Saturday, I had to go into work for a couple of hours. When I got done it was a little past one, and Maggie was at work until six. So I drove the two miles up the road - literally - to the Wizard World Chicago convention.
I had gone to Wizard once before, a few years ago, and hadn't really enjoyed it. But one of my artists had said she was going to be in Artists' Alley at a con (Kitty from Kitty's Tavern) and I was going to miss San Diego this year... so I thought I'd give it a try.
Let me state, unequivacally, that this is not San Diego. At all.
By the time I arrived most everyone had already gone inside - and quite a few were leaving already, which didn't give me much hope. The registration tables were buried under mounds of junk - literally - so I just went up to the registration booth and got a badge and a bag.
With one set of Magic cards. No program book, no guide. They were out.
And they still had Saturday and all of Sunday to go. Brrr.
I decided that if I only had a few hours, I'd like to meet Kitty at her booth and say hello. This was complicated bythe fact that I had no idea what she looked like, and more importantly her name isn't really Kitty. No more than mine is KC, I guess.
This would have been good to know. :)
Now, the one advantage I think Wizard has over San Diego? That I could see, any way?
Artists' Alley is HUGE. Takes up about a third of the convention hall. There must have been two, three hundred artists there. I mean, I was shocked. Maybe they couldn't get a lot of dealers or something, or maybe they hold the artists a little higher than San Diego, or maybe they just put them on the main floor without thinking, but MAN, there were a lot of artists!
Me, being Captain Observant, didn't know this at first so I started in the back of the room. I moved pretty swiftly, stopping to say hi to artists I knew from Ebay (about five of them, I'd used) and wondering why all these talented folks were NOT on Ebay (there were a number of really good artists there - had I planned better I could have gotten Americana pics) and a lot of concepts that never made it to my store.
I finally found Kitty up near the front, found out her name wasn't even remotely Kitty in the first place, got a copy of the comics she had illustrated (that were kind of bleah but she just illustrated them), chatted a little bit about a 3-D Americana she's doing for me (okay, that she's hinted at wanting to do for me for so long I finally said yes) and -
I had about an hour left. I decided I wasn't going to go back to some of the places I passed (looking at all the name badges on the floor - yes, on the floor - to see if maybe one of them was the gal I was looking for) but I had seen about five other guys I'd used and several more I recognized and it was fun to see what they looked like (normal, every one of them! :) ) and I got some nice complements on the new site (so they ARE looking at it - cool!).
I walked around and looked at some of the booths and got some lightsabres for my nephews and some comic art boards for me to draw on... and then got out of there.
Yeah, there were Alex Ross Art and DC and Marvel and Image booths, but there didn't really seem to be much going on there. I assume they had some rooms for panels but they had to have been really small because I walked through half the convention center without seeing a soul.
The actual convention was nicely crowded, though I never had a problem moving through aisles or anything, and the retail booths were kind of... sporadic, I guess. I didn't see any guests, the autograph tables were empty... in the middle of Saturday afternoon?
I enjoyed checking it out and meeting people, but having paid twenty five for admission and eleven for parking, that's a lot for three hours of basically buying stuff. A couple people I spoke with said it was pretty slow, bad for them, good for me.
So, no, it wasn't San Diego, not even approaching San Diego. Maybe the old, old San Diego, when the hotels were ancient and sometimes not air-conditioned, the tattoo parlors open, the con was at the old Convention Center and you stayed up all night playing games.
There was no sense of excitement, really. No Transformers tractor trailers, or Image rocketships, or DC big booth gatherings.
Okay, so there were no five dollar hot dogs and long lines, either, so I guess it's a wash.
It's a nice local con, maybe a bit bigger than most, but with most of the same stuff (just more of it!). A very VERY nice Artists' Alley, though - if I return in the future I'm going to get some drawings done.
And above all, very nice people to strike up conversations with... which is what I enjoy most at cons, now, anyway. I met a half-dozen people who I had only known through email, got lightsabres for five bucks each (NO, they're not authentic - think the kids will care? :) ) and had a fun couple of hours.
I guess the convention bug never really leaves you.