It’s hard to find much coverage about this weekend’s Chicago Comic-Con/Wizard World Chicago that didn’t involve disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. That was definitely THE big story, from his meeting with Ethan van Sciver to his encounter with Adam West and an attempt to steal the Batmobile.

Despite the presence of some 500 actors, artists, writers, pro wrestlers and models, Blagojevich was touted atop the show’s website and enjoyed prime real estate on the convention floor with a booth near the entrance. While Blago got no appearance fee, he kept proceeds from autographs ($50 each) and photos ($80 a pop).

Blago’s presence at the Nerd-lebrity fest did not escape notice among fellow attendees — the frequent announcements of his signings were greeted with lots of booing, and one fan was incensed to note that the convicted pol was “charging more than Shaft” for an autograph.
As for his own reactions to the show, Blago told Fox News his profits from the show were negligible

“I didn’t really get any money from any of the photos I took, because I took probably hundreds of them and couldn’t bother to ask anybody for any money for that. Those were free. I did sign some signatures. I was there because I was invited at the last minute by the promoters, and it was an opportunity to get out there among the people,” he added.

Blagojevich climbed into the Batmobile while at the show and even joked when picking up the Batphone that he was calling his lawyer. He said at the convention in suburban Chicago that the superheroes inspire him with his own battles. He told Wallace he has to fight these battles and do what he can for his family.

BTW, did you know Blagojevich has his own Chinese News Animation?

Dean Trippe summed it all up with his recreation of the meeting with Adam West:

There were some other takes on the show, from TimeOut Chicago and Todd Allen:

And there’s nothing wrong with just showing up for the fire sale.  I have a roommate that gave up on the programming five or six years ago and just shows up on Sundays to buy.  A flea market with an expensive cover charge?  Maybe, but it is what it is.

From what I could tell, most people seemed to be enjoying themselves, so it’s time to admit the show has just changed. 

Marc Alan Fishman went for ComicMix:

We entered the show floor, nearly 40 minutes after getting the tickets. The girls split off from us to see the parade of mostly retired actors and semi-celebrities. My wife, a movie buff, was excited to meet the original Mike TeeVee and Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka. I was shuddering at the $20 a pop she’d have to pay to get them to sign their picture. Later, she’d return with an autographed picture AND golden ticket replica. Sure shut me up right quick. As promised, my day today concerned the dealer room. Thus, I bypassed the day’s promising panels… including Ethan Van Sciver singing the Blues, a Q and A session with “It’s only 17 months late, so I’m gonna go make video games” Joe Maduriera, and a screening of an independent Vampire flick. Oh, and in Room A, a day long parade of celebrity signings and music videos. For you, my readers, I tore myself away from those enticements, and dove headfirst onto the main con floor.

Maggie Thompson has lots of actual comics-type reportage, such as a chat with Jim McLauchlin about The Dick Giordano Humanitarian of the Year Award. She also notes that the show was — despite all the carping from old-timers — very well attended, and here’s a picture to prove it:

crowd 2 web 821.jpg

So I approached a chunk of the line at random and asked each of about 50 people in turn, “Is this your first Chicago Comic-Con?” Slightly more than half said it was. There were many families coming as groups, often with toddlers in strollers, looking forward to the adventure. When I entered the hall, I was stunned to find the first booths in the hall jammed with people – and, as noted, most of the Saturday crowd hadn’t yet entered the lobby to purchase their tickets. Here’s a shot taken much later in the day from a vantage point overseeing a portion of the hall floor. Whuf!

Chicago Now has some photo galleries, and the presence of Harry Potter-as-Snape, Lara Croft(?) and Number 23 shows that while it may have strayed from its original focus, WWC/CCC is a successful show for autographs and dressing up and so on. The term “comic-con” is now a brand name for a certain kind of fun that doesn’t even involve comics.


  1. This is definitely a turning point for the Chicago Con. It may no longer be what it once was. While the increase in media stars is not in itself a bad thing, it should not detract from the Celebration of the Art of Comics.

    While I enjoyed myself, it was tinted with a very melancholy feeling. It was like visiting an old friend in the hospital. You had fun in their company, but you couldn’t help remember how vital they had been just a few years ago. You hope they’ll recover, but feel guilt when you think it might just be more merciful if they just pass away in their sleep.

    We spoke with many of the vendors who were simply despondent about sales. One reported that they started keeping track of people passing their booth and noted that on average only one out of ten appeared to have any purchases with them. Most people appeared to simply be there to look at the stars and see what the ‘comic-con’ they hear about in the news was all about.

    So Wizard probably managed to increase the amount of the general public that attended the show, but that public was not necessarily buying anything once they got in the show. They were only there out of curiosity.

    The exhibitors must have a profitable show if we expect them to continue supporting this event. It was hard walking around the floor this year and noticing all of the exhibitors who were missing that had given the show so much character and variety for so many years. It saddens me that several of the remaining vendors that I’ve considered vital to the show expressed serious doubts that they will return in 2011.

    This show had been a spotlight of the summer for many, many years. I’ve been attending it since 1984 and a three day pass has been the norm for at least the last 12 years, but I think one day will be sufficient unless things change. I’ll probably be in attendance for one day next year, but that will more than likely be split between artist alley and the panel rooms.

  2. Of course the crowds in that picture seem big: if you shrink the space between vendors from previous years, and downsize the overall floor space – where else are they supposed to walk? Let’s not try and fool anyone here.

  3. Hey Mikael, if Maggie Thompson says there is a crowd, there is a crowd.

    The show may not have been to everyone’s tastes, but it was obviously well-attended.

  4. Sure, it was “well-atteneded” but I had a much easier time moving around (without crashing into other nerds holding their piles of loot) than I have in years past. More strollers than I’ve ever seen at CCC before, but less loot (both purchased and free).

  5. My conspiracy theory on why Blagojevich was announced last minute is that the promoters probably didn’t want any of the guests to have time to back out.

    By making the announcement so close to the show the promoters made it difficult for any guests who would have wanted to back out to do so. I don’t know what the contracts look like, so don’t know if they’d have to forfeit their booth fees, but they certainly would take a hit on air fare (and possibly hotel if they couldn’t cancel in time).

    So, they were stuck going to a show with a guest that they might not have wanted to be associated with and the promoter wins with PR for the weekend’s “surprise guest” at the event and no negative press on guests pulling out.

    I have no inside knowledge on this. It’s just an outsider’s perspective of how the events transpired. Anyone who worked on the show (or who exhibited) might know some details here and should comment.

  6. I was extremely annoyed by the media coverage surrounding “Blago”. It definitely distracted from the rest of the show, mainly because it was a big “w-t-f is he doing here” moment for everyone involved. And of course, he had to come on Saturday, which was insanely busy compared to Friday. Poor planning on Wizard’s part, as they had to of known what kind of media circus his attendance was going to create.

    I was most disappointed by the amount of comic book artists and writers that did not attend (most of artist alley was local). Without Marvel or DC booths to host them, there were few chances to meet heavy hitters like Mark Millar, JMS, Grant Morrison, or JR Jr (all people I have met at past Chicago Wizard World’s). Overall, a good time, but not a very unique one.

  7. I was there. The space has been minimized from previous years – especially the aisles. When larger publishers had a presence there in the past, the exhibitor floor was roomier (until Wizard decided to shunt DC’s booth in favor of Shamus’ fighting ring a few years back). Now everything is crammed. No one’s arguing it was “well-attended”. But compared to what? Because compared to previous years, attendance is falling. What I’m arguing is that that picture doesn’t tell what really went on.

  8. As someone who exhibited in Artist Alley this year (and in 2007 and 2008), I can tell you that, for sure, foot traffic in AA was up. Everyone in our row (3100) said so, and we all did record sales numbers.

  9. Saturday was very crowded, but Friday and Sunday, not so much. The autograph area on Saturday (which is what Maggie photographed) was so jammed it was difficult to get from one side to the other.

    I have to disagree with Mikael about smaller aisles. There were fewer exhibitors and vendors there than in previous years, and Wizard didn’t diminish the size of the show floor, so it seemed to me that the aisles were wider than before. Outside of the celebrity area they seemed plenty roomy throughout the show.

  10. I’m not at all surprised that Russell Lissau and others in Artist’s Alley did well (and I’ve been hearing that from a number of sources). There was nothing much in the front of the hall to filter out comics fans from moving straight to that area. Unless they were autograph hounds, they had few distractions and nothing to take their money until they made it to the back.

  11. So— did WIZARD WORLD: Chicago/CCC do
    “better” or “worse” than REED POP’s C2E2?

    Was attendance greater [yay Team WIZARD!] or lesser [go Team REED!]? Which of the two receieved the most of the Chicago-area comic fans’ admission ticket ‘votes’? What ARE the total numbers?

    Because obviously this is the most important thing to evaluate, right?

  12. For those that set up in artist alley, part of it is the numbers. If C2E2 tables cost more, and downtown hotels and parking cost more… what will it take for all of those who seem to be very happy about this years Wizard show to stop attending and only do C2E2? I’ve been setting up for years at the Wizard show with very good results. Couldn’t make it this year due to choosing to go to Baltimore, but the feedback I’m getting from Artist Alley folks was that it was a very good show. Makes me want to go next year. The profit margin for these shows is pretty thin for myself and many others that I know. Having a show be even $150 more in expenses means that the crowd has to be REALLY REALLY awesome, or that your profits will be teeny weeny, at which point there better be another reason to set up.

    and I spoke to many comic dealers that didn’t do well at C2E2, so who knows what to do about that…

  13. I went, but it was my first year, so I can’t offer any comparison to previous years. I sold a lot of books, more than expected. But on the whole it seemed like the bulk of the crowd wanted to gawk at celebrities rather than read books. The aisles were “wide enough to drive cattle through,” as one friend put it. And despite some pretty ridiculous sales (50 percent off at least), retailers had a rough go of it, from what I heard. And the busiest booth featured girls in tight clothing handing out samples of an energy drink. It was also the only convention I’ve ever been to where exhibitors were warned (over the PA) not to begin taking down their displays before the show ended. Most did anyway.

  14. This was my first year exhibiting and my fourth year attending. I don’t believe the floor space was any smaller than it has been the past several years. They widened both the aisles and the space behind tables dramatically from the prior years though.

    You can knock this show all you want but I won’t, I had very good sales and I’ll definitely exhibit again next year. On top of that the Wizard staff was really helpful and responsive.

    C2E2 is a bad comparison, this was C2E2s first year and there’s no good information to glean from comparing the two. I went to both, liked both and will exhibit at both next year.

  15. From a vendor point of view the sales go down every year at wizard world. and half the normal room this year was space to sit and eat or had three times more signings. while c2e2 was a lot more expensive I made a descent profit but wizard world I bearly broke even. From my point of view about the same amount of people came past my two booths at both events. but a lot more actually stopped and spent money at C2E2. and lets not forget the way wizard screwed and lied to everyone at bigapple con.

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