Walking onto the floor of the Chicago Comic Con can be a disorienting experience.
Do you try to grab a celebrity autograph? Find a seat at one of the panel discussions? Walk the crowded floor and count the number of fans dressed as "Star Wars" characters?
Yes, there's a lot to do at the event, which runs throughout the weekend at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. To help you plan your visit, we've compiled a list of show highlights you may want to consider. Go to wizardworld.com for a full programming schedule, and remember that all times are subject to change.
She turned heads: Linda Blair was barely a teenager when "The Exorcist" hit theaters and made her a horror-film legend. She played Regan, the little girl who becomes possessed by a demon in the classic film by William Friedkin, and her work garnered her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. She has worked on screen and stage ever since, and she's also become an outspoken advocate for animal rights. Blair will sign autographs throughout the weekend, and she'll talk about "The Exorcist," which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, during a one-on-one panel at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9.
Stan the Man: Stan Lee is one of the most important figures in American comics. With help from artistic collaborators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee remade superhero comics by introducing troubled, moody characters to the genre. The heroes he created or co-created -- Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and the X-Men among them -- continue to do big business on the silver screen today. Lee will appear at "meet and greet" events during the weekend -- extra tickets are required for those -- and he will be the subject of a one-on-one panel starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9.
Local dealers: Celebrities are cool and all, but the buying and selling of comics is still a key part of the con. A great dealer to look for is Graham Cracker Comics, a local chain with nine locations, including stores in Naperville, Downers Grove, St. Charles and Wheaton. Graham Crackers always has a prominent spot in the dealer area at the Chicago Comic Con, selling thousands upon thousands of comics, new and old. If you're looking for a particular issue, chances are they have it, and for a decent price. Stop and support a suburban comics success story.
Khan!!!!!! John and Maria Jose Tenuto, both of them sociology professors at the College of Lake County, will lead a special multimedia presentation on the making of one of the most loved sci-fi films of the 1980s, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Their presentation will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9.
Indie auteur: Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is one of the true one-man-bands in the movie business today. He often writes, directs, shoots, edits and scores his films himself. The director of such geek-cinema classics as "Once Upon A Time in Mexico" and "Sin City" will talk about his upcoming films, including "Sin City 2" and "Machete Kills," at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9.
'80s heartthrobs: If you grew up in the 1980s, chances are you had pictures of Ralph Macchio and Andrew McCarthy hanging in your school locker, or you knew someone who did. McCarthy, star of "Less Than Zero" and "Pretty in Pink," will sit for a panel discussion at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9. Macchio, star of "The Outsiders" and "The Karate Kid," will sit for a panel at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10. Both will be signing autographs throughout the weekend.
A half-century of mutants: Comic-book fans will not want to miss the "X-Men at 50" panel. Writer Chris Claremont, perhaps the most important creator in the history of the X-Men outside of creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, will discuss the characters with acclaimed comics artist Alan Davis. Panel begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11.