Wizard World Chicago 2008: Day Three Report
The booths are broken down and all that’s left of this year’s Wizard World Chicago convention are empty mylar bags blowing in the wind and streets littered with Marvel Comics promo cards.
Sunday was another slow one on the show floor, with many creators (and a few retailers) packing up and bailing out well before the 5 PM close of the show.
So what were the highlights of the last day?
First on the list would certainly be Guest of Honor Warren Ellis completing a grueling schedule of signings that seemed to have him in action for a significant chunk of each day — with far more signings than any other creator in attendance, as far as I could tell. As I mentioned in my Day One Report, this was Avatar’s show, and that was no less the case on Day Three than it was on Day One.
I made it a point to sit in on Wizard’s "Twisted ToyFare Theatre" panel on Sunday, as ToyFare magazine’s signature fumetti-style strips (and now, animated shorts) continue to impress the hell out of me. With the addition of animated shorts to the TTT mix, ToyFare continues to make a strong case for itself as the title with the most potential in Wizard Entertainment’s stable.
The Marvel Comics booth continued to be the source of a never-ending roar on the show floor, as the publisher seemed to kick off a new "whoever makes the most noise wins" competition every 30 minutes or so. It was so loud, in fact, that when I and several other members of the industry media were waiting to interview Marvel creator Brian Bendis, he asked us to follow him into the mens’ bathroom to conduct the interview — just so we could hear each other. Unfortunately, the sound was so loud that even the bathroom walls couldn’t dampen it, and interviews had to be postponed until the latest Marvel crowd contest died down. Attendees who were standing in line for signatures echoed a similar complaint, telling me that they weren’t able to chat with the creators signing their books due to the noise.
Some of my favorite spoils from this year’s show included:
- Issue #36 of G.I. Joe: America’s Elite, the double-sized finale of the series now that Hasbro has ended its licensing arrangement with Devil’s Due Publishing. The issue isn’t due on shelves until this week (or possibly next week), but DDP received an early shipment prior to the show.
- Joshua Hagler’s The Boy Who Made Silence is a project I noticed a while ago, but it had slipped my mind until I bumped into Hagler’s table in Artists’ Alley. I was impressed with the look of the book when I first encountered it, and it didn’t disappoint when I finally picked it up this weekend.
- From Avatar Press, the Crossed sketchbook provides a glimpse at the latest gore-fest from Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows, while the "exclusive first look" at Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks is a nice teaser for what looks to be a very cool project.
All things considered, the presence of Warren Ellis turned what would have been a completely forgettable show for attendees, retailers and publishers into an event with a few memorable moments. It felt like a bit of a let-down to attend the excellent Ellis Q&A on Friday night and then have nothing comparable for the remainder of the weekend. During last year’s show, the sneak peek at The Dark Knight occurred late in the programming schedule and provided a nice build-up event for the show — but that event was essentially a stroke of luck for event organizers, with nothing finalized with Warner Bros. until the morning on the day the panel occurred.
The general vibe of the show this year was such that you felt as if everyone was waiting until San Diego for anything important (except Ellis, of course). Outside of Avatar, the rest of the publishers in attendance simply went through the motions, and it was painfully obvious that Wizard World Chicago in its current incarnation is struggling to find its role in a convention scene that’s evolved dramatically over the last few years while Wizard World stays the same.
Missed some of our Wizard World Chicago coverage here on ComicMix? Here are some links to the weekend’s stories:
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Mondo Marvel Panel Report
ComicMix Radio: Direct From Chicago – Marvel Exclusives and Sneak Peeks
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Marvel Ultimates Panel
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Photo Gallery – Part 1
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Day One Report
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Photo Gallery Pt. 2 – Costumes
ComicMix Radio: Wizard World Chicago Day Two – Sadness and Confusion
WWC Interview: Josh Blaylock on ‘Vampire Hunter D’
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Day Two Report
Wizard World Chicago 2008: Photo Gallery – More Costumes
WWC Interview: ‘World War Z’ Writer Max Brooks
The picture of Blade reading Buffy is funny. Extra bonus points for cleverness to whoever set up that shot!The Marvel noise deal is troubling. There is a point at which you go from generating excitement and cross over to generating a public nuisance. Seriously, do artists or other vendors need to start packing AIR-HORNS to give Marvel a taste of their own medicine? It was suggested that some rival company hand out earplugs. This seems INSANE. I blame Marvel and I blame the organizers of Wizard World. At some point someone should have taken control and said, "That's enough! Limit your Noise Contests to ONE per day!" Sure, these Noise Fests probably drew some curious folks over near the Marvel booth, but how many attendees did it chase away from the venue with headaches?At what point do other vendors deserve a partial refund of the money they paid to have a booth at Wizard World near Marvel?Maybe Marvel came into this convention without any worries about what Wizard World or other vendors might consider rude. Maybe they just thought, "We are the Big Dogs. They need us more than we need them."Here's a little informal POLL:I wasn't there; I can't judge. So on a scale of ONE to TEN (TEN being the MOST aggravating, annoying, irritating, rude and obnoxious), how annoying was the Marvel Noise? ONE = "Not annoying at all. Marvel's noise generation was actually a highlight of Wizard World." TEN = "Completely unreasonable. Someone should be found criminally liable and banned from the next Wizard World!"
Because of the noise, I didn't spend much time in the publisher section. The noise was at least 8 or 9, and probably 10 to those who were trying to talk at DC's section. DC had signings almost all day by various creators, but I can imagine many of those seeking autographs were disappointed at not being able to finish conversations.Of course, that may be why Marvel was doing it. As I've said before, Marvel has no class.
There is quite a precedent for excess noise at a Wizard convention. For a few years, Wizard sponsored live wrestling matches in a ring on one side of the dealers room, along with very loud music. The constant booming of the bass line made it near impossible to have a conversation with the dealers, even all the way across the room. I even stopped going for a couple years because of that.Last year or the year before, there was a booth just inside the main entrance that was blasting horribly loud music. Wizard needs to sell the show to somebody who cares. Shamus obviously doesn't.
Rick, man, I know you have a beef with Wizard, and god knows I do too, but you glossed over or didn't mention a few cool things at the con. Anime Insider brought a j-pop band in for a concert that filled the 300-capacity room it was in–more people than I saw at most of the panels. Batman Gotham Knight was a world premiere that even SDCC didn't get. There's some movement in the AI and TF areas at cons based on the new staff in conventions…that's not going to make up for the rest of the show, but at least someone there cares. God bless 'em for being the handful of good apples.
Hey Anon,I don't have a beef with Wizard… because if things hadn't run the course that they did, I wouldn't be here at ComicMix now! It's a great scene here, and I'm surrounded by people who know more about comics and online development than anyone I've ever worked with in the past. I can finally say that I'm doing something I love, learning something new every day and never have to deal with the much-discussed questionable policies that continue to plague Wizard. To be honest, it completely slipped my mind to include anything about OreskaBand in my report, as I didn't really hear anything overwhelmingly positive or negative about the event. For something as successful as you've framed it, you'd think there would have been some sort of buzz about it – but I spoke to dozens upon dozens of people over the course of the show, and everyone seemed to have a very "meh" assessment of the event.As far as the Batman: Gotham Knight premiere, it only beat the release of the DVD by a week, and reviews of the film have been out on the 'Net for several weeks now – so it wasn't exactly a big-news debut by my standards. (Heck, our review came in late last week and will be on the site tomorrow.) Does anyone really think Warner Bros. would have opted to premiere the film in Chicago if there was a feasible way to premiere it in San Diego? Wizard World Chicago was lucky enough to occur in the time period before the release of The Dark Knight but after the film was completed, so while Wizard was smart from a marketing standpoint to make a big deal out of the "premiere," it really occurred by default more than any judgment of value on the show itself. This wasn't a "coup" by the Wizard crew as much as it was lucky timing.With that said, I'm not taking anything away from the "Gotham Knight" film itself. I hear it's quite impressive and I'm looking forward to checking out the copy we received a while ago.Finally, I wish nothing but the best for the "good apples" at Wizard (and there certainly are a few of them – especially on the ToyFare side, as I mentioned in my report), but I don't think it does them or I any good to do anything but to "call it as I see it" and hope that being up-front about problems I observe encourages everyone involved to find a solution. Oh, and feel free to contact me via email if you're worried about revealing anything that might identify you here on ComicMix (rick [at] comicmix.com) and receiving any backlash from Wizard.
Heck, I had a great time, bad news about the sad passing of Michael Turner and the ill health of long-time friend Joe Sarno notwithstanding.I got to see a bunch of my old pals, had my traditional Saturday night pizza dinner at Guiseppi's with Jim Engel and Mike Tiefenbacher, and I got some great deals on comics, including an issue of "Foxhole" #6 (which I'd never ever seen before). In addition, when I did my volunteer shift at the Hero Initiative booth Saturday morning, I was asked to be the fan liaison for the artists doing the fan art sketches, and thus for nearly three hours got to watch (and chat with) two great artists: Tim Seeley and Mike Perkins. Bill Rosemann came by at one point to talk to Mike and I re-introduced myself to him. You see, in 2005, when Bill was still at DC, he went on a comic book industry civic leader tour I organized which took about 25 comic industry professionals to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. Bill apparently still talks about it because Mike said Bill had shown him a bunch of photos from the tour. One of the best photos I saw from the tour, taken by someone from DC, showed editor Jeanine Schaefer holding a rocket launcher, and the caption read, "Where are my pages?" I also had a weird episode of deja vu when I was walking down an aisle and saw a big poster for Invisible Scarlet O'Neil. For those of you who never heard of her, Invisible Scarlet O'Neil was a syndicated newspaper strip published from 1940 to 1955 created by artist Russell Stamm. The character's significance to me is that she was my mother's favorite strip as a young girl, so much so that she named me Russell because of it! At the booth was none other than Russell Stamm Jr., who is in the process of writing the graphic novel revival of the character — who is the first super-powered female heroine in the comics, pre-dating Wonder Woman. I told Stamm and his publisher my story, and they were floored. Then I told them the kicker: I'm also a professional cartoonist. The thing is, my mom never told me the story until I was in my late teens or early 20s — years after I'd started cartooning seriously.I suppose it's a good thing my mom's favorite character wasn't, say, Blondie — Chic Maheras doesn't have the same ring to it.
Ha!That's a great story, Russell! I'm glad things went well at Hero Initiative. Tim Seeley is a great guy. I've never had the pleasure of chatting with Mike Perkins, though. Glad to hear it was a good weekend for you.
Strange how parallel events happen…Saturday night, I had the traditional pizza party after the show at Gino's East of Chicago with several friends, including Steve Pyskoty-Olle, who worked the Hero Initiative booth from 2-7 Saturday. This was probably Steve's last Chicago show, as he is moving to New Mexico in a few weeks. He will be missed.
Yep, that "Invisible Scarlet O'Neil" bit was a hoot-and-a-half. And I thought only George Hagenauer, Andrew Pepoy and I would care!And, yes, the news about Joe Sarno was quite sad. This wasn't the first Chicago convention without his presence, but it was the most dire. Joe's the father-figure to Chicago comics fandom, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best… and a whole lot more.
Yet another thing that doesn't help the directionless, witrhering-on-the-vine Chicago show is the annual shifting of show dates. This year, it's late June, next year it'll be in early August. Of course, these things are always, at least to an extent, determined by convention hall availabilities, but at the same time, it makes it difficult for the biggest show in Chicago to brand itself when it's all over the summer map. I remember the days when the Chicagocon was generally the first weekend of August, San Diego be damned, and one could plan on it every year.How do other shows deal with the "everyone is waiting for San Diego" question (or, as with last year, the whole San Diego hangover situation)?
And also for several years, the Chicago convention was held on 4th of July weekend. That made it easy for some people to take off work for the entire convention.
I'm an annual convention attendee here in my native Chicago, and write annual reports on it for the website comicartfans.com. And as that is a strong indicator, my primary target at the conventions are the original art dealers. What I noticed at this convention was a marked diminution in both the availability and the quality of the original art offered. It almost seems as if the prime collectors art, art from the 60's and 70's, that we as collectors always sort of viewed as virtually inexhaustible, may have breathed its last.The essential, and often overlooked aspect of collecting original art lies in the fact that it's absorbed by 'collectors'. By definitiion they are individuals who retain what they have amassed. There is, of course, run offs in the form of sales from buyers remorse, or the modern collectors method of dealing with towering costs – buy 3 pages, sell 2, and hope the profits cover your one. But even this, in a mathematical formula, will eventually bring you to zero.Albert Moy had some amazing pieces, and there were some nice pages by Anthony Snyder, but overall it seemed that 60's and 70's original art may be a doomed species, with only more recent art – late 80's to present day – available on the marketplace. You may be right, Rick, everyone may be waiting for San Diego before the big guns come out – in panels, guests, and also maybe in comic art selections. If so, then that's an unacceptable slight of Chicago. With 40,000 + attendees, and a dedicated base of both comic book collectors/enthusiasts, as well as comic art collectors, there may be a need for industry and retailers to take the venture to Chicago a little more seriously.
The prices for most of the original art I saw was pretty darn insane.I make a decent living, but I'll be damned if I'm going to pay $15,000 for a piece of average Silver Age art. I started doing a conservative mental tally of the retail prices at one booth, and if I extrapolated that to the estimated number of pieces he had, I'd need a few million bucks to buy it all — stuff that, as you point out, is second or third tier material!Personally, I can't see how the market can support such prices. It all seems like a big, inflated pyramid scheme to me — which is why I'll probably never own a decent Kirby page in my lifetime.