The comic and silver screen worlds united once again Friday at the 41st annual Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
To the utmost delight of comic fans, Stan Lee was present. The $200 tickets for a "meet and greet" with Lee -- the co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men and Iron Man -- were sold out, as was the $525 VIP package.
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Michael Shannon from "Man of Steel" and television star Norman Reedus from "Walking Dead" were also available for autographs, photos and "meet and greets." Colorful former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman will make an appearance Sunday.
Fans shuffled from the celebrities to the art and comic vendors, dressed like superheros, video game heroes and movie characters. But the mix of different media worlds wasn't received well by all, with artist Mike S. Miller among the detractors.
The convention has transitioned from just comics to a sort of "media convention," Miller said, calling it "annoying."
The focus on comics is lost, he said, and the convention should at least be split up into two sections: one for comics and another for all other exhibitions.
Despite his frustration, Miller said he was selling well. He said he'd sold about 47 pieces since the convention began Thursday, many of them colorful depictions of famous comic book characters. Miller's been in the business 21 years.
Detroit resident Erik Hodson also was pleased with sales. Though he's drawn most of his life, Hodson's rare tissue disease -- called scleroderma -- put a halt to his work 12 years ago. His fingers are stiff and his hands partially balled up. He's retrained himself to draw despite the disease and continues to run an independent art business, he said.
Chicago Comic Con was just another event for him -- he displays his work at two to three similar conventions a month.
"I'm just trying to establish my name," said Hodson said, who has 27 sales so far.
Upstairs, comic book vendors sold rare collectibles. Vendor Bechara Maalouf was selling "original art," or the work an artist will produce before the images go into a comic book. His original art for the first edition of Iron Man is selling for $40,000.
Maalouf said the steep prices don't scare away buyers.
"Original art is a hugely growing field in the comic book collecting world," he said.
But fans could do more than spend money. There were panel discussions on topics like superhero and comic development. And from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., speed-dating was available.
Others just wanted to show off their costumes. Chicago resident Alexandra Vasquez was made up as Wonder Woman, her favorite superhero.
"I love when (kids) ask, 'Are you real? Can you fly?' and I'll be like, 'Yes!'" Vasquez said.
Fans came long distances, including Killian Hill, who hails from Algoma, Wis. He dressed up as Batman's foe Scarecrow. This is his third year at the convention, but he's been a comic fan his entire life, he said through the brown bag that covered his entire head.
"I just love it here. I feel like I'm home."