Wizard World Chicago 2009
First off, let me say that Wizard World Chicago (now called Chicago Comic Con, ever since Reed stepped in with C2E2 and all of the publisher’s announced their support of the new convention. We won’t go into the politics or backstory on any of that here) was the first large comic con that I ever attended, and will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. I’ve met some of my closest professional friends there (Josh, Russell, Dirk, Mike, Taki, David, and many more) and it was the first time that I ever physically met my online webcomic friends (Joe, Irv, Phil, Tom, Zach, Gordon, DJ, and too many more to list). It’s where I met Mike Turner, and where I first received professional feedback from an idol. I have some of the most hilarious, embarrassing, and saddest stories to tell from this convention over the few years that I’ve been attending.
This year was no different.
That said, I want to apologize in advance for the fact that I never took out my camera, and therefore only have one stock photo that Russell took in the hotel. Bear with me.
DAY 1: THURSDAY
After counting down the seconds at work, I jumped on the El back to the apartment to make sure the cat had food for the weekend, water my dying plants, and grab my bag. An hour of public transportation later allowed me to arrive at Rosemont, where the convention center is located. I walked in and grabbed my badge (this year it was wrist bands, which didn’t sit well with anyone), and a quick walk to the hotel lead to me meeting up with my roommates (Steve and Scott, Russell would join us the next day) to grab my keycard, and then we headed over to Ginos with the Digital Pimps (Joe, Irv, and Phil) to grab some Chicago-style pizza. The Pimps were exhausted from their 14+ hour drive from New York, as well as having attended Conneticon the previous weekend. Needless to say, bed came early.
This year we stayed at the Embassy Suites, which isn’t connected to the convention center but does house convention center parking. And if you stay at the Embassy, they give you a discount on that parking. There are also numerous other perks with staying at the Embassy for this show, even if it does cost a little more than some of the other hotels in the area. The pull-out couch was well used, as the beds were not queen-sized as we were lead to believe, but were instead doubles. You have to be very comfortable with yourself – and your bunk-mate – when two grown men sleep that close to each other. Thankfully, it doesn’t phase me. 😉
DAY 2: FRIDAY
Got up for breakfast at the Embassy, and I remembered all of the old jokes from college about liquid eggs playing all kinds of havoc with one’s digestive system. However, I’ll never complain about “free food,” and it was certainly better than just having cereal like we typically do. Afterwards, we checked Russell into the hotel and everyone went out to the con floor.
The convention boasted the largest dealer floor in the country – and I’ll agree with that. The gap from most of the publishers (and many of the toy manufacturers and video game developers) was replaced with actors from various television and movie series. While Twilight holds no interest for me, I did enjoy meeting Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica). The first place I went after entering the floor, though, was the Aspen booth. Frank, Vince, and J.T. were all there in good spirits, and it was great to catch up with them again. Frank and I caught up and talked about movies (the crew had gone out to see the GI Joe movie the previous night), Vince and I talked about his Soulfire: Shadow Magic series (which I very much enjoyed, loved the marriage between origin story and the personal tone that it took), and JT and I talked about writing and some of his new projects.
I made a stop next at the ACEN booth, since ACEN was holding after hours programming for the convention (called “ACEN Aftershocks”). Brianne was dressed as a character, and several of the other volunteers were also dressed up as characters from various series. Anime fans have always interested me because of their dedication to their favorite series. I admit to geeking out about my favorite series (I admit to having goosebumps when a Robotech ad appeared on my website), but I’ve never felt the desire to dress up as a character for a convention. However, I do enjoy seeing other people do it – and some do it very very well!
I made my way over to artist’s alley and started to make the rounds, looking for friends and familiar faces, and anything that caught my eye. The DP crowd was there with Tom and Zach from Theater Hopper and Joe and Monkey, respectively. I ran into my old high school friend Katie Cook, as well as some of my friends from Drunk Duck like Alan Evans. Then I went and saw some of the superstars around the floor, including Talent Caldwell, Frances Manapul, Billy Tan (always good catching up with Billy), Tom Ngyuyen (Ghostbusters) and even my comics hero James O’Barr.
I even met a few new friends, including Justin Bleep (SuperHuman Resources), Christopher Mitten (Wasteland), John Bivens (ComicBook Tattoo), and Bryan Glass (Mice Templar). Great people all, and tons of fun to hang out with them. People I am glad to call new friends.
Lunch followed, where we broke into the sandwich stuff that I brought. Steve provided beverages, and Russell brought the snacks.
Going back to the con floor was another chance to see what was out there, buy some stuff and make another round of conversation with new friends. I admit that the lack of human traffic (after all of the rumors that had been circulating about this convention) had me a little worried for the turn out for Saturday, the biggest day at cons.
For dinner we split up, some people going to see GI Joe (Scott, Steve, and the DP guys), and some of us going to the Ram (Paul Storrie, John Bivens and his girlfriend, Russell Lissau, and myself). The Ram is this awesome burger bar not too far from the con. Walkable, yes, but thankfully we were able to drive there. An evening of great conversation and laughs.
After The Ram, I went to the Hyatt bar to mingle. I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and his wife, Jill Thompson (Magical Trixie), who I had met previously. Jon Jordan (Crime Spree Magazine) was another person that I met, having sponsored some of the panels that Brian was on at the convention. Great guy, and a great publication.
As the evening was winding down, I walked Jill back to her car and talked about our cats. Then I went to bed.
DAY 3: SATURDAY
Got up early for breakfast with Russell, and we were join by Paul, Tom, and several others. Eventually Scott got up to join us, and then Steve filtered in shortly after. Josh Elder (Mail Order Ninja, Starcraft) showed up eventually, and we all went over to the con. Some people attended programming, but I mostly walked around the floor and mingled. I sat with Alan and talked about some pointers for selling his brand new graphic novel Rival Angels (a kick ass book, be sure to read it), as well as some booth etiquette that I’ve picked up over the last few years. I’m in no way an expert, mind you, but I’ve made enough friends who were kind enough to give me pointers, and I was just passing the buck as it were. During my short time there, I personally sold a percentage of his books for the day – sometimes I think that fans can be more excited about the material than the creators.
The con floor was PACKED, and while a number of the people attending were there for the actors, a lot of that traffic filtered into the artist’s alley area. Our fears about the con being a failure were alleviated. The people had still come out to have a good time.
I skipped lunch and around the time that dinner rolled around, we decided to go back to The Ram. This time it was Scott, Steve, John and his girlfriend, Russell, and myself. In the background I saw Peter Steigerwald chatting it up, but wanted to give him his space. I’d said hi to him briefly on the floor earlier in the day, and during the Aspen panel. Great guy, love his coloring work. But he was out with some friends.
After dinner, I had to crash and take a nap. I had been exhausted from the day on the floor, and my energy had been low all weekend. An hour long nap wasn’t long enough, but it was 10pm and everyone had left for the bar without me.
I arrived at the bar and said hello to my web comic friends, and then made a few rounds to see who all was there, eventually settling down at a table with Russell, Bryan, Paul, and a few other comic creators. Bryan had come back form the bathroom saying that two guys sitting across the bar had been placing bets with each other over who could get the girl at their table in bed. One guy was wearing a Superman t-shirt, the other had piercings peppering his face. The girl had some pretty tattoos painting her arms. This was the source of much entertainment for the evening, as we soon discovered that several other tables around the bar were also watching the events unfold. “How can we mess this up,” we asked ourselves collectively? We decided to buy the girl drinks and send them with anonymous notes on napkins.
Eventually I got up to walk around again, and ran into some people at the bar who were attending a wedding in the Hyatt hotel. One very drunk girl started hitting on me (and I believe her boyfriend was right behind her), asking me if I was famous or could point out anyone famous. In truth, I could’ve pointed out about 13 famous people right next to her, but I wanted to save them the hassle of being harassed by an intoxicated girl all night. They’d worked all day at the convention, and just wanted to relax and have a drink with their friends or fans. No one wants someone who doesn’t know anything about comics coming up and trying to bug them all night – especially someone as drunk as this girl was. Eventually, she excused herself and I went back to the table with Russell.
The table with the two guys had grown even more fascinating, as another couple had shown up. One of the guys left (Superman), but would then return much later. This continued throughout our goofy storytelling and hilarious con horror tails, until finally the table we were watching emptied out. Piercings and the girl went to a booth, so the night was not yet done.
Much later than I had originally planned, we finally got up and left the bar. Standing near the escalators, our conversations continued until Piercings and the girl started to exit, his arm around her. We all clapped as loud as we could – but alas, they were clueless as to the nature of the clapping. Walking back to the hotel, it was pointed out that this may be our last time walking from the convention center to our cars (or hotel rooms) at a Wizard World convention.
DAY 4: SUNDAY
A later morning than others, I got up for breakfast again and sat with Russell. We reminisced about the previous nights jokes and stories, and then went to pack and headed out to the con floor.
I basically went down to say my goodbyes to everyone, new and old friends, and wish them well until we next got together. This progress, of course, takes hours. Not because I have a huge number of friends to say goodbye to, but because I secretly didn’t want it to end. Some of these people I only get to see once or twice a year, and the time is just too short.
Eventually I made it back to the room and grabbed my bags, leaving for the train. Comic Con was certainly not dead, but it was different. And I hope that it happens again next year!