This week: Chicago Comic-Con

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wizardworld 2119 35306389 This week: Chicago Comic Con
The Chicago Comic-Con, aka Wizard World Chicago kicks off today in Rosemont, headlined by William Shatner and lots and lots of old actors and wrestlers and even a few comics folks, like Jill Thompson and Michael Golden. There are also things like the Julia Jones VIP Package, which we don’t want to know anything about.

The complete guest list is here and programming here. The programming doesn’t really resemble a comic-con, with lots of TV and movie screenings and talks, a handful of comics stuff…and then, for some reason, this:

THE EVOLUTIONARY GROWTH OF DIECAST CARS AND DIECAST CAR COLLECTING
The Car Culture and America’s love for the Automobile is reflected in the production smaller scale replica counterparts.
As the car culture grows throughout the United States and beyond, so does the fascination with its smaller scale replica counterparts. As the car industry as grown through the years, so has the interest in diecast cars in varying scales and this interest has sparked the emergence of new manufacturers and talented designers of diecast replica cars and has created new ways to represent what the car lover and collectors have known for years. Majestic beauty in the form of sculpted metal.
Panelists – Chris “Night Stalker” Walker, Dwayne Vance and Eric Tscherne.


Wizard recently partnered with Creation Entertainment to brand their shows as even more of a “nerdlebrity autograph show.” Creation has been throwing shows like this for 30+ years, and the Wizard shows increasingly fit in much more with that niche than actual comics shows.

201008191450 This week: Chicago Comic Con
Speaking of nerdlebrities, the Chicago Tribune has a fantastic must-read behind the scenes look at the circuit and the dos and don’ts and players:

It’s a common sight at conventions — B- and C-list actors, wrestlers, the men who spent careers inside monster suits, “people who’ve been in something or done something at some point in time” (as Reed Exhibitions vice president Lance Fensterman put it) corralled in a ballroom, sitting behind a booth, waiting for a fan to walk up and ask for an autograph or a photograph, charging an average $20 (per signature) for the privilege. A few, the biggest names, just keep up with the demand, signing efficiently and grinning; while others, the marginal, can come off as too eager, said Paul Maiellaro, the organizer behind the Chicagoland Entertainment Collectors Expo, “ready pounce on the first person within three feet of them.”


The article mentions that seeing a “big” star — like Lou Ferrigno, making their own change can be disillusioning. Some get bit guarantees. Some get expenses. And some, like Felix Silla, even pay their own way just to get contact with fans and make a little extra change,

He played Cousin Itt on the “Addams Family” TV series, wore the Twiki robot suit on “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” and was an Ewok in “Return of the Jedi.” He’s 73. He mostly pays his own way to conventions. “If it costs me $300 or $400 in expenses, I’m leaving with what I make beyond that. But I don’t do it for the money. The money is just OK. I have a pension from the Screen Actors Guild. I get Social Security. Really, I do it because I finally get to show the fans who was beneath those costumes. But you know, I never got a dime of residuals on ‘The Addams Family.’ This is how I make residuals.”


Some, like Christopher Knight, are just giving the circuit a try, but as an experiment. He says he’s trying it for a year to see how it goes.

“I am a bit on the fence. I still believe in the mystery of celebrity. I think less is more. But some of the (celebrities at conventions), you wonder what the lure is — they show up so often everyone who wants their autograph in that city probably has it. Why go? Well, some, as long as they’re flown out, seem to do it for the satisfaction of being flown out. I don’t get that. It needs to be meaningful to me. Monetarily meaningful to me. I mean, this is a business.”

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says:

    Christ that article is depressing.

  2. Let’s not forget the major con-related party:

    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/event.php?eid=107596299294306&index=1

  3. Chris Knight: ““I am a bit on the fence. I still believe in the mystery of celebrity. I think less is more.”

    Right…which explains My Fair Brady, a “reality” series that followed him and his Barbie Doll girlfriend/fiance/wife around for three years.

  4. Wizard is making a mistake. I went to the Toronto show and was done inside two hours. It was mainly crappy celebrities, over the hill wrestlers and skanks (former playboy bunnies).

    It was sooo sad to see Honky Tonk Man sitting there by himself and knowing he would rather be anywhere else.

  5. Joe Rybandt says:

    “…headlined by William Shatner and lots and lots of old actors and wrestlers and even a few comics folks, like Jill Thompson and Michael Golden.”

    I don’t want to become a professional apologist for Wizard, but how is how you’re presenting this guest list any different than walking under the sails at Comic-Con? I know that Comic-Con doesn’t make a big deal of them up there, but jesus… I also think how you’re presenting this negates some of the more recent nerdbait (Final 5 Cylons anyone) alongside the older crowd?

  6. I did the one in Philly this year and it was very lame from a comic book point of view. They’re only hanging on to the “Comic Con” moniker to try and cash in on San Diego’s name recognition.
    That aside, the entire affair is very cynical. If you’re paying good money at the door to see or talk to celebrities, you shouldn’t get charged a second time per celebrity. It’s especially bad when they won’t even give a fan the time of day if they’re not paying through the nose for an autograph.
    20 bucks for Gil Gerard’s sig.
    60 bucks for Patrick Stewart’s.
    150 bucks to have breakfast with Ernie Hudson (I’m not kidding).
    And yet the place had heavy traffic all weekend. Barnum was right.

  7. likefunbutnot says:

    Last year’s Chicago Comic Con was horribly depressing. Epic in its badness. It was without redeeming qualities. They didn’t even have a space for their costume contest and wound up holding it in the entry way to the convention hall. At the same time people were trying to enter and leave.

    A good third of the show space wound up being devoted to autograph booths. Wrestlers, pop stars I’d never heard of, and bit players from 80s sitcoms, and almost no one was anywhere near any of them, and absolutely none of them looked like they actually wanted to be there.

    C2E2 brought all of that into sharp focus for me, with a large number of exhibitors that might in some way be related to comics or at least SciFi fandom, excellent communication about the panels and associated activities, and a distinct lack of wrestling rings or skateboarding demonstrations or any of the other crap that’s crept in to the other Chicago con in recent years.

    It sounds like this year is going to be more of the same. I’ll probably still wind up in Rosemont on Saturday, if only out of morbid curiosity about a dying con.

  8. Joe, you’re right, there are more recent slebs from Buffyverse, Twilight Cylons and so on.

    There’s really nothing wrong with a celebrity autograph show. I’ve been to them as a fan when someone I really wanted to meet was there. So people who want to meet the Terminator folks or Cylons or whatever, go for it.

    At the same time, many people don’t have meeting Mickey Dolenz on their to do list. Or may find it…saddening.

  9. EDIT TO ADD: here’s a screen shot of the top part of the CCC guest list.

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/www.wizardworld.com-2010-8-19-16-28.jpg

  10. Anonymous says:

    It’s hard to say the article colors this con in a negative light. The conventions own schedule list pretty much does that all on its own. This looks seriously lame. That said, I’ll come clean and admit that I once stood in line to get Erin “Wilma Dearing” Grays autograph at a really crappy Who Con in San Jose once. Her booth was in a hallway across from the bathrooms. Wow…it felt good to get that off my chest.

    PS. Who’s Julia Jones?

  11. Joe Rybandt says:

    “At the same time, many people don’t have meeting Mickey Dolenz on their to do list. Or may find it…saddening.”

    i don’t want to belabour, but there’s plenty of non comic nostalgia shows where that WOULD be on someone’s to do list. And it wouldn’t be sad to them, now would it? juts because you don’t want to see them, how does that make it sad?

    I get what you’re saying, but think you’re reaching on your overall point here. Popped into the show earlier today and it looked a lot like last year: lot of “celebrity” space, big retail area and a good sized artist’s alley. I think people know what they’re getting when they come through the door…

  12. Steve says:

    Likefunbutnot

    Let’s not forget C2E2 substituted a wrestler or skateboarding demo for a tattoo parlor. That’s classy…

  13. Joe Lawler says:

    “I did the one in Philly this year and it was very lame from a comic book point of view. They’re only hanging on to the “Comic Con” moniker to try and cash in on San Diego’s name recognition.
    That aside, the entire affair is very cynical. If you’re paying good money at the door to see or talk to celebrities, you shouldn’t get charged a second time per celebrity. It’s especially bad when they won’t even give a fan the time of day if they’re not paying through the nose for an autograph.
    20 bucks for Gil Gerard’s sig.
    60 bucks for Patrick Stewart’s.
    150 bucks to have breakfast with Ernie Hudson (I’m not kidding).
    And yet the place had heavy traffic all weekend. Barnum was right.”

    I don’t like to pay for autographs and rarely do. At the 2007 SDCC I wanted my Dawn of the Dead DVD autographed. Ken Foree was charging $5, which I thought was fair.

    George Romero was signing at the Avatar booth, and they told me to stand in line I needed to buy something. Annoying, but I picked up an Alan Moore book I didn’t have. Then I get up to Romero and he was charging $20.

    At that point I decided I was done with it. Comic creators don’t seem to charge (unless you’re trying to get 50 books signed) so I’ll just stick with them.

  14. >>>I think people know what they’re getting when they come through the door…

    Agreed. And there definitely a lot of the locals comics folk there so if comics are your thing, there is a lot of stuff to buy. It’s not easy to see which comics publishers are at the show but I know Top Shelf, Avatar and the Hero Initiative are all there.

  15. likefunbutnot says:

    Steve:

    That was one small out of the way booth. It didn’t occupy an excess of floor space or a central location on the floor, and the people at the booth weren’t given a PA system to announce what they were doing. I’d say the tattoo artists at C2E2 were a lot better fit than the Ultimate Fighting crap at Wizard World.

  16. Celebrities are like Artists Alley… they need to make money. Yes, it can be disheartening… is San Diego any better with the Sails Pavilion?

    As for Wizard… it’s probably smart to diversify. There are a lot of tribes not represented at comic cons, and if they can pull in people and dealers to satisfy these fans, who are probably even more marginalized than us comics collectors, well, good for them.

    That’s what Big Apple should be… a big hobbyist/dealers show. A Brigadoon/Wu’s Emporium that shows up once a year where one can find cool stuff, talk about one’s hobby, and have a good time. Yeah, the Batmobile or William Shatner drives the advertising and buzz, but fans will show up no matter who the GoHs are.

    (Wow… I had to look up Julia Jones, and then look up her character in Twilight. Kinda sad… but at least she’s not Heidi Saha…)

    Avatar, Antarctic, and Top Shelf are the biggest comics publishers there? (Nothing against them…)

    SPX is next on my list (although I do recommend Baltimore), then NYCC/NYAF.

  17. I just think it is disingenuous to use the words comic-con when promoting these shows now. I used to drive the 3 hrs to Dallas, take off work, and attend all 3 days of the Wizard shows when they were there. Not much of a con-scene, but it was enough to keep a comics fan busy for the time they were there.

    This year the show has moved to within like 10 minutes of my house and I’m thinking ‘eh, maybe I’ll go for a few hours saturday afternoon’.

    It is amazing how far these shows have fallen in 5 years time.

    At least at SDCC, I can avoid Sails, Hall H, Ballroom 20, and most of the middle of the floor and STILL find enough to keep me busy for 5 days.

    There were still more than 2x as many comics panels there as media panels. And comics still play a major role there.

    With these shows it just feels like false advertising for some reason and it irks me.

  18. I should have said WWTX had ‘not much of a POST con scene’. sorry I wasn’t clearer.

  19. I’m actually at the show and have had a very entertaining time talking to the likes of Mike McKone, Dan Parent, Greg Horn, J Califiore and the like. I haven’t spoken to a similar wrestler. You get out what you go in for.

  20. “There’s really nothing wrong with a celebrity autograph show. I’ve been to them as a fan when someone I really wanted to meet was there. So people who want to meet the Terminator folks or Cylons or whatever, go for it. ” -Beat

    I don’t disparage anyone who wants to meet celebs. I used to go to Fango shows back in the early 90’s The difference was I didn’t have to pay a dime for an autograph, a photo, and a few minutes of conversation with Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Clive Barker, John Carpenter, etc.
    Nowadays you can’t have that same friendly experience. Some dork from Survivor won’t give a person the time of day without at least a 20 dollar down payment. It’s not a big party anymore.
    Luckily, though, if you can find an actual comic creator they’re usually happy to talk for a few minutes and sign your old Hulk Treasury Edition for free.

  21. I live in Milwaukee and have for the last 16 years driven to Chicago to attend the old Classic Chicago Comic-Con and the transition to Wizard World. The drop over the years has been dramatic. I can remember the early years attending panels with Archie Goodwin and Denny O’Neil, Stan Lee and Julius Schwartz(sp?), and a panel with Julie Schwartz discussing working with Jerry Siegel and what he was like. There was the tradition of the trivia quizes of fans vs. pros (Mark Waid). I even remember attending 1 or 2 panels hosted by Heidi. Can you imagine any thing like that in the current set-up? I went to San-Diego 2 years ago and there is no comparison. Just look at the programming and compare San Diego’s. Sure there are celebrities at San Diego but it is not the only focus (or at least there is more than enough comic related items to make up for it). The current Wizard World Chicago is all C and D listers and NO comics.
    I will say that the artist alley and the sale floor are still very good and make the trip worthwhile at least for a day. The Chicago area Comics retailers have an excellent selection for Comics fans with great deals.
    I always liked the current location in Rosemont because there was very easy access driving to and driving out. I went to C2E2 this year and it brought back great memories of the old Comic-Con but driving to and returing from McCormick Place was much more difficult than Rosemont. I also like the middle of summer time frame for the Wizard convention rather than early April.
    C2E2 does bring hope for the future of the Chicago area comic conventions I don’t see any thing good for the current Wizard World set-up.

  22. I agree with everything likefunbutnot said. I had fun at last year’s con only because of the people I went with, but found nothing as a comic fan to really excite me during the day there. This is the first year since (I think) 1998 that I’m missing, but I just couldn’t do it. C2E2 was SO much better in every way, shape, and form that I’d rather just wait for April.

  23. Why would Heidi Saha still be attending conventions?

  24. Neil Austin says:

    So Sir Patrick Stewart O.B.E charges $60 per autograph;does anyone know how many he sighs in an hour?

  25. april says:

    The Comic Con Chicago August 2010 was great except for ORGANIZATION! Where and what lines to stand in when the lines wound around numerous guests booths. Confusing.

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