Wizard World Chicago 2019: a Pullbox Retrospective

Wizard World Chicago 2019

Well, that’s another Con in the can, and I’ve got some thoughts…

First of all, the ‘Box’s co-founder Eric was my wingman this year, and we both had a pretty good time taking in the sights and meeting awesome people. In overview, Wizard World is a smaller convention than C2E2, but before the critics start poopooing (looking at you, Andy…), lemme tell ya that it isn’t such a bad thing. The crowds weren’t nearly as intense, while still holding onto that same spirit of co-mingling nerditude and enthusiasm. The Cosplayers have the whole entry hall of the Stephens Center (formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon) to hang out in and show off their hard work. Artist Alley, my personal favorite destination for all of the conventions I’ve attended, is smaller but is in no way lacking in the talent department at all. And the vendors… well, vendors are pretty much all working hard at whatever it is that they’re selling, so they don’t really care about how big or small a particular con is, they just want people to see their stuff.

But enough small talk. Let’s get into some specifics…

Saturday morning, our first day of the Con, we were greeted at the door by none other than the rock band, The Action Figures! This is a band that mainly does covers, and is made up of a few faces you may recognize (if you don’t recognize any of them, there’s a good chance that you’re at the wrong blog). The core of the group is Greg Grunberg (Heroes, and pretty much anything J. J. Abrams does), Jack Coleman (HRG himself from Heroes), Scott Grimes (The Orville), Adrian Pasdar (Agents of SHIELD, Heroes, & my personal favorite Near Dark), Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), Dan Fogler (Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them), and Rob Benedict (Supernatural). On the stage for this show, the Figures featured the talents of Grunberg, Pasdar, Brad Savage (the original Red Dawn & Salem’s Lot), and lead singer David Anders (Heroes, Alias, & I, Zombie). The guys put out a lot of energy and really worked at getting the crowd primed for a day of nerdtastic geekery… Also, they didn’t suck.

Moving on into the convention itself, Eric and I made our way through the sensory overload… if you’ve never been to a comic convention before, let me warn you now that there’s a learning curve involved and a LOT is happening all at once. Be prepared.

Of course, much of that overload is going to involve the plethora of outstanding (and let’s be honest, some not quite so…) cosplay. There are a lot of people who put a lot of time and effort into putting costumes together, just so they can go hang out at these conventions. Again, if you’re new to the convention scene, don’t be too shy about asking for a photo if you see someone rocking their chosen look. These people really enjoy the recognition for their efforts, and are pretty much the Superfans our nerdom needs. Just be polite (and for the love of all that’s good in the world, if you’re taking a pic with them, don’t be handsy!) and you’ll get some great pics as well as making someone’s day.

While Eric will be handling the majority of the cosplay coverage for Wizard World (it’s his thing, so I wouldn’t want to take that away from him), I’ve got a few highlights that really impressed the hell out of me… If you know any of these people, or if you ARE any of these people, please give us a shout!

Team Evil! Sorry… DOCTOR Team Evil…
Borderlands fans are gonna recognize this Mad lady…
Children of the 80’s, and Visitors everywhere, represent!
I might’ve yelled “HOLY CRAP…” a little loud when I realized Rorschach’s mask actually changed!

Yes, that is a bag of Jelly Babies being offered by the Fourth Doctor… and yes it may have been bad judgment on my part when I took one. (Disclaimer: Kids, don’t take candy from strangers, even if you did spend your childhood watching them on TV).

Before I even saw Jester, I saw her Spiritual Weapon from halfway across the con floor…

The spot on accurate and very delightful (I don’t use that word often, so know that I mean it when I do) Aiyanna Wade

X-Force! I got you, Sugar Bear…

My personal favorite… of course (shut up, Eric)… and just in time for his newly announced Disney+ series, Moon Knight! Joining him is the wholly underutilized and underappreciated Tigra… Who knows, maybe we’ll see more of these fringe characters being picked up for work in the MCU.

So there’s my cosplay highlights. Now I’ve gotta touch on the panels Eric and I hit. I’ve got to confess that this is the first time I’ve really paid much attention to the panels, and I’m glad that I did because they were all pretty great…

First up, we hit the Heroes Reunion, featuring Greg Grunberg, Adrian Pasdar, Jack Coleman, and David Anders. Keeping in mind that Heroes holds a special place in Eric’s heart (he was moderating for a fansite, which fed the flames that grew into thePullbox), I wasn’t much of a fan beyond the first season. The second season fell victim to a writer’s strike in Hollywood, so there were delays and some mis-mashed storylines that really didn’t hold my interest. But oh man, that first season was beyond eye-opening, and I have to believe that without this show, we wouldn’t have seen superheroes hitting the mainstream like we do today…

Our next panel was another one that I probably wouldn’t have partaken of if not for Eric, a “CONversation” with Kelly Hu (Arrow), Teddy Sears (The Flash), & Matt Ryan (Constantine & Legends of Tomorrow). I’m not a big fan of the Arrowverse. I really did try, but there’s something about the tone they’ve set on the CW network that doesn’t hit the right notes for me. That said, I respect and to a large degree envy those of you out there who are into it. Without these shows diving fullon and headfirst into their comicbook roots, going deep with their use of characters, I seriously don’t think the comicbook culture wouldn’t be seeing its current degree of success.

Finally… the one panel I had been planning on checking out since I first laid eyes on Wizard World’s schedule… The man. The myth. The pipes. The Dark Knight himself & the voice I hear whenever I’m reading Batman.

Kevin Conroy, as charming and entertaining out of character as he ever has been in. This was a great panel that had a lot of insight into an outstanding career in voice work. I have to hand it to Mr. Conroy, he was gracious and generous, even when the questions were a little cringeworthy…

NOW… This is what I’ve been leading up to in my little write up. Artist Alley. This is my destination of choice, where I’ll spend the vast majority of my time while attending any convention from now until the Rapture. I picked up some really terrific stuff… both in original artwork and prints.

But before I get to that, I’d like to take a moment to offer some insight/advice to any prospective artists out there, thinking about attending a con. If you’re going to put out the investment (and it ain’t free or cheap to get a booth at a major con, folks), please pay attention to the crowd. Presumably you’re there to sell a product, and even if business is slow and you’re feeling a little down in the dumps, you’re going to need to “work” the crowd a bit.

Please, please, PLEASE… if someone is standing at your booth, looking over your work, put down the smartphone, plaster a smile on your face, and ask if they’d like to hear about your product. Yes, this is a firsthand thing, kids. I was standing at a lady’s booth, presumably the writer for a comicbook that I won’t bother mentioning, and after about a minute she still couldn’t be bothered to so much as look up at me. After that time, I lost complete interest and walked away without a second glance. It’s too bad because based on what I did see, her book looked pretty decent and might have gotten some attention on thePullbox. Now, we’ll never know.

Okay, enough of that… now on to the AWESOME!

A cool concept in sci fi comics from Dan Emerson… check out his site
This pic does no justice to this awesome metal print from Jim Mehsling, the Cartoon Caveman
Saw this tribute to George Carlin (still miss you, George…) while waiting for a sketch commission. Take a gander at Jason Slater’s work at Silent Icon Studio
Picked up this print from Camron Johnson for myself… I’ve become a pretty big fan since running into him at Mighty Con in Milwaukee
Also from Camron, picked up this original piece for a friend…

And here it is… the original piece I mentioned. This is pretty near and dear to me, as it’s a character sketch done up on the spot by freelance artist Kelsey Bigelow.

And there it is… my experience at Wizard World Chicago this year was overall a pretty damn good one. If there were any negative at all, I’d say it’s in the organization of things, mainly in the ease (or lack of) with which we were able to navigate the panel schedules. It’d be great to see that evened out a bit but it didn’t stop me from having a blast just wandering around aimlessly, taking in the sights and meeting a lot of very cool people.

I hope this convinced even one or two (of my tens of readers) to dip their toes into the Convention scene. It’s a blast. I’m not really a huge people person, but at the end of the day these are “my people”. Everyone is out to share a love of all things geeky.

So get thee hence, people, and getteth thy geek on!

Paul out.

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