Befitting a city that has played host to characters like Batman, Superman and Optimus Prime, Chicago is a place where comic book conventions and pop-culture celebrations are commonplace. If you're the type of person who loves browsing your local comic book store, you'll be floored by the amount of books, toys and merchandise that can be found at events dedicated to superheroes, horror films and anime. Typically, conventions take place in the South Loop or Rosemont, where sprawling venues allow thousands of attendees to gather under one roof to cosplay, shop for merch and meet their favorite creators. Whether you're obsessed with Star Wars or want to show off your Aquaman costume, you'll have a blast at one of Chicago's best comic book conventions.
Best Chicago comic book conventions
Each year, C2E2 brings a ton of comic book creators and some notable TV and movie stars to McCormick Place for a bonafide pop-culture bonanza. Head to the convention floor and you'll find cosplayers, attendees and creators mingling in a sea of vendors hawking all manner of comics, toys and memorabilia. You can also line up to attend a panel or score an autograph from some of the notable guests in attendance, including Paul Rudd (who will reunite with Clueless co-stars Alicia Silverstone, Donald Faison and Breckin Meyer), video game voice actor Nolan North and Firefly actress Summer Glau.
For five days in April, Chicago will become the center of a galaxy far, far away as the Star Wars Celebration takes over McCormick Place. The gigantic convention devoted to the sci-fi franchise takes place in a different city every two years, but the 2019 edition is particularly special as it will likely host the first peek at Episode IX—the final film in Disney's Star Wars trilogy. Confirmed guests include Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Plapatine) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), though we wouldn't be surprised if current series stars like John Boyega and Daisy Ridley also show up. Plus, attendees can snap pictures with cosplayers, go shopping for Star Wars merch on the show floor and sit down to see panels that explore new Star Wars TV shows, video games, comics and more. The Force had better be with you if you're going to show up for all five days of this mega-convention.
It might sound like a Harry Potter convention, but Wizard World is an event that celebrates every facet of pop culture, including comic books, film and television. Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center hosts the annual gathering, where attendees can line up for autographs, attend panels or shop for merchandise.
For readers of independent comics and small press publications, there's no event more sweet than CAKE (short for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo). Each year, the convention brings underground creators and fans to the Center on Halsted for two days of panels, workshops and shopping. If you've ever wanted to see what's possible with a pen, some paper, a stapler and a little imagination, this is one of the city's finest showcases of DIY ingenuity.
AMC's television adaptation of The Walking Dead continues to shamble on, as does this annual convention devoted to the franchise's undead universe. This year, the festivities take place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, where attendees will also have access to the concurrent Heroes and Villains Fan Fest. Confirmed guests include Jon Bernthal (Shane) and Lennie James (Morgan)—you can expect even more past and present zombie slayers to join the lineup as the convention draws near.
For fans of Japanese pop-culture (namely anime, video games, musicians and strange snack foods), there's no larger Midwest celebration of the Land of the Rising Sun than Anime Central. The annual convention allows like-minded otaku to mingle, admire the gravity-defying hairstyles sported by cosplayers and meet English and Japanese voice actors who bring imported cartoons to life. When the convention floor closes, the party continues at the popular Soap Bubble dance and late-night anime screenings.
A newcomer to Chicago's crowded convention circuit, Comic Con Revolution brings more than 200 exhibitors to Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for a two-day celebration of comics, movies, games and toys. The guest list is stacked with comic talent, including Deadpool co-creator Fabian Nicieza, Nightwing artist Tim Seeley and Harley Quinn artist Amanda Conner. You can also expect cosplayers and plenty of long boxes of back issues to dig through.
Let out a few blood-curdling screams during Flashback Weekend, an annual convention that celebrates gory slasher flicks, cinematic monsters and horror films. This year's lineup of guests includes Evil Dead director Sam Raimi and franchise star Bruce Campbell. Of course, you'll also be able to dig through a terrifying amount of classic movie memorabilia or show off your creepiest outfit at a horror-themed costume contest judged by local legend Svengoolie.
If you don’t see the magazines and comics you want to read in the world, why not make ’em yourself? At Chicago Zine Fest, makers of DIY publications gather for three days of sharing knowledge, stories and enthusiasm for handmade art. The main event takes place on Saturday, when participants show off their wares in a giant marketplace, allowing members of the public to purchase self-published magazines, books, comics and more.
If you're attending Walker Stalker Con, your ticket also gives you access to this superhero-focused event that takes place in the very same convention center. Heroes & Villains Fan Fest brings together talent from TV shows like The Haunting of Hill House, Arrow, The Flash and The Punisher. In addition to signings and photo opportunities, you'll be able to test your super hero (or villain) skills on the convention floor by participating in indoor bungie jumping or safe archery.
Organized by a group of passionate anime fans, Anime Midwest is a destination for anyone who is obsessed with Japanese animation, culture, music and fashion. The three-day event brings thousands of attendees to Rosemont, where they can meet anime voice actors, visit a maid cafe and enjoy unlimited ramen, rice and soda. At night, the convention organizes raves, costume balls, karaoke competitions and anime screenings.
Find more places to get nerdy in Chicago
If you're on a quest for geek stuff, you won't have to search for long—Chicago is a nerd paradise. Love to drink beer and waste quarters at arcade bars? The city boasts plenty of them. Prefer to gain knowledge at some of Chicago's best museums? Just pick an institution and check out an exhibition or a special event. Whether you want to browse comic book stores or play video games, we've tracked down the best places to nerd out in Chicago.