Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Battle of the Chicago Comicons

 Let me tell you the history of medium to large comic book conventions that have been held in Chicago through the years.

Back in the mid-1970s there was a monthly gathering of The Old Comic Book Club of Chicago in the YMCA Hotel on South Wabash Avenue. The event was held in a large ballroom on the second floor but there was just that one dealer's room and certainly no guests or speakers. Still it was much fun and I bought many comics and pages of original art there and, a few times, my comic buddies and I even chipped in together for table space and sold off a few of our unwanted items.

Then in 1976 and 1977 were the first large-scale conventions in the city. I've written before about how the guests the first year were four in number (Stan Lee, Jenette Kahn, Neal Adams, and Mike Grell) and how, at the opening panel on Friday afternoon, the number of attendees in the audience just barely outnumbered those four luminaries on the stage. (Please rummage through The Hayfamzone Blog Archives for more details about all that.)

For the first decade-and-a-half the gathering was called The Chicago Comicon and it took place in large hotels. In 1993 new ownership changed the name to WizardWorld and moved it to a suburban Convention Center. It was a pretty good convention with lots of great guests all along. Until three years ago.

An upstart named C2E2 was a new convention determined to joust with the behemoth, and it met in the legendary McCormick Place Convention Center. DC Comics and Marvel Comics among others jumped ship and patronized C2E2, abandoning WizardWorld (if it's still called that, I can't tell for sure).  I snapped the photo above at C2E2.

WizardWorld rustled up entertainment-type guests to fill the void. I did enjoy seeing Adam West and Burt Ward and Brent Spiner appear on panels, but WW now seemed far less like a comic convention than a media convention, since the big publishers were not in attendance. To add insult to injury, weekend-pass-holders were required to wear their identifying wristband continuously through the weekend. Huh? I did the unthinkable and snipped mine off the first night and was roundly chastised the next day when I requested a replacement. Why not just a slave collar around the neck?

C2E2 started out great its first year and continued well the next year. Next month will mark the third of the C2E2 gatherings, and they have rekindled an excitement that was missing for a few years from WizardWorld. I'm ready to declare C2E2 the winner in the Battle of the Chicago Comicons. And that's a good thing, because one more thing I've been anxious to tell you about is


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