Chicago Comic-Con (formerly Wizard World Chicago) just blew through the Windy City and Liz and I had a blast. Although some publishers were clearly absent, there was still plenty to see (and buy) and some great creators to meet. Click below to read the coverage of Day One :
The first day involved getting there, which honestly only takes about 90 minutes from Milwaukee, and checking in which wasn’t until 3:00 but we were pleasantly surprised to find our room ready to go so we went up to check it out and drop off our bags. We stayed at the Aloft Chicago O’Hare which is one block from the Donald Stephens Convention Center. The rooms were a bit small but arranged in a very cool post-modern minimalist way. They also had a really nice bar and lounge area that I’ll get to later. Although on the way in there was a very loud group of people with many kids checking in, which was weird because it comes off as a very adult-oriented hotel.
After dropping off the baggage we noticed that it started storming a bit, which is completely par for the course on any vacation with me but luckily all of our activities are indoors, so take that Mother Nature. The convention center was easily accessed by walking through the parking structure and then along the 13 mile long Skywalk that links the hotels to the Stephens Center. OK, it’s not 13 miles long but its twists and turns make it seem like a tunnel to nowhere…on the bright side it was very dry and you got to preview some of the people in costume. We were being followed by a rather well done Darth Vader who did not have his helmet on but was still managing to frighten small children, much to our childless snickering.
In the lobby, we picked up my press pass & bracelet (thanks again to Brian from Pendragon’s Post for the connection and the forms), and the weekend pass for my wife, which this year consisted of just a bracelet, so the lanyard that we specifically went to Hot Topic to buy was unnecessary. The bracelets were color coded though so you could tell the hardcore weekend crew from those down for the day. My press bracelet was gold and it was funny seeing creators perk up when they saw it while talking to them. Chalk artist Eric Maruscak was doing a huge chalk and pastel mural of the Ultimate Avengers outside the entrance which was fun to watch throughout the weekend.
A quick flash of the bracelets to the rather bored looking security guards and we’re in. What was the first thing I noticed? DC and Marvel actually aren’t here. I had read online the night before that both of the mega-publishers bailed on Chicago Comic-Con this year and already signed on for the C2E2 (Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo) coming up in April…at first I was extremely disappointed but that passed as we started wandering through the aisles. I just remember last year walking in and seeing the huge Batman banners and full sized Hulk statue and almost going into nerd-shock.
Friday was busy but not overwhelmingly packed as the cons tend to get. One of the first booths on the floor was Aspen where Peter Steigerwald and Talent Caldwell both already had significant lines in front of them for autographs and sketches. Maybe I’ll try to hit them tomorrow because I am a fan of Steigerwald’s coloring talents. The Tonner booth was well done as usual, showing off their collection of detailed collectors dolls. The Get Smart collection was very cool and their Con-Exclusive Catwoman in a purple velvet catsuit was awesome. Unfortunately these tend to be a bit out of my range starting at around $150 and up, but they are still excellent examples of their art.
The vendor area is enormous and you can find everything and anything you want from 1980s Star Wars toys still in the boxes, to the latest releases from toy companies like Shocker and Mattel. On the first day it’s a bit overwhelming and there are certain things I’m searching for but that’s a job for tomorrow. Mark Millar and J. Scott Campbell are signing at the Wizard booth but again, the lines are extraordinary so I’ll take my chances tomorrow when we have more time.
On to Artist’s Alley where our first stop is the bright and cheery booth of friend and local Milwaukee artist Kurt Wood. I try and come up with a challenging sketch for him to do on the cover of his 2009 sketchbook (something like Kurt as Green Lantern dressed as Adam West’s version of Batman) but after flipping through his sketchcards and seeing some sweet villains, my request is simply “Ooooh…how about Deadshot?” Although I did run into another friend from the comic shop who challenged Kurt to do a sketch of himself….as a Muppet (which by the way, looked great).
As we walked through, great costumes abound. My wife, who is quite the seamstress and occasional Renaissance Fair geek (yes you just heard a comic geek call someone else a geek) loves going to the convention to check out the costumes. She had planned two for this year actually, but unfortunately due to some financial and time issues it was not to be. But rest assured, the plans for Halloween have already begun :-) There were two kids who I recognized from last year, the girl was a Green Lantern and the boy was Green Arrow posing with Supergir…..wait a minute, that’s not a girl at all. That’s a 6-foot plus man dressed as Supergirl….well played, sir. Liz also got her picture taken with He-Man, and yes in the picture my wife is taller than He-Man (she is kind of tall and he was kind of short) but he had serious dedication to walk around in so little for the day.
Back to Artist’s Alley where Liz set up a commission with Becca from Wink Studios and we wandered up and down the aisles picking up indie comics wherever something caught our eye. I’m always impressed by the guys who just yell out “Hey, how are you guys? Come over and read a page of my comic!” This is where my disappointment at DC and Marvel became a non-issue. This year, the convention seemed to have more room for the independent creators who are out there selling their hearts out and keeping the industry fresh with their new ideas like Cybernetic Boars and Happy Space Boys. I absolutely love walking through the rows and rows (and there were many) of creators of different levels and talent. It’s absolutely inspiring, and I always get charged up when I get home to get back in my own art studio and pick up the pencil (which I’m blocking out some time for later).
Before we knew it, it was getting to be 5:30 and we needed real food, not just the energy bars that we hid in my bag. Back to the hotel for some fun and relaxing, which you can read about in Part 2. There will be a special section at the end (not sure which part yet) that will focus just on the costumes that we saw (and photographed), and then some of the swag that we came home with.