Wizard World Chicago 2007
By Bert Ehrmann
September 7, 2007
For some reason it's the comic book convention in San Diego gets all the press. Sure, it's the largest convention of the sort in the country, but does it really deserve to be known as the one and only "Comi-Con" when there are literally dozens of other comic-cons that are held across the country each year? When was the last time you heard about the comic book convention in New York, or Philadelphia or even the second largest convention in the U.S. held just a few hours up the road from here every summer; Wizard World Chicago?
Wizard World Chicago, which I had the opportunity to attend, ran the second weekend in August a few weeks back. If you believe the figures listed by Wizard World, around 125,000 people attended the convention last year and they were expecting at least that many people again this year. And when you add this figure by the cost for a ticket to the event ($28 minus the $3 so-called "Amusement Fee") plus dealer and promoter fees and you can see just how lucrative such an event can be for a promoter, even if it's not THE Comi-Con.
The first thing you should realize about the modern comi-con is that it stopped being just about comic books years ago. Sure, at a convention like Wizard World you're apt to see dozens of dealers selling comic books but I'd estimate that only 30% of the items on sale there this year were comics, the rest were toys, games, DVDs, miniatures and the like. Even the U.S. Post Office was in attendance trying to hawk stamps based on superheroes.
This year, as usual, the convention floor was packed with companies hawking their latest products, independent dealers selling their goods and thousands of enthusiasts from across the country looking for the next great deal. Even with all this excitement and energy it took me a while to really get into my element.
At Wizard World, it can sometimes be difficult for me to take more than a few steps without seeing something I’d love to own. There is original comic art, favorite childhood toys and memorabilia at almost every turn and I can usually find things I’m interested in purchasing within a few minutes of entering the convention. But for some reason this year it took me quite a while of walking the floor before I found anything I really had to have.
Then again, by the end of the day I had spent more at Wizard World than I had spent at any of the other comic conventions I'd ever attended – it's weird how those things work out. I managed to buy several Japanese capsule toys, two scripts for upcoming movies, a statue of Captain America, a Star Wars Figure and two books about comic artists.
Celebrities like Tricia Helfer (Six from Battlestar Galactica), Lou Ferrigno (a convention mainstay), Richard Hatch (classic Battlestar) and Michael Madsen were all in attendance signing autographs. The "thing to get" this year seemed to be nostalgic t-shirts, hats with animal-like ears, stickers and character clothing patches. Yes, it seems as if it’s the 1970s all over again where kids can have their moms sew patches the knees of their worn-out jeans, this time with their favorite comic, anime or Goth character emblazoned across the patch.
One thing I felt was missing this year was any real presence of the television networks promoting their upcoming fall series. I had really expected there to be some promotion of upcoming shows like The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Flash Gordon or Bionic Woman, seemingly a perfect fit for the Wizard World crowd. In fact in years past giant banners adorned the walls advertising shows like Dark Angel, but this year there was nothing of the sort.
The oddest Wizard World moment for me was the realization that in the convention hall alongside the one for Wizard World was a convention for knitting enthusiasts. I can't tell you how odd it is to see the up escalator full of grey-haired grandmas and the one going down full of fans dressed like Batman, Spider-Man and Boba Fett.
Oh well, what happens at Wizard World STAYS at Wizard World.