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Scenes from Wizard World Chicago ’08 – Preview Night (Thursday)

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As seems to be the custom at preview night, there was a line halfway around the Rosemont Convention Center as I came off the train.   Walking past the line, there was a chunky hawker wearing Wizard gear extolling people to “hurry” to get in line because they were giving out badge holders.  Oooooooh, badge holders! 

 When I got to the lobby, I found it almost completely empty.  The line was kept outside, so you can come in and buy a ticket, but then you have to go back outside to wait in line.  Just like a night club, they were creating an abnormally long line for anyone driving by to see.  What that accomplishes in the suburbs at 3:30 in the afternoon, I have no idea, but that’s what was happening.

 If you were at preview night and bothered by the odor of underarm sweat (fortunately, I didn’t notice any), it could have been because the ticketholders were lined up outside, in the sun, when it was 91 degrees out.  It happens.

 In better news, the Chicago Transit Authority’s continued woes don’t sound like they’re going to cause you any grief getting in and out of Rosemont, this year.  Last year, a portion of the Blue Line (the O’Hare branch of the subway) was closed and, while there were shuttles, made getting around a time-eating pain in the backside.  Today’s train ride to the Rosemont stop was probably quickest ride to O’Hare I’ve had in 3 years.  I’m told trip time on that train is hit and miss, but so far, so good.

At 4:00pm on a Thursday afternoon, you’re not going to have a huge crowd.  That’s the nice part of preview night: you can make the rounds without fighting a mob.  To my pleasant surprise, while it was still extremely quiet compared to a “normal” convention day, it struck me as a hair busier than previous preview nights.

The question of whether or not this will be the last Wizard World in Chicago was still a concern on the floor.  This wasn’t exactly helped by Wizard having sign-up forms for August 7-9, 2009, which would put the show back in the post-San Diego shadow, next year.  Not all publishers I talked to were aware the show was moving back to August.  We’ll have to see what happens.  Then again, not everyone was aware there was a Horror Convention across the street for the weekend.  That one, I’m not going to blame Wizard on.  I suspect they had their reservations first.  I live in Chicago, and I only heard about the horror show last week, and another local I ran into tonight hadn’t heard about it, so who knows?

What was the buzz on the floor?  Too mellow for a buzz, really.

Word is, Archaia Studios Press has found themselves a new partner.  Everybody involved is still on good terms.  The Devil’s Panties (a popular web comic) will be moving on, Mouse Guard is staying.

At the time I walked by, Max Brooks had a longer line than Warren Ellis.  That probably won’t be the case during regular hours, but I have a feeling the Avatar booth is going to be very busy this weekend.

Discounted graphic novels/tpbs still seem to be the order of the day in the dealer section.  50% off cover in enough places.  5 for $25 graphic novels (with a lot of Marvel Essentials) can be found in one place, and that seems to be the rock bottom.  No super-discounts on the DC Showcase line, and fewer of those in my once-over of the 50%-off boxes than I was expecting.  Watching Wizard World turn into a fire sale on the tpbs in the last couple years, I feel comfortable saying if you see something you want at 50%, go ahead and grab it.  Some of the 30% guys will come down to 50% off on Sunday, but the 50% tables don’t seem to discount futher unless you’re buying a ton at once.

Didn’t seem like as much video, but there might be a crackdown on bootlegs.  One booth had Cthulu-inspired jewelry.  It didn’t seem like there was much of a difference from last year, in terms of dealer booths.  Artist Alley, as usual on preview night, was only about half set-up.  That all depends on when flights get in.

If Bar Con was happening, it was happening late.  The Hyatt bar was pretty dead when I stopped in from roughly 7:30 to 8:30.  Then again, it looked like Dan DiDio and Erik Larsen were on their way in when I was on the way out.  In my experience, while the Hyatt bar is traditionally the mingling place, the rooms at the Sofitel are the same price as the Hyatt and significantly nicer.  Go Sofitel.

Tomorrow, we see if the Cult of Warren Ellis overwhelms the room. 

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