When Hollywood first launched its invasion of comic-book conventions roughly a decade ago, some hard-core comics fans resisted, eyeing the newcomers with a "this town ain't big enough for the both of us" look.
Today, it's all but given that comic conventions will include a prominent dose of film, television and video game fans, stars and creators. And while grumbling can still be heard occasionally, all sides seem to be getting along.
Wizard World Chicago Comic ConWhat: A pop-culture convention featuring dozens of comic-book creators, movie/television stars and comics dealers from all over the Midwest.
When: 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8; noon to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont
Tickets: Advance one-day tickets start at $40, and a weekend pass starts at $90. Autographs and some special events are extra. For information, go to wizardworld.com.
The annual Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, taking place this weekend in Rosemont, is an example of this new kind of convention. The four-day event, which attracts big crowds to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, offers something for everyone.
Love comics? The show will feature appearances by legendary creators like Chris Claremont and Neal Adams, along with current superstars like Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the writer-artist team on "Batman."
Into genre movies and TV? Celebrities include "Star Trek" star Zachary Quinto and sci-fi favorites Summer Glau, John Barrowman and James Marsters. You'll also have a chance to meet actor Michael Shannon, who played Gen. Zod in this summer's hit movie "Man of Steel," and Norman Reedus, best known as Daryl Dixon from the wildly popular AMC TV series "The Walking Dead."
That's just the beginning. All told, the Chicago Comic Con will feature dozens of artists and celebrities from all over the pop-culture spectrum. And of course, comics and collectibles dealers from across the Midwest will be on hand, too.
To celebrate the arrival of this year's con, the Daily Herald is spotlighting two of its key guests -- one from the comics world, the other from the world of movies and TV. Read all about it and then head out to Rosemont to let your geek flag fly.
A way with the Bat
It happened without warning: Chicago resident Chris Burnham, a comic-book artist with a few independent projects under his belt, was offered a chance to work with a writer on a superhero book.
But it wasn't just any writer -- it was Grant Morrison, one of the comics industry's most acclaimed and popular scribes. And it wasn't just any superhero book -- it was an issue of "Batman and Robin," featuring one of pop-culture's most recognizable characters.
"That call came 100 percent out of the blue," Burnham said of the offer. "I felt like a kid sitting in the outfield seats who'd just been asked to pitch in the World Series."
Burnham's work on the issue, which came out in 2010, impressed fans and the publisher DC Comics enough that Burnham was hired to draw a number of issues of Morrison's next Batman comic, "Batman, Incorporated." When that title was relaunched in 2012, Burnham was named the regular artist.
In "Batman, Inc.," Batman enlists the help of superheroes throughout the world to battle a seemingly invincible enemy known as Leviathan. The 13th and final issue of the comic has just come out, completing a run that helped make Burnham one of the young superstars in the field.
"It was weird, finishing up that last issue," Burnham said. "When I was cleaning up my studio and putting the ('Batman, Inc.') reference materials away, it finally sunk in that the project I'd spent the last 2½ years on was done."
Burnham's art in "Batman, Inc." is kinetic and detailed. He has a flair for staging the kind of action one expects from a Batman comic, and he also has a quirky approach to drawing figures that makes the characters seem mysterious and larger than life. He cites similarly offbeat artists Frank Quitely (another frequent Grant Morrison collaborator) and Geoff Darrow as recent influences.
"Quitely and Darrow have definitely been big for me lately, but I've loved comics and superheroes since I was a little kid, so there are other influences, too," he said. "I loved (Marvel Comics artist) John Buscema when I was growing up. He was probably my favorite. And I'm a big fan of (Japanese comics), too."
Burnham said he looks forward to hearing reactions to the "Batman, Inc." finale at the Chicago Comic Con this weekend. He'll be appearing throughout the show, signing autographs and talking to fans.
"It's at conventions when I realize the magnitude of this, being part of a Batman legacy that stretches back more than 70 years," he said. "I'm very grateful to have been given the chance."
A super legacy
Actor Brandon Routh has had the kind of varied career so far that most young actors dream of. He's done a mix of comedy and drama. He's appeared in films (Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World") and on television (NBC's recent cult hit action-comedy "Chuck"). He's working now on a video-game project.
Despite all that, Routh expects that one item on his resume will be the primary topic of conversation when he appears at the Chicago Comic Con this weekend -- "Superman Returns."
Routh donned the familiar red-and-blue costume for that 2006 film, which was directed by Bryan Singer. It was supposed to relaunch the Superman franchise, much as Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" had done for the Batman franchise a year earlier.
Despite strong reviews and a bigger total box-office haul than "Batman Begins" earned, the movie didn't lead to a franchise. Instead, Warner Brothers decided to try another relaunch down the road -- a decision that ultimately led to this summer's Superman film, "Man of Steel," in which actor Henry Cavill wears the cape and S-emblem.
"This is the first convention I'm doing since 'Man of Steel' came out, so I'm sure people will want to ask about it," Routh said. "And that's totally fine -- I honestly enjoy talking about Superman."
While Routh would have loved to do more work with the character, he said he's grateful for the impact his one go-round had.
"It's been seven years, and people will still thank me for the portrayal," he said. "It can actually get surreal. They'll say something like, 'You're my kid's Superman.' It's hard to respond to something like that. But that shows that when you do something like Superman, you become part of a legacy."
If there's another role that fans are likely to ask Routh about this weekend, it's Todd the Vegan, the character he played (to hilarious effect) in "Scott Pilgrim," a 2010 film based on a series of graphic novels.
"I enjoy working those comedy muscles," Routh said. "Comedy is not necessarily easier to do than dramatic roles, but I think there's something a little more fun about it. Of course, after doing it for awhile I'll probably be dying for a really good dramatic part."
This year, Routh has scaled back his workload a bit so he can spend more time with his 1-year-old son. The conventions he's appeared at so far have let him connect with fans and hang out with other actors without taking him away from home for too long, he said.
Routh added that he's particularly excited about appearing at the Chicago show.
"I grew up in Iowa, but the only times I was able to see Chicago was on school band trips," he said with a laugh. "I didn't really get to enjoy any of the food or even see much of the city. So I'm looking forward to doing some of that while I'm there."