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My date to the nerd prom

By Bert Ehrmann
2005-08-22 — For the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the “nerd prom” aka Wizard World Chicago aka The Chicago Comic Book Convention. Although Wizard World Chicago might only be the second largest nerd prom in the country (the “king” of the nerd proms is held in San Diego), there are still many sites to see and things to do at Wizard World Chicago.

Most people believe that a comic book convention is just for freaks, geeks, nezzs, trolls and nerds. And they’re right. Until very recently, fans dressing in the costumes of their favorite comic book heroes were frowned upon by the masses. This year, however, fans who attended the convention in costume were recognized as a sort of species all their own. There’s even a term for dressing up in character ­ “Cosplay” or Costume Play.

At the back of the convention center, fans dressed in all manner of costumes lined up along the walls. At one side were a platoon of Storm Troopers and the other were a group of kids from Wisconsin dressed as characters from Harry Potter. At the end of the line people from Wizard Magazine, owners and host of the convention, were photographing these costumed attendees one after the other. Why? Perhaps they’re planning a book documenting these fans, or maybe they’re really hoping for blackmail photographs to be used at a future date. Something like, “Senator Smith, would you like to explain these photographs of you dressed as Conan the Barbarian wearing nothing but a loin cloth and carrying a bloody sword?”

As I walked past the crowd, I overheard one other “normally” dressed person remark about a futuristic-looking armored costume another fan was wearing, “Yeah, it’s cool but he needs his jetpack.”

At the convention, I bought a Colonial Marine Hicks toy (with helmet), and a few other small things to add to my collection of “small things.” Unfortunately, many of the cooler things I look for at the convention were missing. Gone (for the most part) were the booths of dealers hawking bootlegged copies of old television shows and out-of-print movies. Also missing were any scripts for upcoming movies. I suppose dealers were frightened off from selling these items since raids were held at the San Diego convention. Dealers had their merchandise confiscated and, in at least two cases, were jailed.

Evangeline Lilly (Kate on ABC’s hit show Lost) was to be the big celebrity draw at Wizard World Chicago. Unfortunately, Lilly was unable to appear due to a “last minute scheduling change.” I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped on securing a few minutes with the star to ask her some very poignant questions I was going to use in this very column. Something like, “Evangeline, what are your thoughts on the philosophy hidden within Lost? Would you ever consider dating a movie obsessed geek living in Indiana who writes a column for the 15th most read paper in his city?”

Although such “A” list celebrities might not have been able to make it to the convention, “C” and “D” list celebrities were in abundance. “Stars” like Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in Superman), Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) and “that big hulking guy in Ocean’s Eleven who pretends to beat up Danny Ocean but really doesn’t” were signing autographs and posing for pictures. In a truly cringeworthy moment, Kidder, who starred alongside Christopher Reeve in Superman, posed beside a life-sized replica statue of Reeve as Superman for fans wanting a unique shot of the two.

If there’s a more fun time to be had than a day spent at Wizard World Chicago, I haven’t been able to discover it. And it’s not like I haven’t tried. Cosplay anyone?