Chicago Comicon: A Tale of Two Cons (Part Three)
Hello again, one and all. I’m back for this final day to wrap up my thoughts on the 2010 Chicago Comic Con, as presented by Wizard. See what they did there? Fooled you. Same way we all don’t know Xfiniity is actually Comcast, and Fox News is actually Satan’s News Network. When we last left off, I’d given a fairly positive review of the dealer floor. While it feels like the Swap-O-Rama had a child with that creepy guy who shows up at the comic store in sweatpants and an original 1978 Incredible Hulk shirt stained with brown mustard… the dealer floor offers a plethora of deals, steals, and hard-to-find collectibles that you’d just not find if not for the gaping square footage of a convention hall. With that said, it’s time we wrap up this little tour of the “Big-Con-That-Could… but didn’t.”
I want to start this final day’s wrap up with a little pull-quote from Wizard concerning former Illinois Governor Rod “1 count of fraud is better than 24” Blagojevich, and his attendance on Saturday.
World Chicago Comic Con is all about pop culture, and Rod Blagojevich is
as relevant to today’s news as it gets,” said Gareb Shamus, CEO of
Wizard Entertainment. “We think the court of public opinion will show
him to be a popular figure at the show.”
I couldn’t state it any better folks. Wizard World Chicago Comic Con is all about ‘pop culture’. Never mind that COMIC is in the title. Never mind that a SINGLE comic book publisher showed on the “exhibitor floor”. Never mind that the same floor was dominated by C, D, and Z level celebrities. Gareb Shamus has turned a show that once was the San Diego Comic Con of the Mid-West into a glorified flea market and three ring circus. I lamented earlier that for me, the meat and potatoes of a convention comes in it’s programming and exhibitors. At this con, the main floor boasted booths for everything BUT comics. In fact, aside from Avatar’s presence, a con goer walking into the show floor may not even reach an actual book until the dealer room. And with panels ranging from iPhone game demos to a “celebration of die-cast car collecting” … they might as well do themselves a favor and take COMIC out of the title. In all honesty, as a comic book fan, I resent that a casual con goer would think what they saw in that hall was a representation of what comic fans like.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There were many people who had a great time
at the show. Artists in the alley said overall attendance seemed the
same as years prior… and without big publishers poaching their artists
away for signings and panels… said business was as good as it ever
was. And without any other attractions to sway the fans away, most of
those in the alley seemed to leave happy as ever. Dealers on the floor
were happy as well… citing business to be “better than C2E2 (the
Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, which debuted in April) but still
not as good as years before”. Suffice to say, a good chunk of people
left the con smiling, with arms full of merchandise, and a gaggle of
memories to swoon over until the next year. That being said, the con was
not without fault, and in this author’s opinion, is in need of a
So, what prey tell, would I change? Well, in
order to answer this, I didn’t decide alone. I posed this question to
many con goers, as well as my Unshaven cohorts. Here’s what we came up
- Put the emphasis back on Comics if it is indeed a Comic
Convention. If you can’t get DC, Marvel, Image, and the like to erect
booths (be it over financial reasons, or whatever) … that doesn’t mean
you can entice their artists and writers to come spend a weekend in the
windy city. Make panels for these special guests, and provide content
for those who’ve dropped all their cash in the dealer room already.
those panels: In the 10 years I’ve been a con attendee, I’ve never once
seen an “Iron Guest” challenge like I did an an anime convention back
in 2005. It’s a cool, easy to set up, and fun for fan event… You get
an outspoken moderator to put a drawing challenge to con guests (like
this year they could put Ethan Van Sciver up against Joe Madureira…). A
camera monitors their progress as fans cheer on their favorites. And
when the drawings are done? Have a guest judge pick the winner, and
auction off both pieces for a great charity like the CBLDF or Hero
- Want another simple idea? The Great Con Debate.
It’s the cornerstone of every comic shop on new book day: The fans
having at other fans over the basics of comicdom. Who wins in a fight…
the Hulk or Superman? Who’s tougher… Spider-Man or Batman? The list
goes on. Get a celebrity moderator, and let fans sign up. Nerd on Nerd
debate equals a laugh riot.
- Another idea you say? Easy-peasy:
Comic Trivia. Choose your game type… Jeopardy (I’ll take Potent
Paste-Pot-Pete for 400). Wheel of Variant Covers!, or The 10,000 pyramid
of Dr. Doom… There’s a million ways to work with this.
fact is, the Donald E. Stephen Center has 10 conference rooms in the
main hall. To use only 2 is a shame. You’re saying a video game vendor
wouldn’t go for an entire room to brand their product, and create demos
like an arcade? You’re saying there’s no way to do a screening room for
any of the myriad of comic book related cartoons, movies, or TV Shows?
- Schwag bag: Simply put, paying $35 to ENTER a show (for
1 day mind you), when you’ve NO programming worth it’s weight, and NO
free experiences, aside from the PRIVILEGE of walking through the dealer
room… No way. Give us some heroclix, and a sketch variant cover. Give
us a show guide in color, with exclusive art and articles. Make us feel
like we get our money’s worth. And for crying out loud… give us back
our badges. $10 bucks for one? You should be ashamed.
- Cramming a
costume contest into a little meeting room? Are you mad? Get every
cosplayer in the building to strut their stuff in the main ballroom on
the elevated stage. They worked for MONTHS perfecting that Doctor Who
costume… let them get some props in front of an adoring crowd. And for
the kids? Do the same darn thing.
- We’re all for celebrities
being on the floor. But it’s not the MAIN attraction. Yes, tell the
“normies” all about Blago and retired wrestler cavalcades of chaos….
But find a way to reduce or remove their extra fees. C2E2 boasted the
same level of star power, if not better, and with your attendance came
FREE autographs. And their con was in a much larger, much more expensive
- You can certainly have the periphery panels like “Die
Cast Car Collecting” … when you balance it with “Using Photoshop to
Color Comics… A Basic Walk-Through.” Capeesh? The former “Wizard
School” Panels were always great… and many within the industry would
lend a tip or trick to those looking to break in to the business… if
you make it worth their while.
- Again, we can’t state this
enough… Make the con about the comics, or just call it a flea market
and autograph expo. If you have a preview night for “VIPs” and show
attendees… provide some incentive to be there. The comic book
community loves to come together for good causes. For the right cause,
great talent will come in from far and wide to do Q and A’s, sketch
offs, debates, and just BS with the fans. But this won’t happen if you
(Wizard) don’t take into consideration what the con was made for in the
first place: The Fans. The con was made for the fans, to celebrate what
they love. It doesn’t always have to have a price tag attached to it…
and it sure as hell doesn’t need a “flavor of the month” media whore to
show up just to get some attention. Wizard Magazine used to represent
the comic book publishing industry… and this fan wants them to poop or
get off the pot. If you call it a Comic Convention, damnit, make it
about the comics.
End of rant. The basic point is clear: the
2010 Chicago Comic Con wasn’t as good as it could be. With the right
spirit, the right creative partners, and a people who CARE about the
total experience living and working in the city of big shoulders…
There’s plenty of room for the Second City to have 2 major conventions.
There’s 11 months and change until the next con kiddos… I suggest you
start working on it.