Wizard World / Chicago Comic Con is over, and now that I've recovered from that marathon I have a few thoughts on the overall experience.
This was my first time with a table at a convention, although I've attended countless comic cons. It's definitely different from the other side of the table, namely in that I didn't get to see much of the convention itself. Wizard World was a four-day convention, running Thursday afternoon through Sunday, and boy was it busy. The only time I got a chance to leave my table and walk the convention floor was Sunday, just before they let the public attendees in. All the rest of the time was spent behind the table, talking to folks and drawing sketch commissions. I sold a lot more books than I had expected, which was great. I also had far more sketch commissions than I anticipated, but they were all a lot of fun. While each day at the con was around 12 hours long, time flew and we really had a blast. I split a table with my excellent friend, Denver Brubaker. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the experience anywhere near as much if I had to do it without a wingman.
Overall it was fun and I'd say I had a successful convention, but there were several issues with the Wizard World itself. It was poorly organized and the artists alley floor was a complete mess. They used a strange shotgun approach and put craft vendors mixed right in with artists. The two are very different, and it's damn strange to have someone selling nothing but shoes next to an artist selling their books and illustrations. I think this dramatically hurt both the craft vendors and the artists, and none of the artists I spoke to could understand or justify the reasoning behind it. There was also a severe lack of signage to guide attendees to various parts of the convention. It took up two floors, which was also odd, and the artists alley was on the bottom. Many attendees either had a hard time finding the artists alley or never found it at all. Tables and attendee tickets were also really expensive, and no one seems to understand why. The artists themselves seemed to be treated as secondary and unimportant by Wizard World organizers. No one from WWC staff ever stopped by our table to see how we were doing or if we needed anything. They handed out update fliers early every morning stating the floor would open for us artists to set up at 7:30am. Twice, Denver and I were there at 7:30 and were turned away and told we couldn't setup our tables until after 8am. A half hour doesn't seem like much, but when you plan on using that time and are then told you can't have it (for no apparent reason), it's damn irritating. The second time around I asked staff what the deal was, and no one seemed to know. One nice lady let us in anyway, but there were clearly some miscommunications. Another huge issue was the less-than-useless WiFi hotspot. Getting online was nearly impossible, so I was only able to use my Square reader (for credit cards) once. Because we were on the bottom floor, phone signal for both calls and data was non-existent. I couldn't even make a phone call. When you're stuck sitting at a table for 13+ hours a day, having at least some connection to the outside world is rather important.
EDIT: Oh! I forgot to mention the biggest problem. Wizard World neglected to put my name in the damn show flier. That's right, the little booklet they hand to every person walking in the door with names, table numbers and a map - I wasn't on it. Pretty awesome, huh?
Would I get a table there again? If I had to do it alone, certainly not. Even if I were to split a table again, I'm not sure it's worth it. It just isn't a solid show. With other excellent cons like C2E2 in the same city, WWC really needs to get their act together. The general buzz from both attendees and exhibitors is that WWC is too expensive, pretty lackluster, and just not worth bothering with. This year didn't improve that perception.
Even with all of those complaints, I still had an excellent time. Mostly, I think, because it was my first table. I was riding high on adrenaline and excitement the whole time. Denver is a blast to hang out with, and the rest of the creators are a fun bunch. Now I'm really looking forward to my next con table experience. Hopefully that will be C2E2.
And now, some photos: