Wizard World Chicago 2011 — The Report

The Lost Level crew invaded Chicago Comic Con (C3) this past weekend; ready to get raid the merchants, and linger in the alley. The Chicago Comic Con, formerly Wizard World Chicago, has evolved into a large “Bazaar” of sorts, full of autograph hounds, and cosplayers. While plenty of artists filled the ever growing “alley” located in the back of the con, one glaring problem comes to the forefront, no representation from the larger names of Marvel or DC.

It was just a few short years ago that Chicago Comic Con was in its glory, an annual event that was a must attend for anyone that was a fan of comics and entertainment. People would line up as early as 6am (doors opened at 10am) to get passes to see special panels, Q and A’s, and autographs from big names in the industry. People rushed in just to get into another line because passes were limited. That line would always form a snake the length of the entire show floor. Sadly, that time has passed, and C3 no longer carries that swagger. There is no longer a need to get there right when doors open.

One day is all you need to get the full experience of C3. The con is mostly vendors and “B” and “C” list actors now. Gone are the video game demos, Marvel, DC, and toy displays that usually filled the entrance. Those are exchanged with actors and old wrestlers.  They also abandoned the video game area, an area that you could pay to play multiplayer against other attendees. This was a wise decision because every time you walked by that area last year it was empty. This year they went with a large table top gaming area, and that seemed to always have people playing.

Artist Alley is the only chance to see some artists, while this is more of an intimate encounter, it pales to getting your books signed by a Mark Millar, or Todd McFarlene. Those types of autographs are replaced by appearances by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reddus of “Boondock Saints”. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is a different type of experience for comic fans. There were plenty of great actors like Sir Patrick Stewart, Bruce Cambell, and Christopher Lloyd, but for every great actor there were plenty of barely famous people occupying space that could have easily gone to more comic book names. The other problem I had with the actors was the prices for autographs and photo ops. They are just too high for the casual fan. I can’t justify spending over thirty dollars for an autograph.

 

This year to try to limit the crowds around popular actors they placed volunteers in front of them, preventing people from grabbing a quick picture. While I understand it is because of crowd control, it was still frustrating not being able to take a quick snap shot.

Saturday drew the biggest crowds, and that means cosplay! There was a lot of cosplay this year, and some personal favorites were George Lucas, a group of Portal people, and Black Widow (I’m biased on the last one). They did have costume contests for adults and kids. We attended the adult contest, and there were just too many participants for the way they organized the event. It was still a fun event hosted Jarrett Crippen, otherwise known as “The Defuser” from Who wants to be a Superhero?. He did a good job introducing each cosplayer.

The MC asked George about Indy 4, Mr. Lucas could only shrug.

This portal gun was amazing, we didn’t have the opportunity to get a closer pic

Dante joins the X-Men

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Great group costumes.

If only Zack put as much time into Sucker Punch’s story as these people did on their costumes

Had to plug Chris’s daughter! Black Widow

Chicago Comic Con 2011 was a surprisingly fun experience. We went into it having really low expectations because C2E2, another Chicago Con that has seemed to take all the comic energy in Chicago. Ironically, the year that Wizard World changed their name to Chicago Comic Con the comic industry left, and this new era has begun. While I miss the old days of the annual Kevin Smith Q&A’s, this transformation into celebs and vendors must have appeal to the masses because Saturday was very crowded. I talked to several vendors and they mostly said that sales exceeded expectations for them. Luckily fans of comics still have another Con to attend in Chicago to get that fix, but this is a far better con to get your comics and collectibles at bargains. We didn’t know if there would be room for 2 cons in Chicago, and luckily for fans, the two main cons are different enough from each other that both can survive and be rewarding to its attendees.

Lost Level had a great time this year at the con, but we would recommend attending only one day, and skipping the weekend pass. They also offer VIP passes that are essentially star passes for certain guests of the con giving the VIP special photo op sessions and autographs. Personally I miss the Comic VIP packages, or the Toyfare packages they use to do, but that is just a small gripe. Another recommendation is that we would move the actors to the back of the show floor, being right at the entrance causes a lot of bottle necks when you walk in. All in all Chicago Comic Con has learned from last year, and taken large steps to make this a better experience, I saw noticeable differences, and heard a lot of positive buzz on the floor.

To listen to us discuss more about the con, check out our podcast, The Lost Level: Episode 9. We discuss our thoughts as well as the week in news. Check it out!

Thanks to Chicago Comic Con for the hospitality, and the opportunity to cover the event.

Look for The Lost Level: Episode 10, Gamescom edition coming next week! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and iTunes.

 

 

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