A Day At Wizard World Chicago
It has been more than a decade since I last attended a Comic Convention. Cons are a costly endeavor and given my constant state of being lite on cash, they rarely fit in my spending plans. I had the rare opportunity to attend one this past weekend, as Wizard Wold Chicago made its presence known and I had the chance to actually attend it. This was in no small par thanks to my dear friends Chris and Lauren and my dear girlfriend Jenn. Jenn was kind enough to pay my way, something I was not 100% comfortable with but accepted. So with girl on my arm and friends leading the way I embarked on this fantastic voyage.
Let me be clear, I do not really go to Comic Book shows for the celebrity guests nor do I go to see who is cos-playing as what. I go for the Dealers Room. It doesn’t matter the type of Con, the floor of the Dealers’ Room is where the real action of any Con is at. Huge savings on back issues, trade paperbacks and toys, its what every con-goer should spend the majority of their time on. That isn’t to say I didn’t see a few celebrities during my day trip to Chicago, as I had the chance to meet and shake hands with a few and thank them for entertaining me over the years. Bu they are not my focus for a con. The problem this year was I was exceedingly light on cash, with a mere $5 to my name. That $5 got spent wisely but we will cover that later.
The day of the con started with me and Jenn waking up at 5:30AM. This was not planned at all, as our original plan called for us to wake at 6:30AM. I had a restless sleep and Jenn just found herself awake. We were supposed to be at Chris and Lauren’s house by 8AM. Needless to say, Jenn and I had more than enough time to prep now. Prep for me was simply showering, getting dressed and having a small nosh before leaving. Jenn’s process was a bit more involved, as he had many comic books with her in a suitcase. She was contemplating getting some of them signed but wasn’t sure which artists were going to be there. Yes, I know Wizard World always puts their Guest List online, but she was too busy getting ready to have actual time to look. As Jenn got ready, I checked my email and correspondence. I had contemplated taking my trade collection of Crisis On Infinite Earths with me since I knew George Perez was going to be there. Then I realized that getting Perez to sign something would be more than the $5 I had in my wallet and left everything at home.
Jenn and I left my place at &AM and arrived at Casa Del Chris & Lauren at 7:25AM. Ominous sign number one was that Chris car was not in the driveway. I, being an eternal optimist, started thinking the worst that Chris and Lauren left without us. Jenn told me to stop being silly and just call Lauren. I called Lauren but no one picked up. I was right they did leave without us. We decided to wait in the driveway until 8AM and see what happened. Then my phone rang. It was Lauren, she was in the shower when I called and couldn’t answer. I let her know we were in the driveway and she dashed to the door to let us in. Chris wasn’t home yet, as he works a third shift job and usually didn’t get home until 8AM. The sad thing is, I knew this already, yet still went into my “optimistic viewpoint”. Lauren needed to finish getting ready so Jenn and I tried to find something to watch on TV1. Chris finally showed up and needed to shower2 and get ready. We finally got on the road a little after 8:30AM.
I could tell you about our ordeal to get to the con but that would be a Brave Blog entry unto itself. Let us just say there was traffic in Chicago. Lots of traffic in Chicago. I grew up in New York City and I NEVER saw traffic this bad. We finally arrived at the Con a little after 2PM. Toledo to Chicago should only take about 4 hours. I think you get my point.
So we finally stumbled into the Con itself. The first thing we saw when we entered made me kind of giddy. It was the classic Batman’66 Batmobile. This was not my first time seeing it, but every time I see it I get giddy. The Batman’66 Batmobile is easily my favorite live action Batmobile. It is just so freaking cool. It smokes any other version of the Batmobile put to film. There was also the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters and while that was cool, it just isn’t the Batmobile. Now this was just in the lobby of the convention center. We had not even made it to the show room yet. When we did it was everything I remember about a Comic Con. Crowded, loud and lots of people pushing and shoving with nary even a simple “pardon me” or excuse me”. I was starting to remember why I hated going to cons.
After about 5 minutes Jenn and I broke off from Chris and Lauren. We had different agendas. Chris and Lauren wanted to chat some artists they knew and also to show off Lauren’s pretty dope Punisher costume. Jenn and I were on a search for toys, Kamen Rider toys to be specific. Along the way we got to see lots of people in various costumes. There was a Predator, a few Batmen3, a gaggle of Batman villains4, a pretty great Black Adam and even someone as Sailor Moon. One costume in particular caught my eye. For most of the day at the con I saw her go by, this bubbly blond who was traveling with a group of people. Toward the end of the day I finally went up to her and asked straight out “Pardon me, but are you dressed as Flamebird?”. She smiled and let out a grateful “YES~!”. Apparently she had been at the Con all day and no one knew who she was supposed to be. I guess that is the drawback of dressing as a lesser known Teen Titans character. She was just glad that someone knew. “Shit, I’m an old school Titans fan” I told her, “good job, that costume is dope!”.
When not hunting for toys, Jenn was busy with her camera trying to snipe pictures of a few celebrities. We were not in a position to shell extra money out just so we could wait in line like rubes and then pay extra money to have our photo taken with any celebrities. Hell the lines for Shatner an Stan Lee were insane. I’ve never met Shatner, but I’ve met Stan Lee on more than one occasion5. Jenn snapped pics of Kevin Sorbo, Lou Ferrigno, David Della Rocco and Sean Patrick Flanery6. We both went right up to Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew just to say “Thank you” to him. I feel kind of bad we didn’t go up and do the same to Jeremy Bullock but c’mon, he was Boba Fett, one line of dialogue in Empire and a slapstick routine in Jedi does not a “Thank you” get.
Our quest for Kamen Rider toys was bust though. My love of Kamen Rider goes back 20+ years now and thank God my girlfriend was open-minded and geeky enough to get hooked on it too when we started seeing each other. We hit every toy dealer on the floor and not one of them was selling import toys. Well, except for Kotobukiya but I ain’t got that kinda money to blow on a hand sculpted Batman statue. It used to be any Con would bring out a few import toy guys but I guess they’ve all jumped ship to the Anime Conventions now and I just flat out REFUSE to go to an Anime Convention7. I thumbed through a few boxes of Trade Paperbacks that were 50% off. Man, I was $2 short of buying Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier!8
Jenn had her geek moment extraordinaire, as she got to meet Brian Pulido, creator of Lady Death, Jenn favorite comic. Now I’ve never been a big Lady Death fan, but Pulido is a guy I have immense respect for. Jenn geeked out hard and as she showed off her Pulido inspired tattoos. Mr. Pulido was wowed by this and even asked to get a few pictures of them for his website. He then signed a comic for Jenn and she was ecstatic. I have to say Brian Pulido is one class act. He was friendly and showed genuine enthusiasm toward this fan of his work. He made Jenn so very special. He gave off that vibe that he was as excited to meet her as she was excited to meet him and that is pretty awesome.
So after 2 or so of meandering we met-up again with Chris and Lauren. We all took a breather to sit-down. Jenn told them her story of meeting Brian Pulido, I told them all the different costumes I saw and celebrities we spotted . After thirty minutes of rest, we were all back on the hunt. Jenn and I had given up our hopes of finding Kamen Rider swag and now walked around with Chris and Lauren. In our wandering, I saw James Hong9 getting ready to man his booth and politely went up to him and told him “Mr. Hong, I just wanted to say I have loved you in everything I’ve ever seen you in!”10. I went to shake his hand but he waved me off and instead insisted that we fist bump. I was in no position to argue with the man. If James Hong tells you to fist bump him, then you fist bump James Hong!
I saw Renee Witterstaetter, who used to be editor of John Byrne She-Hulk book when I was in the mail room at Marvel. I quickly dashed over to her and said with a smile “Hey I just want to say, I used to deliver your mail for you when you were at Marvel”. Her reaction was totally great “No way! Well thanks for delivering my mail!”. I felt bad I didn’t buy anything from her. Chris and Lauren got into a conversation with J. O’Barr, creator of The Crow, who has always been a genuinely nice guy in the pat and continues to be a genuinely nice guy to this day. There were a lot of artists I wasn’t familiar with but whose artwork all looked pretty great.
I got to shake hands and say “Thank you” to Neal Adams, one of those artists who just still blows me away to this day. He was selling collections of his most popular work11 with the idea that fans could buy the collections and then have him sign at no extra cost. I really don’t have a problem with artists doing that. It is pretty how almost every artist supplements their per page rate in the comics industry. Besides, they are technically working the whole Convention, signing and sketching stuff for fans12. Some of the artists can definitely come off having attitude or give off that ever so faint air of douchery. Neal Adams did not. He was personable and friendly and seemed to understand my lack of funds. Besides, I’m really not in the collector’s game. I want to meet artists and writers I’m a fan of just to say “Thanks”.
Which brings me to my geek moment of geek moments at the Con. It was about 10 minutes until the Con shut down for the night at 8PM. I was waiting in line to see George Perez. Perez is one of my favorite comic artists of all time. I rank him right up there with Jack Kirby and Carl Barks,I mean he has always been so amazing. I had broken away from Jenn, Chris and Lauren about 20 minutes before. Everyone in line had cash for Perez so he could either sign something or sketch something. I was just in line so I could shake his hand and thank him for 30+ years of entertaining me. I watched him sketch Captain America for one guy and it seemed he did it in 5 minutes. What was even more amazing is that it looked exactly what you expect a finished Perez Cap to look like, minus the coloring. He just seemed to do it so easily. When it came to my turn all I said was “Mr. Perez, I have nothing for you to sign and no money to ask for a sketch. I just want to shake your hand and say thank you so much for all these years of great comics”. He cracked a smile and shook my hand as he said “Thank you, that means a lot”. Then I went on, “Actually, you may not remember but we met more than 20 years ago when I worked in h Marvel mail room”. That surprised him. “Really? You worked in the mail room?”. I then told him how it was 1991 and I was delivering mail to the office of then Hulk editor Bobbie Chase. Told him how I dropped off the mail and there he was, probably working on Hulk: Future Imperfect13. His smile got bigger the more I told him about it. Finally he asked me, with enthusiasmI wasn’t expecting “Hey, would you like to get picture with me?”.
In the middle of all this, I managed to spend my $5 on something worthwhile. Artist Dave Graham had several sketches on sale, including a one of Harley Quinn that Jenn had been eying but didn’t have the money to buy. I waited for Jenn to move on to the next artist and hung back. I cleverly negotiated $5 for the sketch and even got a personalized message with it. I surprised Jenn with it right away and, needless to say, Jenn was totally floored. It is always good to score points with the Girlfriend. It also helps that I love to see her smile and giving her that sketch brought a huge smile to her face.
I was blown away. Here was one of my idols wanting to take a picture with me and I didn’t even ask or expect it. Of course I said yes. Without hesitation he ran around the table, almost gleefully if I had describe it, and embraced me so Jenn could take a picture of us together. I thanked him again, because he really had made my day. Hell, he even made me forget how much my feet hurt. George Perez had made my day at Wizard World Chicago 100% worthwhile!
With that said, here is my lasting memory of Wizard World Chicago!
1NEWSFLASH: Outside of News, there is nothing on TV at 7:30AM. We subjected ourselves to old Power Rangers episodes. Even worse, it was Power Rangers Ninja Storm!
2Thankfully Power Rangers was replaced with Phineas & Ferb
3Classic 70s version and Nolan-verse versions
4One guy had a perfect Penguin costume, right down to the nose, which I’m pretty sure was actually his.
5Having worked at Marvel had its benefits i n the long run
6Got to love The Boondock Saints, though Norman Reedus wasn’t there.
7Anime Conventions are just… creepy. American Otaku don’t get the point that being an Otaku is not a good thing.
8I’m sucker for DC war comics and even a bigger sucker for Joe Kubert
9He of Big Trouble In Little China fame
10Seriously, check his IMDB or Wiki entries. James Hong has been in everything!
11Green Lantern/Green Arrow and a plethora of Batman material.
12Not all of them do sketches though. Some strictly sign stuff and take pictures.
13He confirmed that he was indeed at that time