Driving towards the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center this time of year, you can't help but notice the amount of nerds with backpacks, postertubes, or, for that matter, fake swords slung on their backs, descending upon the massive building. Wizard World Chicago, one of the largest "pop-culture events" in the Midwest, has been a staple of Rosemont for several years now.
1:00 p.m. The show had been open for an hour when I arrived. The lobby was largely empty. The convention floor, however, is not the same as it used to be. In recent years, comic book publishers have had a decreased presence on the show floor. Where there used to be towering booths dedicated to promotoing comic books, there are now rows of booths featuring celebrities, both major and minor. Lines form for photo ops and autographs just inside the door to the show.
1:10 p.m. The 501st Legion is never difficult to find at conventions. This one is no exception. The 501st is a Star Wars costuming group whose members specialize in providing stormtroopers to be in attendance at events. Their group is at once friendly and aggressive. Despite the heat and dehydration of their armor, they're there to have fun and want all passersby to be in on it.
1:25 p.m. A bunch of "booth babes" were wearing superhero costumes and selling their massage services at one booth. I tried to take a picture, but a She-Flash in fishnet stocking wanted to charge me to take a picture of her. No sale.
2:05 p.m. I ducked into the cafeteria for some food and noticed this fellow waiting in line. Just waiting to get a burger as if the chainsaw on his arm weren't weird. He's dressed as Ash, Bruce Campbell's character of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness fame.
3:05 p.m. I returned to the floor and started noticing less publishers and see more bins of comics and action figures. I wandered the vendor area for what felt like hours and found some neat stuff.
I see comics.
I found action figures of the coolest kind.
And possibly the best item of the weekend. The Superman Power Shirt. You know, for kids.
6:25 p.m. After losing myself in the vendor area for hours, I called it a day.
Saturdays are hands-down the most crowded at these kinds of shows. It's also when the most costumers are out. I arrived right as the show started and used the side entrance to avoid crowds.
11:20 a.m. I shot this picture as a Back to The Future DeLorean was being set up on the floor for Christopher Lloyd's appearance. A crowd formed around it to take pictures and stayed there throughout the entire day. If I had arrived five minutes later I never wouldn't have been able to get a shot this good.
11:45 a.m. I swung by the gaming area and spent a few hours playing. A game/card vendor called Troll and Toad sponsors the gaming events and with prizes on the line, competition gets intense.
I spent most of the rest of the day taking pictures of costumers:
Sunday is the day when vendors have to pack up, but most of them like to avoid this if possible. This means that deals can be made on Sunday. At least, with most vendors. While many vendors are shouting half-off deals, a few of the vendors are stonefaced. The vendors dealing in rare or graded comics are often in no hurry.
10:45 a.m. One vendor in particular seemed especially calm. The man running Metropolis calmly awaited customers. His comics were tightly held to the table with plastic wrap. Not only that, but they were in special hermetically closed cases. These are graded comics, using an industry standard to gauge the condition of the comic.
12:00 p.m. I entered the Louis Gosset Jr. panel to hear him speak. His audience was small but enthusiastic. He talked about his new book, faith, acting classes with Marilyn Monroe, Enemy Mine, and even race. He laments a lack of positive African-American role models in TV and film.
3:00 p.m. Before leaving the con, I attended the Walking Dead Season 2 Preview panel. Panelists were mostly minor characters, some of them zombies, but they were excited to be there. The show was easily stolen by child actor Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, a main character on the show. When the panel was asked difficult questions about budget cuts or Frank Darabont's departure from the show, Riggs calmly grabbed the mic and addressed the concerns of fans. He confirmed that Frank Darabont was fired by AMC and laments their $32 million less per episode than Mad Men. He whipped up the ire of hundreds of fans before turning it around like a PR wizard and getting them pumped for the new season. This kid made the whole weekend. I will never be as cool as this 12 year-old.
It was an exciting weekend. The few panels I went to were interesting. Best costume of the weekend? The Tollway Warrior. No question.