Joe always likes to talk about how he and Chris have been going to Chicago Comic Con for thirteen years. Usually joking about how when they first went the ratio of comic book-related booths to professional wrestlers and ICP fans were oddly imbalanced for an event called “comic con”. Today the ICP fans have been replaced by more cosplayers, and there’s still a good amount of professional wrestlers, but in the 6 years that I’ve been going to the Chicago Comic Con it is largely the same, which is a good thing.
What makes Chicago Comic Con fun?
If you’ve never been to Chicago Comic Con before the best way I can describe it is a geek-themed flea market. Hundreds of booths containing toys, comic books, movies, posters, autographs, t-shirts, weapons, prop replicas, video games, board games, stickers, buttons, swag, and more. Walking into Chicago Comic Con is like walking into a casino; there’s a lot of people, noise and flashing lights, and you find yourself slightly judging everyone around you moments before reality sets in and you realize you are no different than anyone else. This is what makes Comic Con fun. Being surrounded by people who share the same geeky-passions that you do. Being a Midwest resident we don’t often get to see celebrities that the west and east coast cons do because of their locations. When you go to Chicago and you can see people like William Shatner, it just feels special. We had breakfast at one of the attached hotels and in walked Stan Lee to enjoy some food. Shortly after we saw Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk TV Series) walk up and shake his hand and embrace him just as you would expect old friends would. How cool is that?!
This event has been held at the Rosemont Convention Center since it started. The cool thing about Rosemont is that is is sandwiched in between plenty of Hotels, close to a train station and an airport. This year was the first year that the floor layout changed, and in my opinion for the better. You had larger celebrity autographs far off to the side to keep the backup of floor-traffic down, and the the aisles and booths seemed to be spread out in a more appropriate way than in prior years. The Planet Arbitrary group all felt a bit disoriented when we first walked into the convention center, but it was all for the better. For as large as the show floor is, it’s relatively easy to find your friends when you get separated. Ceiling flags with aisle number are mostly easy to locate and using specific booths as rally-points works out well. PRO-Tip: meet at the t-shirt cages. There’s always a few of them and they’re easy to spot from distances since they tend to stand taller than most other booths.
What makes Chicago Comic Con dangerous?
The dangerous part of Comic Con is no different than any other convention, and I’m not talking about security (which is good btw). I’m talking about being surrounded by such cool things that you never knew existed, that the outrageous somehow makes logical sense. If I was in a store on a normal day that had a $1,200 light-up Iron Man statue I’d probably laugh at it, but at Comic Con it becomes something that you think “Well I obviously need this. What organ could I safely sell that would pay for this?”. The same can go for those celebrity encounters. “$75 to have Scott Bakula sign a picture of himself and shake his hand?! Better dip into my child’s college fund…”.
The other dangerous thing about Rosemeont is the food. Besides the phenomenal soft-serve ice cream, you’re better off traveling outside to find somewhere to eat. Convention center food = overpriced and gross. This year a hotel across the street had a hot dog cart which was brilliant for a quick bite on the move.
The unsung heroes
Artist Alley is the section of Comic Con where new, old, and famous comic artists and creators go to show of their work. Being completely honest, this is my least favorite portion of the show. Not because I don’t love or appreciate art and comics, but because it gives me the same feeling I get when walking past all the games at a carnival. They’re always trying to lure you in to come see and buy their stuff and they kind of get upset when you don’t want to. This is a really more of a generalization and I don’t mean to offend the residents of artists alley, but you guys are there because of your creativity, so channel that creativity into cool ways to draw people in instead of acting like a cheap salesman. At the end of the day, they are truly the unsung heroes of the show. This is their time to shine and the attention gets trumped by celebrities, cosplay and everything else that’s going on around them. The amount of talent and creativity in artists alley is astounding and you can find some really awesome original work if you’re looking for it.
Worth the price of admission?
If being surrounded by all things geek, pop culture, cosplay, and celebrities is your sort of thing, then it’s a resounding “yes”. You don’t have to be a fan of comic books to appreciate the fun of Comic Con. There is no official presence from Marvel, DC, or any of the larger publishers, but you do have a ton of vendors selling trades and books at really good prices. There are plenty of panels that occur that you’re bound to find one that interests you as well.
Part of my love for the Chicago Comic Con comes out of nostalgia of going each year with my group of friends, and every time it’s over I get a little sad that we have to wait a whole year to experience it again. Chris and Joe have gone to San Diego Comic Con and they still say that there are more booths and fun things to see at Chicago Comic Con than San Diego which is usually dominated by movie studios and video games. Jerry Milani and his team at Wizard World pull off a really great event that if you’ve never experience before, you should make a point to.