I’m going to have to be brutally honest with you all. I have attended Wizard World in Chicago every year (except last year) since 1996, and this iteration was dreadful; easily the worst convention I’ve ever been to.
I realize that Wizard had faced at least one major challenge: both DC and Marvel and, subsequently, all minor publishing companies deciding not to attend. But, to steal an idea from Dante, this was a level of hell wholly of their own making.
It’s hard to start anywhere but the beginning, so I shall not make things difficult. Let’s start with the fact that the people who got there early, who stood in line and WAITED to get in, were made to wait an additional length of time (by this I mean that the convention “opened” at 10 and I didn’t get in till nearly 10:30) by roping us (and I use roping figuratively since they lacked even that much organization) in to an erroneous and ill-conceived line. I’ve included a rudimentary drawing of the line (it’s about as good a quality as the thought behind the line itself was) and it shows the disastrous mechanism of entry. But that’s not even the worst part…the worst part is that this ridiculous line ONLY applied to the people who got there early/on-time. Later in the day you could simply go in and out the main entrance.
Yeah, exactly. Thanks for making me wait around for no damn good reason, Wizard.
Now since I’m the resident comic guy on staff that’s the perspective I am coming from when I talk about the booths and exhibitors. Clearly there was a lack of comic influence with all the publishers pulling out. And that left a vacuum that is not easily filled.
For anyone who’s ever been to Wizard World Chicago in the past the layout was pretty simple: the main entry led into the Exhibitors area where the publishers would set up shop. Beyond them would be some of the celebrity booths near the far wall. To the right of the main entry, past the publishers, the sellers booths would start (roughly row 500 or 5th aisle down) and would extend the width of the convention center floor. The seller area would extend the majority of the length of the floor and lead into artist alley.
The major change to the layout this year was all the area previously devoted to publishers was now given over to the celebrities. This was a failed endeavor since it created a clash between people trying to get in the main entrance, people trying to get out and all the people standing in lines to get autographs.
What’s that you’re thinking? Brilliant idea? Yes, exactly. Brilliant.
The biggest problem with this year’s group of sellers, from my perspective, was the quality of comic book sellers and their number. Now, if you’re a collector of vintage comics there were several high-end retailers available for you to peruse their wares. But seemingly gone were the quality sellers of $0.50 and $1.00 books. Sure, there were a few, but there selection of anything but leftover crap from Marvel and DC was seriously lacking.
I went to the convention with a list of thirty independent comic issues; I left having found a grand total of two items from my list. Disappointing.
Now that I’ve maligned Wizard for their failed design and entry procedure, I will say some positives for the people that attended. The cosplay was a bright spot. There were plenty of good costumes (as you’ll see on the site in future postings), several if not many of whom were very pretty ladies.
Here’s the long and short of it: Wizard World is dead…pronounced, time of death listed and on file. C2E2 has been a success thus far in Chicago. It’s been so successful in its first two years that it has already driven Wizard World to the shambles I experienced this past weekend. I knew that C2E2 would have an impact on how Wizard did the Chicago convention, but I really wasn’t expecting to be this disappointed.
I can honestly say that if I go back to Wizard World Chicago next year, it will be only at the behest of my friends at this site, whom I would certainly be delighted and proud to represent 8 Days A Geek to all the geeks of the world…but I will much more enjoy doing so in April at C2E2.
Sorry Wizard but your era has passed. Time to go softly into that good night, keep to the lesser cities of the world: Toronto, Philadelphia, Austin, New Orleans, etc. Let Chicago go, for all our sakes.
Hoping I don’t see you back next year,
This is your Bin Fodder Guru Tim Blacksmith signing off.