Once upon a time in 1972 humanity invented a major entertainment show commonly called the Chicago Comic Con, and comics collectors saw that it was good. In the late ’90s it was taken over by Wizard Entertainment, previously a specialist in geek magazine publishing. Wizard World Chicago continued the comic-con tradition for the next two decades, though with a decreasing emphasis on the “comic” aspect as nearly all the publishers withdrew their participation one by one and the show became all about meeting actors, with a nominal Artists Alley still attached in mild deference to its distant origins. Anne and I first attended WWC in 1999 (a Major Life Event for us), then made it an appointment getaway every year between 2010 and 2018. The company had been hemorrhaging cash and fan loyalty for years even before we decided to skip the 2019 edition in favor of our very first Dragon Con, which we consider yet another Major Life Event. The subsequent pandemic did Wizard World no favors, as you can imagine.
After one last gasp of a WWC in late 2021 that we understand was a pale shadow, Wizard World handed off their entire nationwide comic-con portfolio to Fan Expo HQ, a British-owned company whose Canadian comic-con wing has roots dating back to 1995 and who began acquiring inroads into the U.S. market in 2016. This past weekend, that corporate consumption process culminated in the very first Fan Expo Chicago, which is technically the inaugural edition and yet self-branded as a proud continuation of that chain of comic-con provenance, with a 50th-anniversary logo featured in their decor and con souvenirs. Their initial guest-list game was strong enough to lure us back to the suburb of Rosemont to see what we could make of this latest iteration. Would it be an all-new all-different Chicago Comic Con, or Wizard World under a bed sheet with two eye-holes poked in it?
Before we attempt any real storytime, let’s do mandatory cosplay photos! Not a lot, mind you, but more than zero. MCC is regrettably no longer a repository for dozens of geek costume pics for every show we attend. As we get older and the attendees get younger, the represented characters skew harder toward newer shows and anime outside our specialty zones. Also as we get older, we have a little less fun photographing the same dozen characters we do recognize over and over and over and over and over again. Worst of all, whenever a show has a wide array of fascinating guests, we’re liable to spend more time in lines and panel rooms than we are on the show floor, which means fewer opportunities for chance encounters with talented costume designers and wearers. But we like to do what we can with the time and chances allotted.
We therefore regret we can only represent a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the total cosplay wonderment that was on display this weekend. We’re just an aging couple doing what we can for happy sharing fun. Enjoy! Corrections welcome if we misidentified anyone!
To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries: