Wizard World Chicago
Wizard World Chicago logo used in 2011
Status Active
Genre Multi-genre
Venue Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Ramada O'Hare, Pick-Congress Hotel, Playboy Towers Hotel
Location Rosemont and Chicago, Illinois
Country United States
First held July 22–23, 1972
Organizer Wizard Entertainment
Attendance 70,000 in 2009
Official website [1]

Wizard World Chicago, commonly known as the Chicago Comicon, is a comic book convention held during the summer in Rosemont, Illinois, United States, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. It was traditionally a three-day event (Friday through Sunday) but in 2006 it expanded to four days (Thursday through Sunday). It was founded in 1972 as Nostalgia '72, Chicago Comic Con, and later as the Chicago Comic and Nostalgia Convention, by a local dealer (and school teacher) named Nancy Warner.[1][2]

Acquired by Wizard Entertainment in 1997, Wizard World Chicago is among the larger comic book conventions in the United States, in third place for overall attendance at a single event. The Wizard World conventions attracted more than 70,000 attendees in 2005, making it the third largest pop-culture event series in the country, only behind New York Comic Con, and Comic-Con International in San Diego. Wizard hosts thirteen annual conventions, including in Chicago, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Austin, and New Orleans.

Originally showcasing comic books and related popular arts, the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of Pop culture elements, such as Professional wrestling, science fiction/fantasy, film/television, horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, Collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels. From 1995–2006, it was also the home of the Wizard World Fan Awards.[3]


Chicago collectibles dealer Nancy Warner staged the area's first comic and collectibles convention on July 22–23, 1972, calling it Nostalgia '72, Chicago Comic Con.[1] It attracted 2,000 attendees. She ran the show, which featured movie screenings[4] as well as dealers from as far as Los Angeles, Atlanta,[5] Buffalo, New York, and Oklahoma City,[1] for three more years, but by 1975 the show was in decline, attracting only 1,000 attendees. Dealers from outside Chicago were generally avoiding the show because they couldn't sell enough to meet expenses.

At that point, Warner approached local comic book store owner Joe Sarno,[6] and his associate Mike Gold, to produce the show. Their job was to overcome Chicago's reputation of being a sub-par convention city.[7] Early in the process, George Hagenauer and comics retailer Larry Charet[2] were brought in. Although Sarno wanted to name the show the Chicago Comic Art and Nostalgia Convention, he was voted down and the name Chicago Comicon was adopted.[7]

The first Chicago Comicon was held in the Playboy Towers Hotel on August 6–8, 1976. Special guests were Marvel Comics figurehead Stan Lee, DC Comics president Jenette Kahn, seminal cartoonist/editor Harvey Kurtzman,[8] artist Mike Grell, and illustrator Tim Conrad. The show featured a comic auction benefiting Chicago's Alternative Schools Network (later auctions benefited the Literacy Volunteers of Chicago). The first Chicago Comicon attracted 2,100 attendees.


In 1977, the Chicago Comicon moved back to the Pick-Congress Hotel, on 520 S. Michigan Avenue (the location of the 1973 show), where it remained until 1983. (The Pick-Congress was renamed the Americana-Congress Hotel in 1982.) The producers added Bob Weinberg to help coordinate the 1977 show.[7] Attendance reached 3,000 at an admission charge of $3/day. The 1978 show was dubbed "Sweatcon" because of the extreme heat.[9] The 1979 show was produced by Larry Charet and Bob Weinberg; it was the first year that Joe Sarno was not one of the show’s organizers. Admission was $3.50/day.

Show organizers hosted a "Chicago Minicon" on April 26–27, 1980, at the usual location of the Pick-Congress Hotel; guests included John Byrne, Max Allan Collins, Tim Conrad, Mike Grell, Paul Kupperberg, and Marv Wolfman. By 1980 the feature show admission was $4/day, and by 1982 it had gone up to $5/day. Will Eisner was the show's guest of honor for 1981 but was unable to attend due to an accident.[9] He returned in 1982 as the guest of honor, which was the same year that the Chicago Comicon merged with Panopticon West, a Doctor Who convention. Again because of overwhelming heat it was dubbed "Sweatcon II."[9]

The Comicon was expanding, and in 1983 the show moved to the larger venue, the Ramada O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, a northern suburb.[10] That location would be the show’s home until 1993 when it relocated to the Rosemont Convention Center (now known as the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center), where it has remained ever since.[9] During the mid-1980s, the show organizers hosted annual one-day "Minicons" every December.[11]

The 1985 program booklet celebrated Marvel Comics' 25th anniversary, followed by the 1987 program celebrating Chicago-based First Comics' 5th anniversary, 1988's booklet marking Eclipse Comics' 10th anniversary, and the 1989 program noted Kitchen Sink Press' 20th anniversary. The 1988 show featured the inaugural presentation of the Harvey Awards.[12][13] One-day admission for the 1988 comicon was $6.[14] The 1989 show focused on Batman, due to the popularity of Tim Burton's Batman movie. It also featured a panel on underground comics that included Harvey Pekar, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, and S. Clay Wilson. One-day tickets for the 1989 show were $7.[15]

The 1992 Chicago Comicon celebrated the "spirits of independence", e.g. the hot-selling group of creators behind Image Comics. Rob Liefeld held a 24-hour autograph session from Friday morning to Saturday morning.[16] The 1992 show featured 200 dealers, and attendees were charged $10 per person or $25 for a three-day pass.[16]

The 1994 show featured fifty publishers and 300 dealers;[17] it also hosted the Comics Arts Conference.

By 1995, the comics industry was in a slump, and attendance at the show was decreasing.[18] By then, the convention ownership included Charet,[10] while the main show organizer was Moondog Comics owner Gary Colabuono. The 1995 Comicon featured a Stan Lee roast,[19] and again hosted the Comics Arts Conference.

In 1996, the Chicago Comicon became the new home of the Wizard World Fan Awards, which were presented at the show every year until their discontinuation in 2006.[3]

Wizard Entertainment bought the Chicago Comicon from Charet and his partners in 1997.[20] By the 1997 show, attendance was topping out at 5,000;[18] Wizard's first order of business was to fire the previous organizers.[21]

With the 1998 show, now renamed Wizard World Chicago, attendance jumped to 25,000,[18] at a charge of $20 per day or $40 for three days.[22] The 1999 show featured 750 exhibitors.[18]

The 2001 show featured exhibitors like DC, Marvel, Hasbro, and Bandai, and charged attendees $20/day or $40 for the weekend.[23]

By 2006, Wizard World Chicago had expanded to four days and boasted a weekend attendance of over 58,000 people.[24] The 2009 show attracted 70,000 attendees,[2] but neither DC Comics nor Marvel Comics had an official presence at the show.

Disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich made an appearance at the 2010 Wizard World Chicago, conversing with and taking pictures with attendants. He charged $50 for an autograph and $80 for a photo. He also had a humorous televised meeting with Adam West; Blagojevich remarked that he considered The Joker to be the best Batman foil. Comic fandom website reported that Blagojevich met with a mostly positive reception, while Time Out Chicago described it as mixed.[25][26]

The 2011 show charged $35 for a one-day pass and $60 for a four-day pass at the door.[27]

Dates and locations

Dates Location Attendance Official guests Notes
July 22–23, 1972[5] Pick-Congress Hotel, Chicago[5] 2,000 None Known as Nostalgia '72[5]
August 3–5, 1973[1] Pick-Congress Hotel[1] None Known as Nostalgia '73, 2nd Annual Chicago Comic and Nostalgia Convention
Summer 1974 Chicago Known as Nostalgia '74, 3rd Annual Chicago Comic and Nostalgia Convention
Summer 1975 Chicago 1,000 Known as Nostalgia '75, 4th Annual Chicago Comic and Nostalgia Convention
August 6–8, 1976 Playboy Towers Hotel, Chicago 2,100[9] Stan Lee, Jenette Kahn, Harvey Kurtzman, Mike Grell, and Tim Conrad
August 5–7, 1977[28] Pick-Congress Hotel, Chicago 3,000[9] Stan Lee, Jenette Kahn,[29] Chester Gould, and Howard Chaykin[30]
July 14–16, 1978 Pick-Congress Hotel 2,500[9] Guest of honor: Chester Gould;[29] other guests include Al Milgrom, Chris Claremont, Rudy Nebres, and Dale Messick Will Eisner was invited to be an "Extra Special Guest," but couldn't attend due to illness.[29]
July 20–22, 1979 Pick-Congress Hotel 2,000[31] Mike W. Barr and John Byrne
July 18–20, 1980 Pick-Congress Hotel Guest of honor: Roy Thomas; other guests: Frank Brunner, Dave Manak, Frank Miller, Josef Rubinstein, Roger Stern, Laurie Sutton, Chris Claremont, Jack C. Harris, Paul Kupperberg, Paul Levitz, Al Milgrom, Steve Mitchell, Joe Staton, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman Officially the fifth annual show
July 17–19, 1981 Pick-Congress Hotel Guest of honor: Will Eisner. New guests for 1981: Terry Beatty, Jim Engel, Chuck Fiala, Denis Kitchen, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Dean Mullaney. Returning guests: John Byrne, Howard Chaykin, Chris Claremont, Max Allan Collins, Mike Grell, Mike Friedrich, Roger Slifer, Paul Kupperberg, Marshall Rogers, Jim Shooter, Joe Staton, Roger Stern, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Cat Yronwode[32] Eisner unable to attend due to an accident.[9]
July 16–18, 1982 Americana-Congress Hotel Will Eisner
July 22–24, 1983 Americana-Congress Hotel The last Chicago Comicon to take place in Chicago (and the last at the Congress hotel)
July 6–8, 1984[33] Ramada O’Hare, Rosemont c. 12,000[33] Jack Kirby, Julius Schwartz[34] Program cover featuring Superman drawn by Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter.[34]
July 5–7, 1985 Ramada O’Hare Guest of honor: Sergio Aragonés 10th anniversary Chicago Comicon
July 4–6, 1986 Ramada O'Hare 5,000[35] Stan Lee (guest of honor), George Pérez (special guest), Doug Wildey
July 3–5, 1987 Ramada O'Hare c. 4,500[36]
July 1–3, 1988 Ramada O'Hare c. 5,000 Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher (special guests);[14] other guests: Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, Dave Stevens, and Chris Claremont[37]
June 30–July 2, 1989 Ramada O'Hare c. 5,000 Jim Aparo,[38] Stan Lee, Harvey Pekar, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, and S. Clay Wilson[15]
July 6–8, 1990 Ramada O'Hare 5,000+[18] Featured guests: Van Williams, Gerard Christopher, Harvey Kurtzman, and Erik Larsen. Other guests: Mark Gruenwald, Jim Starlin, Tom DeFalco, Len Strazewski, John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Chuck Fiala, P. Craig Russell, Charlie Athanas, Dick Locher, Max Allan Collins, Rick Obadiah, and Tony Caputo.[18]
June 28–30, 1991 Ramada O'Hare Jim Steranko, Kevin Eastman, and Chris Claremont[39]
July 4–6, 1992 Ramada O'Hare Image Comics crew: Rob Liefeld, Mark Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, and Whilce Portacio; Martin Nodell[40]
July 2–4, 1993 Rosemont Convention Center 20,000–30,000[2] Guest of honor: Neil Gaiman
July 3–5, 1994 Rosemont Convention Center 20,000+[41] Guest of honor: Harlan Ellison. Special guest: James O'Barr
June 30–July 2, 1995[42] Rosemont Convention Center 20,000[43] Guest of honor: Peter David. Special guests: Sal Buscema, Roy Thomas, John Romita Sr., Chris Claremont, Jim Shooter, and Julius Schwartz
June 21–23, 1996 Rosemont Convention Center 25,000[44] Guest of honor: Will Eisner; other guests: Harlan Ellison, Larry Marder, Heidi MacDonald, Mike Richardson, Kurt Busiek, Sergio Aragonés, Evan Dorkin, Paul Levitz, Julius Schwartz, Mercy Van Vlack, and George Pérez[45]
July 4–6, 1997 Rosemont Convention Center 5,000
July 17–19, 1998 Rosemont Convention Center 25,000 Guest of honor: Todd McFarlane. Special guests: David Prowse and Kenny Baker
July 9–11, 1999 Rosemont Convention Center
August 4–6, 2000 Rosemont Convention Center
August 17–19, 2001 Rosemont Convention Center 40,000+[46] Guest of honor: Alex Ross. Special guests: Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Gene Simmons, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Kimmie Kappenberg from Survivor, James Marsters, and Juliet Landau[23][46]
July 5–7, 2002 Rosemont Convention Center Guest of honor: Marc Silvestri. Special guest: Stan Lee
August 8–10, 2003 Rosemont Convention Center TK Mark Bagley, Laura Bailey, Eric Basaldua, Scott Beatty, Tony Bedard, Brian Michael Bendis, Lee Bermejo, Josh Blaylock, Talent Caldwell, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Scott Ciencin, Amanda Conner, Tony Daniel, Nelson Decastro, Andrea Di Vito, Paul Dini, Chuck Dixon, Dale Eaglesham, Steve Epting, Lou Ferrigno, Jackson Guice, Gene Ha, Greg Horn, Paul Jenkins, Phil Jiminez, Geoff Johns, Jeff Johnson, Barbara Kesel, Adam Kubert, Greg Land, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Joseph Michael Linsner, Jeph Loeb, Jim Mahfood, Steve McNiven, Angel Medina, Mark Millar, Karl Moline, Steve Niles, Phil Noto, Jimmy Palmiotti, Paul Pelletier, Brandon Peterson, Eric Powell, Joe Quesada, Humberto Ramos, Robert Rodi, Alex Ross, R.A. Salvatore, Bart Sears, Marc Silvestri, Kevin Smith, Matthew Dow Smith, Peter Steigerwald, Philip Tan, Michael Turner, Jim Valentino, Brian K. Vaughan, Mark Waid, Judd Winick, and Skottie Young
August 13–15, 2004 Rosemont Convention Center Guest of honor: Joss Whedon. Special guests: Kelly Hu and Amber Benson. Other guests: Brian Michael Bendis, Josh Blaylock, J. Scott Campbell, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Marie Croall, Tony Daniel, Lou Ferrigno, Gene Ha, Greg Horn, Geoff Johns, Dan Jolley, Jim Lee, Jeph Loeb, Sean McKeever, Angel Medina, Mark Millar, Mike Norton, Joe Quesada, Alex Ross, Alex Saviuk, Marc Silvestri, Kevin Smith, Michael Turner, Brian K. Vaughan, and Skottie Young
August 5–7, 2005 Rosemont Convention Center
August 3–6, 2006 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont 58,000[24] Guest of honor: Jeph Loeb Show expands to four days
August 9–12, 2007 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
June 26–29, 2008 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center c. 68,000 Guest of Honor: Warren Ellis. Special Guests: Todd McFarlane, Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Ross, Steve Sansweet World premiere of the new Batman animated movie Batman: Gotham Night
August 6–9, 2009 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center 70,000[2] Guest of honor: Mark Millar. Special guest: Jeremy Dale
August 19–22, 2010 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center William Shatner, Linda Hamilton, James Marsters, Linda Blair, Nicholas Brendon, Clare Kramer, Claudia Christian, Richard Roundtree, Julia Jones, Joe Madureira, Michael Golden, Arthur Suydam, Brian Pulido, and David W. Mack Original date of August 12–15 moved so as to not compete with Star Wars Celebration V, taking place in Orlando, Florida;[47] special appearance by Rod Blagojevich.
August 11–14, 2011 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Jim Cheung, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Gregg Hurwitz, Ariel Olivetti, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Morena Baccarin, Betsy Baker, Julia Benson, Amy Bruni, David Della Rocco, Hal Delrich, Ted DiBiase, Brandon DiCamillo, Kelly Donovan, Lou Ferrigno, Dan Fogler, Gil Gerard, Noah Hathaway, Alaina Huffman, Maria Kanellis, Patricia Kara, Ken Anderson, Clare Kramer, Mercedes McNab, Barbara Nedeljáková, Gena Lee Nolin, Miguel Nunez, Kai Owen, Chandler Riggs, Ellen Sandweiss, Daniel Stewart, Theresa Tilly, Lisa Marie Varon, Val Venis, Virgil, Torrie Wilson, Eric Adams, Dave Atkins, Brian Azzarello, Franco Aureliani, Art Baltazar, Jolly Blackburn, Ian Boothby, Tom Brazelton, Brimstone, Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Steve Bryant, Jim Calafiore, Matt Campbell, David Campiti, Lilli Carré, C. Martin Croker, Geof Darrow, Daxiong, Mike Deodato, Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore, Alan Evans, Ben Fisher, Nathan Fox, Kevin Freeman, Gary Friedrich, Paul Friedrich, Patrick Gleason, Michael Golden, Mike Grell, Pia Guerra, Michael Harvey, Tom Hodges, Greg Horn, Paul Jenkins, Nat Jones, Don Kramer, Mike Lynch, David W. Mack, Nina Matsumoto, Glenn McCoy, Mike McKone, John Jackson Miller, Jeff Miracola, B. Clay Moore, Stuart Moore, Paul Mounts, Mark A. Nelson, Rafael Nieves, Angus Oblong, Ariel Olivetti, Eric Olsen, Phil Ortiz, Dan Parent, Jim Pavelec, Justin Pierce, Andrew Pepoy, John Porcellino, Nate Powell, Humberto Ramos, Bill Reinhold, Eduardo Risso, Tim Seeley, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Stoklasa, William Stout, Arthur Suydam, Ben Templesmith, Mark Texeira, Koi Turnbull, Ethan Van Sciver, Matt Wagner, Chris Walker, Steve Wallace, Freddie Williams II, David Willis, Renée Witterstaetter, and David Wong
August 9–12, 2012 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center William Shatner, Jeri Ryan, Stan Lee, Jon Bernthal, Maryse Ouellet, CM Punk, Carlos Pacheco, George Pérez, Greg Capullo, Nina Dobrev, Kate Mulgrew, Bruce Campbell, Tom Felton, and Amy Acker
August 8–11, 2013 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Special guests: Stan Lee, Morena Baccarin, James Marsters, Juliet Landau, Manu Bennett, Norman Reedus, Michael Rooker, Andrew McCarthy, Jason David Frank, Alan Davis, Esad Ribic, Pasqual Ferry, Harvey Tolibao, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Kenneth Rocafort, Ramon F. Bachs, Francis Portela, Greg Land, Ethan Van Sciver, and Michael Golden


Along with panels, seminars, and workshops with comic book professionals, there are previews of upcoming feature films, portfolio review sessions with top comic book and video game companies, and such evening events as awards ceremonies and a costume contest. Traditional events include gaming and hours of other programming on all aspects of comic books and pop culture.

Like most comic-book conventions, Wizard World Chicago features a large floorspace for exhibitors. These include media companies such as movie studios and TV networks, as well as comic-book dealers and collectibles merchants. Like most comics conventions, the Chicago convention includes an autograph area, as well as the Artists' Alley where comics artists can sign autographs and sell or do free sketches. Despite the name, artists' alley can include writers and even models.

Criticism and competition

By 2009, criticism of Wizard World Chicago had been mounting for a while, particularly from those who resented the show's declining emphasis on the traditional comics market and more on things like professional wrestlers and old TV shows. In addition, local dealers resented the show's location outside of Chicago's city limits and its high exhibition prices. The 2009 show, for the first time, had no representation from major publishers like DC and Marvel. According to Deanna Isaacs of Chicago Reader, this was those published opted instead to appear at the competitor convention Reed Exhibition's Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which challenged Wizard World Chicago's position as Chicago's only major comic convention in 2010.[2][48] C2E2 has been held every year since.


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