Eleven years ago, David Hagan took a fateful drive back from Pittsburgh.
He and his sons had finished up working a booth at a comic convention there, as they had plenty of times before, but in the five hours down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, an idea started to form.
What if they took the best bits of the conventions they’d attended, cut away the stuff that didn’t work and launch their own show?
Though it started out as a bunch of hypotheticals, those ideas coalesced, and less than a year later, Monster Mania Con was born.
It may not have been monster-sized to start—they kicked things off in the old Clarion Hotel on Route 70, which has since been turned into Spring Hills, an assisted living community—but the show developed a rabid following almost from the outset, Hagan said.
In the decade since, they’ve moved to a larger space at the Crowne Plaza and had everyone from George Romero to Robert Englund to Alice Cooper to Bruce Campbell at the convention, which runs three shows annually—two in Cherry Hill and one in Maryland, just north of Baltimore. The March 8-10 convention will be their 24th show overall.
“If you would’ve taken me back 10 years and shown me what we’ve become, I would’ve never, never thought it was possible,” he said. “It’s amazing, really, how much it’s grown.”
Hagan knew this year was going to have to be even bigger than ever, and the guest list had to reflect that—something he set to working on even as they were putting on the 2012 shows.
For Star Wars fans, the bad news is, the original March headliner, Carrie Fisher—Princess Leia herself—is out of the convention due to health problems.
The good news is, Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian, and Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, will both be at this weekend’s show.
And there’s at least a chance Fisher, who Hagan said was excited at the prospect of the convention, will be back later in the year.
“At this point it is out of anyone's control and all we can do is hope for a speedy recovery for Carrie,” he wrote in an update on the convention. “If she is willing and able, we will try to bring her in for our August show.”
For sci-fi and horror fans who might want a more contemporary set of stars, Monster Mania will have 10 cast members from The Walking Dead, including Danai Gurira (Michonne), Laurie Holden (Andrea) and Chandler Riggs (Carl), among others.
Others might be a little more obscure, but still have claims to fame. Three actors—Kane Hodder, Steve Dash and C.J. Graham—who played Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th series will be on hand, as well as Dirk Benedict, who starred in both The A-Team and the original Battlestar Galactica.
Trying to find characters who people identify with is a big part of the task of getting together the guest list every year, Hagan said, and the process is close to never-ending.
“As soon as one hurdle is completed, you’re on to the next one,” he said.
About Monster Mania Con:
March 8-10 at the Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, 2349 Marlton Pike West
Friday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Online ticket sales are closed; tickets will be available at the door.