Chicago Comic Con: A Tale of Two Cons (Part Two)
When I last left you, gentile reader, my malaise for the Chicago Comic had permeated my very being. The deep sadness that seeped under my skin upon seeing my “home show” turn into a visceral flea market truly left me bitter after day one. But, I went to bed, telling myself “tomorrow is another day…”. I awoke with a rekindled spirit of optimism. I mean, yes, the major players of the comic book publishing industry weren’t gonna be there. The panels announced for Saturday were even less interesting than they were for Friday. And on top of all that, they’d announced at the end of Friday that former Illinois Governor, turned convicted fellon, Rod Blagojevich, would be on the show floor signed autographs for $50 a pop. But, I told myself… “It’s a new day. And you should be happy.” Thus, I slapped a smile on my face and I exited my car to boldly walk into the 2010 Chicago Comic Con once more.
Yup. That smile lasted until I took the escalator down to the main floor, with my group in tow. With us, both my wife and my Unshaven Cohort, Matt’s wife, Amy, joined us for our Saturday adventure. The girls, who needed passes, waited through a semi-long line in order to drop $30 on day passes. They were of course penalized for not purchasing their tickets online. For shame. Now, as we’d covered before, I’ve long been a goer to this show. In the past, with the purchase of a pass came a bag of schwag. Generally filled with a heroclix figure or two, a limited edition comic, advertisements and postcards of show vendors, and a few freebie books and posters. This year? Our wives returned to us with nothing more than alternatively colored cheap wristbands. Since we didn’t to leave our loves behind, we stood with them in a long snaked line, trying to get into the show. We were told “people were cutting” and apparently some skipped in without bands the day prior. In order to combat this, they simply slowed the line down to an inhuman crawl, and allowed us time to mill about like bank customers on payday… in an endless sea of costume cladded fans, and folks all confused at the speed at which the line was moving. “What are we all waiting for? Tickets to see Shatner?”
We entered the show floor, nearly 40 minutes after getting the tickets. The girls split off from us to see the parade of mostly retired actors and semi-celebrities. My wife, a movie buff, was excited to meet the original Mike TeeVee and Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka. I was shuddering at the $20 a pop she’d have to pay to get them to sign their picture. Later, she’d return with an autographed picture AND golden ticket replica. Sure shut me up right quick. As promised, my day today concerned the dealer room. Thus, I bypassed the day’s promising panels… including Ethan Van Sciver singing the Blues, a Q and A session with “It’s only 17 months late, so I’m gonna go make video games” Joe Maduriera, and a screening of an independent Vampire flick. Oh, and in Room A, a day long parade of celebrity signings and music videos. For you, my readers, I tore myself away from those enticements, and dove headfirst onto the main con floor.
To the uninitiated, the ‘dealer room’ of the Chicago Comic Con is a mixed bag of vendors, ranging from actual stores, solo collectors, movie poster dealers, toy shops, and even the aforementioned “black-light-rave-music-ninja-weapon-peddlers”. The floor is an endless sea of all a comic/sci-fi/pop culture-phile could possibly want; so long as their packing a wallet fulla’ cash. Everything you could be looking for… old comics, new comics, trades, toys, weapons, posters, otaku-fare, bootlegs, statues, you name it. It’s available. And for the savvy buyer, generally at a great deal. I myself am a huge fan of the Green Lantern. My personal collection of baubles, props, toys, and trinkets has been built over the years all from this show floor, and always below the MSRP. While I eternally loathe the programming and general decline of savior-fare of my home show, I shall never ‘diss the dealers’. Sure, there are plenty of smaller booths with less-than-friendly owners, who sit and scowl as children and unwashed nerds pick, and paw, and poke at their merchandise, but it comes with the territory.
Amidst these dealers, there’s always a few bright spots. Dick Blick generally sets up a booth, selling sketch books, poster carriers, and professional art supplies. This gives fans an opportunity to have perfect places to store final commissions and posters they pick up throughout the day, as well as artists in the alley a quick spot to refill on supplies. This year, Angus Oblong (of the Oblongs fame purchased space on the main floor, giving him more than enough room to pose for pictures, do sketches, and sell books and prints. My wife picked up a copy of one of his books, and said he was extremely friendly, and helped in part to raise her con experience beyond “meh”. In addition to Angus and Blick, the dealer room always offers tee shirts in a near limitless array of geekery, helping drape we the nerdy in shirts the norms will never get. My favorites this year included “Halo Kitty” , a Batman Symbol / Cthulu hyrbid, and the Yellow Voltron Lion sitting in a sea of black, with the text “Looking for Group”. Priceless.
The only draw back to the dealer room itself is it’s sheer enormity. With merchandise literally pelting you from every possible angle, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In my time on the floor, I often felt with so much of the same merch being offered from booth to booth… there’s no way to know if you’re getting the best deal all the time. Case in point, Matt wanted the DC Universe Forager figure. After finding it in a stall, thinking it’d be hard to find again, he paid $25. No sooner did he tell me this, did I turn my head and see it at another booth $5 cheaper. Buyer beware. After the endless sea of merchandise has been waded through, we’d felt that there was nothing further left to do. And with no interest in listening to Ethan Van Sciver croon, we found our wives, and made our way to the exit.
I should note that several times throughout the day, they announced the signings by Rod Blagojevich. Each announcement was received with a convention wide yelping of “Boos”. From every corner of those nerd-filled halls, you could hear nothing more than a cacophony of negativity towards someone who was there to solicit money in these last few minutes of his fame. One man I stood next to, amidst the hisses summed it up perfectly. “This is who they bring to a show for comic book fans? This is supposed to make out $30 passes worth it? Blago must be on the G-D planning committee.”
Tomorrow, we return for the final day of the convention. With programming, the dealer floor, and a bit of artist alley covered… we’ll walk the show floor and try to capture the final mood and thoughts of those in attendance. And be on the lookout tomorrow for a little something I call “How they can turn this whole thing around?”