San Diego Comic-Con (credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

By Mason Johnson

Excuse me while I prove my comic knowledge through the art of rap:

I got comic rep comin’ out my ears / been reading Blue Beetle all these years / step to this and I’ll go snikt / Wolverine’s claws, watch out, you’ll get nicked

I know a cool guy, his name: Craig Thompson / his books are almost as good as Box Office Poison / I roll with Nate Powell of Swallow Me Whole / His ink is darker than a black hole

Comic book cred, I got it in spades / been around the block since ye olden days / gonna share my knowledge, be your comic book mom / Gonna tell you all about Chicago Comic Con

So yeah. Here’s my Chicago Comic Con guide.

Chicago Comic Con 2011 (credit: Mason Johnson)

The Gist

Donald E. Stephens Center
5555 North River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018

August 9, 12pm – 8pm
August 10, 12pm – 8pm
August 11, 10am – 7pm
August 12, 10am – 5pm

Wizard World Chicago Chicago Comic Con is at Donald E. Stephens Center, conveniently within walking distance from the Rosemont Blue Line and also right off of I90, making it super easy to get to. You’ll want to take the train, unless you can fly, that is. If you have to drive, be aware that parking might be expensive.

Pro-tip: Park in the CTA parking lot. It’s cheaper.

Writer Russell Lissau at Chicago Comic Con 2011 (credit: Mason Johnson)

Artist Alley

When I get to Chicago Comic Con, I crawl through the crowd—literally, it’s going to be packed with fellow geeks—and immediately go to the very back of the gigantic room (probably the size of three football fields, if not bigger). This is where Artist Alley resides, the dark and shady underbelly of any big con. This is where life exists.

You can have your stars! You can get an autographs from that guy who played a vampire on Buffy and that female wrestler you used to have a crash on. The big publishers at the front – they’re yours. I’ll take Artist Alley. Where you’ll find the hardworking artists that have made cons like this into what they are today. It is from these depths that your favorite comic books and graphic novels rise. Not from the front of the place, where there’s flash and mystique, but in the back where you can shake the hand of talented, hardworking people who won’t charge you 20 bucks for a headshot.

So check out Artist Alley. Visit veteran artist Neal Adams (have you seen his Green Lantern/Green Arrow stuff?), or Neil Jam (check out his stuff online, buy some of his mini comics at the con), or Matt Chic (of Night Light Comics).

Chicago Comic Con 2011 (credit: Mason Johnson)

The Rest

I don’t want to make it seem like the rest of the con is completely worthless though. There’s plenty of good throughout. Between the front and Artist Alley, for example, you’ll find the retailers. If you’re lookin’ for hard-to-get issues of Cerebus, or need another t-shirt or two to fill out your wardrobe, this is where you’ll find the best deals.

Pro-tip: People are more willing to wheel and deal on Sunday.

There are some stars worth checking out too. There is Stan Lee, father of comic books. You might not want to miss William Shatner either – call him “Bill” like you’re old friends, see how he replies. There’s Tom Felton too, but try to be nice to him, it can’t be easy being Draco.

If there’s anything you need to do, it’s take pictures. As many as possible. The cos-players at Chicago Comic Con didn’t spend hours on their sweet costumes to be ignored, so make sure you get some photos of that awesome.

And the non-awesome too!

Sometimes they’re funnier.

Mason Johnson, CBS Chicago