Guest Blog: Con Report – Wizard World Chicago 2014

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Wizard World Chicago at the Rosemont Convention Center.

Chicago has two major comic book conventions; C2E2 in April taking place at the McCormick place in downtown Chicago, and Wizard World in August, which takes place in the city of Rosemont about 30 minutes outside of the city. What for years was known as Chicago Comicon, was purchased by Wizard in 1997 and Wizard has expanded their lineup ever since, and quite dramatically this past year and into next, with a planned 22 shows that includes nine new cities. That’s quite a bit of growth for the company as they look to expand in areas where there may not be so many established cons, like Des Moines, Greenville and Raleigh. You can see a more complete list of conventions on the ComicSpectrum Convention calendar.

Although it can be a bit popular to pick on Wizard when compared to the other major cons, I felt that this year they did quite a bit right and was one of their more enjoyable conventions in recent years. Below are just a few reasons why;

  • They split the show into two areas, one focused primarily on Comic Book Dealers and Artist’s Alley, and the other side of the con for the autographs, toys and miscellaneous dealers. These two area were separated by the large lobby where photos can be taken and the cosplayers can hang out and mingle. Last year Artist’s Alley was away from the comic dealers which didn’t make a whole lot of sense, so to see them back together was a pleasant and smart change. Because of the split, it also made the show feel less busy and less congested which was much more enjoyable compared to previous years. It will be interesting to see how the attendance compares to past years, but once the show started it never felt crazy which made the whole weekend seemed relaxed.
  • In terms of Artist’s Alley, there was a smaller amount of big time artists, but because the layout of the floor was planned so intelligently, getting to the artists was nice and easy. I was able to meet quite a few artists and writers and they all had the time to talk. They weren’t the main attraction at this show though, and it’s not surprising why the major publishers don’t attend.
  • Wizard doesn’t tend to get all the big comics publishers and as a result they put a focus on the big names just outside of the comic world. With names like Norman Reedus, John Carpenter and Patrick Stewart, they cater to a wider range audience that includes a nice gender balance.  There are also fewer panels targeted at comic fans, the panels they do have attract the diverse media oriented pop culture audience they seem to be targeting.
  • The dealers of comics seemed a little less than previous years, but there was still plenty to buy. CGC was doing on-site grading which is always a plus, and one of the rare shows where they actually do this. The CGC booth is always crowded and is a big reason for many local/small dealers and comic collectors to attend the show.
  • Pop culture oriented conventions have become very popular and tickets sold out early this year. If you plan on going next year, I’d strongly advise ordering your tickets as soon as they go on sale. Having to buy the individual days if you plan on going for more than just one day is not cost effective ($60 for just Saturday!).

Wizard World made a lot of improvements to their show this year and successfully managed the thousands of attendees, so much so that at times it had a “small show feel” despite the large size. As they add more shows to their calendar, it’s clear that they’re making things better. That benefits everyone, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they improve even more next August.

Shawn Hoklas for https://comicspectrum.com/
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