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Friday at Chicago Comic-Con (Wizard World) 2009

Wizard World Chicago (a.k.a. The Chicago Comic-Con, though the digital sign outside the convention center still said Wizard) is a strange, strange bag.  I’m not completely sure what to make of it.  Some people seemed to think it was a smaller Friday than last year, some people think it’s about the same.  One person thought it was bigger.  I can’t tell for sure, for reasons I’m about to get into, but bear in mind that Friday was not a particularly large attendance last year.

I can tell you that the floor space is a bit smaller.  The artist alley “annex” next to the food area is now food seating, once more.  There was one mostly empty row in artists, they now have breaks in the tables, so you can move between aisles (a good thing, actually) that take up some space.  The aisles felt a little wider and I’m not so sure the rows aren’t as far back.  This would back up the difference between the 2007 program and the artists listed on the website.

There’s a wide, unused aisle along the wall by the restrooms when you first enter the convention floor that I don’t recall being that wide and again, the aisles seem wide.  Of course all these wide aisles could just be signs of a small crowd.  Tell you the truth, I saw plenty of baby strollers and I didn’t have much, if any, trouble avoiding them.  Back when this show was popular and crowded, people being careless with the stroller wasn’t just an annoyance, it was sometimes dangerous for the kids.  Crowding was really not an issue.

I can tell you that the front part of the show was a bit of a ghost town.  Where you used to see publishers, it was almost entirely autograph booths.  A few B list SF actors, a former Baywatch starlet, a bunch of ex-pro wrestlers.  That sort of thing.  Oh, and Edward James Olmos.  Publishers accounted for were Avatar (I couldn’t find Rich Johnston), Ape Entertainment, Aspen, Moonstone and Image.  Image, with Jim Valentino and Rob Liefeld headlining, turns out to have been signed up all along, but was originally going to be back in artist alley, not in the front area.

You also had a few toy booths, a booth for “Venom” energy drink and a Gillette booth where they’d let you shave and try out their new razors.  (I guess they decided a comic show has a lot of men show up.)  Never seen somebody shave with a blade at a comic show before.  The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund had a booth, but it had been set up.  (For that matter, The Admiral Theater, a local strip club, also had a booth that wasn’t set up.)

The dealer section was a fire sale.  Plenty of places had tpbs for 50%, but you also had several dealers selling them for a flat $5 each.  The $5 books were largely Marvel, with everything from the collection of the 70s Omega the Unknown to Ultimate Spider-Man to various essentials.  I really didn’t see a lot of buying and the browsing appeared to be stronger earlier in the day.  On the back issue side, I saw a lot of $1 boxes, a few $0.50 boxes and a smattering of high grade back issue places.  The cheaper the price, the more browsing.  I swear to God, I saw one high grade back issue dealer who looked like he was near tears towards the end of the day.  I don’t think it had been going well for him.  There’s anecdotal evidence to suggest the Tonner dolls were moving well, and there seemed to be a lot of little kids with kid-sized lightsabers that were being sold at the show.

Now normally, you see 50% discounts on the first day and you figure you might as well buy and get it over with.  This time, the presence of those $5 books (I’m talking $24.95 color titles for $5, as opposed to $12.50 at half price) gave me pause.  Judging by the lack of buying, I’m thinking I’m not the only one.  A friend caught himself thinking $5 was too much and was wondering what would be $4 or $3.50 by Sunday.  You’d think prices were already rock bottom, but I saw one small booth change their price for Marvel Essentials from $10 to $5 during the afternoon.

If you’re looking for non-Marvel graphic novels, the selection isn’t as strong.  The Marvel side of it seems to be flooded.

Artist alley, while smaller, is a little odd this year.  There seem to be a few more names.  Howard Chaykin, Geoff Darrow and J. Scott Campbell, among other.  This could be a little weird, as the name artists would usually stack up a line.  Still, net effect is artist alley seemed to be pulling the bulk of the attendees.  Of course, I had a dissenting vote that artist alley was dead.  The dissenter was just at the San Diego Comic Con, so that may have colored some perceptions.  There didn’t seem to be any comparison between traffic up front and traffic in artist alley.  Overall attendance, that would be an issue, though.  It’s also hard to judge attendance when sections of the floor are almost empty and other sections are somewhat brisk.

Is the so-called “Chicago Comic-Con” a comic show?  If you judge the show by who’s in the front area when you walk in, then it is not.  Programming didn’t start until the afternoon, either.  We’ll see if the crowd picks up on Saturday (did I mention Lalapalooza is in Chicago this weekend), but this was not an auspicious start to the show.  I’ve heard reports of a TV ad playing late night on the Cartoon Network (likely a local cable buy) featuring Lou Ferrigno.  They also have some Twilight people.  We’ll have to see how the weekend crowds are, and whether the sudden shift to emphasizing autographs helps or hurts the comics parts of the show.

Oh, and in the rumor department, while there’s plenty of speculation on whether or not this will be the last Wizard show in Chicago (about a month ago, somebody saw me with a bag of comics on the bus and asked me if this was going to be the last one), the show program announces next year’s show as August 12-15, 2010.  That’s 3 weeks after SDCC, instead of 2 weeks.  Could this be a partial admission that schedule 2 weeks after SDCC is just dumb?

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  1. Wizard World Chicago (Comic-Con) 2009 Saturday/Sunday Notes and Wrap-Up | Indignant Online
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