This was my first trip to Wizard World in almost a decade, and it has definitely changed a lot since the first few times I was there. My first trip was in '97, which was the very first Wizard World convention (after Wizard bought the Chicago ComicCon). It was an exciting time to be a comic book fan, even if the mainstream offerings in the late nineties were nowhere near the quality of what Marvel and DC are putting out now. All the major publishers attended the event. Major comic creator celebs like Stan Lee and the Image guys were there. Every major publisher had a booth with freebies and comic creator signings. Major announcements were made at the show. Wizard World Chicago exclusive comics, prints and toys were available for purchase at every booth.
A 3 day pass got you a nice bag of goodies including some sort of Wizard exclusive comic like a 1/2 issue. The freebies you collected could usually be sold or traded to make up some or all of the expense of the 3-day pass.
Switch to 2011 and NO major publishers are in attendance. No Marvel, no DC, no Image...the biggest publisher in attendance is...AVATAR?! The 3-day (4 day if you include the 3-hour preview) pass is more expensive (inflation) but no freebie bag anymore and no real freebies to be found on the floor as no publishers are here promoting anything.
There seems to be a bigger focus on movie star panels and signings now, which is fine, as they've always been a part of the show, but if that's what people are paying for, there should be more seating available for those Q&A sessions on Saturday, when the show is insanely crowded. I went to a couple panels on Friday, no problem, but on Saturday, I wanted to see Patrick Stewart and Bruce Campbell. The lines for those two started forming hours in advance and there was no seating left hours before those panels started. This makes no sense, as the convention center is across the street from a theater and there are larger rooms in the convention center itself that could have been rented. If 25,000 people are paying to see Bruce Campbell and Patrick Stewart on Saturday, don't put them in a room that only holds 1,000 people.
The dealer area of the show was about the same as I remembered, although there are more bargain booths than ever, which is probably a result of the economy more than anything. I filled a couple long boxes with books. Prices at some of the booths started at 50 cents a book and were down to 10 cents a book by Sunday. Everywhere you looked there were 50% off Trade Paper Back booths, and some booths had TPBs as cheap as $1 each. There were, of course, plenty of high-end dealers as well, with multiple copies of books like Amazing Fantasy 15, but bargains in comics, TPBs and toys were everywhere to be had. You should always save your money for the last day at any multi-day con you go to. Dealers don't want to haul a lot of that stuff home.
Artist Alley was a log bigger than I remember, with some decent names in there, along with the usual 90-95% of guys I've never heard of who are trying to self-publish or just specialize in custom artwork. Thursday was a good day to get a sketch or talk to an artist, as the crowd was very thin.
All in all, I doubt I'll be back to Wizard World soon. I filled a couple long boxes with bargain bin books, but I can do that at the local Indiana shows anytime. I bought some original art and prints, but I can also get those online from the artists or on Ebay. I bought a few TPBs, but I can get better titles from the 50% off rack at Downtown Comics. The reason I pay $60 a person, rent a hotel room for 4 nights, and spend money on gas is to have a shared fan experience that just isn't there in Chicago anymore. I'll have to seek out a show that actually has major publisher support for that.
Yah, I wish it wasn't downtown...downtown Chicago is expensive and a bitch to get around. I might check it out. I've heard good things.
Also, Chicago in friggin' March? Who thought that was a good idea?
Both times i've went weather has been nice. That can change.
I stayed at Best Western and Hyatt the times I went. Hyatt is connected to the convention center so no problem there, but is a little pricey. When I stayed at Best Western, there was a shuttle to and from the con and the hotel was only a mile away. I walked every day to the con through the park, as it was really nice outside. Best Western was easily like 150 cheaper than the Hyatt though, for two nights.
But yeah, if you want a con that is as "San Diego" as it gets in the midwest, C2E2 is the way to go.
This was the first year in quite a few years that I skipped Wizard World, or as I like to call it, Celebrity Con. Last year was ok, but I go for Comic related stuff, and it was sorely lacking. I have no interest in meeting any of the celebrity guests, who tend to include a lot of wrestlers these days. I did talk to a guy who went and had a good time, but he likes getting pics with the celebrities.
It was pretty good up until C2E2 started. And even the first year of C2E2, George Perez was at Wizard world and signed some of my books. C2E2 has all the major Comic players in attendance. And at least threre are some good nuggets that come out at the panels. Sure it is early in the year, but if you go in costume, the cool weather helps :)
Swag is down at every convention, including GenCon.