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Pros And Cons: On The Scene At Wizard World Chicago

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 27, 2014 3:00PM

Well folks, we warned you of a coming nerd-rush. Wizard World Chicago was set to descend on the Donald E Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, and descend it did. Now that we’re rehydrated, wearing comfy shoes, and out of the noise and frenzy, we’d love to tell you more about what we saw.

Wizard World is massive. It easily eclipsed April's similarly themed C2E2 in size and scale. This was both good and bad. There were definitely more vendors, artists and celebrities to see, which made the appeal of the con more universal. But while you might think that the larger scale lead to less crowding, the amount of attendees was also exponentially greater than C2E2, so it was just as crowded on the show floor.

The first panel we attended was with Karl Urban, who has had significant roles in nerd favorites like Lord of the Rings and the new Star Trek movies. Urban was a crowd-pleaser, really engaging with fans, bringing them behind the scenes in his most noted roles, and revealing his more mischievous side in the process. Towards the end of the panel, Urban hinted that Star Trek 3 was already in the works, much to the excitement of those in attendance.

We then caught Fox32 Chicago’s screening of Gotham. Several cast members were on hand, and we found ourselves excited to see the drama unfold. As lifelong Batman fans, we were intrigued by the show. In a single episode, it's already established a real feel and backdrop, and introduced us to Batman’s integral brew of baddies and allies as they grow into who they will eventually be. We found ourselves emotionally invested enough that when an audio glitch interrupted an emotional scene, we couldn't wait for it to be fixed and hear the rest. We’re excited to see what this show will become, and it was a treat to see the show before it aired nationally, glitches or no.

We also caught the Bones panel, not to be confused with the “No ‘Bones’ About It” panel previously mentioned. This was a one-on-one with David Boreanaz, also of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel fame. We were pleased to find he’s much like his on-screen character, with a charming, impish demeanor. In between talk of Bones and Buffy, he chatted about his interest in directing, and managed to cause a hockey related ruckus when he “demanded” a fan who’d introduced herself and immediately welcomed him to Blackhawk country say “Go Flyers!” before he’d answer her question. When she acquiesced, he egged on the crowd to evict her from Illinois, laughing and interacting with the audience the whole time.

From there, we finally felt ready to hit the floor. There were multiple halls full of vendors with plenty to offer, from Star Trek crew uniforms to authentic lightsabers and Harry Potter's wand. If you’re a fan of any show with a cult-following, you’d certainly find yourself tempted to empty your wallets.

The problem with this con, however, was that by the time you set eyes on these temptations, you may have found yourself already tapped financially. Wizard World was pricey. Most of the "big name" guests that drew us to the con were only accessible in paid autograph sessions after a long wait, or in paid events either outside or inside the convention center. Paid events are not foreign to cons big or small, but in this instance, each event ran around $30 at the low end, and due to demand, the seats that were available after the initial rush skyrocketed to the $60-70 range.

Also, single day tickets could rocket as high as $60 plus fees for Saturday,when most big events were happening, which was a significant portion of the $94 it would have cost to acquire a 4 day pass to Wizard World. The con seemed to have a big budget, with sponsorships galore, a "TV channel" that played before and after panels, and professional videotaping of events, but it didn't seem that that was passed along to con-goers. San Diego ComicCon, oft considered the mother of all cons, had a Saturday ticket price of only $45, and a schedule well-peppered with free events featuring a vast array of Hollywood headliners, whereas Wizard World attendees not wanting to shell out much more than the price of entry may feel frustrated stranded behind a tall pay-wall.

It wasn’t all bad news, though. Without going to any of the premium events, we managed a full day of screenings, panels, shopping and silliness. The cosplay at Wizard World Chicago was absolutely amazing. Our last event of the evening on Saturday was the cosplay contest. Judged by a panel of those in the know, including Jason David Frank, who 90’s kids will know as the Green Ranger, it was, to me at least, the heart of what cons are all about. One after another, people came up to show off their hard work and artistry. People spend months, and significant amounts of money, recreating characters that they love. The level of detail and the dedication to getting it right are astounding. Some were first-timers, some were families of cosplayers, but all were encouraged, from 7 year old Catwomen to 77 year old Wonder Women.

This event isn’t, as one Facebook commenter to our preview on the event eluded to, about freaks and geeks. This is about people who truly enjoy a TV show, book, comic or movie, and who want to have some fun. This is about people who want to show their love for something, and want to be someone else for a day, and have a good time. It’s about people feeling like a part of a community, displaying their talents and celebrating with others who feel the same way. You can’t put a price on that, and it’s what will keep us coming back to cons, Wizard World or otherwise.