» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

June 30, 2004

Mommy, let me have the car on Saturday!
Dave's trip to Wizard World Chicago 2004

Comics, in my humble opinion, are the ultimate medium. They manage to create engaging story lines, fantastic writing, and amazing visuals: all with a minimum amount of cash. Picking up a good comic is no different than picking up a great piece of literature (see Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Alan Moore's The Watchmen). Unfortunately, comics still seem to have a stigma attached to them, but some of the writers in the industry are phenomenal, by far more talented than many of the best-selling authors on the market today (hell, some of them are best-selling novelists, like Brad Meltzer). Coupled with the fact that the story is presented visually, in relation to book and film comics are the best of both worlds. If at some point, soundtracks accompanied an issue of Spider-Man, then comics would crush all dissenters in totality.

That's why I can never escape them completely. I owned some comics as a child, but didn't start collecting until early in high school, and consequently stopped late in high school. For years, I would still stroll into a comic shop and regret not having kept up with the latest storylines since an entire universe can change in a single-year run of a particular title (and to boot the plots can still seem completely plausible).

I started collecting again a few summers ago while visiting friends in California. It always starts with a slight tingle, a sense of excitement with a handful of back issues, then a sense of urgency, trying to make up for lost time and discovering how Bruce Wayne became governor of California* or Clark Kent finally, after years of enduring dramatic irony unmatched, came out of the phone booth not as Superman, but rather a gay man living in 21st-cenrtury Metropolis*.

That's why attending this year's Wizard World Chicago was a no-brainer. I had press credentials, I had a notebook, and a wallet full of cash (which I had to refill half-way through my two-hour stay...ouch). It was time to kick it mid-90s style.

---------->*Ok, so neither of these things actually happened...yet.

What the Hell is a Comicon?
Returning to someplace half-remembered but hauntingly familiar and meaningful is a fascinating experience. I haven't been to a comic convention since roughly 1995, but I still remember the three or so I attended, two of which were, at the time, called the Chicago Comicon.

Since then Wizard, one of the best magazines on the planet (even if you're not into comics), began sponsoring the event and will hopefully, after that plug, reimburse my subscription costs. For those unfamiliar with Wizard, it is, as stated on the spine of every issue, "The Comics Magazine." That it is; it's about comics, predominantly, but it's so wonderfully saturated with pop culture and delightful humor, that even when I wasn't collecting, I would still pick up an issue from time to time and would leave with a smile. Truly a great read, so that means everyone should go to their local retail-book chain and rip open an issue (tell them some guy online told you to do so, I'm sure they'll understand) and give it a once over...if you don't smile at least once, then you simply are made of mud and gravel vaguely lumped into the form of a pudgy human. That's right, I said you're fat.

Anyway, the convention takes place each year in a gated community called Rosemont at a center designed specifically for these types of gatherings, although I have a feeling that 40-somethings pining over the newest turbine lubricant and 40-somethings pining over Erin Gray's autograph are not typically the same crowd, but I digress (more on Mrs. Or Ms. Gray shortly).

I entered the convention in relative ignorance. I knew Josh Whedon and Kevin Smith would hold panel discussions, but beyond that, I wasn't sure what sorts of talent skulked in the corners. After navigating the initial front of large publishers, I entered what I like to call burn-out ally.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I was surprised, touched by nostalgia, and ultimately saddened by what I saw next. Woe be it for me to criticize someone's livelihood, but...

At a line of tables in the shape of a large "L" sat some recognizable faces, mostly forgotten but still at one point pop-culture icons. I saw Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers fame being interviewed for a documentary, sadly lacking Twinkie the robot, but given his increased mass, I would hazard a guess that he had no problem finding the spongy, creamed-filled delicacies.

I watched as a gleeful fan coaxed Erin Gray of Battlestar Galactica to step out from here booth and give him a hug, and she seemed genuine about it. I was touched until it occurred to me that hugging strange people is a bit creepy.

Glenn Shandix, Otho from Tim Burton's Beatlejuice, post gastric-bypass surgery and a shell of his former self, sat waiting for someone to notice him. In retrospect, I should have said something to him like, "Gosh, you're one of Tim Burton's cronies. What's it like playing bit parts in all his films?" Or perhaps it's better that I kept that to myself.

The Beastmaster himself, Marc Singer, handed an inanely ignorant fan three autographed color photographs and asked for $80, the fan gasping in response and asking, "These cost money?" His patience in the matter was impressive given that he was once a man with rippling muscles that commanded the respect of ferrets everywhere.

The Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, the only "actor" I spoke a word to, consumed space with his still-freakish bulk and well groomed locks of brown hair. I slinked towards his table trying to blend in with the other gawkers, but he spotted me quickly. With my boyish good looks and comparatively tiny frame (I'm 6'1", 205, but this is the Hulk we're dealing with), I was no match for him, so I cowered and listened as he spouted some nonsense about a special deal he was advertising in which fans who bought a $20 poster of him would also receive a free autographed picture as well, to which I responded "I'll keep that in mind." I then shuffled away because I knew that, should he flex, the slight variation in the space-time continuum surrounding his table would rupture my heart and I'd die, staring into the eyes Zeus's favored son. Frankly, I'd rather live a few more years and die in a motor-scooter accident, or from a super virus like any other upstanding member of society.

The last star I recognized** was none other than Virgil, former and apparently current WWE star and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase's sidekick. He was smallish for a wrestler, but his exuberance while taking photographs with fans made up for his lack of wrestling, uh, skill.

---------->**They were certainly not the last celebrities signing autographs...oh no, there were plenty more, like two women that appeared in one of the Star Wars films for 20 seconds, or a large, fat man from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, or Jackson Bostwick, Captain Marvel from television's Shazam! , who I discovered at www.imdb.com, is as "expert in Jeet-Kune-Do and Wing-Chun Kung-Fu." I hope he gets work soon...he seemed like a nice, smart, attractive, and talented man.

A little love for the DIY peeps
I recall the convention floor in the past to be a swell of publishers first and vendors second, but at this year's event, the major publishers were relegated to a rather small area near the main entrance. Vendors (comic book dealers, stores, etc.) dominated the expanse of the floor, but the real treat was the stretch of independent comic insiders.

These are the writers and artists that, for the most part, are the real talents of the comic industry. It's these folks that really drive and challenge every norm in modern comics, every clichéd style and concept. Think of them as the independent directors, the two-piece garage band with electronic drum kit, the actor working plays on Friday and Saturday nights for free beer - potential untapped and drive unmatched.

What...that's it?
After only a few hours walking the floor and $100 later, I was ready to again part ways with my dork brethren. Age and a general sense of jaded realism scarred the experience a bit...it was no longer a hallowed place full of hidden treasures, rather a swamp of capitalism and struggling talent of which I am a never-ending part, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy myself. The experience simply reinforced my drive to support independent artists and should destiny ever shine brightly on my blackened soul, to realize when my time has past and to remain hidden from the public eye.

Then again, I never had a part in a cult television show or graced George Lucas' digital film, which, should he read this - I'd make a really cheap, tall, and clumsy Ewok...think about it, George, think about it. Warwick Davis, eat your heart out.

SEE ALSO: www.wizarduniverse.com

David Spain
Based in Chicago, Illinois, David Spain is a contributing writer for LAS magazine.

See other articles by David Spain.



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