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Confessions of a Comic Con newbie: What I learned at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con

(Rob Carroll –
Artists display their work Sunday at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

I thought I knew what to expect attending my first Wizard World Chicago Comic Con Sunday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

I pictured the day basically being me surrounded by a bunch of people in homemade costumes who would be fawning all over celebrities who may or may not had been in some straight-to-TV sci-fi movie.

I was wrong. Chicago Comic Con was so much more than that.

Here are 10 things I learned while attending my first Comic Con.

1. Give yourself more than one day if you plan to see everything. I only attended Chicago Comic Con on Sunday. I wish I would have went at least one other day if not more. There were plenty of booths that I missed with limited time available to attend on Sunday. Also, it's worth checking out the celebrity signing schedule on the show's website. Not all of the guests are there every hour of every day. Sorry, no Bruce Campbell or William Shatner for me on Sunday.

2. Be prepared to spend money. Want an autograph from Shatner? That'll be $75. But a signature from Luke Perry from "90210" is only $25. Then there's all of the comic book and sci-fi related merchandise available from the various vendors at the show. Making the decision between a furry $35 Wampa backpack or a photo with Peter Mayhew, the guy who played Chewbacca in the "Star Wars" movies, can be tough.

3.You can't bring your pet but those signing autographs can. According to the show's official website, "the only animals allowed at the show are licensed Service Animals." No big surprise there. But some celebrities and guests signing autographs brought their travel companions. Former WWE Diva and Playboy model Maryse Ouellet waited at her booth with her small dog, Flake. Jon Bernthal (Shane on "The Walking Dead") attended an afternoon question and answer session with his two dogs. Both patiently stayed under the table while Bernthal answered questions.

4. Take time to admire the work in Artist Alley. Even if you know absolutely nothing about comic books, you still can find something to appreciate in the Artist Alley. Sketches, chalk drawings, photo prints and more lined the aisles of the area. Many artists sold their work for reasonable prices.

5. It helps to have access to the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con website throughout the day. Convenient maps and schedules are provided upon entering the show. One thing missing from the maps is the cost of meeting some of the people on the floor. Autograph prices were posted on the table at the front of the line at most of the celebrity booths. That means waiting in line for several minutes, if not an hour, only to find out an actor's autograph isn't in your price range. Check the price list on the website before jumping into any lines.

6. Don't think you'll get shut out of the programming. Besides all of the tables in the exhibit space, there is programming scheduled throughout the day that includes everything from Jedi Lightsaber training to panel discussion. Lines form early for some of these sessions. It's easy to be intimidated and think there won't be enough available chairs for everybody in one room, leaving some waiting in the lobby. That's not always the case. One Comic Con volunteer informed me some of the rooms hold up to 1,400 people. But still it's worth arriving a little early just in case.

7. Norman Reedus ("The Walking Dead" and "The Boondock Saints") fishes with bacon. Reedus decided not to attend a Q and A for "The Boondock Saints" in favor of joining his co-star from "The Walking Dead," Jon Bernthal, during his program. The session included stories about ticks on a co-star's private area, shooting each other with a BB gun on set and fighting with dead squirrels. Reedus, who wore sunglasses the entire day because he's "socially awkward," told a story about how he took his son fishing for the first time during his visit to the set. The actor had never fished before and chose to use bacon as bait because "I thought everybody likes bacon." They didn't catch anything.

8. Adrianne Curry is just as much into cosplay as some of the Comic Con attendees. "America's Next Top Model" winner, reality TV star and frequent Comic Con guest Adrianne Curry Tweeted photos of her various costumes throughout the weekend. Among the outfits donned by the Joliet native at her booth were a dominatrix ensemble inspired by "Star Wars" and another resembling a character from "Tekken" video games.

9. Don't expect to show up and take photos of the celebrities signing at their booths. Large signs are posted in some of the autograph areas to discourage photographing some of the celebrities. Know where you're at when taking photos if you don't want to be turned away by a Comic Con volunteer. And don't even think about trying to take a photo of Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee. He was heavily guarded by green-shirted volunteers on Sunday. If you must get a photo of your favorite celeb, pony up the cash. There are plenty of photo opportunities available throughout the weekend if you have the money. Some even can be done with more than one person in the photo, making it easier to split the cost.

10. Be yourself. Wizard World Chicago Comic Con is a great place to find people just like you. Numerous times throughout the day I found myself in conversations about interests that aren't always shared by my close friends. There was no problem passing time while waiting in line for a question and answer session because everyone there had the same interests. And not once did I have to explain the "Star Wars" tattoo on my right arm.

• Rob Carroll writes about pop culture and entertainment for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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