Despite the lack of major publishers, there was still a lot to see at Wizard World Chicago this weekend. Feeling more like a large local con than a major industry event, attendees divided the bulk of their time between the dealers area- where the majority of booths offer extremely discounted trade paperbacks and back issues- and artists alley, where the real flavor of any convention is found.
Among the many comicsmiths presenting was convention stalwart David Mack, creator of Kabuki and writer of the Philip K. Dick adaptation Electric Ant. With an ample selection of Kabuki graphic novels, action figures, and art prints, as well as DVDs of the documentary The Alchemy of Art, fans of Mack and his creations had plenty to sate their shopping needs.
If you like to collect signatures but want to keep an eye on your wallet, visit Russell Lissan, John Bivens, Steven Wallace, and Trevor Mueller; who in addition to their own works contributed to the recently release Reading With Pictures anthology, which all four creators had available for sale. Cover artist Jill Thompson is also a presence at the show, promoting her recent book Beasts of Burden, produced with cartoonist Evan Dorkin.
Comic fans who like a bit of humor in their hijinks should check out Mike White's Amity Blamity; a family tale of tolerance, neighborly love, and moonshining; described as a cross between Bloom County and Bone. Little girl Gretchen and her talking pet pig Chester get mistaken for entrepreneurs by their hooch-brewing uncle, and, well, hilarity ensues. It kind of has to once you include a talking pig AND corn whiskey.
Keeping up with the anthropomorphic farm critter milieu is the double-barrelled comic book shotgun of Peep and Peep Lite, produced by the husband and wife team of Matt Wendt and Becky Grutzik. Peep is a twisted series of Tales-From-The-Crypt-esques stories about the titular Peep, a little chicken. The stories told in its counter-point book Peep Lite, follow the same character but from a more all-accessible angle. "He's more of a lover than a fighter," said Peep Lite cartoonist Becky Grutzik, "but he likes weird things, like zombies!"
Far from being a misleading nonsequitur, the title of Adam Fotos collection of strips "" tells you exactly what's between the covers. "It's a comic, about a dragon, and a goat!" Great for kids and hilarious for adults, the many volumes collect Fotos original serialized strips and new colored material.
There were a number of other fantasy-themed projects in the alley this year, including the unusual product of messers Anthony Coffey and Jesse Labbe, "Berona's War." Outlining the war between two fantastical worlds, each side drawn by one of the different artists, their first offering is a field guide to the conflict, with a second volume ofr short comic book stories coming out from Archaia in 2011.
Another title on display was Witchman by R.C. Young, the story of a magical superhero sent forth from his forest sanctuary into the quote unquote real world to battle and contain sinful goblins. Sharing booth space with Young is her sister, artist Carla Wyzgala, with many prints and art objects displaying her talents.
…And there were a lot of art objects on display, ranging from the little clay gnomes of Andi "Gnome Guardian" Baruff, sharing booth space with her artist pal Lynell Ingram, to the plushie-toy-and-homemade-television work of Robin Poppert and Rhodrick Magsino, Little Brass Bird.
Fans of art inspired by Alphonse Mucha had a lot to choose from, ranging from the pie 'n' tentacle artwork of Echo Chernik to the superheroine portraits of Leanne Buckley. Buckley's available prints included Zatanna, Jean Grey as the Black Queen, and Poison Ivy; future prints planned include Harley Quinn and Emma Frost.
Of course if your artistic preference runs further from the erotically subdued and more towards alt-pulchritude, there's always the inimitable Suicidegirls! (Well, inimitable unless you are also a naked girl on the internet with tattoos and piercings.) The 'girls were selling copies of their new DVDs, a reality-horror film, "Suicide Girls Must Die" and "The Suicidegirls' Guide to Living," as well as some of their books, t-shirts, and underpants.
Lest you think this shows a biased, sexist attitude on behalf of the modern comic book convention, Wizard World Chicago had a healthy abundance of scantily clad men, courtesy of Utilikilts. Stop by their booth to check out kilts on display featuring artwork by Devil's Panties cartoonist Jennie Breeden and other artists- and while you're there, try one on; they're quite comfortable.
By the time you're done shopping, you may have more stuff than you've got the space for. Better see Steve Ledyard at Geek Design and check out their line of classy storage furniture for the fashionably feng shui-ed fanboy.
Although no longer an epic summer con, Wizard World still has a lot to offer for those looking for a fun day at a comic convention.
Greg Baldino lives and writes in Chicago, which saved him a lot on hotel expenses for this con. His fiction and journalism has appeared in many publications internationally. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org