (Glenn), her absolutely favorite actor and character from the show. She literally waited for hours and hours, in tears (of excitement and anticipation), only to be harassed by other would-be fans and then turned away for getting in the line at the wrong time (who knew the random numbers on the ticket referenced a time to get in line?) After standing in the line for a second time and for additional hours, we all joined her (and pretty much closed the place) and got our photo. Sarah cried for the umpteenth time – this time out of joy and relief.
In addition to the very expensive photos (you even had to pay to take “selfies” with the stars – anywhere from $30 to over $100), other fun to be had were the “Apocalypse Zombie Experience” (zombie gaming with tactical laser M4s) “The Walking Dead Experience” (an “immersive” attraction bringing patrons right into the world of The Walking Dead) and celebrity panels which included discussions and musical guest Katelyn Nacon (Enid). People even could get “zombified” with professional make-up by Tate Steinsiek of Face Off.
All in all it was exciting even to get a glimpse of so many of The Walking Dead stars all in one place. We met and took photos with Melissa Ponzio (RIP Karen, who also is from Teen Wolf). Toward the end of the day we ran into Steve Coulter (RIP Reg) who was kind enough to take an impromptu pic with us even though he was just walking through the venue looking at memorabilia. Wayne chatted a bit with Scott Wilson (RIP Hershel) while the rest of us only watched from the other side of the ropes. And although we didn’t get to meet them, we did see from afar: Emily Kinney (RIP Beth), Tovah Feldshuh (Deanna), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Alexandra Breckenridge (Jessie), Ross Marquand (Aaron), IronE Singleton (RIP T-Dog), Kyla Kennedy (RIP Mika), Brighton Sharbino (RIP Lizzie), Kenric Green (RIP Scott), Chad L. Coleman (RIP Tyreese), Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel), Jane McNeill (RIP Patricia), Lew Temple (RIP Axel), Michael Traynor (RIP Nicholas), Madison Lintz (RIP Sophia), Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (RIP Bob), Daniel Bonjour (RIP Aiden), Corey Brill (RIP Pete), Erik Jensen (RIP Dr. Steven Edwards). In addition to The Walking Dead stars, there also were some notables from Fear the Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, Gotham, The Boondock Saints, Breaking Bad, Comic Book Men and more. Unfortunately, some stars were not available all three days of the event (including my daughter’s favorites from The Vampire Diaries).
If money and time were not issues (remember, as a group we numbered 8) we would have thrown ourselves into everything – and probably gotten a three-day pass – well, maybe not; I’d likely have turned into zombie by the end of the weekend. But will we do it again? Absolutely! Wayne and I even had our eyes on the Walker Stalker Con cruise to the Bahamas in January 2016 – too bad it’s full. For sure we have our sights set on Boston, though. And for anyone else looking for some Dead excitement, check out the ones coming up in London, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Atlanta – visit their website Walker Stalker Con.
Chaos. Maelstrom. Tempest. Did I mention chaos?
Those three words immediately came to mind when we walked into Walker Stalker Con – a Comic Con-like convention started by a couple of guys on Kickstarter in 2013. Since then it has gained traction and now it’s held in nine cities across the country. My wife and I went to the one at the Meadowlands Expo Center in New Jersey with six of our children.
Having been to Comic Con events before, we knew we had to take CASH – a lot of it! We were unprepared, however, for the sheer amount of crowding and long lines that were everywhere you went. For those newbies out there, a Comic Con is gathering of pop culture groups – everything from all forms of media including, films, television, books, comics, graphic novels, the Internet, etc. Walker Stalker had a narrower theme – pop culture with a horror slant. There was a heavy emphasis on AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead. But there were actors from Gotham, Vampire Diaries, Comic Book Men, etc. Even Zach Galligan from the Gremlins franchise was there.
So most of the family are big The Walking Dead fans. The last trip to Comic Con we took advantage of photo ops with Chandler Riggs (Carl), Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Michael Rooker (Merle). My fourteen-year-old daughter has a tremendous crush on Steve Yeun (Glenn), so his booth was among our first stops. Of course he was on the lower level and it took us about twenty minutes just to work our way through the crowds to get downstairs. Each actor wa set up differently, vis-à-vis giving autographs, photos, and/or “meet-and greets.” They also had a price range commensurate with their popularity with the fans. Of course, Glenn was one of the most popular next to Norman Reedus, so he was one of the most expensive for a photo op and/or an autograph. This required obtaining a blue ticket with his name and a number on it –then you had to wait in a line of well over a hundred people. We planted my daughter in line with the blue ticket (she was happy to wait) and then went and waited on more lines to see who else we could afford to see.
We ended up having a photo op with Michael Cudlitz (Abraham). Since he and Steve Yeun were both available around the same time, we decided to split up — the girls stayed to see Steve Yeun and my wife and the boys and I left to see Michael. Just as we were going in for the photo op, the girls called to tell us they’d been “kicked off” the line because the tickets were numbered and their ticket didn’t allow entry until later in the afternoon. With Sarah in tears, they fought their way across the room to be in the photo with us.
Lunch was next. An expensive affair for hamburgers, fries, and chicken nuggets. We ate sitting on the floor – the concrete parking lot. (The things fans endure!) After wolfing down her meal, my daughter went back to wait in line for Steve Yeun. My wife took her daughters and one of sons with her to shop (gulp!) and I stayed on the lower level with my son and other step-son to wait for my daughter. My step-son was thrilled to play in the video lounge. My 16-year-old son saw a “hot babe” at a booth with pictures. When I asked him who she was he said, “Who cares. I just want to meet her.” He told her she was gorgeous, then she took pictures on the cell phone with him and gave him an autographed photo for $10. When we checked out the selfies and saw the lighting was bad, she was happy to take more, free of charge. We later found out that she was Kari Woods, a host and cosplayer.
There were more chances to see notables. We were able to score pics with Tate (Face Off) and Ming (Comic Book Men) Steve Coulter (Reg from The Walking Dead) at no charge. We also took pics with David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne) from Gotham and Melissa Ponzio from The Walking Dead and Vampire Diaries.
It was almost closing time and Steve Yeun was still packed. I started the process of breaking it to my daughter that they may not get to us. She burst into tears. And then, miracle of miracles happened (despite stupidity on my part), we found out that I’d been reading the wrong number on the ticket and could have seen him an hour earlier! We fought our way through line and were able to meet him! My stepson generously gave him a crumpled Halloween sticker from two years ago that he’d found in his jacket pocket and my daughter was so flustered, she handed him a Double Bubble Butt gum sticker (which he is holding up in the photo). My daughter now exploded into tears of joy and hugged Steve Yeun as if the zombie apocalypse started. Whew!
Despite the crowds and the money, it was yet another great bonding experience for our blended family and a great deal of fun. (So what if it’s pasta for the next month?) I even met Scott Wilson, an extraordinary actor who played Herschel on The Walking Dead. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw him as a kid in In the Heat of the Night. I was trying to score an interview from him for our Pillow Talking blog. Stay tuned to see if it happens!
COMING SOON: PILLOW TALKING BLOG INTERVIEWS SCOTT WILSON — STAY TUNED!