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Not so fast, Porky!
PAGE FIFTY-NINE
 
There's a comic convention in Chicago this weekend.  And Tony and I (mostly Tony) have prepared this brand spankin' new schwaggy morsel of merch for the occasion - the Pigasus mini-poster
 
 
Adorable.  Ain't it?  But you gotta come by our booth this weekend if you want to see it in all of its glossy, 11"x17" glory. 
 
Tony and I will be hawking the new poster along with t-shirts, buttons and magnets; all from the complete line of official Chicago:1968 merchandise
 
We're at booth 4200 in Artists Alley.  Here's how to find us -- 
 
Entire convention floor
 
 
 
Us
 
 
Not a bad little piece of Rosemont real estate.
 
I've refrained from saying the name of the comic convention in Chicago this weekend because, thus far, most of my attempts to do so have resulted in awkwardness.
 
I still don't know what the hell to call this thing.  After Wizard bought out the original Chicago Comic-Con in 1997, I always winced when calling it by the franchise I.D.; "Wizard World Chicago" severed the Chicago Comic-Con from its history and whitewashed its regional identity, making it just another stop on the Wizard World Tour of similarly craptacular pop culture expos in Dallas, L.A. and Philly.
 
But lo, the years, they have not been kind to the Wizard brand: More on Wizard Layoffs And Competition in Chicago 03/01/2009 --
 
"Wizard recently went from running the only major comic-anchored convention in the Chicago area to having a new competitor in the form of Reed Exhibitions, which announced a new show in Chicago earlier this month."
 
Until Reed Exhibitions stole the 2nd place position from Wizard's yearly con in the Second City with the stunning (and I gotta say predictable) success of its New York Comic Con in 2006, Wizard World Chicago only deferred to San Diego's Comic-Con International when it came to mind-blowingly, feet-bleedingly, immense comic conventions.
 
Reed's Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) will be held for the first time in April of 2010 - only a few months away now - within the spectacularly large McCormick Place lakeside venue, downtown Chicago.  At which point, all are certain, C2E2 will easily nudge the floundering Wizard convention from its spot at the top of the ticket: king of the middle west.
 
Strategically speaking, C2E2's late spring chronological position and central geographic position mean it's well-poised to preempt the summertime blockbuster season and compete directly with San Diego in size and scope.
 
Meanwhile, Wizard World Chicago's pathetic non-response was to quietly re-brand itself the Chicago Comic-Con in an early '09 press release that names famed writer Mark Millar this year's "Guest of Honor," but curiously does not acknowledge or explain the sudden name change.  Only those with sharp eyes even caught the surreptitious Wizard-ectomy; there are many yet completely unaware of it.
 
Did you ever think this day would come?  "Wizard," the name for the magazine that sculpted the 1990's comics industry landscape with only its abitrary editorial whims to guide it.  By 2009 this name had become a liability.
 
Then, last month, there was this post that briefly echoed across the blogosphere, by Columbia College professor, Chicago Tribune tech writer and author of the one-of-a-kind book, The Economics of Webcomics, Todd Allen.  He noticed something missing from Wizard's 2009 list of exhibitors -- 

Publishers that exhibited in 2007 that aren’t listed for 2009?

  • DC Comics
  • Marvel Entertainment Group
  • Dark Horse Comics
  • Image
  • Top Cow
  • Boom! Studios
  • Aspen
  • Devil’s Due (they’re even a Chicago company)
  • Dabble Brothers Productions
 -- namely, the exhibitors!
 
Nothing personal, though.  Just standard practice for a company to scale back or eliminate their expensive convention representation during lean economic times such as these, times that seem to have hastened an ignominious end for Wizard World Chicago?
 
Contrary to what blog comments and message board threads appear to indicate is the prevailing opinion, I believe that Wizard's Chicago Comic-Con can survive and even thrive in this competitive new business environment if the organizers can first accept the convention's diminished role. 
 
Wizard World Chicago was once a mid-level national show. 
 
Today it is an upper-level regional show.  Still distinguished company to be in, to be sure.  There's the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, for instance, also the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland. 
 
Cozy little cons like these are often counted among the favorites of grizzled industry professionals who frequently travel to many comic conventions a year.  At this league of play, organizers don't devote the square footage to ostentatious, multi-level, stripper-staffed, on-site media presentations by Marvel, DC or the seemingly ubiquitous Hollywood-funded comics ventures parachuted into San Diego each year by anonymous suits looking to catch a whiff of Batman money.  Or Hellboy money, even.
 
The smaller, successful cons focus on building an impressive guest list of respected comics creators.  They engage local artists.  And they facilitate community between and among fans and creators.
 
The franchise mentality Wizard has brought to bear thus far will not work anymore.  Not without the fathomless budgets and unquestioned authority over the industry the magazine enjoyed last century. 
 
At this level, and in this day and age, authenticity, transparency and sincerity are the organizer's most valuable assets.  By definition, you can't fake authenticity.  Right?  This new "Chicago Comic-Con" still has much to prove. 
 
Innovation helps, too.  This is the first convention I've seen with such a robust "nighttime programming" schedule. 
 
Experienced veterans of the convention circuit all know that more than half the fun and almost all the work at a comics convention is done at unofficial, alcohol-fueled, after hours bar summits.
 
Comic conventions of all sizes have an unexpectedly vibrant nightlife attached to them. 
 
Though some of the Chicago Comic-Con's evening events look way too pricey to be worth it, I wonder if more official programming in the PM hours will energize the late night scene overall?
 
Questions abound.
 
Is the Chicago Comic-Con the beginning of the end for Wizard World?  Or is it just the end of Wizard's bombastic beginning, as their flagship summer convention matures and evolves to better fill a smaller, more regionally focused niche in the Chicago comics community.
 
Stay tuned for my full report on the Chicago Comic-Con.
 
 
 
 
 


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