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
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2 for short) turns McCormick Place into a pop-culture mecca, stocked with mountains of books and merchandise as well as chances to meet your favorite creators, actors and artists. Head to the convention floor and you'll find cosplayers and attendees mingling in a sea of vendors hawking all manner of comics, toys and memorabilia. Guests like Matt Smith (Doctor Who), William Shatner (Star Trek) and Ivy Doomkitty (Heroes of Cosplay) will be signing autographs and participating in panels throughout the weekend. And if you want to see some amazing costumes, make sure to stick around for the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay on Saturday, February 29.
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 sweeter than CAKE (short for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo). This year's event moves to the Broadway Armory, bringing together underground creators and fans 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.
For fans of Japanese pop-culture (including 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.
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 Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith from the Saw films, as well as Alex Winter, who reprises his career-defining roll as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in the upcoming Bill and Ted Face the Music.
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.
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.