Comic book fans will be going to Chicago Comic Con at Rosemont Friday through Sunday, but the show is no longer just about comics.
The headlining guests include Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto and former NBA player Dennis Rodman. Some local artists say the shift towards pop culture in general is taking away a platform to promote their work, especially for independent creators.The more established Chicago Comic Con is also in direct competition with the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) which has been coming to McCormick Place every spring since 2010.
Chicago artist Jill Thompson has shown her work at Chicago Comic Con and many other conventions around the world, though she is not going to this one. She says the event used to be a way for comic creators to talk to publishers and meet fans, but that is no longer emphasized.
“Comic creators who have been going to conventions for over 20 years, like myself, finally got to the point where they don’t feel like they are very welcome, or it’s something that they can look forward to actually do, when it used to be something that you did as part of your job,” she says. “You sold artwork and made business connections, and kind of got pushed out of it all. And it’s kind of disheartening.”
She points out that when fans approach comic creators at conventions, they can see upcoming work or leave with a product the artist worked on, whereas meeting a celebrity often involves paying for just a picture or autograph.
Thompson says although she still travels to some conventions, she also relies on social media to talk to fans and show upcoming work. She says she looks forward to convention organizers finding a happy medium between pop culture and comic book programs.
However, others, like local artist Tim Seeley, say Chicago Comic Con’s move away from its roots is not as much of a problem.
“It’s the place you go to see the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite, and the guy who hosts a reality TV show, but it’s still a comic book show at its heart,” Seeley says. “It’s a little bit more focused on what I would call the normal people, instead of the hardcore comic book fans.”
Seeley does say he’s been hearing a lot of concerns about how much the event costs now. A four-week pass, if purchased at the door, will set you back $100, and Seeley says this is the first time many acquaintances have called him wondering if he can get them discounted tickets as a guest.
He points out that C2E2 tries to brand itself differently from the Chicago Comic Con, and most agree. Artist Russell Lissau says he sees a lot of the same people at both conventions, but Chicago Comic Con is still his favorite, precisely because the big publishers like Marvel and DC don’t come.
“Chicago Comic Con is much more of an independent show where the writers and artists are on their own, celebrating their own work without the publishers’ involvement,” Lissau says. “It’s a way to meet your favorite creators without having to wait an hour at the Marvel booth or the DC booth to do it.”
Blogger Lauren Rapciak, who writes Geek Girl Chicago, says she prefers C2E2 because it’s run by fans and thus more welcoming. But, she says, although Chicago Comic Con has shifted from its roots as a comic convention, it will undoubtedly remain successful.
“If you’re going for comic content, you will be disappointed,” Rapciak says. “If you’re going for television, or to see great costumes, or to buy merchandise, you can still have a good time. But it is no longer just a comic con.”
Alan Yu is a WBEZ metro desk intern. Follow him @Alan_Yu039