There are two reasons I'm going to Wizard World Chicago this weekend. First, my S.O. has never been to a comic book convention (or any sort of hobbyist/collector convention) and is curious to see what it's like. Second, there are indeed some artists/writers I'd like to chat with. However, those artists are, by and large, folks who are NOT making their money working for Marvel or DC. They're the folks shoved to the Artists' Alley at the far back of the convention.
Now, if that (the Artist's Alley being crammed waaaaay in the back) doesn't tip you off that WWC is more of a superhero convention that what you might call a "true" comic book convention, let's consider a few other nuggets of information. Like the show entrance...
The first booths you see? Marvel and DC. Aspen and Top Cow, who's books really aren't that different substantively, are right behind them. Folks with a more diverse range of titles, like Dark Horse and even Image, are further back out of the immediate line of sight. Now, admittedly, this has more to do with DC and Marvel shelling out a few more bucks to get prime locations, but it shows their cognizance of the nature of the convention.
What about the artists, relegated back in the depths of the show? Local artist Ryan Kelly noted on his blog yesterday, "Last time I was at WW Chicago, I had about 6 pages of Local #1 drawn to show people at my artist table. But most of the responses were like, 'hmm, that's interesting, but can you draw NightCrawler beating up Lee Majors with a lightsaber?'"
Last night, Deep Fried and Weapon Brown creator Jason Yungbluth posted an apology for not updating his online comic strip over on his site in favor of preparing for WWC: "The time I would have spent drawing the comic strip I usually deliver with 90% dependability was instead soaked up drawing salable artwork of the stupid comic strip heroes that the public seems to prefer over my sexual misanthropes and drug abusers."
Now, don't get me wrong: I still very much want to go. There will indeed be some folks there I'd like to meet, and some of them write (or wrote) superhero comics. But it's not a show where I'm likely to discover some great new comic by an unknown artist. There'll be some of those artists in attendance, sure, and I might see some interesting new books as well. But that's a consequence of the show's size, rather than its focus. Any new work I discover will be despite the convention's intentions, not because of them. And, given my financial prospects just at the moment, that is perfectly fine with me.
That said, since it IS a show focusing on more mainstream material, it will prove to be more well-suited to what my S.O. might expect. There's definitely a "fun factor" in trying to identify all the cosplayers, and counting the number of people who remind you too much of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, and over-hearing absurdly detailed discussions why Malcolm Reynolds is cooler than Han Solo.
It's NOT a venue for celebrating comic books as a medium but, rather, a venue for celebrating mainstream pop culture. Oh, they'll be comic books there, but that's not the focus. Wizard World Chicago is a comic book convention in pretty much the same way Marvel is a comic book publisher. The key here for attendees is to be able to enjoy the show for what it is.