Thursday, August 6, 2009

2009 Chicago Comic-Con Preview Night

Hangin' with Mr. Perez

It's that magical time of year again. Since I can't fund a trip to San Diego, I have regularly attended WizardWorld Chicago over the years. Of course, now they call it something different (not sure why), but it's in the same city, the same convention center and run by Wizard Magazine.

I have my concerns about the show this year. Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image have opted not to have booths set up on the convention floor. There could be two reasons for this. 1) The economy has caused all the companies to tighten down and limit their presence at shows this year or 2) something has gone horribly wrong in the relationship between Wizard Magazine and the four largest publishers.

So, to fill the gaps this created, con promoters have booked a lot of celebrities like Rowdy Roddy Piper, some minor Twilight character actors, and the chick who filled in for Kate Beckinsale in the last Underworld abortion. Oh, speaking of movie abortions, there's Michelle Rodriguez too! These people barely have real connections to comics, let alone worth the $40 to $50 price tag for a scribble that is their name. They also booked Taylor Dayne (yeah, that's right, the singer) to attend. Really?

Regardless, I locked in too early in the year to decide not to come, so here I am in Chicago. It isn't like I don't have anything to be here for, but there are some really bad signs of what is going on here.

1. The lack of "big" name comic creators. Usually, when Marvel and DC are at a convention, you can count on names like Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee being there to sign books and meeting the fans. Usually these people are not Guests of Honor, they are just there doing PR.

2. As mentioned above, most of the advertised guests are media related, not comic people. A sign of smaller shows is usually the addition of actors or models that will bring people who may not necessarily come just for comics in through the door. Star Trek conventions are a notable exception because a lot of those guests are not people like William Shatner, Patrick Stewart or Leonard Nimoy. People still come and soak up the guests that do come because the do have something to do with Star Trek and no matter how big or small their part was in a movie or television series, they are part of the Trek community. The Chicago Con always brought media guests, but not in this quantity. They were almost like the Lollapalooza Sideshow moreso than the main attraction. They were meant to be added bonuses.

3. Without a great deal of mainstream attractions from the comic world, ticket sales seem to be down. Sure, tonight was a "Preview" night for those of us who bought weekend passes in advance. Not everyone can make it, but I found the attendance to be alarmingly low. In years past, if George Perez was signing early in the show, you'd be lucky to get there. I was no further back than tenth in line. Also, the mainstream people who did come were seated in Artist Alley which usually means they may not want to be there that often because of the large number of people that would approach for sketches or signatures. There was no huge line for anyone. Saturday should surely still be busy and crowded, but I bet there will be a noticeable difference from years past.

4. With attendance surely to be down, not as many booths with good deals on comics. A lot of shop owners will go to cons to help push inventory. Sometimes, they are so desparate to push the books that take up room in their shops, they will sell stuff very cheap (at times 70% off the sticker). It was always worth it because the more people show up, the more people would go to those booths. So far, I haven't seen too many great deals that would knock my socks off. I will admit that I haven't really been looking that hard until Friday, but I'm still concerned.

5. No goodie bag. One of the greatest things about going to a comic show is getting your swag bag. Once upon a time, Wizard would throw all sorts of cool little knick-knacks in your bag. This year, there were tables set up with some fliers and the most recent issues of Wizard and ToyFare. Grab a bag off the rack and take what you want, jerks - there ain't nothin' else to this swag bag. I kinda felt like Wizard gave the big ol' finger to the people who paid a lot of money for their tickets. Shit, I already have the newest Wizard. You know, by way of my subscription. I don't think, being from out of town, I'd know much about WIZARD's convention without being a subscriber to WIZARD.

But, with all that is worrisome, I did get an awesome opportunity tonight. I got to get a really cool sketch of the Scarlet Witch by Michael Champion:
He also did this really bitchin' print of Green Arrow:
But my big nerdgasm was when I got a pic taken with my all-time favorite artist, George Perez:
I've long called Mr. Perez "The Machine" because he is ridiculous. He was supposed to sign from 4:30 to 6:30 today. He showed up when the show started and got moving. I don't believe he ever stopped signing. He said that he can sign a couple thousand books per hour. Holy Jebus that's fast work! Then, look at his art. It's normally packed with character after character in full detail and he still managed to be a consistently punctual artist for, like, three decades. The man is a comic book God for sure.

As far as swag, I picked up a couple old Avengers books. With these acquisitions, I now have a run of Avengers books from #12 to present. Man, am I glad Amy (my fiance) got that renter's insurance!

Thanks for reading. I'll post again tomorrow night to give an update on the con once it kicks off in full!

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