This past weekend, fans from the Chicago area (and beyond!) flocked to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for the annual Chicago Comic Con, presented by Wizard World. While C2E2 has gradually been establishing a reputation as one of the top industry events in the area, the crowd on the show floor made it clear that there's still room for two comic conventions in the Second City.
Chicago Comic Con is a different show than it was ten years ago; Marvel and DC no longer set up shop, and it's unlikely that fans will hear any big industry announcements. However, while the event was lacking in publisher presence, it featured a large Artist's Alley, a strong contingent of local cosplayers, and appearances by celebrities -- including Stan "The Man" Lee.
The show floor setup was a bit unconventional -- Artist's Alley was segmented, and wrapped across two different sections of the show floor -- but the journey towards the back corner of the hall was well worth it for fans eager to meet artists and purchase prints and sketches. A large contingent of local creators were joined by legends like Neal Adams, George Perez, and Barry Kitson. And, perhaps making up for the absent publisher booth, fans of DC's New 52 had the opportunity to spend time speaking with creators, including Greg Capullo, Kyle Higgins, Chris Burnham, and Yannick Paquette.
One of the primary draws for many attendees was the large list of celebrities -- geeky or otherwise. Bruce Campbell, William Shatner, Scott Bakula, and Adrianne Curry had swarms of fans in attendance, as did wrestlers CM Punk and John Cena. The legend himself, Stan Lee, signed autographs, posed for photos, and had a special meet and greet with fans who purchased VIP tickets for the event.
The creator and celebrity appearances may have been what coaxed people through the doors, but one of the greatest things about Chicago Comic Con was fan enthusiasm. For many, this Wizard World show was their first convention, and it was delightful to see longtime collectors cheerfully roaming the show floor alongside brand new fans. Many of the attendees weren't shy about dressing up as their favorite characters -- cosplayers of all ages and fandoms were present, from the 501st Legion's impressive Stormtroopers to tiny Avengers to some particularly creepy zombies.
Wizard World's Chicago convention may have changed since its heydey a decade ago, but it was fantastic to reaffirm that the Midwest still has scores of enthusiastic comic fans. I'm hoping to see some of these convention first-timers at C2E2 and more. In the words of Artist's Alley favorite Art Baltazar, "Aw yeah, comics!"