We’re quickly careening towards Labor Day, kids are headed back to school and (hopefully) we’re looking at a cooldown from the hot hot heat of summer. But don’t despair, even as summer fades, the end of August brings with it the return of Chicago’s con season. Wizard World Chicago is set to take over Rosemont for 4 straight days, beginning August 23 and leaving we in the nerd crowd happy, exhausted and probably a little bit more broke on August 28th. As it was in past years, the con begins with a partial day on Thursday, which features light programming and a smaller lineup of celebrity guests, runs full days on Friday and Saturday with a late start on Friday at noon, and rounds out on Sunday with some blockbuster panels and an early closing at 4. As we’ve done in years past, we here at Third Coast have prepared for you a preview which will give you the ins and outs of this year’s con—which celebrities have panels on which days, what other interesting panels you should catch, and what’s new for 2018. Take a look, then plan out your #conlife prior to next week’s festivities.
Editor’s Note: Just prior to press time, we were informed by Wizard World that there were last minute changes to Outlander cast appearances. Notes on the changes appear at the bottom of this article.
Thursday at Wizard World is what we tend to call “Con Lite.” This is in no way a bad thing though, as the low-key nature of the evening along with shortened hours and lower attendance make it perfect for first time con-goers to get their feet wet and seasoned “pros” to get the lay of the land for the rest of the weekend. You’ll be able to stroll the aisles of merch in a more leisurely fashion and lines for celebrity autographs/meet and greets will be shorter. On top of that, tickets are a little bit lower price due to the shortened hours. Note: There are no celebrity panels on Thursday so we will instead give you celebs who will appear for autographs that night.
Celebrities: Karl Urban, Christy Carlson Romano, David Alpay, Nichelle Nichols, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Christian (WWE), Billy Gunn (WWE), Animal, Velvet Sky, Tommy Dreamer.
Thursday’s schedule might be light but it’s not to be overlooked. If you’ve always wondered how to play Pokemon, the trading card game, then hang out from 5:00-6:30 at the Learn to Play Pokemon Workshop. If you’re in the mood for healthy debate, check out the Marvel vs. DC Panel from 7:30-8:30 pm. Other options include Cinema’s Best of the Worst from 6:00-6:45, which takes on the question of what makes a movie so bad that it’s actually good. If you’re feeling like something a little more cerebral, you can also check out Batman vs. Daredevil: Dark Knight Psychology. This panel features phD and author Dr. Travis Langley discussing some of the psychology of the characters you know and love.
Things kick off at noon for the first full day of the con this year, and panels start around 1. There are quite a few big things happening on Friday and our advice is as follows: Wear comfy shoes, write out a schedule, camp for the big panels, and don’t forget to hydrate! We’re especially looking forward to seeing the first-ever Boy Meets World Reunion and putting faces to the voices of our childhood with the Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen panel but there’s something for every fandom on Friday!
Celebrities: Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (Charmed) 2:00-2:45. Matt Ryan (Constantine) 4:30-5:15. Boy Meets World Reunion (Ben Savage, Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle) 4:30-5:15. Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen (Futurama, Animaniacs, etc) Animation Domination 5:30-6:15, Karl Urban (Star Trek, LOTR) 5:30-6:15.
Panel Picks: There’s all kinds of panels to catch Friday, so check the official schedule to see the full lineup. We’ve picked a few of our favorites to highlight for Friday, beginning with Family With A Touch Of Yellow, My Life With America’s Favorite Family, The Simpsons. This panel, which runs from 2:00 to 2:45 features Simpsons designer Phil Ortiz, who will take you through the history of the show and his favorite moments. At the same time, you can also explore Cosplay and Anxiety This panel’s there to help those of us who want to get into the con scene but have some reservations due to struggles with anxiety. Then there’s Shield Labs’ Introduction to Sculpting Workshop from 4:00-5:30. This caught our eye because Shield provides everything its attendees need to walk away with their own clay creation, including the expert guidance of their model makers, and should be a really neat way to explore your artistic side. Another interesting catch will be Disney Trivia with Rookie of the Year star Thomas Ian Nicholas from 3:00-3:45, and wrestling fans will find the fun in a panel with Billy Gunn, Velvet Sky and Enzo Amore of WWE fame from 4:30-5:15.
Saturday is the grand poobah of con days, and kicks off early at 10 am. Don’t wait to join the fun, especially if you plan on driving to Rosemont, as you’ll likely find parking sparse or nonexistent. Instead, make use of our preview to fill your day with fun activities, enjoy the amazing cosplay that’s always on the floors on Saturday at Wizard World and plan to make a day of the thing, finishing off with the annual cosplay competition on Saturday night.
Celebrities: Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries) 2:00-2:45, Micheal Rooker (The Walking Dead, GotG) 4:00-4:45. James Marsters and Greg Sulkin (Buffy, Marvel Runaways) 5:00-5:45, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny (X-Files) 5:15-6:00
Panel Picks: Start your day off learning what it’s like for industry women by joining Holly Marie Combs, Charisma Carpenter and Pom Klementieff in their panel, Women of Pop Culture, which runs from 11:30 to 12:15. Or, find out how to break into Film and Game Production with the Breaking Into Film and Game Production Panel that runs at the same time. With an extra ticket, you can join in a conversation with comic legend Rob Liefeld in his Creating Characters with Rob Liefeld panel from 2:00 to 2:45 that includes a Deadpool comic variant in the price of admission. Those of us who fondly remember Saturday morning is for cartoons might want to check out the Saturday Morning to the Future: History of Animation panel with legendary artist Tom Cook from 12:30 to 1:15. Later in the day, if you’ve been curious about how people become Youtube celebrities, check out Youtube 101 and start building your empire. One of our favorite new concepts at Wizard World Chicago is the Trash Can Cosplay Competition. Scheduled for Saturday from 5:30-7:00 this event has you mine a pile of scraps for interesting cosplay parts, then make and model your own costume in a competition. It’ll be interesting to see what people can create in what amounts to a cosplay improv show. Finally, if you’re a fan of Cyanide and Happiness, Shawn Coss, one of Cyanide and Happiness’ artists, will be doing a Cyanide and Happiness Sketch Jam from 6:00 to 7:00 which will feature giveaways of free sketches, live drawing and audience participation. The annual Cosplay Competition will also be Saturday Night, and usually begins around 7pm, but as of press time we don’t have any complete details.
Sunday’s a shorter day, but not short on entertainment. There’s some BIG celebrity action Sunday, with a Kim Possible panel for nostalgic cartoon lovers, and a huge Outlander panel that no fan of the show will want to miss that features much of the main cast. On top of that, if you’re one of those who was addicted to Smallville back in the day, you won’t want to miss the Smallville happenings with Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum and James Marsters (who Buffy fans will also fawn over). Those who love anime will find special opportunities today, and there are some great workshops to get you launched into your own career with your own nerdy angle.
Celebrities: Christy Carlson Romano and Will Friedle (Kim Possible) 11:30-12:15, Outlander Panel with Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, Lotte Verbeen and Graham McTavish-11:30-12:15, Smallville Panel with Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum and James Marsters, 1:00-1:45.
Panel Picks: If you’ve ever been curious about how to start your own Etsy shop and manage it, including what sells and what doesn’t, how to market and what to price at, the Getting Started with Etsy panel from 11:30 to 12:15 should bring you up to speed. Meanwhile, if you are an anime fan, it’s likely you’ll want to catch Naruto Next Generations, a Father and Son Conversation, which will feature Amanda C. Miller, the voice of Boruto as well as Maile Flanagan, who portrays Naruto in a conversation from 12:30 to 1:15. Finally, if you’d like to make the next great game, stop in to the Video Game Design panel from 1:00 to 1:45.
And that’s a wrap for our preview of the four day nerdy extravaganza that is Wizard World Chicago. Don’t worry though, because it’s just the beginning of our coverage of the event. Check out Third Coast Review every day of the con for amazing cosplay galleries, panel wrap-ups and features on local vendors across the show floor, and keep an eye out on our Facebook, Twitter and Youtube pages for even more Wizard World Chicago content. We’ll see you out there!
Shortly after press time we learned that there would be some unexpected changes to the appearances of several of the Outlander cast’s schedules. Due to unexpected filming conflicts, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe’s appearances are both affected. Caitriona will still appear at Wizard World Chicago, but on Thursday ONLY. Due to the conflict, Thursday’s show opens at 2pm, with a panel featuring the actress. Sam Heughan, meanwhile, cannot physically attend but will be appearing virtually only on Friday, August 24. He expressed the desire to uphold his autograph and photo op commitments from his location so he’s going to be doing Skype sessions with those who purchased a photo op with him (VIP, solo or group) if desired. Because of the changes, on Thursday, the rest of the Outlander cast will appear for group photos, which means all Outlander Group Photos have been rescheduled for Thursday, August 23rd. If none of those options are desirable to those who already purchased tickets, there are a list of other options here, along with a letter from Wizard World’s CEO, attempting to address and rectify all issues arising from this change. If there are more questions, staff at Wizard World Chicago will be on hand to answer them as soon as doors open as they have been in the past with other scheduling conflicts.