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Annual Wizard World Returns to Cleveland for Comic, Movie, Pop Culture Fans 

After more than a year, Wizard World returns to Cleveland this weekend. Cleveland marks the third stop of the calendar year for the year 'round traveling convention, and the third convention the group has hosted at the Huntington Convention Center. This year's event kicks off on St. Patrick's Day and extends throughout the weekend.

Just days before the event, celebrities and artists continue to be added (along with a couple notable cancelations), but we've got the most comprehensive and updated info to help plan your visit.

"We are excited about the third year in Cleveland, with numerous celebrities who have not been to our show here before," says Wizard World PR manager Jerry Milani. In collaboration with Carol & John's Comic Book Shop, Wizard World is once again awarding four ticket packages to local families. During the weekend, Carol & John's is again hosting its Winston World comic book sale in the shop. For more information on Winston World, visit cnjcomics.com.

Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, Michael C. Hall and James Remar will not be joining their Dexter co-stars in Cleveland for this year's Wizard World. However, two superheroes have swooped in to save the day. Anthony Mackie, best known as Falcon in Marvel's Captain America and Avengers films, and Dean Cain (The Adventures of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) have been added to the convention's celebrity roster. Mackie and Cain will appear on Saturday and Sunday to sign autographs and take photos. After filming Captain America: Winter Soldier here, Mackie is no stranger to Cleveland.

Dexter co-stars Jennifer Carpenter and Jaime Murray are still scheduled to appear on Saturday and Sunday. Additional celebrities include Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven from Stranger Things), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Gene Simmons (Kiss), Keven Sorbo (Hercules), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and WWE's Kurt Angle and Becky Lynch.

In addition to celebrities, the event features dozens of artists, writers and creators from the industry, including both local and national talent. Cleveland artists include Matthew Chojnacki, Ryan Finley, Chad Kimes, Perris Mackey (Immortal Nerd), Jeff Ritchie, Erin Schechtman Caruso (Super Group Hugs) and Thom Zahler. National artists include Bob Camp (co-creator, The Ren & Stimpy Show), Tom Cook, Shawn Coss (creator, Cyanide & Happiness), Jordan Gibson, Guy Gilchrist, Billy Martin (artist and lead guitarist for Good Charlotte), Phil Ortiz (artist, The Simpsons) and voice actors Loren Lester and Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series, as well as PureFandom.com co-founders Liz Prugh and Lindi Smith.

As usual, this year's event includes plenty of cosplay and programming. Programs include several panels discussing diversity in comics, film and television, including High Heels Optional, Gender and Racial Diversity in Comics, The Diversity Variable: Incorporation of Diversity Representation in Front and Behind the Industry and Hispanics in Comics.

"One of the best facets of Wizard World shows is that they are for everyone," Milani says. "No matter which areas of pop culture someone likes, or whatever their background, it's a place to celebrate fandom. By scheduling panels like these, our programming team is further facilitating discussion among all groups and reinforcing our belief that Wizard World is a place for everyone to come together. We couldn't be prouder to host them!"

The Wizard World Costume Contest takes place on Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the main stage. Anyone may enter, and a panel of jurors will award prizes to individuals and groups. Following the costume contest on the main stage, join Barry Bostwick and members of the local Rocky Horror shadow cast, Clinton Street, for a special screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show at 7 p.m. In partnership with Fox Studios, film producer Lou Adler and the Rocky Horror Fan Club, this event includes a display of original props and costumes from the movie. Tickets are limited. General admission to this special event is $15, $35 for Golden Circle tickets and $89 for VIP tickets.

Hours on Friday, March 17, are 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, March 18, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, March 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Three-day passes are $75; Friday, $35; Saturday, $45; Sunday, $40 (additional service fees apply). Fees for celebrity autographs and photos vary. Several VIP and meet-and-greet packages are available as well. For complete details, see Wizard World's website.

Attending Friday? Phantasy Niteclub (11082 Detroit Ave., Lakewood) hosts the Official Wizard World After Party from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Tickets are $20 general admission or $10 at the door. Following the convention on Saturday night, Gene Simmons performs a special concert with his band at the Agora. For more information on Simmons and his concert, check out Jeff Niesel's article in Scene's Music section.

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