This past weekend, I travelled for the second year in a row to Wizardworld's convention in Chicago. Last year, I went in with a press pass. This year, I was an exhibitor, with help from Krypton Comics in Omaha.
Because of my job status, I was only able to go for two days instead of all four of the convention. In addition, since the decision was made at the last minute, the press pass could not be applied for like I wanted. Dean at Krypton Comics came to my rescue.
The drive to Chicago turned out to be a disaster, due to the traffic from the convention. Being it was Saturday morning, the traffic normally would be light, but it was wall to wall cars. I got registered into the hotel, then joined at the end of the line at the time to get to the convention down the street. Finally, getting parked, I walked to the convention.
Entering into the convention, things were a bit different than the previous year. First, last year the Batmobile, DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Ecto-1 were out in the front lobby area, and the convention was on the first level only. This year, however, another convention was in the location WizardWorld was last year, so the two smaller convention floors were used this year, on two different levels.
This turned out to be a major problem. Originally, the design was for people to enter into the second floor, and then use the escalator to get down to the first floor. This lasted a total of a couple of hours, I heard, until they opened up the first floor entrance as well. The second floor was where most of the dealers were located, while the first floor was primarily the artists row and the autographs and photographs of celebrities. Because of opening up the first floor, however, a lot of dealers on the second floor did not get the traffic they needed. The saving grace for the second floor was the stage and cosplay area, as people headed there to get photographs of the Chicago Cosplay society's elaborate costumes.
While I was there, Five Year Mission, a band based on creating songs from the original Star Trek series, performed on the stage. I've heard them before, and they are a band you should give a listen to, especially if you are a Star Trek fan.
Next to this stage area were the cars. The Batmobile was on one side, while Ecto-1 and DeLorean were on the other side. The DeLorean was for Michael J Fox's Foundation, and you could pay to get a picture sitting inside the car. Unlike last year, though, because it was stuck in a corner, the DeLorean did not seem to get the attention it did when it was in the lobby last year. Too bad, as it is a good foundation.
Another observation is the vast number of people dressing up this year. Some of the costumes were fantastic, and of course the professionals and Chicago Cosplay group's were fantastic. However, a lot of the costumes were, well, needing work. I don't want to discourage these folks, as I love cosplay and cosplayers. I want them to keep trying. But a lot of costumes were thrown together at the last minute. I hope these folks return next year with more planning and more work, and Wizardworld Chicago will become a mecca in the midwest for cosplay.
The lines for autographs seemed to be far in excess of last year, with one major exception, and that's the WWE superstars. John Cena last year was crazy. This year, things seemed more subdued with Dolph Ziggler, AJ, and the Shield. CM Punk's line seemed less than last year, but it could be a lot of people got his autograph back then so didn't stand in line this year.
One person had a line that never, ever let up and that was Tara Strong, the voice of so many animated characters. They gave her way too small of a booth, and the line was always looping back around the signing station. Maybe next year, they'll give her a bigger signing area like they gave other celebrities like Verne Troyer.
The lines of the day were four. Stan Lee, Zach Quinto, John Barrowman, and Wil Wheaton. Both Barrowman and Wheaton joked around with those getting autographs. While this slowed their lines, it made for a fun experience. Unfortunately, Stan's line was pretty robotic because the con staff kept pushing people through. Stan looked to want to talk with everyone, but just couldn't. I'd love to sit and have a drink with the inspiration to so many people, but at almost 90, they are very careful of Stan's health.
One person I talked to at length was Brad Guigar, who is the artist behind http://www.evil-inc.com If you are fan of superheroes, please check out his webcomic. It is one of the best, and one I read daily. We talked about his projects, and he was the only person I actually bought items from, which he personalized with sketches for me. He was in charge of the webcomic seminars at the convention, and I hope to talk with him again at some point.
That night, the convention put on their 'After Con' party, even though it was Saturday night. Last year, when it was coordinated by Jerry Milani, it was very professional. This year, it seemed like no one knew what to do. People meandered in and out, with no staff outside the party room to give directions. Eventually people just kind of wandered in while the band played. I did not stick around long, just checking things out, before I decided I'd best get some sleep.
While waiting for the party to start, I got to say hello to Wil Wheaton and, while on a Skype call with Lagspike staff, was able to have a short conversation with John Barrowman. The convention doing this the best, Gallifrey One, is nice and informal, where you can talk to the stars in the lobby while eating and drinking. To be able to just say hi away from a convention without a bodyguard in the way, without photographs or asking for autographs, must be a relief to many of these actors. It's why I do not ask for these things outside the convention. I wish more people would do the same, as it will make the experience more relaxing for the actors as well.
Another thing I did not do very much of was take pictures of booths and merchandise for sale. Those dealers and vendors have taken a lot of work to build their displays, and I've found many do not like their booths photographed. I may try something different next year by asking vendors to photograph their booth with them standing in front of it. Thus, it provides them advertising for free when the picture is posted with the name of their company and tagged for social media.
The second day, I debated long and hard about going to the convention again. I did so, anyways, despite my legs feeling like they were on fire. It was more of the same, though a few photo opportunities were provided by the convention including a gathering of cosplayers all dressed as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This was very impressive the convention provided these for those of us snapping photographs.
I cut my day short, though, and headed back home on my long drive, made even longer by my having to stop multiple times. However, I enjoyed my experience.
If Wizardworld comes to a city near you, please consider attending. It's worth it.
PS Doctor Who, Deadpool, Wolverine, and FireFly were the most worn costumes at the convention in my experience. If Nathan Fillon would show up for autographs, there would be a riot, I think. Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, and Morena Baccarin all got love this weekend, but I felt bad for Morena between the two others with no line while the other two had lines all the way back to the entrance of their areas.