The enormity of Wizard World’s show continues to grow. What a difference a year makes! As I entered the main hall at the Donald E. Stephens convention center to experience the 2016 Chicago Comic-Con, I realized that the event had long grown past simply being a comic-con to being the yearly pop culture fix for the Chicagoland area.
Headlined by a fantastic group of celebrities and artists, rabid fans of Star Wars, the Walking Dead, WWE, X-Files, Daredevil and Back to the Future were thrilled at the opportunities that awaited them over the four-day spectacle.
Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, was in the house signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, and her Royal Highness didn’t disappoint in a fun panel on Sunday.
Several WWE stars were appearing Thursday and Friday, including Becky Lynch, John Cena, and champion Dean Ambrose. The Bella Twins, Nikki and Brie even appeared on Saturday before the huge Summerslam event that saw former WWE Divas Champion Nikki Bella make her surprise return to the ring. Nikki had been rehabbing a pretty severe neck injury that was reportedly bad enough that her return was doubtful. Congrats to the longest reigning Divas champ on her recovery.
Fans of the time-travelling trilogy, Back to the Future, were also thrilled at the opportunity to pose for a photo with film stars Michael J. Fox (Marty), Lea Thompson (Lorraine McFly) and Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown). The other star of the film was also in attendance… the DeLorean! Fans were rabid over this unforgettable photo op.
There was something for everyone. Whether your preference was Power Rangers in the form of Jason David Frank (Tommy Oliver) or the Karate Kid (Ralph Macchio), Zombie slayer Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) or the handsome and hilarious Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead’s Ash and Burn Notice’s Sam Axe,) the cast of Netflix’s Daredevil or the CWs Arrow, Wizard World was getting some of your cash, because the opportunities were just too good to pass up.
I attended with my wife and couldn’t pass up the chance to meet Chuck Finley. No… not the ballplayer, but the charismatic actor behind freelance detective Sam Axe and Ash from the Evil Dead series – Bruce Campbell (Chuck was his undercover spy alias.) We also sought the truth and found it with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny of X-Files fame. Both experiences were worth every penny, though the time spent with them was short.
The videogame wing, adjacent to the photo op area, was also hopping with gamers. Gaming giant Namco had soon-to-be-released console and arcade games on display for free play. A company that caught my attention was Extra Life, which encourages people to play video games for charity. You can choose your charity, set a goal, and have a game-day marathon to help support the Children’s Miracle Network and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. While lots of people claim video games rot your brain, it would be hard to argue playing to raise money to help sick or needy kids.
Attendees also had several opportunities to listen to and watch their favorite celebrities in panels. Daredevil stars Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson and others led a panel about the show. It was just one of the events throughout the convention that saw people lined up around the building to get the latest bit of news about their favorite shows, movies, comics and more.
The main hall was full of vendors selling everything from comic books to grass-fed beef jerky! It is the only place I know of that you can go besides the Internet to get a custom-built light saber or find a couple thousand people playing Pokemon Go. Speaking of Pokemon Go, that was well represented at the con, with group meet-ups and play zones. It was only fitting that the new phenomenon was part of the show.
There may have been more Funko Pop Vinyl figures than people in that building, and that’s saying a lot, because Wizard World was jam-packed with attendees.
So many different genres get mixed up in this pop culture melting pot, as people of every race, creed, gender and color found a place to spend a couple of days together and celebrate a shared love for comics, film, gaming, and counterculture.
Wizard World truly was the place to be this past weekend, and hopefully we’ll all get a chance to do it again next year when it returns on August 24, 2017.