Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 WAYS TO IMPROVE THE WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO COMIC CON


The Wizard World Chicago Comic Con has been going on since 1972 and keeps getting bigger and bigger each year. However, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily getting better. Quite the contrary, as this year was rather disappointing on a number of levels, and its size is just one of the issues. The fixes are fairly easy to achieve to ensure that future conventions are as thrilling and productive as they were in years past. Here then are the top 10 ways to improve the Con:

    TAKE OVER THE ENTIRE DONALD E. STEPHENS CONVENTION CENTER
This year the Con was so big it needed three huge rooms at the convention hall, in addition to the hotel banquet halls for Q & A’s, panels and other special events. The main room where the Con dominated in decades past was taken over by another ‘renter’ this year. Next year, Wizard World should ensure they get the whole place to themselves. With attendance well over 80,000 this year for the four-day event, more and more room is needed to accommodate all the fans.

TREAT ADVANCED TICKET HOLDERS BETTER
Paying in advance gets you bupkis these days, especially at the Con. Ticket holders still had to stand in the Con’s ridiculously long line to get in. It winded around half of the center with a waiting time of almost an hour at mid-day. Then once advanced ticket holders got in they got no significant swag for their early online purchase. Treating the loyalists like that is no way to ingratiate the fans that give you money that you can gain interest on.
Henry Winkler was supposed to appear at the Chicago Comic Con but cancelled. 
    DELIVER THE GUESTS YOU'VE BOOKED
One of the big attractions this year was Henry Winkler, who cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. That may be a solid reason, but the Con goes through this every year. Isn’t there some way to ensure the bigger names are there? It’s great to see Lou Ferrigno and Verne Troyer, but Winkler was a real ‘get’ and too often the Con loses their biggest stars that have been promised to be present. The dates are known months and months in advance, so why is this a problem? The Con needs to deliver upon such promises.

    CLAMP DOWN ON THE SOLICITATION
In years past, the Con was pretty good at instructing their booth holders to let the customers come to them. Not so much this year, Within 10 minutes of walking into the Con, I was hit up for money by some police fraternal order and a few other vendors. Those vendors shouldn’t treat it like it’s a street fair or a Third World market.

    GET BETTER FOOD
This year, Starbucks participated in the Con and created humongous lines. Surprise, surprise. Next year, the Con should have more Starbucks there to accommodate the coffee shop’s massive popularity. The Con could also bring in other brand name restaurants or suppliers for a better variety of food. For a Con that showcases more and more variety of products, everything from comic artists to the Suicide Girls to Navy enlistment, you’d think that they would have a better selection of nibbles than hot dogs, burgers and nachos.

    WHERE ARE  THE MOVIE PEOPLE?
The Con is dominated by comic book related artists and TV celebs. There’s nothing wrong with any of that of course, but where are the movie stars or movie-related screenings and panels? They are very few and far in between, as evidenced by this year’s Con. Such movie related events usually dominate the San Diego Comic Con, so why can’t other conventions get more movie attention?

    HAVE A COSTUME CONTEST DAILY
There are hundreds of people showing up in costumes at the convention each and every day of the four-day event. So, should the one costume contest be held only on the last day - Sunday?

CUT THOSE PRICES
Inflation is everywhere, but especially at the Wizard World Comic Conventions. Panels cost $250 to attend, on top of a $50 admission price. And everything else at the Con is jacked up too. (Although paying only $30 for "The Ravishing Red Collection" of J. Scott Campbell's sublime illustrations seems like a steal to this fan!) The high prices generally strike me as not being very considerate to the many teens there who don’t have thousands of bucks to throw around, let alone the rest of us still waiting for our ‘thank you’ checks for bailing out the banks.

    MANAGE THE TRAFFIC BETTER
There are dozens of cops monitoring and directing the traffic and it’s still not enough. Parking is a nightmare, and the traffic jams are getting worse each year. Despite River Road being chock full of convention hotels, the ebb and flow of the traffic there is managed like it’s amateur hour. Change the lights. Create special garage rates for carpool guests. Amp up public transportation with shuttle buses and increased el trains. Something, anything (!) to figure out how to get people into the Con in less than an hour and out of it in less time.
Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall in the final season of Showtime's DEXTER
THE WALKING DEAD ISN'T THE ONLY FAN BOY SHOW
I know that THE WALKING DEAD is the biggest cable TV show right now and that the comic book series is legendary, but the show is the dominating presence at the Con these days. One of the two freebies visitors got was a reboot of the comic book. (The other was the launch issue of a rather uninspired WIZARD OF OZ in the West comic.) Stars Norman Reedus and Jon Bernthal were two of the biggest names at the Con, with the longest lines for autographs too. And the proliferation of merchandise from the show dominated most vendor booths. That’s all great, and the show is not only a phenomenon but also brilliant, but there are other shows to showcase. SHERLOCK, maybe? Perhaps NIKITA, ARROW,  the upcoming AGENTS OF SHIELD? Where the heck was the last season of DEXTER represented? Couldn't the Con gotten someone like Jennifer Carpenter to show up for a panel? The Con needs to really work on broadening the tent to focus on other fan boy shows in addition to the zombie one. 

Look, when all is said and done, the Con is like pizza, even when it’s so-so it is still pretty darn good. However, this year’s event was a bit underwhelming in content and overwhelming in hassles. Hopefully with the burgeoning success of each successive year, the Wizard World folks will strive to make each Con better, not just bigger and more profitable. 

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