It’s that time again! Wizard World Chicago is just around the corner, with its first of four days of comics, games, cosplay and celebrities beginning Thursday in Rosemont. You may or may not already have your tickets for this pop/nerd culture behemoth, but are you ready for the floor? Take a look at our guide to this year’s festivities to see who will be appearing and take a look at some recommended panels to prepare, and then we’ll see you when gates open this Thursday afternoon!
We recommend planning your day around the celebrity guest panels that are a must for you, and then fleshing out your schedule with some of the educational, entertaining and just plain wacky panels available to attend each day. Try something new or learn more about something you love, and don’t forget to leave time to shop the show floor!
Check out the official programming schedule to set up your own timeline once you’ve had a look at our picks below:
Celebs: Thursday kicks off Wizard World Chicago, with an afternoon opening at 4pm. Celebrity guests are sparse that day, but WWE fans will find it a perfect night to attend, with Roman Reigns and Alexa Bliss both having panels. Whether or not WWE is your thing though, there are panels for every interest, and the show floors will be fully packed with merch. Take a look at some of our panel picks for Thursday below.
Panel Picks: Imagination for Radical Resistance explores how nerds of all fandoms can use their passion and creativity to get involved in politics and activism. Meanwhile, creatives looking for help jumpstarting their inspiration can check out Start Your Creativity Engines, which helps break down any creative blocks. Learn about the origin of anime with Charles Dunbar, or how to cosplay on a budget, and round out your evening by participating in some offsite fun with Buffy alum Nicholas Brendon as he hosts Caritas Karaoke at nearby Bub City.
Celeb Guests: The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers…Michael Rooker‘s been a part of them all, and he’ll take on the audience in his panel early Friday. Anime fans will be pleased to see Arryn Zech of RWBY and Red vs. Blue in the lineup, and movie buffs, especially those who love baseball, will have a ball with Thomas Ian Nichols. Finally, Loren Lester rounds out the guest list with some Batman: The Animated Series voice acting goodness. Some celebrity appearances conflict, though we have been known to skip Q&As to hustle to the beginning of other guest panels.
Panel Picks: Fan of Yo-Kai Watch or just curious? There’s a welcome panel for that at 12:30. If that’s not your speed though, check out the screening of a new show, Uncanny Harbor. After that, shop local with An Inside Look at Second City, test out your drawing chops with Drawing Disney, or learn the basics at Cosplay 101. Whether you’re familiar with Studio Ghibli and the genius of Hayao Miyazaki or not, the 4:45 panel concerning his work promises to be an eye-opener. Then you can catch some back to back local comedy, with Second City Improv at 6 and Dungeons & Dragons & Improv with local comedy group Wizards of the Windy City following at 6:30.
Celeb Guests: Saturday is PACKED with celebrity appearances from every ‘verse, so our advice is to arrive early and have a strategy. Many celebrity panels overlap, so find out what rooms they’re in and decide if it’s worth clipping off the end of one to rush to another. The day starts by going Back to the Future with Tom Wilson, continues with Paul Bettany and speeds like a bullet to Dean Cain‘s super panel. It continues with SHIELD agents Cobie Smulders and Elizabeth Henstridge, what’s sure to be an outrageous time with Gene Simmons, and in one of Chicago’s biggest gets, the Tenth Doctor himself (and Kilgrave of Jessica Jones!), David Tennant. The march of the fandoms continues with Kevin Conroy for the Batman folks, Summer Glau and Jewel Staite of Firefly. Caleb Mclaughlin of Stranger Things will be there, as well as Lord of the Rings favorite Billy Boyd. WWE fans will want to check out the Hardy Boyz, and the jam packed celeb schedule finishes off with John Cusack and Buffy favorites Nicholas Brendon and Charisma Carpenter in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer 20th anniversary discussion. Whew!
Panel Picks: If you’ve got the spare time between queuing for celebrity panels, here’s a few panels to be on the lookout for. Start your day early with an Intro to Podcasting at 10:30, then take in the sweet sounds of Klingon Pop Warrior (who we promise, is wildly entertaining even if you’re not a Trek fan.) Learn about Cosplay Makeup and Geektastic Careers in Video Games, and then hop over to see the Kids Costume Contest at 2, sure to be full of all sorts of little Reys, Moanas, Mauis and more. Get into the nitty gritty of Game Design, and then head over to see the Wizard World Costume Contest at 7 sharp. It’s always a Best Of in our book. Once that’s cleared out, stick around for the Rocky Horror Picture Show Extravaganza from 9-11 pm, which will feature a screening of the show complete with shadow cast and Brad himself (Barry Bostwick). It’ll be a long day, but one you won’t soon forget.
Celeb Guests: The last day still delivers, starting out with a Q&A with Christian Kane and a panel with Arrow‘s Colin Donnell. Whovians will rejoice once again as Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman and Catherine Tate all appear in a joint panel, but there’s plenty for everyone as Danny Trejo makes an appearance as well as Kevin Sorbo and Loni Anderson. Still, the day belongs to the Doctor, as it finishes off with the singular phenomenon we know as John Barrowman.
Panel Picks: Wind down from your frenetic weekend with some ivory tickling as you check out the Rock It Man Dueling Piano Show as the show gets going at 10:30. Then get psyched again with Get Over Here! 25 Years of Mortal Kombat. Check out Cool Japan at 11:45 with anthropologist Charles Dunbar, and learn How to Get Published or turn your Doodles to Drawing. Stretch it out with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A Narrated Yogic Adventure, and then don’t miss Indie Game Design for a taste of what we saw at Bit Bash. Finally, test your Potter mettle with Accio Potterheads.
Wizard World Chicago is a great event with plenty to do day and night. It’s just a short trip from the city, but close to public transportation, and features some unforgettable celebrity guests and amazingly entertaining and educational panels. It’s also the best place to see and be seen if you’re a cosplayer. Put it all together and you’ve got an event that’s not to be missed. For more on the con and to purchase tickets, click here.
Then watch for our day-by-day coverage and cosplay gallery as we hit the floors with you!