by Rob Cave
There’s always been something a bit disappointing about Sundays. It’s like on a primal level every part of our body understands that workaday Monday is round the corner. Fun is coming to an end. And what little fun there remains is overshadowed by the infinite promise of Friday and Saturday just gone. That is certainly the reputation they have at conventions. By Sunday, the hardcore attendees, the exhibitors and guests have already been there a day or two. The enthusiasm they started with has met with the reality of spending an extended period of time in what is effectively a large warehouse-type space, and perhaps also the reality staying up a little past their respective bedtimes. Any big announcements there might have been have all been made, and most attendees have already spent most of the money they planned to spend. Indeed, when I told Heidi I’d be at Wizard World Chicago on a Sunday she did remind me “Sunday is probably the quietest day…”
So it was with this in mind, and the fact that I had unavoidable family commitments earlier in the weekend, that I paid in advance for my ticket (not cheap – $40 for one day, including the processing charge) and made my way to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on the day in question for the 2012 incarnation of Wizard World Chicago. I’d been to the same event a few years back, attending on a Saturday if I recall correctly. I listened to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, my partner picked up some cool books from Chris Staros at Top Shelf’s table and I had been wowed by the flashy displays hawking the latest videogames. This time there were fewer comics publishers (Though Devil’s Due were there, eager to impress with Mercy Sparx) and no-one promoting the latest videogame releases that I could see – the biggest game on the floor was an cabinet from ArcadeDLX, a company that custom-builds arcade machines.
I’m not sure what the crowd had been like on previous days, (organizers are often loath to disclose such figures) but the crowd of con-goers I joined as I shuffled through the main hall, included families of all shapes, sizes and compositions seemed just right to me – it was neither so overcrowded that you were always bumping into people, nor so sparsely populated that you felt at risk of being jumped by cash/attention-starved exhibitors. There were no massive queues to get our wristbands (though there might have been earlier in the weekend for all I knew) and everyone moved about freely. I was soon wandering round the hall, rummaging through the capacious back-issue and graphic novel bins of the various comics retailers and gawping in wonder at the other stuff, from wooden swords to hand-crafted plushies on display. I’m glad to report, maybe as a result of it being a Sunday, that there were plenty of bargains to be had.
There were plenty of actors from cult film and TV, to pose with for photograph and autograph purposes. However, none of these performers could compete with Stan Lee for popularity – he still had a substantial queue when I eventually left around 4 PM. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to chat with various comic creators of all stripes: Jim Calafiore, who was keen to talk about Leaving Megalopolis, his Kickstarter project With Gail Simone, Archie’s Dan Parent and Batman Inc.’s Chris Burnham, and while I was sorry to miss Geof Darrow, the drawing left at his table (penned, I am so hoping, by the artist, himself) made me laugh out loud.
While Geek Girl Con was going on at the same time in Seattle, Chicago’s geek girls were not about to let the side down, with Sugar Gamers actively recruiting likeminded individuals from their table and around the hall. Plenty of cosplay, always popular at cons, was much in evidence, and the Sabbath certainly didn’t dissuade folk from dressing up as their favourite characters to the delight of children of all ages. My personal highlight was a little girl who had made her own yellow Dalek costume and was proceeding to drive it around the convention hall under with guidance from Mom, who was justifiably proud of her daughter’s construction skills (although rather less keen to acquiesce to her offspring’s pleading to let her buy a sword).
And in many ways that helped form my lasting impression of the day – of a Sunday that was all about family. It wasn’t fussy or hectic, there was little spectacle, but the event was no less enjoyable for that. It was simply a gathering of people who like cult films, TV, toys and comics coming together to enjoy the stuff they love. And as I write this, I can see on the Wizard World website the company are already advertising for their next Chicago con. If I’m in town I’ll most likely check it out. It is still a great way to spend a Sunday.