Sunday, August 12, 2007

Double Take: Wizard World Chicago

This is another Double Take. Patrick and I both weigh in on our thoughts on this year's Chicago Wizard World convention...

Dave says:

Despite a disappointing Saturday convention day that saw gaping floor space where exhibitors used to park their wares in years past, panels that drove attendees out to the floor en masse due to lack of any interesting content, and a completely disappointing lineup (or lack thereof) of celebrities (which consisted of "that girl" from Battlestar Galactica as the headliner) and creative talent, there were a few bright spots including the last minute addition of footage from The Dark Knight presented by director Christopher Nolan, and the abundance of merchandise slashed to 40% and 50% off at retailers across the floor (my guess: due to poor sales on Friday). I enjoyed the shopping aspect more this year than last probably due to the fact that I merely attended the convention for one day instead of three (or two, since last year I didn't even go back for the final day). I packed everything into six hours, which meant I wasn't as bored or tired as last time I walked the aisles. Plus, I still have the Toronto Comics Art Festival to look forward to, so Chicago isn't my big (and ultimately disappointing) event of the year. Artist Alley was pretty great this time around too. I wasn't expecting much since I usually don't get much enjoyment out of it, but when I noticed exhibitors like Image and Archaia Studios Press and even retailers like alternative-carrying Chicago Comics noticably absent, I was a little dismayed. There wasn't even a single manga company! But then a whole row of tables in artist alley featured the works of Archaia Studios Press creators, which was fantastic since I love the stuff coming out of the company. Not only did I pick up a few new issues and autographs, but I picked up some original art for free from the Starkweather: Immortal mini-series, and a nice color catologue with plenty to ogle. This year was probably the poorest year for the convention since I began attending it seven years ago, but really, I enjoyed it a little more than last time simply because I knew to expect disappoinment. Pretty sad. This convention needs to be revitalized in a bad way.
Patrick says:

This was my eighth year attending the Wizard World convention in Chicago, and the first year I attended for only one day. David and I made the decision last year, after a pretty lackluster show, that one day would probably be enough. I think it was a great idea, as I had a very good time this year, and really wasn’t at all disappointed in the show. Now, when I say I wasn’t disappointed, I hasten to note that my expectations for this convention have been drastically lowered in the past couple of years. A big part of this is my own changing perspective on what comics means to me. When I attended my first Wizard World convention, I was fairly immersed in the “mainstream comics” culture promoted by the magazine, with no real knowledge of, or enthusiasm for, anything that fell too far outside of the Marvel/Image/DC axis. Needless to say, things have changed. I still enjoy a lot of what is produced by the Big Three, but my tastes have certainly shifted to include a much greater variety of material.

It’s not all me, though. I can see myself having a great time at a comics convention focusing exclusively on the so-called “mainstream.” However, the Wizard conventions are even narrower in their focus than that. It’s basically Marvel’s show, with Image Comics not even in attendance the last couple of years. There is zero focus on anything other than currently published or upcoming work from these companies, with no panels or guests reflecting any interest whatsoever in golden or silver age artists. It’s really become a forum for Marvel and DC to hype their upcoming wares. I guess that’s alright, but it’s certainly not enough to sustain me over three long days.

As I said, though, I did have a very good time this year. I went in assuming all I would get out of the convention was a pleasant day of shopping, and I certainly got that. David and I only attended one panel, Joe Quesada’s popular Cup-O-Joe panel, where the Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief basically hosts a long Q and A with fans after some product announcements and reminders. I guess the big news here was Alex Ross’ return to Marvel for some secret project, possibly involving the return of Captain America. Not really the sort of thing that I get too excited about these days, but most in attendance seemed quite pleased at the news. The Q and A portion of the event was pretty boring, and David and I snuck out early. In all honesty, we had gone primarily to rest after an exhausting several hours walking the floor.

That was the fun part, walking the floor, and buying stuff. As David said, there were a lot of great discounts this year, and I had a great time shopping. The retailers seemed a bit more aggressive (not in an obnoxious way, though), possibly, as David suggested, due to a disappointing Friday, but we may be completely wrong about that. My only slight disappointment was Chicago Comics’ absence from the show. They’re one of the few places on the floor where one can purchase “alternative” comics, and there were a couple of things I had missed in the past month or so I had been hoping to buy from them. They’re a terrific store, maybe the best I’ve shopped at, and I encourage everyone to stop by and shop there if you’re ever in the area.

All in all, we had a good time, but the convention itself does seem to kind of be withering away. I don’t know, maybe what I perceive as withering is actually restructuring into the kind of thing more people actually want. I do feel as though I’m a bit out of step with whoever the target audience for these things is supposed to be. Hence my not mentioning The Dark Knight movie stuff that was apparently the highlight for a lot of folks. Sorry.

Here’s what I bought, all heavily discounted:

A lot of Kirby this year. I also picked up a couple of comic books I’d missed at the shops the past couple of weeks, one or both of which I may be reviewing here later in the week:

Dave's Purchases, mostly single issues, but a few trades thrown in there for good measure:

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