Clash of the Comic Cons | On Culture | Chicago Reader

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Clash of the Comic Cons

Wizard World and the new C2E2 battle it out for the hearts and minds of local comics fans.

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Under Shamus, attendance more than doubled, and Chicago's became the second-largest comics convention in North America, after San Diego Comic-Con International. But in recent years, as Wizard added conventions in 11 other cities, some local dealers became disenchanted.

Kirsammer, who also owns Quimby's, says he stopped renting a booth at Wizard World about five years ago, after he started noticing changes he didn't like—for example, an emphasis on wrestlers as featured guests. And the Rosemont location "always bugged me," he adds."

Mark Beatty, owner of Dark Tower Comics and Collectibles in Lincoln Square, hung in with Wizard last year, but says he thought the show "really took a dive." Besides the missing major publishers, it looked to him like they "scrimped on details . . . and the focus seemed to be too much on the old TV shows and not enough on the comics." But the final straw had to do with money. Beatty, who bought the equivalent of four booths, says he was charged full price only to learn from other exhibitors that they'd been charged less.

"Everybody's going to tell you this or that," Shamus replies. "You're talking about one person. We have 1,000 vendors at our show in Chicago, and they make a lot of money."

Though Beatty is concerned about the operating costs at McCormick Place, like Kirsammer, he's going to give C2E2 a try.

Wizard has been buying up smaller shows around the country, but it also wound up canceling dates for two expos last year, and neither DC nor Marvel is exhibiting at its Anaheim, California, Comic Con this weekend. Shamus says Wizard's multi-city expansion made some schedule adjustments necessary and denies that C2E2 is a competitor. "They're a local comic-book show," he says. "We're a North American tour for pop culture. It doesn't affect our business." He maintains that last year's Rosemont convention was the best and largest they've had, with attendance of about 70,000.

Even so, Wizard seems to be fighting back with head-to-head scheduling. The company is mounting a Big Apple show that will run on the same dates as Reed's New York comic-book convention this year. And the Anaheim event is concurrent with C2E2—a potential conflict for exhibitors and artists, if not attendees. But Kirsammer says Reed "blew it out of the water" in New York, creating a buzz for this weekend in Chicago.

Charet, who closed his store in 2002 but still deals on eBay, will be at C2E2 to take part in a panel called "Chicago Vintage Comic Fandom" on Saturday at 12:15 PM in room E352. Charet says the panel will include a tribute to Sarno.   

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