Having missed Wizard World last year (because - quite frankly - I didn't want to go), I decided to give it another chance, and I regret that decision. To put it bluntly, Wizard World really came off as an overpriced, testosterone fueled flea market that is increasingly pandering to the worst in comic/"geek"/"nerd culture.
(And ironically, I got in for free thanks to a press pass. So much for journalistic objectivity)
It must be tough for Wizard World organizers in Chicago - after all, they're getting some serious competition via C2E2, as well as a shrinking market in a relatively unstable economy. However, except for the "Way of the Nerd" panel run by Chicago Nerd Social Club (thanks, pal Jeff!), there really wasn't much to make this a definite must-attend. In fact, there was a lot to make this a must-avoid.
Want same examples? Just a few key observations:
- Friday saw the debut of a Doctor Who-themed panel, which consisted of one guy who writes for a British TV-themed web site talking about things he's read online...and what he thinks will happen in Who. Quite honestly, although he knew what he was talking about, wouldn't it have made sense to have another guest? Especially since there's an entire store in Lombard that deals with Doctor Who almost exclusively, puts on a November Doctor Who-themed event, and would have made for some even livelier conversation?
- In the dealers' area, I counted no less than five different vendors who sold samurai swords and other weapons. Now, granted, they may not be selling weapons to minors, but should items like that be made publicly available? And should nerds be allowed to carry sharp, pointy things?
- For a convention that is branding itself as a comic convention, there was a distinct lack of comics presence other than dealers of back issues and an artists' alley. In fact, most of the programming seemed to be checklist driven. I could imagine some organizer saying, "Got something for the Buffy fans? Check! Star Trek? Check! And we'll throw the Doctor Who and Torchwood fans a bone....now, to work on that guy who really likes Buck Rogers...."
- Possible Prudery on My Part, Part One - anyone else find the concept of receiving 10 minute backrubs from costumed females for the sum of $20....kinda creepy and off-putting? (And ladies, please let me know if I'm out of line).
- Coolest Thing on the Floor - Norton's Captain America-themed exhibit. Well, that and the 1960's Batmobile.
- I really liked the Chicago Nerds panel, and was probably the best thing about the convention. That and hanging with pals at the Hyatt bar on Saturday night. (Although I would have loved to hang with Comic Related pal Decapitated Dan, who is putting on a show in Orland Park in March - see you there!)
- Boondock Saints - what is the appeal? Please explain this to me. I just don't get it.
- Possible Prudery on My Part, Part Two - Spotted on Saturday near several booths: a flyer for a "Comicon XXX After Party" at a strip club. Offered without comment, and at the risk of being flamed (deservedly so) by female readers of this blog.
- Not one, but two videos just showing....well, I think you get the picture.
To use a metaphor in music: if geek culture were punk rock, Wizard World isn't Joe Strummer declaring with authority that war is declared and battle come down; Wizard World is the lead singer of Green Day on a Broadway stage whining that he doesn't want to be an American idiot.
Well, I know what I won't be doing next year.....
(But what I will be doing - supporting smaller shows like Champion City Comicon in Springfield, Ohio, or DanCon in March. I even volunteered to help with Dan Con, because smaller, more local shows mean a more dedicated community. It means people who love the medium versus being part of a checklist, and that's important to me. Because quite frankly, I would rather be part of a community rather than just another demographic).