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Fan favorites Rooker, Sorbo find magic at Wizard World Comic Cons

Actors tout importance of fans at Minneapolis event


MINNEAPOLIS – The Wizard World Comic Con  is all about the fans, an event that originated with the San Diego Comic Con and now travels nationwide and around the world to bring the stars to fans.

This weekend, the three-day celebrity event is in Minneapolis, where the likes of Michael Rooker ("The Walking Dead," "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Kevin Sorbo ("Hercules: The Legendary Journeys"), Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files") and Karl Urban ("Star Trek," "The Lord of the Rings") sign autographs and snap photos with generations of faithful  admirers.

"The fans are always fun and different, and I always have a blast," said Rooker, a frequent participant in Wizard World conventions.

Rooker, of course, is no stranger to fans, and convention-goers up until last summer took huge interest in his anti-hero character, Merle Dixon, in "The Walking Dead." Now that he is also known for bringing his swagger to the outlaw, Yondu, in the 2014 sci-fi blockbuster  "Guardians of the Galaxy," the fan tide is shifting a bit.

"Yondu became a fan favorite really quickly," Rooker said. "Within a week of the film's release, there was more of a 50-50 split between 'The Walking Dead' guys and girls, and the people coming to see me because of 'Guardians.'  The character became a favorite very quickly."

Wizard World Comic Con next moves on to Philadelphia (May 7-10), before heading to St. Louis (May 22-24); Des Moines, Iowa (June 12-14); Albuquerque, New Mexico (June 19-21); Sacramento, California (June 19-21) and Richmond, Virginia (July 31 and Aug. 1-2). A convention is also set for Chicago Aug. 20-23.

Sorbo's visit to Wizard World Minneapolis was a homecoming of sorts, because the actor is from Minnesota.

"I get asked to do a lot because of 'Hercules' and 'Andromeda,' but do only about six a year because it's hard to find the time to do many. So I try to pick out places like Minneapolis since I haven't done a show here since the late 1990s," said Sorbo, who makes him home in California in between film shoots. "I love to mix it up a bit. I did one in Australia and have one coming up in London, so I like to travel a bit with it."

Like Rooker, Sorbo does the Wizard World conventions mainly because of the fans, because they make all the difference in a performer's career.

"Anybody in the industry is smart to come to these events because not are they only fans, these are the bloggers who get on the Internet and say, 'This guy was a jerk' or 'Kevin Sorbo was a really nice guy,'" Sorbo said with a smile and a laugh. "They could talk good or bad about you, and you know what? Without fans, we got nothing. If you don't have viewers, you don't get jobs. It's as simple as that."

With any luck, Sorbo next year will not only be back at the Minneapolis event and other Wizard World  conventions, but with another hit TV show on his hands. Sorbo, along with his "Hercules" producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, just sold to NBC the faith-based action series "Miracle Man," which stars the actor as an ex-Navy SEAL who survives an bomb blast while serving in the military in Afghanistan.

"Nobody survives but my character, and he's on a mission to find out why," said Sorbo, who added that the pilot will likely shoot in late fall.

Unlike other faith-based shows, "Miracle Man" will have more of an edge to it, said Sorbo, who starred in the 2014 breakout hit, "God is Not Dead."

"There haven't been shows like 'Touched by an Angel'  and 'Highway to Heaven' for a long time, but when they were only they had long running spans ? 8, 9, 10 years. So my wife (actress Sam Jenkins) came up with the idea for this one, which we call 'Punched by an Angel,'" Sorbo said, laughing. "It's a lot more hard-core, and not sappy like 'Touched by an Angel.'"

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie reporter and the author of the ebook "Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton," which features a foreword by Tim Burton.