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Avril Brown Presents:






 

Ah, nerds.

The Wizard World Comic Convention was this weekend in Rosemont, IL, just outside Chicago. Nerds from far and wide gather to these conventions for days of hero-worship, shop talk and gratuitous spending.

Translation: this is where nerds go to party like it is 1999.

Warren Ellis was the guest of honor at this year’s Wizard World. Ellis is a well-established writer of wildly successful comics, graphic novels and his recent fiction novel called ‘Crooked Little Vein,’ which is quite the mind-fuck. Flying in from England, Ellis arrived at the convention center in the evening to do a reading/Q&A with the fans. Well, technically it was called ‘performance art,’ which provided Ellis the loophole he needed to smoke on the stage in a non-smoking building. Judging by the reaction of the fans eagerly anticipating his arrival it’s no wonder some popular comic writers have a bit of an ego.

Ellis walks into the convention room to a bevy of nerdy applause. A cute chick precedes him down the aisle, and given the way the fans are carrying on I almost expect her to be carrying a gigantic gold belt. He reaches the stage and as the ovation dies down he turns to the crowd and says, “It’s times like these I seriously consider opening my own church.” More laughter and cheers, plus a voice rings out, “We believe in you, Warren!”

And this is only the beginning.

Wizard World is a mass gathering of some of the biggest and most colorful nerds on the planet. This is the chance to truly let our hair down, or for some, hide it underneath a sizable red wig. BelleChere is a professional costumer and enjoys donning her home-made super-hero suits, for the right occasions. This WW she was Anna Mercury, a new character from Avatar Press and the brain of Mr. Ellis, and I was fortunate enough to have a chat with her, the video of which can be found here.

BelleChere certainly wasn’t the only dolled-up dork to be found at Wizard World. There were X-Wing fighters, Stormtroopers, many of the X-Men crew (both movie and comic-verse), Firefly characters, and more fishnets, spandex and retro t-shirts than you can shake a stick at.

Some people follow the slightly more subtle route and wear shirts with phrases and pictures only super-fans get, like the tee with three Anime-style Asian children and the words ‘Fruity Oaty Bar’ on it (a shout-out to Serenity). One woman was sporting a little pink hat with big eyes and cute little fabric ears, just like the one Molly wears in the ‘Runaways’ comics.

Large sums of cash and teetering piles of books are exchanging hands. A little old lady stands with her arms full of comics while her equally little and old husband rifles through some long boxes, looking for more treasures. A man hovers over a table with a ten-page itemized list in his hands, patiently thumbing through each and every book, searching for the few which will complete his collection. Quite a few folks brought along an extra wheelie cart for easier carrying, using a bungee cord to secure short boxes and various toy sets for travel.

Taking a stroll through Artists’ Alley, another part of Wizard World, is what I would imagine tripping acid to be like, without the paranoia and hangover. So many different styles and colors are lined up next to one another, each with their own personal flair and message. One person I spoke with was a gentleman named Kurt Dinse, author and artist behind ‘One Year in Indiana,’ short books following the adventures of a member of a death metal band.

Kurt and many other people in Artists’ Alley have their own personal books or projects they are trying to sell. Others have paintings or sketches of popular characters, some of which are realistic renditions, and others aren’t exactly PG-13. One artist in particular, who seemed to favor Disney characters, stands out in my memory: Wendy Darling is in her bedroom, bent over and flashing her bits to Peter Pan, who has jumped back with his hand over his mouth in shock. In the background, however, their shadows reveal a hornier side to the boy who doesn’t age, and depicts the two youngsters in the throes of, well, you get the idea.

Artists and authors are signing books and artwork for endless lines of fans. Different panels covering different aspects of comics occur continually throughout the day, featuring people like the creative team behind ‘Spawn’: Todd McFarlane, creator, Brian Holguin, writer, and Whilce Portacio, artist. Another panel discussed women working in comics, and on the panel was the lovely and sweet-humored Jann Jones from DC Comics, who also took some time to have a video chat, which can be found over in his column and on the CWR TV page.

Whether it stemmed from a question asked at a panel or a personal chat over beers at the Hyatt, everyone had something to say about being a part of the comic book industry. When asked if there was one thing he could tell aspiring comic writers, Warren Ellis’s response was simple and direct: “Learn when to shut the fuck up.” Too many writers don’t give the art a chance to speak for itself, he explained, so if there is one thing green writers need to learn is when to do exactly that. Paul Storrie from Moonstone Books told me the trick to making it in this biz is to be too stupid to know when to quit. Brian Holguin wisely suggested writing what you want to read, because chances are someone else wants to read it as well.

From haggling over half-priced books to shooting the nerdy shit with people you just met, the Wizard World Comic Convention is a place for the young and old to exchange ideas, round out a collection and most importantly, feel welcome and accepted. There are no holds barred at WW, and trust me when I say people go all out. Where else (besides the suburbs on Halloween) are you going to find an eight-year-old boy dressed as a Wampa from Star Wars, or a middle-aged guy with a ripped shirt, revealing his full back tattoo of the Incredible Hulk? Where else can you find such a diverse group of people who have so much passion directed towards the same things?

Or as Warren Ellis so succinctly put it: “This is comics, man! Where am I going to find somebody sane?”

Ah, nerds.

Avril Brown





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