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The Wizard World/Chicago Comic Con 2010 Wrap-Up

I didn’t go to Wizard World/Chicago Comicon on Saturday due in no small part to Wizard’s inviting Rob Blagojevich.  (On the other hand, I did enjoy the video of Rich Johnston harassing Blago.)  I’m told by all parties involved that Wizard was packed on Saturday.  This raises a rather important question for the future of Wizard: was it packed because of the appearance of Shatner added on the rest of the celebrity guests, or did they just pick up a ton of walk-up business with all the last-minute local media publicity over Blago, a convicted felon that had nothing to do with the show (unless you want to count him making an ass of himself on Celebrity Apprentice and lump him in the “My Fair Brady” category, which is not how he was being handled)?

Sunday was, well, a typical Sunday at a con.  Kinda slow.  Traffic was still coming and going in waves.

No doubt, if a decent amount of the Saturday traffic was non-Blago, Wizard can draw enough audience for this show to succeed.  It was a different audience, however.  There seemed to be a lot more people for whom this was a first convention.  There were a lot more small children than in years past, even on Friday.  And the growth seems to be in the area non-hardcore-comics-fans.

Artist’s Alley seemed to be doing alright.  You’re going to have some variance from table to table, but people seemed to be doing as well as they ever had.  Some of the better than in previous years.  Which is interesting, because the A-list and B-list in Artist’s Alley seemed to be smaller than in previous years and it seemed much more of a local show.  Very much a regional show flavor.  (If you like, compare and contrast with last year’s Windy City Comic Con.  Not that much difference in my opinion.)

Comics in the dealers area seemed to be another story.  There just didn’t seem to be that much action and I wasn’t hearing many stories about windfall sales.  (If only somebody had a Blago comic to sell, perhaps it would be different.)  The fire sales on Sunday were mainly on single issues.  If you bought enough bulk, you might have gotten your price down to a dime a comic.  For the most part, the trade paperbacks held their prices the whole show.  Most were 50% off the whole time.  You had a smattering of $5/tpb. One table was 75% off, and another table dropped to  3tpbs/$10 as the show closed.  Tpb’s were largely still what was being dumped for $5 a pop at last years show: Marvel from the last 5 years with the additions of a lot of Spider-Man “Brand New Day Volumes.”  You wanted the complete run of Ultimate Spider-Man for $5 a pop, you would at least come close to getting it.  Not much by way of DC or Independents.

As I said in the Friday wrap-up, if you’ve got a lot of first-time show goers or casual fans showing up, it makes perfect sense that single issues aren’t going to be prime movers.  Newbies aren’t going to want to buy expensive back issues and the cheap boxes aren’t even close to sorted, so they’d have to dig through to try and find a run.  That is, if they knew what they were looking for.  It just isn’t going to happen.  Trade paperbacks are the way to go here, but I honestly am not sure that happened either.  Could be, people were just spending their money in Artist’s Alley.

The really bizarre thing was a series of loudspeaker announcements starting at around 4:30 on Sunday, reminding the dealers that they shouldn’t start breaking down their tables yet and that they weren’t allowed to leave until 5:15.  I don’t recall hearing an announcement like that before, and they kept repeating it.  Normally at 4:30, you’re seeing last minute price slashing and dealers trying to get that last buck, not dealers giving up the ghost.

On the other hand, the toy booths seemed to be crowded and making money hand over fist.  And this would make sense if you’ve got people there for Star Trek/Wrestlers autographs and people are buying genre/movie/TV-based toys.  And maybe if your first-time con goers are open-minded to comics, but inexperienced, but there for the autograph experience, that would open them up to actual creators in Artist’s Alley who can sign things.

And I guess this also makes me wonder what next year is going to look like.  There were a lot of disgruntled attendees last year, as the show lost its big publisher booths and tried to sell itself as a comic show when it was about halfway to being a media/autograph show.  This year, I was seeing almost exclusively happy attendees, but you have to wonder if they’re going to have another hit and lose a few more comic fans who want more comics guests and programming.  (An old roommate of mine told me this would be his last year: not enough comics and not enough bargains on the floor to justify a $35 ticket.  Another friend who’s been on a panel probably 14 out of the 15 previous years couldn’t justify buying a ticket this year and seemed genuinely bewildered at the guest list and programming.  Isolated incidents or representative of the long-time attendee?  Time will tell.)

So looking forward, here are my questions for the future of Wizard:

*What’s the real Saturday draw without a local publicity anomaly like Blago?

*How many comic dealers are coming back next year?

*Do they lose any comics attendees who prefer a comic convention to a mainly-media show?

Really, there doesn’t seem to be any question whether Wizard can have _a_ show in the Chicago area (Rosemont, is _not_ Chicago).  The questions are how many days do they need to have a show and how large a presence comics will have in it.  The autograph portion seems to be taking care of itself and even if Blago was a decent portion of the traffic, a two-day or one-day show would likely still work.

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  1. I don’t think Blago was responsible for much of the traffic on Saturday. He was such a late addition, attendees who wanted to see him would’ve had to make a spur of the moment decision to spend $35 per person just to bask in the disgraced former governor’s presence.

    As he was leaving the show, he got about the level of attention I expected–people around wanting pictures, but not so crowded that I couldn’t have sauntered over to join him in a smile for the camera. At the same moment, the aisles in the autograph section (Blago was on the wall to the left as you entered the front door, nowhere near the celebrities), were absolutely jammed. Passersby had to squeeze through the crowd to get from one side to the other. Blago may have pulled some gawkers from that group (and, I’ll admit it, I gawked), but they wouldn’t have missed him if he’d never shown.

  2. Just because they were showing up for Shatner, doesn’t mean they didn’t hear about it because of the Blago media coverage. That was a helluva lot of free advertising.

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