Wizard World Chicago ’16 Review: No super villain or super thunderstorm can stop this squad
Four days of cosplay, diversity discussions, and Daredevil dreams.
I have been going to conventions for ten years now. However, this was my first time attending Wizard World, and I’m so very glad that I did, especially in Chicago. Despite the rabid thunderstorms that plagued the city every morning, it didn’t stop the crowd of cosplayers from arriving and flocking to the con. Although San Diego Comic Con will always be my favorite convention, this runs a very close second. And it is a great option for those that can’t quite fit SDCC into their budget…or don’t manage to get badges.
Panels: White-washing, race-bending and how zombies will solve racism.
Although this convention isn’t quite like San Diego Comic Con where they present new movies or television series and you get to see new footage from everyone else, there were still a variety of panels to enjoy. Most of the panels that took place in the smaller rooms were more geared toward fans that are comic book readers. I attended several different panels on diversity in comics, both on page and on the screen. Diversity in Pop Culture. Characters of Color: From Black Panther to Aqualad. White Washing in Geek Culture. Many of the panelists included both writers, editors, artists, and popular bloggers. All of which represented many different cultures and races. Diversity is a very important issue across all platforms of the entertainment industry today, so these are critical discussions to have between professionals and fans.
(“Does Suicide Squad Suck?” panelists)
There were also many writing and art panels that were offered, for any of those that wish to learn directly from working members of the comic book community. Most of the panelists also made themselves available in Artist Alley on the show floor. I had the wonderful opportunity to have a very long discussion with Jai Nitz, co-creator of El Diablo (who was one of the main characters in the recent film Suicide Squad). We discussed the current state of the DCEU, both what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. But we mainly focused on how much we both love what they have done so far, despite a few bumps here and there.
The panels that were held upstairs in the biggest room mainly showcased the celebrity guests. In a room that holds the same amount of people as Ballroom 20 at San Diego Comic Con, attendees got to enjoy panels featuring the trio from Back to the Future, an X-Files reunion, John Barrowman (current star of Arrow), five members of the Daredevil cast, and Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. Although we got in line for the Daredevil panel a couple hours early to get a good seat, not one panel I went to all weekend ran out of seats. Worlds of difference compared to San Diego Comic Con.
(“Saving Hell’s Kitchen” Panel with the Daredevil cast)
Volunteers & Staff: Don’t worry, none of them are undercover HYDRA agents
I didn’t have one complaint about the staff or the volunteers all weekend. Everything was very organized and everyone knew the same information and gave the same answers. From what I’ve heard from a few other attendees is that a few of the celebrity guest escorts were a bit too aggressive or demanding with a few fans, but all the ones I personally interacted with were perfectly fine. This being the first time I’ve attended Wizard World, I had a lot of questions and all of them were answered thoroughly. From what I witnessed, many of the staff and volunteers are huge fans themselves which made all interaction between both parties that much easier.
Venue & Transportation: Next stop…Central City.
The event was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. It truly is a lovely venue and perfect for the size of this convention. There are three different entrances. The main entrance, and then two upstairs depending on which direction you were coming from. They did bag checks upon entry and got through the line swiftly every morning. This convention center is much bigger than I expected it to be and they made sure they took advantage of all the space they had so no area was cramped. There were designated areas for the photo ops, autographs and artist alley, as well as two floors of panel rooms.
As for transportation, the location was perfect. Only a few minutes from O’Hare Airport, many of the hotels in the surrounding area made it easy for visiting attendees with shuttles to and from each day. And the closest train station is just around the corner, which was perfect not only for getting to and from the convention, but theBlue Line heads straight into downtown in case you wanted to sightsee for a bit. On Thursday before I went to the convention, I had the opportunity to go to a Chicago Cubs game. I took the train into downtown then switched onto the Red Line which stops directly next to Wrigley Field. Before catching a plane back home we also took a trip directly into downtown to see the sights around Millennium Park.
(at the Bean in Millenium Park, Downtown Chicago)
Show Floor: Have your bank accounts ready
The exhibit hall was divided into two, one-half on each side of the entrance lobby, and the upstairs show floor was divided into the Photo Ops area and Gaming. Everything was spread out well, with plenty of space down the walkways. Although this convention doesn’t have the attendance of San Diego Comic Con, the show floor was very similar. It was full of local vendors and artists selling their pieces, as well as comic book shops from all over the country with their inventory on display. One vendor, I thought quite unique was Wild Bills Olde Fashioned Soda Pop Co. They have three different metal mugs for sale with the Wizard World logo. If you bought one, you got free soda refills all week, and they brought seven flavors along with them. I became quite partial to the Rocky Mountain Root Beer and Buck’n Birch Beer.
Celebrity Guests, Photo Ops & Autographs: How would you pose with Captain America?
The reason I love smaller conventions is you have more of an opportunity to mingle with the special guests. Of course at events like this one, the photo ops and autographs do come at an extra price. However, I thought they were rather reasonable compared to what many other conventions offer. You can also purchase a VIP package for many of the stars that would definitely help you save money if you planned on getting photos and autographs. Before Sebastian Stan had to cancel his appearance, I purchased his VIP package. It came with a couple of convention exclusives, early entry, a photo, autograph, admission for all four days and the best seating for his panel for $300. Admission for four days alone came out to be just over $100. After I was reimbursed I decided to buy just the regular weekend admission…which ended up being a bad idea. I caved and bought three photo ops and one autograph with the Daredevil cast. I would have saved money if I went the VIP route.
Lesson learned…if you plan on buying at least one autograph and one photo op with the same person, just buy their VIP pass that comes with everything. It saves you money.
I’m still so impressed by how well organized the photo op and autograph lines were. There was plenty of space for the at times, very long lines. Unlike in San Diego, at Wizard World they don’t bother to wrap the lines because of how easily those can turn into chaos. Instead, they stack the line beside each other, one row after another, and let one whole row move before the other one follows. Although the autograph lines did move quite slow depending on how much each guest loved to talk (FYI, Rosario Dawson LOVES to talk), the photo op lines moved very quickly and smoothly, without any rushing the interactions between you and the guest.
(Norman signing for fans in the autograph area)
I personally had the opportunity to meet Elodie Yung, Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson from Daredevil, and I enjoyed the experiences immensely. I have admired Dawson for quite some time now and was very happy to finally have a conversation with her about her role in RENT, writing for female characters in Hollywood, her upcoming projects, my dreams of being a screenwriter and the story behind my nickname. It was quite a lovely moment for me.
Hotels: How to choose your own little Batcave.
The fact that the convention center was on the other side of the freeway from O’Hare Airport, there were plenty of choices when it came to choosing a hotel. My group of friends decided on the Quality Inn that was about 2 miles away. We commuted to and from the convention each day using Lyft. Many of the surrounding hotels did offer shuttles to and from during certain hours of the day, and from what I’ve been told, much more will offer their guests the same thing next year. There was a good range of hotels to choose from when it comes to price. Our stay for five nights ended up being $557 split three ways, so it was very reasonable. I do wish there were a few cheaper choices a little closer to the convention center so we could walk to and from each day, but with more and more hotels offering free shuttles each year that will no longer be a problem in the future. Our party did have a problem with our reservation that we had to resolve with a manager, twice, but it was taken care of without incident.
(Double Room at Quality Inn O’Hare)
Looking for a vacation into Metropolis? How about Central City?
The great thing about Wizard World is that it tours around the country all year long. Check out the Wizard World website here to find out when they will be in a city near you!
• Fast moving lines
• Large convention center with plenty of space
• No overwhelming crowds
• Meet and greets with celebrity guests
• Wonderful staff and volunteers
• Informative panels
• Perfect location
• Both local and well known artists & creators
Reasonable prices and VIP packages
• No exclusive footage or news
• No booths from larger well known pop culture companies
• Very few hotels offer shuttles to the convention