Wizard World Chicago Comic Con 2012

Since I’m now living in the Midwest, Wizard World Chicago is only two hours away, so I thought I’d zip down this morning to check it out. I last went to that particular comic convention back in 2006, and while I knew they’d been emphasizing celebrities over comics, I wasn’t prepared to find out just how little interest I had in the show. I left at 7:30, arrived just after 10 (since there was a line to park), and was done by 1:00. I was glad to get home in time to get more done in the afternoon, but I wish I’d found more at the con I wanted to spend time with.

Wizard World Chicago logo

The first booths I saw entering the hall set the tone: they were for bootleg DVDs and t-shirts (more than one vendor of each type, too). It was clear that comics were only a small part of the entertainment mix on offer to geeks and fans with money to spend. New to me, though, were the multiple bars on the floor, selling mixed drinks.

It was also the case that the merchandise booths tended to be more attractive. Tables of white boxes just can’t compete with eye-catching fashions and clothing logos and swords and jewelry.

I had problems figuring out where to find things, since there was no program book, and the numbers on the photocopied map were much too small to read. Someone else had complained to the show staff about the same problem, and they were told that the show had “gone green” and we should use their mobile phone app. Which threw several error messages when I tried it.

CBLDF shirt by R. Sikoryak

The high point of my show was visiting with Sarah Becan, creator of the awesome I Think You’re Sauceome. She provided a wonderful welcome to the Midwest, as well as re-introducing me to Terry Gant of local store Third Coast Comics. It turns out we were both Legion of Super-Heroes fans back in the day and last met in the 90s.

I didn’t go to any programming. I was interested in seeing the Q&As with James Marsters — but it was first thing in the day, and I wasn’t ready to leave the floor yet — and Dean Cain — but I would have had to hang around for almost an hour after I was ready to go. None of the planned panels had anything to do with comics; they were all about the celebrity guests and “sci-fi speed dating”.

My purchases were as follows:

* Renewal of my CBLDF membership and the new R. Sikoryak t-shirt, shown here.

* Winter Beard, a 2006 Xeric Grant winner by Cathy Hannah. It’s a collection of simply-but-strongly drawn semi-autobiographical strips about a girl falling in love with her best friend. It captures well that whole “do I dare risk making our friendship awkward in order to try for something more? do I really care deeply for him or is it just a crush because we get along so well together?” The epilogue shows her giving the comic we’ve been reading to the guy and how he reacted.

Sonic Justice League tots

* A set of the Justice League Sonic tots. They were adorable, and I need something to decorate my new office, but they were also the reason I spent three hours instead of two at the show, because I made the rookie mistake of walking away from the booth that had them without paying attention to where it was, and then I had to walk the entire floor to find them again.

Was it worth going to Wizard World? No. It cost me $13 in parking, $10 in crappy convention food, and almost $16 in tolls for three hours of opportunities to spend more money. If I’d cared more about some of the various stars there, I would have perhaps found the expense of time and money more worthwhile. But I figured out a while ago that while it would be interesting to meet, for example, James Marsters, I really want to meet Spike. It’s the character, not the performer, that I form the lasting connection with — and they’re always available to me through the magic of home video.

I do wish that Wizard World would simply drop the “Comic Convention” from their logo. That way, they could provide the kind of experience they’re skilled at creating and that there’s clearly an audience for without giving people like me the wrong impression. The show was very crowded, with plenty of attendees shopping and showing off their costumes and standing in line for autographs.

14 Responses to “Wizard World Chicago Comic Con 2012”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Been reading similar stories from Jeff Moy on his FB page. Something to the effect that it was the worst artist alley he’d ever seen.

  2. Johanna Says:

    It was pretty dire. Lots of people selling prints and merch, very few comics, even fewer original-looking ones. Also very crowded feeling and seemed shoved into leftover spaces.

  3. Anthony Says:

    Surprised to hear it’s actually still crowded/well attended. I’d thought most Chicago-area folk had long given up on Wizard for C2E2 instead (given the complants I’d heard about Wizard’s show).

  4. Johanna Says:

    There were apparently a lot of people there to see the spectacle. The two random older strangers I spoke with were both there with kids (some adult-aged) who dragged them along.

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  6. Russell Lissau Says:

    Just got home from the con. The layout was odd, and it was a celebrity heavy show, but I had my second-best con sales EVER this weekend, second only to WWC2011. I sold close to 200 comics and trades at my AA table,a dozen sketch cards and some original art. Some artists had tough locations, but I did well.

  7. Tom Stillwell Says:

    Yeah, Artist Alley was tough this year.

    Jeff Moy and I started off the con together in the same horrible location that saw no traffic at all. We eventually both moved to better spots.

    Even then, it was hard to interact with con-goers because of the horrible layout. People were packed in tight in some places and when any open aisle presented themselves they dashed through. That’s not exactly conducive to selling my original comics in a sea of non-licensed prints and t-shirts.

    Typically WWC has been a good money making show for me. Not this year. If this new layout and focus is here to stay I won’t be going back. C2E2 is a much better show, more focused on comics and the Reed staff are loads more helpful than anyone at Wizard.

  8. Russell Lissau Says:

    Yeah, Tom, that alcove by the fire doors looked pretty rough.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Glad you did well, Russell. Tom, sorry to hear it didn’t go as well for you.

  10. Tom Stillwell Says:

    Russell, that was actually the better spot I moved to. Originally they had Jeff and I all the way by the autograph signing in the back corner staring at a wall.

  11. Eric Says:

    I’m a five-year Chicago resident and life-long comic fan. I’ve long been turned off by how celebrity-centric Wizard World is (they ought to change the name to Wizard World Pop Culture Con), but I still always end up going and have a good time.

    The layout was not great- I spent four or five hours on Saturday going through artists’ alley and didn’t even make it through the whole thing. The one panel I did attend was comic-specific: Storytelling with Michael Golden, which was mildly informative.

    This past winter, there was a great con in Orland Park, IL called Dan Con. It cost $2 to get in, there were a lot of comic dealers, and the artists’ alley was roughly equal in size to the dealer area. A lot of the artists there were selling creator-owned comics, and there were some relatively big names like Ben Templesmith and Tim Seeley. If you’re living in the midwest now, it might be worth checking out Dan Con 2013.

    For Wizard World, I pack my own food and take public transit to get there, which cuts down on the cost significantly.

  12. Eric Says:

    Another event that may be more to your liking is CAKE, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (I don’t know how they ended up with a “k” in the acronym…)

    It was absolutely packed with indie comic creators, and iirc, admission was $5.

  13. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I had a great conversation about CAKE with Sarah, and I’m definitely looking forward to going to that next year, once details are available. And you make a good point — it’s not that a show is bad or good, it’s how good a match they are for what you’re looking for. I went to Wizard World because I was curious, and I found out it wasn’t my kind of thing. Nothing wrong with that.

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