It was a long weekend for me.  Another year had gone by which meant that Chicago’s comic convention, Wizard World Chicago, had come again.  Luckily, I prepared a budget of $500, put together some of my books that I wanted signed, and was still able to use my connections to get me in for the weekend virtually free.  The convention this year had the usual ammount of crowd, walking, waiting in line, vendors and fanfare that usually accompanies the event but there was definately some outstanding moments and some sad ones (see the last paragraph).

However, let’s start off with the visible dissapointments from this year’s WWC.  It seemed that a number of companies that had, in years past, set up booths and displays on the show floor opted to pull out this year.  ToyBiz, Mezco, Sideshow, and Upper Deck – all of which had a presence in previous years – were noticably absent.  It might have been because of the date change (normally the convention is in August), but the exhibitors were sorely missed. 

Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief, wasn’t there.  Since he’s normally a highlight of the show, his presence was also missed.  To make up for his absence Marvel sent in Brian Michael Bendis (the man who’s responsible for about half of Marvel’s current catalogue).  Bendis made us forget that Quesada should’ve been there.  More on that later…

On to good notes, starting with some great announcements for all the comics fans out there.  The aforemention Bendis broke some long-awaited news.  He’ll be writing an upcoming series entitled “SPIDER-WOMAN: AGENT OF SWORD”.  If you aren’t a Spider-Woman fan, I’d suggest jumping on the bandwagon now because this series is sure to be a hit.  With one of my favorite characters tackled by one of my favorite writers, we can expect an awesome character-driven ride.  Bendis has a lot of love for the character and has been wanting to do this book for a long time.  Look for the series to begin sometime shortly after SECRET INVASION wraps up.

Also on Marvel’s coming-soon slate, and out of the pages of SECRET INVASION, will appear SECRET WARRIORS.  This title will take Nick Fury’s recently assembled team forward into the post Skrull invaded world.  With some great character concepts created by Bendis, the title’s script-work is going to be handed over to a newcomer to the Marvel Universe, Jonathan Hickman. 

One last note about Bendis here, and to bring a little bit of the small screen into play, he did announce that he has worked movie scripts for both HBO and FOX. 

Marvel also took the time to release some preview art for their upcoming adaptation on Stephen King’s THE STAND.  The Walkin’ Dude looks eerily creepy, and if the story’s as handled as good as the art then fans are in for a treat.

On DC’s news front; Nothing much.  Dan Didio, Editor-in-Chief, recently had his contract renewed and is trying to create buzz around the projects DC has going on in order to recover from some horrible numbers they’ve produced recently.  I avoided most of the DC panels and events because I’m still bitter at the utter atrocity that was COUNTDOWN.  So far, COUNTDOWN’s follow-up and the newest universe-wide crossover event, FINAL CRISIS, hasn’t been anything great.  So what did DC have to give us concerning FINAL CRISIS?  Apparantly, a major hero is going to die while another major hero returns.  This sounds like every other crisis to date, especially if the rumor mill turns out to be correct and the heroes in question go by the same code name as the character that’s come and gone before…haven’t they done enough to these guys?  I enjoyed the previous crisis’ story arcs but it seems as if FINAL CRISIS is going to fall short in every way.

And now, convention highlights;

Best Costume:  This guy went around in a full Mojo get-up.  Simply amazing.  He also had his kids play along, with his son as Longshot and his daughters as Dazzler and Spiral.

Wolf-Whistle Costume:  Unfortunatly, my camera broke mid-convention and I havn’t been able to find a picture of the most jaw-dropping woman’s costume.  A girl had dressed up as Lilu from The Fifth Element donned the “hospital bands” on Friday and the “orange suspenders” on Saturday.  The hospital costume was…inspiring.  Anyhow, to appease the masses I’ll include a picture of a runner-ups; a trio of Black Mary Marvel, Supergirl, and Female Robin.  Also, one of my favorite characters; Ms. Marvel.

Coolest Artist:  Ethan Van Sciver.  He’s best known for Green Lantern and is an incredible artist.  I decided to wait in line for his autograph on my hardcover edition of GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH, which I had the writer (Geoff Johns) sign a couple years back.  The line was long and took forever.  As I was wondering what was taking so long, I overheard that Sciver was doing a free sketch on the inside cover of any hardcover trade brought up to him.  While I thought this was pretty cool, I couldn’t help but get frustrated at the amount of time it took.  After two hours I end up near the front of the line and witness Sciver in action.  He wasn’t just doing sketches, he was doing full works.  I watched as Sciver used a full array of tools to craft Sinestro eminating yellow energy amidst the stars.  It was some of the best sketch work I had ever seen.  My turn finally arrived shortly thereafter and he asked what I wanted him to do.  I told him that my favorite scene in the story was when Green Arrow donned the lantern ring and exhausted himself by using his willpower to create on single arrow.  Sciver nodded and set to work.  I observed, wide-eyed, as Green Arrow came to life.  Sciver used a yellow pencil on the blue background of the inner cover to create green.  He filled in white for Arrow’s teeth and eyes and drops of sweat.  Green Arrow came to life, looking better than I could have ever imagined.  Then, to my surprise, Sciver took out a white-out pen and started to run it on the page.  He used it to create a speach bubble, and once dry it wrote “…Sinestro!…”.  The whole line behind me just complicated on how incredible it was, and then I took the book to the colorist (Moose) next to Sciver to get his signature.  Moose stared at it and then told Sciver that it was one of the best things he’s ever seen him do.  I was grinning ear to ear, still am in fact.  Sciver took the whole thing in stride as if it were the easiest thing in the world.  It’s great to see that in an environment where other artists are charging $50+ for a basic sketch that people like Ethan Van Sciver can still decide to just make themselves and their fans happy free of charge.

Coolest Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis.  Not only is Bendis one of the best story-weavers in the business (catch up on the Avengers since they were Disassembled and read all the way into SECRET INVASION if you don’t believe me, there’s way too many intricacies to list), but Bendis also runs a great panel.  He keeps the mood light and is honest with his answers to fans’ questions.  He’s genuinly excited about what he does for a living and what he does for the fans.  The best thing Bendis did this weekend, however, happened to occur about five minutes before I left on the last day of the convention.  My friend and I spotted Bendis sitting down and talking with some people by the Marvel booth.  Normally, we’d leave them alone but circumstances had left us each with a variant “blank” cover (his of SECRET INVASION #1 and mine THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA: CAPTAIN AMERICA) which we needed some sketches done on.  Bendis had previously stated that he’s going to convince Marvel to let him draw one day, so we decided to give him his chance.  He was incredibly nice and created some of the best stick-figure faces I’ve seen – a smiley-face with a wavey chin and pointy ears for my friend and a circle with an “A” on the forehead, “x”‘s for eyes, and a tongue hanging out for me.   Priceless.

The Asshole Award: Todd McFarlane.  No one disputes that the man his a great artist and toy designer.  Yet, its been circulated knowledge for years that the man is a complete prick.  Evidence was provided this weekend.  Apparantly, at Todd’s VIP signing session – specifically for people that paid anywhere between $300 and $1000 for their weekend pass with some special items and perks thrown in – he sat down and announced that people could either have one book signed or get the Spawn lithograph they were selling signed.  Now, some artists will sign whatever’s in front of them no matter how big the stack is.  Most artists will stick to a predetermined limit that the convention supports or slightly higher than that.  The tickets for McFarlane’s signing stated a three book maximum.  So, the fans let out a cry of protest and it actually took a Wizard representative to approach Todd and inform him he had to do at least three books.  McFarlane was sulky and pissed off the rest of the time.

In Memorium:  Michael Turner.  It was brought to our attention on Saturday that one of the best artists in the business, Michael Turner, passed away early that morning.  He had fought a long battle with a particular type of bone/marrow cancer.  Turner is famous for some of the best cover art in the business – Marvel’s CIVIL WAR and DC’s IDENTITY CRISIS included – and frequently did “variant” covers by popular demand.  He also founded Aspen Comics and forefronted FATHOM.  He was planning on drawing an upcoming X-men/Avengers crossover, which won’t be the same without him.  The whole industry, as well as fans, will miss him dearly.  Our prayers are with him, his family, and friends.  Rest in peace.

Those unfamiliar with the superior quality of his work can check him out here

That’s it for now, folks.  Until next time.