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Genre stars from then and now meet in Rosemont for Chicago Comic Con
By Matt Arado | Daily Herald Staff

Fans crowd the stage at a previous edition of Wizard World Comic Con.

 

Adam West and Burt Ward, the actors who played Batman and Robin on the popular 1960s TV show, will reunite at a panel discussion this weekend during the Chicago Comic Con.

 

Gareb Shamus, CEO of convention organizer Wizard Entertainment, called the Chicago Comic Con a "celebration of genre and pop culture."

 

Fans of Captain America and other comic-book heroes will find plenty of dealers selling comics at the convention.

 

Fans of "Watchmen" and other graphic novels will find plenty of dealers selling comics at the convention.

 

Chicago crime writer Marcus Sakey will be handing out free books at the convention.

 

Burt Ward, shown speaking at a recent convention, said he loves meeting fans of the "Batman" TV show.

 

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Published: 8/19/2010 12:01 AM

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Wizard World Chicago Comic Con

What: A pop-culture convention featuring stars from movies, television and comic books.

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19 (preview night); Noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22

Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont

Tickets: $30 a day, autographs and some special screenings/events extra. Available at the door, or go to wizardworld.com/chicago.

Geek culture crosses generations. Want proof? Take a look at the Chicago Comic Con.

The annual pop-culture convention has assembled more than four decades worth of fanboy favorites inside the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Stars from vintage genre shows like "Batman" and "The Bionic Woman" will share the stage with current favorites in the comic-book, television and video-game worlds.

"We wanted to offer something for everyone," said Gareb Shamus, CEO of Wizard Entertainment, organizer of the convention. "And the thing is, pop culture is very generational. Parents like to introduce their kids to the stuff they loved growing up. It's why these characters and stories endure for so long."

The Chicago Comic Con, formerly known as Wizard World Chicago, has changed its focus during the past few years. Long an event geared almost solely to comic-book publishers, dealers and readers, the convention now reaches out to movie and TV fans by bringing in dozens of celebrities for panel discussions and autograph signings.

This year's show will include appearances by William Shatner (TV's "Star Trek"), Linda Blair ("The Exorcist"), Linda Hamilton ("The Terminator"), Lindsay Wagner ("The Bionic Woman") and Adam West and Burt Ward, stars of the 1960s "Batman" TV show. Stars from more current shows like "Smallville" are also on the bill.

And that just scratches the surface.

"When we start trying to secure talent for this, we sit down and ask ourselves who we'd like to see," Shamus said. "And that's when we think about cool things like getting the 'Batman' stars together again."

Ward, who played Batman's sidekick Robin in the campy and wildly popular television show, said it amazes him that fans are still enthusiastic about it more than 40 years later.

"It's really special," the 65-year-old Ward said. "When fans come up to me and tell me how much they loved it when they were kids, I can see in their eyes that nothing has changed. I've changed, the world has changed, but that feeling they got is still there."

Ward will take part in a panel discussion at the convention, together with his former co-star West. They'll talk about their time working on the show, which combined kid-friendly superhero adventures with sly, campy humor and satire.

They appeared together earlier this year at the Wizard World convention in Anaheim, and it was a huge hit.

"Adam is a wonderful guy, and he and I have so much fun doing this," Ward said. "It's hard to explain, but there's a chemistry between us that people seem to love. I really look forward to appearing with him in Chicago."

Shamus said the growth in celebrity appearances and signings at Chicago Comic Con doesn't mean that the event has abandoned comic-book fans.

The comics industry's presence has gotten much lighter the last few years, with the big publishers and most of the best-known creators preferring to appear at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, which took place in April at McCormick Place.

Still, this weekend's event will include visits from plenty of popular comics pros and dozens of dealers from all over the Midwest.

"We don't look at it as an either-or," Shamus said. "We can still have plenty of stuff for comics fans while also delving into TV and movies and video games. That's what's happened in pop culture. All these different worlds have gotten mingled together. Why not include them all?"

What to do, whom to see?

There are plenty of cool things on tap throughout the weekend at the Chicago Comic Con in Rosemont. Here are a few highlights you might want to keep in mind.

Movie screening: "The People vs. George Lucas" is a documentary that looks at the rage that some "Star Wars" fanatics feel toward the saga's creator because of changes he's made to the films over the years. It promises to be filled with priceless moments of fanboy fuming. (8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, $10)

Panel discussions: Old-school TV fans should definitely catch the "Batman and Robin Reunited" panel featuring Adam West and Burt Ward, as well as the "Bionic Q&A" featuring Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson - two stars from the classic "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman" shows of the 1970s. ("Batman" panel is at 2:40 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, and the "Bionic" panel is at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22)

Crime writers: A group of crime-fiction writers will chat with fans throughout the weekend and give away books at the Crimespree Magazine booth. Attendees include Chicago novelist Marcus Sakey, whose tough and gritty works include "The Amateurs" and "The Blade Itself." "I did this last year, and it was tremendous," Sakey said. "It's a great way to connect with fans of comics and graphic novels." (Sakey will be at the Crimespree booth on Saturday, Aug. 21)

Celebrities: A host of celebrities will be on hand throughout the weekend, chatting with fans and signing autographs. "Star Trek" fans will not want to miss Mr. Capt. Kirk himself, William Shatner. I'd also suggest searching out actress Linda Blair, because "The Exorcist" is still one of the scariest movies ever, and Mickey Dolenz, singer and drummer from the Monkees, because that band deserves more respect than it gets from the rock world. For a full list of celebrities, see wizardworld.com. (Shatner appears on Saturday only; Dolenz appears on Saturday and Sunday. Note: There's an added charge for most celebrity autographs.)

Comics creators: Comics still play a role at the convention. Among the professionals scheduled to be on hand are Streamwood resident Art Baltazar, co-writer and artist of the popular "Tiny Titans" series from DC Comics; Chicago comics writer Brian Azzarello, best known for his crime series "100 Bullets"; and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, known for his innovative work on titles such as "Moon Knight" and "Elektra: Assassin."