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Chicago: a kinder, gentler experience

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Rich Johnston reports that the manageable-size crowds at Chicago Comic Con definitely have an upside:

People realised that with smaller numbers, they could actually get into the panels they wanted to see without queuing overnight. Hell, some people just walked into the Kick Ass footage – something you just couldn’t do at San Diego. People found they could get a sketch from George Perez or J Scott Campbell by lining up for five minutes. Without the Marvel and DC booths, people were free to discover other kinds of comics. And on Friday, they hit the bars to find Mark Millar buying drinks for all and sundry. And some people even got a shave.

Basically it was turning into a British convention. Where people go to talk about comics, actually meet the creators socially and, well, geek out a bit. Mark Millar has made a splash with Twitters like “Thanks you Mark Millar for showing me, personally, a great time!”, “Just shook mark millar’s hand as he made fun of Bendis. Awesome.” and “You know just hanging out with mark millar…”

  1. Nothing new here.

    Even before Twitter, the Millar/Convention/Bars thing was happening. In fact, probably at every convention Millar has attended.

    What, because Twitter now exists, Millar/Convention/Bars is news?

    Get real, people…Rich Johnston, too.

  2. “Basically it was turning into a British convention.”

    I certainly hope that Rich Johnston is paying American taxes on his salary since he is working and reporting live from America.

  3. but that’s the point–Rich isn’t in America reporting on Chicago. He’s at home, reporting from twitter posts—cause those are the same as being there, right?

    and then Heidi links to his post, exemplifying the strong standards of journalism a PW logo brings with it. it’s all so sad…

  4. Heh… how much web journalism depends on linking to boards, blogs, etc?

    I think it was less crowded. I participated in the auction via phone, and won two pieces for grocery money. 75000 attendance? unlikely. No Big Four booths. when was the last sell-out at a Wizard World con? And how will it compare to Baltimore or Mid-Ohio?

  5. Bad omen: “chicago comic-con” search on Google News mobile returns TWO articles. (Chicago Trib reporting on Ostrander benefit, ABC affiliate reporting on things to do this weekend.) “San Diego comic-con” returns two from the Seventh, one from the Sixth of August, for an event that was two weeks ago?

    Only one local news source reported on CCC? No reports on cosplay? Local talent? No remote reports? Was everyone at Lollapalooza? Saturday and Sunday are slow news days…

  6. Well, as somebody attending this con for the 11th time, it was definitely a HUGE turnaround from the last few years. The last two years in particular, the place felt almost empty…this year, the crowds were much bigger (Saturday it was hard to even move around) and the general mood was much more positive. The almost vacant preview night started some early buzz that C2E2 was going to kill off the con, but then Friday came and had a bigger crowd than it had in years (Artists Alley was especially packed). And DC and Marvel may not have had booths, but their panels were still packed to the gills.

    Simply put, I had fun this year, and I’m planning on going again next year.

  7. Sheeze… what’s with all of the venom/bashing towards Wizard and Chicago-Con? Especially by people who didn’t even attend the show! Seems too many here have some sort of stick up their arses over Wizard and they need to get over it. I went all three days and thought it was an enjoyable convention and I’ll go again next year (and probably will have to read more venom spewed by those that didn’t attend… gotta love the Internet!).

  8. Torsten, the Chicago show has never gotten the kind of attention that San Diego has. Even San Diego wasn’t SAN F’ING DIEGO until all the movie folks started showing up.

    Locally, it’s just not as big a deal. As many reports have covered, SDCC is a huge contributor to the local economy. It’s barely a blip in Chicago, so it just doesn’t get the same attention.

    -J

  9. I last attended Chicago…when Men In Black appeared. It was a good regional convention then. Growing up in Omaha, there aren’t many midwestern cons. I hope CCC survives. I’m attending C2E2 next Spring, and I’ll compare that with NYCC (all three) and Baltimore and what I remember of SDCC and CCC. But I’m certain that C2E2 will garner much more media attention.

    Comics (and other fanboy interests) are hot right now. (GI JOE just opened, then there was Wolverine, Star Trek, Transformers, Harry Potter…) No media showed up to interview Millar or take photos of cosplayers or work a local angle of Chicagoland comics or to just report that there was something for families to do that weekend? A convention that’s been around for about twenty years?

    I have no animosity towards Wizard. Their company is currently in trouble…numerous staff changes, cancelled cons, mail order snafus…that many are wondering how long Wizard can last.

    There was an article mentioned here last week about the economic impact. 75,000 attendance was mentioned. It may be Chicago, but many people travel from neighboring states. In an economy where business travel is curtailed, tourist events like this become more important.

    Two final points: Dragon*Con was sold out in June (I considered Atlanta as an alternative to San Diego). It has many parallels with CCC. Compare and contrast.

    Two: The Big Four not exhibiting but still promoting. What does this mean for conventions? Companies save not having to ship, rent, erect, staff a booth. (Marvel’s is simplicity… a carpet, a few tables for signing, a cabana for storage.) If big companies don’t exhibit, then a convention suffers as people gossip (and loses some money if floor space is rented). Book Expo America suffered last May when large publishers opted for meeting rooms instead of floor displays.

  10. Torsten:

    The suburban Daily Herald advanced the show with a news story and the cover piece in its Friday section. And before you dismiss the newspaper as suburban, it’s the third-largest daily in Illinois. Go to dailyherald.com for the pieces.

  11. 7500?? bull! There was no way that many turned out. I’ve heard in the past shows Wizard fudge the numbers to make it seem bigger than it is. If you buy a 3 day pass,they count it as 3 person. They’re so full of doo doo.

  12. Plus, the San Diego Con is still running its banner ad on the Beat Web page, even 3 weeks after the 2009 con. Building brand recognition for next year perhaps.

  13. Russell, as I stated above, I used Google Mail via my Sprint Treo 755p cellphone.

    Any publicity about comics is welcomed. (I remember life in the 1980s, when ANY mention in the New York Times or ANY paper was cause for celebration.)

    Google News, via my PC desktop:
    A search for “chicago comic-con”, past week, resulted in 65 distinct articles (many with multiple citations, such as Mark Millar’s appearance).
    A search for “san diego comic-con”, past week, resulted in 2243 distinct articles.

    As for the CCI:SD banner ad? It directs to the general site, which also sponsors APE and Wonder-Con, and it offers a recap for CCI:SD.

    Meanwhile, one of the articles on Google News, from Comic Book Resources, mentions the press release from C2E2, stating that Marvel and DC will be exhibiting booths at that show.

  14. Ok–I’m not sure why all those early posts are ripping on Rich or Heidi for linking/quoting him. Personally, I’m thrilled to get to read a blurb about the show. I was there this year (this was my 23rd year) and I have to agree that this was the best chicago comic show I’ve been to in many years.

    It was kind of eerie because it was SO empty on Friday. Again, without the big publishers attending (and screw you marvel and dc for that btw) it had a much more indie-feel. There were no big lines anywhere. And for the most part, there wasn’t much in the way of a really loud din. It was somehow muted. (Everywhere you went there wasnt loud speakers blaring or someone shouting into a mic. trying to get you to walk over to their booth. Fortunately I didn’t miss the Wizard booth with that stupid big spinning wheel–a happy omission this year.) Also, no wrestling rings.

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned the live tatooing that was going on. People were literally getting tatoos on the convention floor. That freaked me out a little.

    Some of my con highlights included a captain america sketch by Howard Chaykin. It was my first time meeting this colorful person. He was great. Jason Sobol drew me a kickass spiderman for my sketchbook. It was a real treat to meet Emma Caufield from Buffy. (Anya is one of our favorite characters on the show) At the end of Friday afternoon, I saw taht Mark Texeira was sitting there alone in artist alley…so we had a nice chat and I got another sketch.

    Didn’t get to see George Perez (just kept missing him at the booth) and I tried to chase down Maggie Thompson (who I saw scurrying down one of the aisles) but she was moving too fast.

    One of the funny stories circulating at the show was about Gary Coleman not showing up at the last minute (yes, the whatchutalkinboutwillis gary coleman). I guess they messed up his travel arrangements and so he said screw you. But the funny part is tath they had him set up to be right next to todd bridges who did make the show. So poor todd had nobody to talk with and people were not running up to see him. I felt awkward for him.

  15. “Ok–I’m not sure why all those early posts are ripping on Rich or Heidi for linking/quoting him.”

    I think it’s because the beat account makes it sounds like he’s reporting first-hand rather than reading other people’s twitter accounts and watching a webcam…

  16. Saturday and Sunday seemed like any other past Chicago show from my vantage point in Artists’ Alley. Very crowded aisles. No Marvel or DC booth presence was disappointing to both fans and pros, but ire from fans seemed centered equally on Wizard and the big 2. The only panel I was on was pretty full despite being opposite the Marvel panel. It was not a ghost town by any means. Friday was a little scary, though.

    I’m looking forward to C2E2, but find myself willing to come back to Rosemont. It’s just too convenient to skip for midwest talent. I admit some country bumpkin dread over the downtown parking/hotel situation for C2E2.

  17. Ah, I didn’t understand that Charles. Thanks. Now I get it.

    I’m still indifferent though because I’m a firm believe that nobody should ever ever ever give Heidi a hard time about anything because she’s super-fantastic.

  18. I wasn’t ripping Heidi.

    If she didn’t print comments by Johnston, I wouldn’t know what he had said. As usual, well, I’ll let it go…for now.

  19. Nichelle Nichols announced a new series, Cabonauts, a sci-fi musical comedy:

    Nichols previewed clips of the web series, and her enthusiasm for the show came through. Nichols, best known for originating the role of Uhura in the Star Trek universe, plays CJ, the CEO of an intergalactic taxi service.

    Still going strong at 76.

    SRS

  20. I think Wizard’s “mail order snafus” (politely put, Torsten) may have migrated into the fraud zone. The situation has been going on for far too long to be snafus.

  21. Dennis V. Said:

    “Sheeze… what’s with all of the venom/bashing towards Wizard and Chicago-Con? Especially by people who didn’t even attend the show!”

    But we’ve been to too many Wizard shows over the years. Leopard doesn’t change its spots.

  22. Phil:

    It’s not a “country bumpkin” fear. Although people have complained for years that Wizard World Chicago isn’t actually in Chicago, holding a consumer trade show (ie: one open to the public, not just industry people) in downtown Chicago can be a logistical nightmare. The traffic, the lack of nearby hotels, the lack of convenient restaurants, exorbitant prices for everything… trust me, you’re not the only one concerned abut this.

  23. As for the lack of Big Publisher Booths, I think everyone complaining about this needs to take a breath, look at the forest for the trees and recognize the economic situation the country is mired in. Setting up at a show like this isn’t cheap.

  24. Charles Knight, sheesh, it’s called link blogging! Mea culpa.

    It seems, however, that Rich’s interpretation was backed up by those who WERE there, at least in part. With all the diminished expectations, plus great local crowd, there was much to enjoy.

  25. This year was the same as the past 6 years at Rosemont. Just a bit hotter and sweatier in our corner of artist alley. As for C2E2, it’s too expensive for probably 80% of WW Chicago’s artist alley, once you add together higher hotel rates, parking rates, Chicago city 10% tax, and the whopping $400-$450 per table cost for the con. It might be a fun show to attend, but I’m not sure if I would set up. Not the first year, at least. With Rosemont, I know what I’m gonna get. I know the hotels, the folks in artist alley, many of the folks that attend, etc. Sometimes that familiarity makes up for alot of negatives (like no Martvel & DC, and the hit & miss abilities of Wizard).
    Anyway, I’d like to think that most of us had a fun weekend!

  26. Hey, I was raised in the Heartland by a German mother. You better believe I’m polite! (And in retrospect, I think “fubar” might have been a better word than “snafu”.)

    Having scoped out hotel rooms in Chicago, I think people will be taking taxis to and from the Loop hotels, with some hoofing from the El or taking the bus. (Just like Javits!) McCormick isn’t really “downtown” in the tourist sense.

    However, McCormick does bill itself as the largest convention center in the country. If C2E2 succeeds, in April (right before Blockbuster Season), it could rival CCI:SD in size and influence. NYCC, in October 2010, will utilize the entire Javits Center.

  27. Well, the first two letters of “snafu” do stand for “situation normal”…

    That said, the assessment of the show reminds me of last year’s Wizard World Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent WonderCon. Yeah, the crowd was light compared to San Diego, but that meant I actually got to do what I wanted, see who I wanted, etc.

  28. Having scoped out hotel rooms in Chicago, I think people will be taking taxis to and from the Loop hotels, with some hoofing from the El or taking the bus. (Just like Javits!) McCormick isn’t really “downtown” in the tourist sense.

    This is just guesswork, but I’m presuming that C2E2 will be heavy on the shuttles to and from the convention center. There’s really only one hotel convenient to it without some sort of transportation, but that’s usually figured in to the logistics of shows setting up here.

    I know that at least Chicago Comics up near Wrigleyville is planning a shuttle from their store (which will probably be about a 20-25 minute ride). I’ll be surprised if they’re the only ones.

  29. A 20 minute shuttle ride? Maybe the Rosemont con has spoiled me, but I would HATE going to a con where I can’t walk back to my room to periodically stash my recent purchases.

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