I knew something had gone wrong with the day when two coworkers approached and interrupted met at lunch. They usually know better, but they felt it was their duty to break the news to me that the legendary Stan Lee himself had at long last passed away at age 95. In many ways I’m glad they were the messengers, as opposed to finding out by stumbling into random, cryptic retweets from strangers.
I’m currently writing this from our hotel in Rosemont, where my wife and I are attending two of Wizard World Chicago’s four days of self-described “geek chic”, comics fun, sci-fi spectacles, and all the autograph lines you could ever want to live in. After four hours’ walking around the State Fair on Thursday and eight hours’ standing and walking today, we’re somewhere beyond exhausted, but excited nonetheless. And we still have one more day to go! (Other attendees have more. We simply don’t do Sundays.)
The least enjoyable part was the wait to enter the convention. Per our personal procedures, we arrived ninety minutes before opening time to ensure a sooner entrance than other fans who would be vying for space and line positions inside. Early arrivers are kept waiting in a warehouse-sized room with a barren floor that’s not terribly conducive to sitting through all those early minutes.
Even less charming were the WWC employees who kept shouting completely inaudible things at the crowd — possibly instructions, possibly encouragement, possibly rap-concert clichés, maybe even tapioca pudding recipes. I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t understand a word they yelled. Helpful practical advice to those guys, especially the one who was like a skin irritant to us at a previous WWC: that cavernous waiting room is not the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where sounds will reverberate like magic for one and all to take in. If your employers can’t be bothered to arm you with a microphone or even a megaphone, then you’re going to need to learn the difference between plain yelling and actually projecting your voice. They’re not the same thing, as one fan ably demonstrated when he returned the verbal volley well enough for all to hear and understand.
2012 will mark the fourth Wizard World Chicago that my wife and I have attended. Held north of Chicago in the village of Rosemont, IL, it’s a different animal from the first WWC we attended in 1999, and a different genus altogether from C2E2 (which we’ve attended twice), but we’re not among the haters who gnash our teeth in disappointment over the contrasts between the two shows. I enjoy meeting the comic book creators and discovering new works in Artists Alley, even if the major comics companies all but boycott it. My wife likes to check off the remaining Star Trek actors on her autograph want-list. We’re both always curious to see what other personalities will be on hand, whether they’re famous now or formerly. Most importantly, we love to take photos and share our experiences after the fact.
The most important reason to attend WWC in 2012 is Stan Lee. The one. The only. As in, this may be my one and only shot at meeting him before one of us passes away. If you don’t know him by name, let me know and I have a whole universe you ought to meet.
As far as actors go, this year’s biggest draws include the following (as of 8/4/2012; all lists subject to change without notice; please refer to the WWC main site for updates):
Scott Bakula. I prefer to remember him for Quantum Leap and Eisenhower and Lutz rather than for his last regular series. (No, I don’t mean Chuck.)
Dean Stockwell. Also from Quantum Leap, but my wife is dead set on adding him to her collection of Twilight Zone-related autographs (cf. “A Quality of Mercy”, the one where an American WWII soldier finds himself in a Japanese soldier’s shoes).
Tom Felton. Draco Malfoy himself! Also, one of the clichéd human antagonists from the otherwise excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Amy Acker. Fred/Illyria from TV’s Angel, Whiskey from Dollhouse, Grumpy’s fairy friend from Once Upon a Time, an evil scientist in Cabin in the Woods, can I stop typing yet?
Amber Benson. Tara from Buffy. Buffy alumni have ranked highly for me ever since I finished watching both shows a couple years ago.
Juliet Landau. Drusilla from Buffy and Angel. Yay Buffy party!
Dean Cain. Superman from the oooold Lois and Clark TV show. I think my wife was a fan.
Jeremy Bulloch. Somehow my wife, an even bigger Star Wars fan than she is a Trekker, has never had the chance to meet the original Boba Fett. This inexcusable oversight obviously needs to be rectified. It’s not as though Bulloch is a recluse who never attends cons. Somehow the timing has just never worked out.
Colin Cunningham. Biker rebel Pope will be the first Falling Skies actor to appear at a con near us.
Doug Jones. Abe Sapien from Hellboy, the Silver Surfer from the second Fantastic Four film, and a lanky scary thing from Pan’s Labyrinth, among other inhumans.
Breaking down the other multimedia non-comics personalities into four different categories, triaged according to how they affect us:
People my wife and/or I have already met: William Shatner; Bruce Campbell; James Marsters; Avery Brooks; Jarrett “The Defuser” Crippen; Peter Mayhew.
People we haven’t met, but are aware of, and may or may not be opposed to seeing if the right mood strikes: Jon Bernthal; Norman Reedus (if only I owned a Walking Dead set for both to sign); Sean Patrick Flannery; Laura Vandervoort; James Hong; Craig Parker (Haldir from Lord of the Rings); Sean Young; Luke Perry; Lauren Holly; Joey Lawrence; Tyler Mane; Kevin Sorbo; Nick Gillard; Camden Toy (one of the Gentlemen from the Buffy episode, “Hush”).
Special section for you wrestling fans out there (not me): John Cena; CM Punk; Booker T (wrestler, not musician); Diva Lita; the Bella Twins; John Morrison; Kevin Nash; Maryse Ouellet; Melina Perez
People outside the above categories that you might find interesting: Paul Wesley; Holly-Marie Combs; Brian Krause; David Della Rocco; Colin Ferguson; Lesley-Ann Brandt; Katrina Law; Sam Trammell; Vic Mignogna; Scottie Thompson; Adrianne Curry; Torrey DeVitto; Sherilyn Fenn; Cleve Hall; Constance Hall; Cindy Morgan; Lou Ferrigno.
And then there’re comic book people! George Perez and Neal Adams number among the most historically prominent, but the full guest list has the complete rundown on all creators great, good, small, and wannabe. For me the biggest new name on the list is Tom Peyer, writer of the one-time astounding DC series Hourman, among other eccentric delights. I also wouldn’t mind meeting Barry Kitson, Greg Capullo, Bo Hampton, and any budding young creator willing to put down their iPhone for a minute, make direct eye contact with passersby, and step forward to huckster me into trying something new. (For extra credit, it’ll help if your bold new venture into graphic storytelling isn’t all about zombies, breasts, or zombie breasts.)
This year’s Wizard World Chicago will run Thursday, August 9th, through Sunday the 12th. My wife and I will be attending Friday and Saturday, and look forward to a great spectacle as usual, with or without the participation of the major comics companies. More money for me to spend on indie upstarts, then.