My wife and I have just a few days left until we take off for tiny, action-packed Rosemont, IL, for Wizard World Chicago 2012. Even though this will be our fourth WWC, we’re still preparing and weighing our options. I, for one, have my comics want-lists to update and mull over. Do I really feel like rooting through countless musty longboxes for single issues I’ve been missing since childhood? Do I really think this will be the year I find Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool #5 and achieve closure with Alan Weiss’ underrated working-man sci-fi miniseries at last? Or should I aim instead for the bargain boxes stuffed with $5 trade paperbacks, 90% of which are Marvel Ultimate comics?
Then there’s the matter of autograph pricing (is Scott Bakula’s autograph really worth three Amber Bensons?), autograph materials to bring along for the actors (which season of Buffy or TV’s Angel was really Juliet Landau’s best?) as well as for the comics creators (must dig out Hourman #1…or was there a more apropos issue?), and the little things such as emergency snacks and note-taking supplies. Lots to do, lots to put off till the last minute because that’s when I do all my best thinking, unless you count everything I’ll forget because of the time pressure.
Right now I’m stumped by the single hardest question of them all: what do I bring for Stan Lee to sign? So many classics are holding a reality-show competition in my head called Stan Lee’s Next Top Item-to-Autograph. Competing fiercely and unfairly in this brutal mental are the likes of Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, the only Marvel Masterworks hardcover I own; an ancient Spidey paperback from the late ’70s that collected his classic Harry Osborn drug story; one of the three Who Wants to Be a Superhero? items I’ve had autographed by that show’s able-bodied contestants; Essential Fantastic Four Volume 1; DVDs of any of the Marvel films in which he blessed the heroes with a cameo; and more more more more more.
While I moderate this fight scene between possessions in my head, please enjoy this cursory retrospective of sights and souls from our first three WWCs. There’re plenty more pics where this came from, but we’ll have plenty new material to bring home this weekend.
Our first WWC after an eleven-year absence was made possible by a combination of happy factors, chief among them being the two of us suddenly realizing that hey, maybe we could see whatever happened to the old con.
One of the friendliest, most beloved guests that year was John Schneider. Whether they knew him from Smallville, The Dukes of Hazzard, or his recording career, his fans maintained one of the steadiest lines all day long He seemed to weather it just fine.
The best-dressed comics pro is always DC kids-comic auteur Art Baltazar. (Runner-up: Ben Templesmith.) It’s not just his wardrobe that’s classy; Baltazar brings plenty of comics for kids to check out, and not just his own works and products. (Runner-up in that category: Archie’s own Dan Parent.)
Not everything was whimsical and wondrous in the house. 2010 was also the year that WWC tried playing up to the Illinois setting and invited a very special surprise autograph guest at the last minute: former governor and future convict Rod Blagojevich. When his name was announced over the PA, the crowd united with a sustained chorus of boos. Somehow Blagojevich attracted a line anyway. People paid actual money to stand near him, endure his presence, and allow him to touch and sign one of their belongings. As if Wizard Entertainment hadn’t already had more than its share of PR issues.
2010 was such a blast, we felt an encore was in order.
One of my wife’s highlights was meeting Ray Park, a true gentleman who was honored to spend a real moment with each and every attendee. Too many are the high-profile stars who spend the entire weekend with their eyes glued to the table in front of them while they dutifully sign, sign, sign their way to writer’s cramp and ennui. This extraordinary treatment of Park’s fans meant a longer wait in line. Those whose motives were pure didn’t mind in the end.
Costumes are always a major attraction for us, too. I appreciate the effort that fans dedicate into such stylish creations. I try to be humble and not too pushy when asking to take their photos, but my wife tends to have greater success because she looks a lot cuter and a little less imposing.
Also, sometimes there are impromptu dance numbers. Star Wars costumes are a common sight. Waldo clones, less so.
My best friend and I had attended local Star Trek conventions in Indianapolis before attempting our first comic con. They were nothing like this. The size of the exhibit hall alone was overwhelming, as were the stands and booths that packed nearly every corner. I spent the first hour on sensory overload and had trouble forming complete sentences when I had the pleasure of meeting people whose work I respected.
The first table I approached was Tim Sale, best known for Batman: the Long Halloween, who at the time was promoting the sequel, Batman: Dark Victory. He didn’t seem to mind my dithering at all.
Much younger and quieter than I expected: Preacher‘s own Garth Ennis. He looked so harmless!
I waited over an hour in line to meet Kurt Busiek and George Perez, the powerhouses behind Marvel’s Avengers at the time, who were signing for a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund fundraiser. (To be fair, their colorist Tom Smith was there, too.) Perez was friendly as all-get-out then; when I met him a second time in June 2012 at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis (on the complete opposite end of Illinois from Rosemont), he and I had shed many a pound over the years, but he was as friendly as ever.
(This was not the worst photo of me from that year, when I weighed a lot more than I do now. How I wish it were the worst of the lot.)
Giant inflatable Ripclaw welcomed you to land of dreams and imagination, a few years before he and the rest of Cyberforce lowered their profiles and all but disappeared from comic shops.
As far as I can remember, we’ve never posted our WWC 1999 photos online before, or even composed a writeup about it. I have a few more pics on hand from that experience, capturing young professionals of the time such as Starman‘s James Robinson, Deadpool‘s Joe Kelly, and JLA‘s Grant Morrison. They were all shot in the 35mm standard film of the time, and are now archived in one of my wife’s scrapbooks. I owe very special thanks to her for allowing me to scan bits of those pages for this walk down memory lane, especially since we couldn’t find the duplicates. We may have the negatives, for all the good that’ll do us in this day and age.
Fun trivia I just realized as I was perusing the pages: according to the badge she saved, our first Wizard World Chicago experience occurred on Saturday, July 17, 1999. Five years later to the very date was our wedding day. Funny timing, that.