Wizard World Chicago
|Wizard World Chicago Comic Con|
Wizard World Chicago logo used in 2012
|Venue||Donald E. Stephens Convention Center|
|Inaugurated||July 22, 1972|
|Attendance||70,000 in 2009|
|Organized by||Wizard World|
Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, commonly known as the Chicago Comicon, is a comic book convention held during the summer in Rosemont, Illinois, United States, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. It was traditionally a three-day event (Friday through Sunday) but in 2006 it expanded to four days (Thursday through Sunday). It was founded in 1972 as Nostalgia '72, Chicago Comic Con, and later as the Chicago Comic and Nostalgia Convention, by a local dealer (and school teacher) named Nancy Warner.
Acquired by Wizard Entertainment in 1997, Wizard World Chicago is among the larger comic book conventions in the United States, in third place for overall attendance at a single event. The Wizard World conventions attracted more than 70,000 attendees in 2005, making it the third largest pop-culture event series in the country, only behind New York Comic Con, and Comic-Con International in San Diego. Wizard hosts thirteen annual conventions, including in Chicago, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Austin, and New Orleans.
Originally showcasing comic books and related popular arts, the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of pop culture elements, such as professional wrestling, science fiction/fantasy, film/television, horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels. From 1995–2006, it was also the home of the Wizard World Fan Awards.
Chicago collectibles dealer Nancy Warner staged the area's first comic and collectibles convention on July 22–23, 1972, calling it Nostalgia '72, Chicago Comic Con. It attracted 2,000 attendees. She ran the show, which featured movie screenings as well as dealers from as far as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Buffalo, New York, and Oklahoma City, for three more years, but by 1975 the show was in decline, attracting only 1,000 attendees. Dealers from outside Chicago were generally avoiding the show because they couldn't sell enough to meet expenses. (In fact, in 1973 a rival show, called "Chicago Comic Con," produced by Mark Lully of the Atlantis Bookstore, was held at the Midland Hotel; guests included Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, and Mike Hinge.
At that point, in 1975, Warner approached local comic book store owner Joe Sarno, and his associate Mike Gold, to produce the show. Their job was to overcome Chicago's reputation of being a sub-par convention city. Early in the process, George Hagenauer and comics retailer Larry Charet were brought in. Although Sarno wanted to name the show the Chicago Comic Art and Nostalgia Convention, he was voted down and the name Chicago Comicon was adopted.
The first Chicago Comicon was held in the Playboy Towers Hotel on August 6–8, 1976. Special guests were Marvel Comics figurehead Stan Lee, DC Comics president Jenette Kahn, seminal cartoonist/editor Harvey Kurtzman, artist Mike Grell, and illustrator Tim Conrad. The show featured a comic auction benefiting Chicago's Alternative Schools Network (later auctions benefited the Literacy Volunteers of Chicago). The first Chicago Comicon attracted 2,100 attendees.
In 1977, the Chicago Comicon moved back to the Pick-Congress Hotel, on 520 S. Michigan Avenue (the location of the 1973 show), where it remained until 1983. (The Pick-Congress was renamed the Americana-Congress Hotel in 1982.) The producers added Bob Weinberg to help coordinate the 1977 show. Attendance reached 3,000 at an admission charge of $3/day. The 1978 show was dubbed "Sweatcon" because of the extreme heat. The 1979 show was produced by Larry Charet and Bob Weinberg; it was the first year that Joe Sarno was not one of the show’s organizers. Admission was $3.50/day.
Show organizers hosted a "Chicago Minicon" on April 26–27, 1980, at the usual location of the Pick-Congress Hotel; guests included John Byrne, Max Allan Collins, Tim Conrad, Mike Grell, Paul Kupperberg, and Marv Wolfman. By 1980, the feature show admission was $4/day, and by 1982, it had gone up to $5/day. Will Eisner was the show's guest of honor for 1981 but was unable to attend due to an accident. He returned in 1982 as the guest of honor, which was the same year that the Chicago Comicon merged with Panopticon West, a Doctor Who convention. Again because of overwhelming heat it was dubbed "Sweatcon II."
The Comicon was expanding, and in 1983 the show moved to the larger venue, the Ramada O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, a northern suburb. That location would be the show’s home until 1993 when it relocated to the Rosemont Convention Center (now known as the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center), where it has remained ever since. During the mid-1980s, the show organizers hosted annual one-day "Minicons" every December.
The 1985 program booklet celebrated Marvel Comics' 25th anniversary, followed by the 1987 program celebrating Chicago-based First Comics' 5th anniversary, 1988's booklet marking Eclipse Comics' 10th anniversary, and the 1989 program noted Kitchen Sink Press' 20th anniversary. The 1988 show featured the inaugural presentation of the Harvey Awards. One-day admission for the 1988 comicon was $6. The 1989 show focused on Batman, due to the popularity of Tim Burton's Batman movie. It also featured a panel on underground comics that included Harvey Pekar, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, and S. Clay Wilson. One-day tickets for the 1989 show were $7.
The 1992 Chicago Comicon celebrated the "spirits of independence", e.g. the hot-selling group of creators behind Image Comics. Rob Liefeld held a 24-hour autograph session from Friday morning to Saturday morning. The 1992 show featured 200 dealers, and attendees were charged $10 per person or $25 for a three-day pass.
By 1995, the comics industry was in a slump, and attendance at the show was decreasing. By then, the convention ownership included Charet, while the main show organizer was Moondog Comics owner Gary Colabuono. The 1995 Comicon featured a Stan Lee roast, and again hosted the Comics Arts Conference.
Wizard Entertainment bought the Chicago Comicon from Charet and his partners in 1997. By the 1997 show, attendance was topping out at 5,000; Wizard's first order of business was to fire the previous organizers.
By 2006, Wizard World Chicago had expanded to four days and boasted a weekend attendance of over 58,000 people. The 2009 show attracted 70,000 attendees, but neither DC Comics nor Marvel Comics had an official presence at the show.
Disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich made an appearance at the 2010 Wizard World Chicago, conversing with and taking pictures with attendants. He charged $50 for an autograph and $80 for a photo. He also had a humorous televised meeting with Adam West; Blagojevich remarked that he considered The Joker to be the best Batman foil. Comic fandom website bleedingcool.com reported that Blagojevich met with a mostly positive reception, while Time Out Chicago described it as mixed.
The 2011 show charged $35 for a one-day pass and $60 for a four-day pass at the door.
The 2016 show featured a "Back To The Future" reunion with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson as well as "X-Files" stars David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi, signing autographs and photo-ops with fans.
Dates and locations
|This section is missing information about dates, attendance, and guests. (November 2009)|
Along with panels, seminars, and workshops with comic book professionals, there are previews of upcoming feature films, portfolio review sessions with top comic book and video game companies, and such evening events as awards ceremonies and a costume contest. Traditional events include gaming and hours of other programming on all aspects of comic books and pop culture.
Like most comic-book conventions, Wizard World Chicago features a large floorspace for exhibitors. These include media companies such as movie studios and TV networks, as well as comic-book dealers and collectibles merchants. Like most comics conventions, the Chicago convention includes an autograph area, as well as the Artists' Alley where comics artists can sign autographs and sell or do free sketches. Despite the name, artists' alley can include writers and even models.
Criticism and competition
By 2009, criticism of Wizard World Chicago had been mounting for a while, particularly from those who resented the show's declining emphasis on the traditional comics market and more on things like professional wrestlers and old TV shows. In addition, local dealers resented the show's location outside of Chicago's city limits and its high exhibition prices. The 2009 show, for the first time, had no representation from major publishers like DC and Marvel. According to Deanna Isaacs of Chicago Reader, this was those published opted instead to appear at the competitor convention Reed Exhibition's Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which challenged Wizard World Chicago's position as Chicago's only major comic convention in 2010. C2E2 has been held every year since. Ironically, since 2013, C2E2 has featured more wrestlers in its guest line-up than Wizard World Chicago.
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