Wizard World Chicago 2002

Now we've all seen the photos of the cool, new toys that were at Wizard World Chicago this last weekend. But what about the show itself? What's a big comic convention really like? That's what we'll answer here. Or, I'll ramble on for a few paragraphs about the show and pretend that's my point.


I only live about 4 hours from the fabled Rosemont, Illinois, the suburb of Chicago that is home to the show. So every year I tell myself it's not that long of a drive, and every year after the trip I tell myself I was nuts. And so I headed out Saturday morning with two of my fellow toy collectors, Jeff and Doc, at the truly ungodly hour of 5:30am.

It was a fairly uneventful drive - not too many people on the road at that time on an average Saturday, let alone a fourth of July weekend Saturday - and we arrived with time to spare. The fact that Michigan is on Eastern time, and Chicago is on Central, thus gaining an hour going in that direction, might have had something to do with that. If I'd been taking my Ginko and remembered that, I could have gotten an extra hour of sleep.

The Donald Stephens Convention Center is a massive place, with plenty of room for companies, dealers, and artists. As we came in, it was obvious that Stifkas would be everywhere - they were even chalked all over the sidewalks leading to the center in both black and yellow.

Registration was smooth. I picked up my press ticket without a hitch, and Jeff and Doc grabbed their one day passes in a jiff. Often with shows of this size, problems arise all over the place, but I have to admit that both the convention center and Wizard did an excellent job of both planning and executing the show. While people were disappointed that Stan Lee was a no show, I didn't hear any other complaints, and I talked with lots of folks.

Speaking of Stan Lee, it certainly was a big let down that he couldn't make it, but there's always hope that they can get him to attend a future show.

As you entered the show itself, you were greated by the company booths. Many of the major players were there, and Hasbro was a co-sponsor. They had a huge booth in the center of the company booths, very open and airy, with lots of Star Wars, Joe and Transformer displays. The reps were quite friendly, and they had two photo opportunities where you could take your picture as a 'carded' action figure. The one was Star Wars of course, but the far more interesting was the second. Along with
the G.I. Joe packaging stage, they had a young lady decked out as the Baroness. Needless to say, she was tremendously popular. Even little old MWC had to get his picture taken.  Uh, that's not me to the right - that's Crazy Harry from series 2 of the Muppets - that's me below.  On the left.  In case you were confused.

We rushed off to the Palisades booth first, since we wanted to be sure to get our Vanishing Cream Beaker show exclusive. I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Horn, and he was his usual terrific self. It was great seeing the second series of Muppets figures in person, and the Year Without Santa Claus stuff just made me all the more interested in the line. Palisades is definitely the company to be watching this year.

I wandered about the company section all morning, taking time to chat with Stan Winston and look over the next two series of his figures, Clayburn Moore, folks from DC Direct, Diamond, and others. You've seen the photos at the various news sites, and there really wasn't anything too new, but there was the occasional goodie. We should see some really exciting new product at San Diego next month.

Already weary, but dying to spend some money, we headed off into the dealers area. This part of the show takes up about two thirds of the floor space. There were dealers in just about any comic or toy related area there, including golden, silver and newer comics, action figures, tons of busts, mini-busts and statues, anime and manga, videos and dvd's, and a general mish mash of pop culture.

It looked like dealers had stocked up on World of Springfield, as just about everybody had something. Most of that was wave 6 and newer, with some wave 1, 4 and 5 thrown in. There was very little of wave 2 and 3, and the one Smithers I saw had a $95 price tag on it. It wasn't going anywhere, but it was at least present. Lisa seemed to be running in the $50 range, with figures like Otto, Krusty or Milhouse in the $20-25 range. Wiggum and Barney are still up around $40, but I did see a couple decent deals on the Toyfare exclusive CCBG, both around $35.

The better deals were on some of the playsets. There were plenty there, and newer ones were easy to find for less than retail. Even sets like the Christmas set ($65-$75) and the Treehouse of Horror 2 ($75 at one booth!) were decent prices. The winner of the 'dealers bought way too many of them' award goes to the Prom set, and dealers were trying to clear out their massive stocks at prices below $20.

Muppets were another big item, and many dealers had the usual four figures. But the recent exclusives from Wizard World East, Toys R Us and Electronics Boutique were in much shorter supply. Oddly, it appeared as though they weren't stocked up on those, and even the Toyfare Tux Kermit (the same as the TRU version but with the sticker) was still available over at the Toyfare booth. I had expected to see the dealers swarming on these, but it looked like they hadn't quite caught on yet. I'm assuming by the end of the show they had though, as evidenced by the fast sell out of the 'screw up' Vanishing Cream Beaker in the baggie that sold through 500 units in a hour Sunday morning at the Palisades booth.
Since I've already seen dealers on ebay trying to claim various production numbers on the Beakers that were at the show, let me put the record straight. The boxed Vanishing Cream Beaker was available at the Palisades booth on Friday and Saturday. They had produced 1500 for this show, which they sold, and another 200 were pulled from the stock intended for the collectors club. So they sold 1700 of them at the show, but don't fret - they will be making them for the collectors club, and you'll be able to get yours if you want. Don't go buying it from ebay!

The second Beaker is the 'invisible' Beaker. This Beaker was a giveaway at the Wizard industry party Saturday night. Originally, this was supposed to be a Micronaut, but production problems delayed it, and the all clear Beaker was a quick replacement. They produced 500 of these, and they came in little baggies with j-hook card tops.

The factory actually screwed up though, and produced 500 of the Vanishing Cream Beakers in the bags. They sent these over too, and Palisades sold these errors on Sunday. So there will be more boxed Vanishing Cream Beakers, but there were only 500 each of the clear, bagged Beakers, and bagged VC Beakers, produced. Whew.
I only saw one WWE Dr. Teeth, and my friend Jeff picked that up for $75. I suspect this will be the holy grail of the line for some time to come.

Another popular area was monsters of all sorts. Several booths were dedicated to them, including Universal monsters, Japanese monsters, and others. Even crap like the Exclusive Premiere Munsters figures were commanding decent prices. It seems our love for all things monstrous never dies. Kind of like most monsters.

Vintage items were pretty well represented. My friend Doc managed to spend way too much on vintage transformers, and I saw several Mego items, including a MIB Jokermobile, that tempted me. But I kept looking at the $550 price tag, and seeing my wife standing in front of a judge, explaining to him why she beat me to death with a green plastic toy van, and him nodding his head in complete agreement...

The costumed fans were out in force, although 90% of them were Star Wars. There were some exceptionally cool Stormtroopers, and one Jango/Boba pair that had some of the best costumes I've seen. There was the smattering of Jedi (including one wearing Doc Marten sandals), a Vader or two, and the occasionaly anime chick. There was also several characters from one of the booths, called 'Kaiju', running around.

This Kaiju thing is kind of unique. These Godzilla wannabees dress up in their own foam monster suit creation, and then beat the crap out of each other WWF (Oops, WWE) style. My personal favorite is Club Sandwich. If this truly off beat but unique battle of the monsters sounds like your kind of thing, check it out online.

Speaking of wrestling, the show had a ring of amateur wrestlers going off on each other over by the food court. Always amusing to watch, this year's crop seemed slightly better than previous years. In the very back of the hall, next to the artist's area, they also had a group of skateboarders performing several times a day.

The artist's area and gaming area take up the back section of the hall. There were plenty of small press folks there, and lots of tables for the Heroclix crazies.

Ah, and I forget to mention Heroclix. Another one of the hot items at the show, there was a big Heroclix presence in both the company section and the dealers section. Every attendee also got a cool little Spiderman and Batman Heroclix piece.

There was also the strange phenomenon I like to call the "Disneyland Character Syndrome". I file it under those things I simply do not understand. There was woman there dressed up like Vampirella. Now, she was a very nice Vampirella. But there was a huge line all day long of guys looking to get her autograph. Huh? As my buddy Jeff said "Is she the creator of Vampirella dressed up like Vampirella?" C'mon guys, when my six year old son made me stand in line to get the autograph of some pimple faced teenager dressed up like Mickey Mouse, I could understand. But if your standing in line to get some woman in tall boots, a cape and big breasts to write the word "Vampirella" on your comic book, you've reached the ninth level of geek Hell. Don't even get me started on the guy dressed up like Xena...

After a full day of walking the show, we collapsed about 6pm. Was it time to go home? Oh, no! There are lots of parties to attend, and I chose to hit the Wizard/Palisades co-sponsored party that night at the Double Tree.

With an open bar and Fritos a' plenty, it was a great time. Some of the 'stars' stopped by, including Ferrigno, Al Snow, and Michael Rosenbaum. I spent a very enjoyable half hour chatting with Randy Bowen and one of his cohorts (who's name I can no longer remember - damn this old age!), and mingled with a variety of dealers, collectors and the like. This is where Palisades gave out the 'invisible'
Beaker as well. Although I was having a great time, home was calling, and I knew I had a good four hour drive, plus I'd be losing an hour going east. So by 11pm we were back on the road, and by the time I hit the bed, it had been almost a full 24 hour day. If human beings didn't have to sleep, we'd get an incredible amount done.

So what's next? Well, San Diego of course! I'll be there for at least three days, so if you plan on attending and want to hook up, just drop me an email. And if you can't make San Diego next year, remember that Wizard World in Chicago is your next best bet for comicy goodness and fun!

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