Wizard World Chicago 2011 – Con Report
Wow, so I’m finally starting to catch up on my blogging (only two weeks later, right?). Specifically as it relates to Wizard World Chicago this year.
Let me just put some historical context here before breaking it down by the day’s events. Years ago, Wizard World Chicago was the first large convention I ever attended (and by large, I mean over 10,000 attendees). And it was the first convention where I shifted by focus from being an attendee to being an exhibitor. And I did this slowly – by meeting creators and chatting them up and learning about the industry from the business perspective. What I really liked about the show was the networking – and the fact that, after the show ends, just about everyone hangs out at the Hyatt bar. So the networking never really stops. This is really the show that launched by professional comics career – and I met most of my comic friends at this show, so it holds a special place for me.
That said, let’s get into the events of the show….
I left work as soon as I could to make it in time for preview night, and made it there only an hour after it started. Unfortunately it sounds like the bulk of the business happened within that first hour. But I got set up and got to see some familiar faces all the same. WWC put most of the Reading with Pictures in a single row, so I got to hang out with many of my friends over the weekend. With us in the group were Russell Lissau (Shrek, Strawberry Shortcake), Steve Horton (DC Holiday Annual, Superman Annual), John Bivens (Comic Book Tattoo, Popgun), Steve Wallace (Binary Love, Omega Comics Presents), and Gabrielle Bautisa (The Spirit, Elephant Man). With us as well was my good friend Alan Evans (Rival Angels).
And visiting from Ann Arbor was my good buddy Scott, who was helping us all out throughout the weekend. Without Scott, I don’t know how we would’ve made it through this weekend.
After the floor closed, we all went back to the hotel room for some much needed pizza (and whiskey). It was a great start to what would be an amazing weekend.
The group awoke pretty early in the morning and went to the Hyatt restaurant for breakfast. Upon walking in we passed Nicholas Brenden (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and we all took our turns at the buffet. While eating, Felicia Day walked in and sat in a booth by us. Celebrities started filtering in throughout as we took off to get ready for the show. I set up the booth a little differently from how I’ve done it in the past, and I think it worked out for the best.
The feature of the show was Reading with Pictures, which has been nominated for two Harvey Awards – one for best anthology, and another for best kid’s book. I had two editions: the softcover trade, and the limited edition hard cover. Next to it I always placed Junkyard Chase, which I consider a companion since it includes a script and kind of works as a template for young creators. After that was Hope: The Hero Initiative – another strong book that supports a great cause. In the middle were my sketch cards and free bookmarks. And bringing up the end were the few copies of @$$hole! I brought to the show.
Around 1pm I had to step away from the table for an hour to present some research I had done for work, so I retired to the hotel room (which was quiet). About an hour later, I came back out to the floor to keep selling and sell hard. Beth was at the table with me by this time, having a half-day at the office, and together we had an extremely strong Friday.
Scott only tried to steal my table once.
After the floor closed we all headed to The Ram for burgers. It’s one of our favorite places to unwind after the show – especially since they can take a party as large as ours. After dinner we all went back to the hotel for some pre-party in the hotel room, followed by heading down to the Hyatt bar to mingle. Upon getting down there we were met by fellow webcomic creators Tom Brazelton (Theater Hopper) and Gordon McAplin (Multiplex).
The treat of the evening for me was getting to hang out with Talent Caldwell (Fathom: Killian’s Tide, Superman: Godfall). Talent and I have hung out a bit at past shows, but tonight there were less people to distract us from good conversation. He caught me up on some projects he’s working on, and I did the same.
All in all the night ended later than I intended, but it was an amazing evening.
To save a little money we decided to have breakfast at the restaurant attached to the convention center. Since this was the big day of the weekend, we all decided to sport our RWP t-shirts. This may have helped to bolster sales, because Saturday was the highest sales day I’ve ever had before. In fact, I sold better on Saturday alone than I’ve sold at my last two shows combined – and I did extremely well at those two shows. Beth was helping at the table the entire day, and despite a small fit of allergy attack (in the middle of the pitch to a customer, no less), the day went incredibly smoothly. I even sold out of @$$hole! about half way through the day, despite bringing triple the amount of books that I sold through last year.
There weren’t a lot of cosplayers at this show, but the costumes that were in the audience were pretty awesome.
Saturday was a very long but extremely profitable and fun day. And as a reward, the group went to McCormick and Schmicks to celebrate. After dinner, the group went to pre-party in the hotel room, and then back down to the Hyatt bar for some fun and networking. I ran into familiar faces, met some of the actors from the Boondock Saints, and hung out with Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother, Beasts of Burden). After a few drinks, the group retired for the night for the final day of the show.
The final day of the show and the entire group was feeling pretty good about the weekend. But as always, you want to finish strong, so we didn’t slow down the sales. And sales did not slow down. In fact, I finished stronger on Sunday than I’ve done during an entire weekend at some shows.
As the floor closed we all said our goodbyes and packed up. We were too exhausted to get together for a final meal of the weekend, but I think it was an accomplished tired. Beth and I went home, ordered some food, watched a flick and passed out. Overall, Wizard World Chicago set a new benchmark for sales at conventions – one that will be hard to meet or beat. Until next year, at least. 😉