Con Report: Wizard World Chicago 2012

 In conventions

Wizard World Chicago 2012 was this past weekend, and it was an event to behold. Last year, WWC was my biggest sales show of the year. By a lot. And this year it was just shy of repeating that title once again. Definitely a strong show for sales – and a fun time for all.

The show floor opened early on Thursday afternoon this year. Several of my friends got there and set up for the full day, but I was working until later in the evening. I set up for a short while towards the end of the day, and sold a couple of books.

I was tabling at 3180 next to my good friend Russell Lissau (Strawberry Shortcake, The Batman Strikes). We often table together, and share several of the same books (Reading with Pictures, Hope: The Hero Initiative). He even wrote the forward for my @$$hole! volume 1 book. And he was kind enough to let me crash with him during the weekend, to save on hotel costs. But I digress….

Thursday ended with us heading to the casino for dinner, and after a delicious burger we went onto the floor. Russ played some craps – a game I’m not very familiar with – and won some cash before we headed home and called it a night.

In the morning Russ and I got up and went out to breakfast with his family at a local diner. A tasty place, I ordered a country omelet – something to fill me up for the day. Then we headed over to the show, arriving just as the floor was opening.

I set up the table with a strong presentation, and even placed the sketch cards out. In previous years, this show has done well with sketch card sales. Gabriel Bautista, my artist on Albert the Alien showed up to table with me for the weekend, selling water color commissions and sketch cards.

Before the show floor opened, James O’Barr (The Crow) walked by the table and chatted us up for a bit. I’m a huge fan of his, and even interviewed him in high school when I was producing cable TV. The guy was in good spirits and we were cracking hysterical at each other for a good 20 minutes while we waited for the doors to open.

The day was good, and our location was ideal. We were in a main isle, so there was plenty of traffic. However, I remember sales being a lot easier last year – with people approaching the table and the books practically selling themselves. This year people seemed more hesitant to buy books – more interested in the celebrities, which was a total departure from the previous years of the show.

However, this didn’t stop me from having record sales throughout the weekend – as well as completely selling out of Hope: The Hero Initiative. I mean completely – it’s now out of print. A bitter sweet moment, especially since it’s book supporting a great cause.

We all sold our hearts out throughout the long hours of the day, with Friday having hours from noon until 8pm. After the show, Russ and I ran to grab a bite at O – the restaurant in the Hyatt.

There was a tasty buffet available, but better yet – there were tons of celebrities in the place. Comic legend Stan Lee was having dinner over in the corner, Peter Mayhew (Chewie from Star Wars) and his wife was eating next to us, and Neil Adams was sitting behind us. It was a veritable “who’s who” at the show right there as we ate dinner.

After food we headed up to Veranda to scope out the drink and draw. The place was packed with artists participating (or waiting for direction) to compete for prizes and to make some great art. We didn’t recognize anyone we could root for, so we headed down to the Hyatt Red Bar.

Talent Caldwell was holding court in a booth, sketching away on commissions and telling jokes. Also, actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) remembered me from Mid-Ohio Con, and came over to say hi. I was tempted to ask him to introduce me to James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China), who had been sitting next to him, but decided to let the actors network together while Russ and I relaxed. After the drink we headed home to rest before our big sales day.

We got up early and headed to the show to set up, grabbing a breakfast sandwich at the local cafeteria.

Sales were strong, but not as strong as the previous year. However, our table position was great for celebrity people-watching. Above our booth was a window into the celebrity VIP area, and we saw William Shatner walking around, Scott Bakula sporting a 70s mustache, and several other actors walking about. Their kids were waving and making funny faces at people throughout the day, which was a riot.

Albert sold like hot cakes, as well as Reading with Pictures. The book’s been out for 3 years, but it still sells like crazy. Gabe continued to do water color commissions, and even started making some water color sketch cards which were super cute (and a steal at the price he was charging).

Throughout the day I kept playing games with the table neighbors, cracking jokes and pointing out celebrity sightings. Around 2pm or so, Alan Evans (Rival Angels) showed up to hang out and walk around the show. Around the time the floor was closing, Beth showed up as well.

We grabbed a few friends and headed to McCormick and Schmidts for some delicious sea food and drinks. Ben Templesmith was having dinner right behind us while we cracked jokes and drank our profits away.

After dinner, we headed to the bar for more drinks, and chatted up the Chicago comic creators crowd. Art Balthazar was there with the guys from Challengers, and Don Kramer was running around with his daughter. A great way to end a stunning day.

We headed to the show to set up, grab breakfast, and who should happen by the table but Neil Adams – telling us about the excellent sit down cafeteria (where we had already gotten our sandwiches). He talked to us for a bit, and then headed off to his own table while people piled into the place in droves.

Sunday is usually kids day, so lots of all ages books were being sold – and tons of sketch cards!

People were in costume, but again the sales didn’t come easy. We had to work for it.

The highlight of the day was Beth selling the very first copy of her first published work – a charity book benefiting a kid in the UK. She had a look of elation at the feeling of selling something you worked so hard on. Then her face hardened, and she realized she needed to do it again.

We spent the day selling our books, looking for celebrities (I ran into Luke Perry and one of the actors from True Blood), and having a great time.

When the show was over, we packed up and headed home. It was a fun (and long) weekend for sure. Wizard put on another great show with some of my highest sales of the year. I’ll definitely be back again next year!

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