Wizard World Chicago was a fun show that was less a celebration of the geek culture industry than it was of the geeks themselves.
Though lacking some of the industry focused news events of its big brother C2E2, Wizard World Chicago is a convention that places emphasis squarely on the fans of geeky movies and TV, as well as the world of professional wrestling. Though unfortunate circumstances led to the cancellation of marquis stars like Doctor Who‘s David Tennant, former WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens and The Walking Dead‘s Lennie James, those celebs that graced the stage (or the booth) at the convention left a lasting impression on the fans, who packed the ballrooms and line for autographs throughout the event’s four day runtime. Here are some of the shining moments from Wizard World Chicago.
TV and Movies
Though there were no debuting trailers or staggering announcements during the tournament, that doesn’t mean geeky cinema wasn’t represented at the convention. Probably the highlight of my weekend came on Friday afternoon when Guardian of the Galaxy and Walking Dead star Michael Rooker hosted what was deemed an “unorthodox” panel, wherein the actor walked through the crowd with a wireless microphone, asking questions, telling stories and, occasionally, asking his own questions of unwitting audience members. At one point he asked Chicago Instagrammer @YeungJeans to tell him a joke. Of course, he then responded with one of his own:
Rooker was effortless and funny, making his panel – unquestionably – the most entertaining event of my weekend. Another movie tough guy, Danny Trejo gave a much more subdued panel, answering fan questions about his astoundingly deep body of work and sharing his own take on the Hollywood experience. He heaped well earned praise on frequent collaborator Robert Rodriguez (whom he credits with “making his career”). Trejo shared particularly fond memories of his work with the iconic Robert Deniro. Deniro, who shared the screen with Trejo in both Michael Mann’s magnum opus Heat and Trejo’s most iconic role in Machete, evidently got on particularly well with Trejo’s son, Gilbert:
Though I ended up missing John Barrowman due to scheduling issues and John Cusack stuck solely to his booth, the panel with celebrated voice actor and the one true Batman, Kevin Conroy, was a delight for fans of the series. Though he did defend the icky physical relationship between Batman and Batgirl in the recent animated retelling of The Killing Joke (unwittingly endorsing fridging in the process), he spoke with such high praise of his fellow voice actors, speaking particularly high of Harley Quinn actors Arleen Sorkin, Tara Strong and Melissa Rauch, and remained humble about the role that has not only defined his career, but the character of Batman for fans of a certain age.
Some of the biggest names in the WWE made it out to the Windy City for Wizard World this weekend, and the most interesting among them may have been the Hardy Boyz. Matt and Jeff took the stage for what was potentially the best attended panel all weekend. Before a standing-room only crowd, the still-not-quite-broken brothers answered a lot of questions about their experiences in the ring and out, with Matt bemoaning that Jeff never seems to get injured in the ring (though both poked fun at the Charismatic Enigma’s unlucky spill on his dirt bike years back) and both men speaking about the injuries they are currently working through (a severely damaged knee for Matt, and an undisclosed shoulder issue for Jeff). Other interesting tidbits include Matt’s desire to face Seth Rollins in a one-on-one match, both men listing Shawn Michaels as the man who inspired them to get into wrestling, and Jeff claiming that it is the WWE brass that’s preventing him from using his trademark facepaint on WWE TV (though he has been using it at live events).
I was late getting into the Q&A panel helmed by the Big Dog Roman Reigns, but did manage to catch his feelings on hair care products and that he feels like the Lannisters on Game of Thrones are actually babyfaces, calling them “subtle shades of gray.” Maybe there was something to Triple H’s line about Roman being bigger than the face/heel dynamic. While I missed most of Reigns’ responses, it did make me early for the Alexa Bliss panel, and recently deposed Raw Women’s champion put on a great Q&A. Unlike her character, Bliss is a really warm and inviting presence, answering questions with poise and a smile. It was especially great to see her speak with her younger fans, who really popped at the chance to speak with Five Feet of Fury herself. A highlight of the event was her explanation of how she first met Vince McMahon. It turns out, it happened while she had been coloring her extensions:
Smackdown Live superstar Charlotte Flair put on a similarly welcoming performance at her Q&A, starting the proceedings by saying that her father’s health was improving and thanking the members of the WWE Universe for all their support in what has to be a trying time for the Flair family. Much like her Raw counterpart, Charlotte was extra great with kids – many of whom had come dressed as the Queen. At one point she actually left the stage to hug a five-year old fan who rode to the front of the line atop her uncle’s shoulders. She touched a bit on her favorite matches (highlighting her NXT Women’s title win over Natalya as a standout), mentioned that she would love to team with Becky Lynch (should the WWE ever have enough women to warrant a women’s tag division) and that she wants to be the woman to break Asuka’s undefeated streak whenever the Empress of Tomorrow makes her main roster debut.
Comics, Entertainment and More
Short of the booth helmed by James O’Barr, the man behind the Crow series, Wizard World Chicago was a touch light on starpower from the comics world. Fortunately, what the show lacked in industry talent it made up for in fan enthusiasm – as the convention featured an impressive assortment of cosplayers. While there was the typical army of Deadpools and Harley Quinns, the favorite costume at this year’s Wizard World looked to be Spider-Man, particularly Peter’s less refined costume from Spider-Man: Homecoming.
It’s appropriate, then, that one of the best shows of the weekend was all about the wall crawling menace. Yep, Captain K’s J Jonah Jameson panel was a real treat for Spider-fans. Jonah really did his research and entered into a laugh-out-loud debate with the crowd about the merits of arachnid heroes. While Spidey himself offered little defense, it was actually the Tick who spoke up the loudest for all the bug-themed costumed vigilantes out there.
Other fun attractions included YogaQuest’s geek themed yoga classes (including stretch-based retellings of Stranger Things, Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), children’s programming and animals, a fully immersive 4D experience built around the forthcoming remake of Steven King’s IT, and lightsaber combat training from the Iowa Rogues.
All in all, Wizard World Chicago was a fun show that was less a celebration of the geek culture industry than it was of the geeks themselves. If you’d like to see it for yourself check out our upcoming gallery of images from the event, and head to WizardWorld.com to see if they’re coming to a convention center near you.