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Wizard World Chicago 2010: Feeling A Bit Lost

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Michael A. Diaz
For weeks, heck, months now I had been looking forward to attending Wizard World Chicago (which, sometime in the past three years changed its name to the Chicago Comic Con). I had gone the previous six or seven years and always had a great time. In fact, the first few years I went a close friend of mine worked for Dark Horse Comics, so we would hit parts of the con together and often times he would get me into some of the insider parties. I loved those days. Meeting Judd Winick as a person (instead of just as a professional) or having a friend have an actually discussion with Joss Whedon are highlights that I will always remember.

He eventually left that job but I continued to go to the con; usually I would hit Friday by myself and on Saturday would go with my friend Erica. Some years I would hit Sunday as well, but increasingly I would find something else to do, usually go to a Cubs game. Heck, there were a few years when I got up and just decided that I wanted to go home and see my (then) girlfriend.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to go for the last couple of years.

The convention in Chicago is usually held in August sometime; sure, there have been some changes over the years, like the one year that it was held right after the Fourth of July, but usually it was held in August. Well, in 2008 they had one of those “odd” years where they had to move the con way up, so instead it was during the last weekend in June. As it so happened that was the weekend I was going to get married. Now, with hindsight being 20/20 and my marriage dissolving in divorce, well, perhaps I should have gone to the con instead in 2008, but I didn’t. Sure, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend, but I was getting married. Clearly that was much more important.

I vowed that I would DEFINITELY go in 2009.

Well, 2009 came and my co-administrator had to go to Portland for a wedding, so she had the time in the books well before I found out the date of the convention. Of course, it was the same weekend , so again I could not go, and again, a marriage was the reason why.

Oh well; again, that was more important than me having a geek weekend.

But this year, I was going, no matter what.

No weddings this year to get in my way, and though my wife was divorcing me, I wasn’t going to let that get me down. I was going back to Chicago to the Nerd Prom!

So last Friday morning I packed up my car and made the three hour trek to Chi-town and instead of stopping off at my friend’s place I drove straight to the con so that I could be there as long as I could.

Three years of waiting and I was finally back; I got my press registration and walked into the main hall, looking for the familiar DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse booths.

I did not find them.

I looked around a bit more; I found the small Avatar Press booth, but nothing else around it. I looked some more, then pulled out my map of the convention floor. I scanned the list of names of retailers and such at the convention.

Now, perhaps if I had checked out the convention floor map before I made it to the con I would have already known all of this, but I hadn’t, and I was surprised. I was thrown.

I checked my schedule of panels and saw very few things that were comics related. Where were the special announcements? Where was the X-Men panel? Where was the WildStorm panel? I had been hitting that panel ever since my first trip to the con; I remembered that few people showed up, so Scott Dunbier invited us all to the Expoteria, and we sat down with some of the creators, Joe Casey being one of them (he had just begun what I feel was a CLASSIC run on Wildcats), and at cookies while talking about comics. It’s a memory I cherish.

But there were no such panels this year.

I walked around a bit, feeling a bit lost.

This was not the con that I remembered.

I made my way down some of the aisles and began noticing all of the celebrities, mostly B and C-list; there have always been people selling their autographs, at least, since I have been going to the con, but there seemed to be so many this year. Just off the top of my head I saw Michael Hogan, Kate Vernon, Aaron Douglas (all BSG), Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Linda Blair, Brent Spiner, William Shatner, John Schneider, and Ian Ziering.

Yes, Ian Ziering.

Why? I have no idea, but he was there.

Oh, and the guy that played “Spunkmeyer” in Aliens. True, I could check IMDB.com and find out who he is, but really, if I have to do that is he REALLY a celebrity?

Still, he wanted $25 an autograph.

Really?

Few comics publishers, but plenty of celebrities, many of them a has-been or never-was.

Now, I have never been to the ICC (aka the San Diego Comic Con) but I hear time and again that for the past 10 years (or more) that Hollywood has simply taken over; I don’t know if that is true of the Chicago Comic Con, but that was the impression that I was getting. This simply wasn’t the con that I expected to see after just three years.

Yes, there were comics vendors, plenty of them, and believe me, I bought my share of trades. I hit up both a booth with ½-off trades as well as another that had a pile of trades for $5 each. One of my finds was a hardcover of Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt for $10.

JOY!

I also bought just about every Lantern Corps power ring I could find as well as a corresponding button, along with many other geek knickknacks, like another Star Wars shirt and Blue Lantern shirt (to go with the Red Lantern and Sinestro Corps shirts that I already have).

I won’t lie, part of the fun of going to the con is buying geek stuff that I don’t need, but want.

But I’ve covered the con for this site in the past, and there were always panels to go to, and whether or not I was covered the panel for the site I would have gone to the panels anyway. I am a comic book geek. I may not have a lot of questions, but I love the professionals sitting before us talking about their craft, and yes, I like some of the inane fanboy questions that are asked.

But this year almost all of the panels were from actors that appears in either a Buffy… franchise or a Star Trek franchise.

Where was Bendis? Where was Millar? Where was Joe Quesada? Where was anyone from DC?

Don’t get me wrong, there were artists and professionals there, but without the major booths from the publishers there didn’t seem to be as many big names as I have seen in years past.

(Though I did get a limited edition print drawn by Ethan Van Sciver and colored by Moose that I plan on having framed.)

I went to the con thinking that I was going to be covering it for the site, but really, there were no announcements, and the only real comic book presence was off the fans buying comics and the vendors selling them, plus some actual big name professionals.

Let’s just put it this way: I was so excited to be back after a three year absence but after about an hour of wandering around the floor that excitement had abated.

This was not the convention that I remember; Hollywood, or at least, B and C-list Hollywood, had taken over, and in my opinion that convention was none the better for it.

I still plan on going next year, but I admit that I’m not as geeked about the con itself; I have friends that live in Chicago and for me the real treat was spending time with them, even the Cubs game on Sunday (despite the Cubs getting crushed).

If the Wizard Chicago Comic Con is like this next year, well, let’s just say that I’m already considering hitting the competing Chicago con next year instead.

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