So I went to Wizard World yesterday (August 22, 2015) at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, where the event has been held for… I’m not really sure how long, but it's been there as long as I can remember and probably even before that. That said, my memory is a little hazy these days, due in no small part to some of the activities I participated in whilst attending Wizard World events of days gone by with the variety of n’er-do-wells and miscreants that I call my friends.
Anyway, after a fairly long stretch of attending the event and an even longer stretch of not attending (which I discussed in my write-up of last year’s event), I once again trod upon the hallowed ground where dreams become reality and legends are made. And it was pretty sweet.
I took my daughter, who had to miss last year’s convention due to illness (which I also discussed in my write-up of last year’s event). She’s seven now, so I assumed her tiny legs were up to the task of traversing miles and miles of aisleways; after all, when I was a younger man, I often spent two full days at a convention carrying a backpack filled to the brim with hundreds of dollars worth of trade paperbacks I’d purchased in the plethora of ½-off bins one finds at these types of events (also detailed in my write up of last year’s event). Surely, the fruit of my loins would follow in my tired footsteps and accept this daunting task. Fueled by the handfuls of candy she pilfered from the up-and-coming stars of Artist’s Alley, she proved herself up to the task and made her father proud. She even carried the backpack part of the day - right up until the point where we actually put something in it. She’s a chip off the old block, that one.
The convention was, in a word, insane. Last year, I had pontificated (in the write-up I’ve been alluding to throughout this article) on the fact that Wizard World seems to have doubled in size since the halcyon days of my mid-twenties. I can’t recall ever having to spend time waiting in traffic before even getting into the building, but yesterday I spent at least a half an hour on the off ramp before finding a place to park! Despite the lack of any major publishing presence (that I was aware of, anyway), Wizard World managed to pack people in and create a wall-to-wall sea of geeks and nerds. Whovians and Trekkies stood side-by-side with Marvel Zombies and denizens of the WWE Universe; a teeming throng of Graphitti Design t-shirts and those ridiculously oversized shopping bags, each of us scouring long boxes and Tupperware containers for those elusive back issues or loose figures we needed to complete our collections.
I never got a straight answer from her, but I’m pretty sure my daughter regretted donning those flip-flops in lieu of the tennis shoes her mother and I had suggested. I know that I personally stepped on her foot at least three times, so I can only imagine what horror her tiny toes endured throughout the span of that day.
No doubt the great number of attendees was in part a result of the great number of vendors at the show (not to mention writers, artists, actors, and celebrities). If you attended the show and were unable to find a good deal on whatever product you were looking for, you need to find a new hobby. But despite the multitudes sharing my personal space, the show never felt overwhelming. There was plenty of room in the aisles and for the most part, the floor was easily maneuvered. Sure, there were a few bottlenecks and backups, but that’s to be expected. It’s all part of the game, right? And this is what we live for; it’s what we do. And judging by the enthusiasm my kid displayed the whole day, this is a lifestyle she was born to be a part of.
After what felt like an eternity, but more probably more like three or four hours, we went home. We never even made our way over to the area where the celebrities were. We didn’t see Jeremy Renner or Norman Reedus (though, to be fair, Reedus seems to be at every convention held in North America, so we’ll get another chance). We didn’t get our picture taken with Burt Reynolds or Bruce Campbell and much to my dismay, we didn’t stand in an exceptionally long line to meet Sting or The Undertaker, a fact I’ll probably regret until I am an old man rambling about the night the Wrestlemania Streak was broken to anyone in the nursing home who will listen. And as far as I’m concerned, that means the show was a success.
While I’ve never been one to pay for an autograph, wandering around a show and taking note of how time has affected your favorite childhood movie stars is a time-honored tradition of any convention. How does ol’ John Schneider look these days? How’s Joyce DeWitt holding up? Did you know that Elvira is here today?!? It’s as much a part of a convention as eating crappy pizza and getting accosted by former WWF Superstar Virgil. It’s just what you do when you’re at a show, but if you’re too tired to take part, then you know you’ve had a good day. And by the end of 2015’s Wizard World Chicago Convention, I felt a lot like the Undertaker - a dead man walking. And I mean that in the good way.
So yeah…it was a good show. Tickets are still way too expensive (something else I talked about in that article about last year’s show that I just won’t shut up about), but since I don’t know the ins and outs of financing a convention and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, I won’t harp on it too much. But they are. That said, it certainly didn’t deter the throngs of people who purchased a ticket and enjoyed the day along with me. And honestly, you really do get what you pay for; there were so many ½-off and even $5 and $10 trade paperbacks, you couldn’t go five feet without finding a great deal. Unfortunately, I’d spent all of my money before I even made it halfway through the convention floor, but that’s neither here nor there. I had a great time, found a handful of good books, and passed along a family tradition to the next generation.
Once again, thanks for the memories, Wizard World. I’ll definitely see you next year.