Nerd-stalgia at Wizard World

RedEye August 11, 2011

Don’t ask Gareb Shamus what he thinks is the biggest attraction at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con.

“Oh God, that’s so hard to say,” said Shamus, CEO of the pop-culture extravaganza that begins Thursday night at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
With dozens of celebrities and more than 500 comic book artists signing autographs, speaking and showing off their work at the convention, it’s hard to single out any guest or event.

“Patrick Stewart is unbelievable,” Shamus said of the British actor. “He’s a double threat—‘X-Men’ and ‘Star Trek’—so a lot of fans from major franchises will come out to see him. Also, nobody entertains like Bruce Campbell. At our Philly show, he showed up in a white tuxedo and had everybody on the floor, rolling and laughing.”

Campbell, who currently stars in “Burn Notice” on USA, will be part of Sunday’s reunion of cast members from the iconic zombie film “The Evil Dead” and its sequels.

“Evil Dead” cast members are part of just one of the reunions happening at Wizard World. The stars of the cult film “The Boondock Saints,” and the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” will get together for discussions with fans and autograph signings.

Julie Dawn Cole, who played the spoiled brat Veruca Salt, is looking forward to seeing her fellow golden ticket winners again, “I have done a few [conventions], but I’ve never been to Chicago,” she said. “I’m quite excited about it. I get to see my co-stars again and catch up and gossip—it’s lovely!”

One thing Cole has in common with the rest of Wizard World attendees—both the stars and fans it seems—is the excitement that the convention brings, “I know when I return to the U.K. on Sunday evening, I will have a frozen face. I will not be able to smile; my smile muscles will be all worn out.”

Here are 10 big events happening at Wizard World this weekend.

Lou Ferrigno Q&A
1-1:45 p.m. Friday, Room B
The original (and still the greatest) Incredible Hulk will answer fans’ questions. “I’m from New York, but I feel like Chicago is my second home,” Ferrigno told RedEye. “This is the first time in a while I’ve been to Chicago and I’m really looking forward to it because those are my favorite fans.” Just don’t ask him about the purple pants—it makes him very angry … and you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

‘Willy Wonka’ reunion
1-1:45 p.m. Saturday, Room A
After 40 years, the five then-child stars of the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” reunite to talk about Oompa Loompas and lickable wallpaper, among other things. The panel includes Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Paris Themmen (Mike Tee Vee), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregard) and Michael Boellner (Augustus Gloop).

Wizard Art School with Ivan Brunetti
5-5:45 p.m. Friday, Room C
Acclaimed comic book creator and University of Chicago professor Ivan Brunetti teaches a crash course in the finer points of cartooning and visual storytelling. Brunetti is an Eisner Award nominee and received the 2006 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic of the Year for his series “Schizo.”

Patrick and Daniel Stewart Q&A
2-2:45 p.m. Saturday, Room A
Ever met a starship commander and a knight? Now’s your chance. Sir Patrick Stewart has played some of the most beloved sci-fi characters, including Captain Jean-Luc Picard (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”) and Professor Charles Xavier (“X-Men”). He will be joined by his son and fellow actor, Daniel Stewart (“TNG”).

‘Musical of the Living Dead’
6-7 p.m. Saturday, Room B
Gas up your chainsaw and make sure the windows are nailed shut because there will be blood at this musical “zom-com.” Laugh, cower and sing along as the brain-eating musical parody of the zombie genre follows the lives of 10 different characters trapped inside a farmhouse as the dead walk (and possibly Buffalo-step) the earth outside.

Wizard World Masquerade Ball—Zombie Edition
8 p.m. Saturday-midnight, Hyatt Regency O’Hare foyer
Forget the electric slide; you better practice your “Thriller” steps. This year’s Wizard World Masquerade Ball’s theme is “The Walking Dead.” Zombies will take over the lobby level of the Hyatt for a night of dancing, drinking and brainnnssss!

James Marsters concert
8:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Room A
Best know for his role as Spike, the bad boy vampire from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” Marsters is an internationally known singer and songwriter. He’ll perform a concert that requires a separate ticket for entry. Visit Wizard World’s website for more information. Marsters also will conduct a Q&A at 11 a.m. Sunday in Room A.

‘The Evil Dead’ reunion
12-12:45 p.m. Sunday, Room A
Join the stars of the cult classic, including Bruce Campbell (Ash), Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl), Richard DeManincor (Hal Delrich), Betsy Baker (Linda) and Theresa Tilly (Sarah York) to hear all about battling deadites. “The Evil Dead” will be screened at 10 p.m. Saturday in Room A.

‘The Boondock Saints’ reunion
1-1:45 p.m. Sunday, Room A
Boondock Flock rejoice! Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco, the stars of the Boston vigilante films “The Boondock Saints” and “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,” reunite for a special Q&A session. Grab an all-weekend pass to attend a screening of the cult classic at 8 p.m. Friday in Room A.

‘My Favorite Giant’ reading with Peter Mayhew
3-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Room B
Mayhew, the 7-foot-3-inch actor who brought Chewbacca to life in the “Star Wars” films, will sign copies of his latest children’s book, “My Favorite Giant.” He’ll be joined by his wife and fellow author, Mary Mayhew, for a reading to help kids understand that being different doesn’t have to be a bad thing—especially if you’re fluent in Shyriiwook, aka Wookiee Speak.

When: 5-9 p.m. Thursday; noon-8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont
Tickets: $25 advance adult single-day tickets ($35 on site); $50 advance four-day all-session tickets ($60 on site). Advance tickets at

Here are some of the other actors who will be at Wizard World this weekend.

  • Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”)
  • Anthony Michael Hall (“Sixteen Candles”)
  • Morena Baccarin (“V,” “Firefly”)
  • Pam Grier (“Foxy Brown,” “Jackie Brown,” “The L Word”)
  • Nicholas Brendon, Kelly Donovan, Mercedes McNab and Clare Kramer (“Buffy: The Vampire Slayer”)
  • Julie Benz (“Dexter,” “No Ordinary Family”)
  • Ray Park (“Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace,” “Heroes”)
  • Chandler Riggs, Addy Miller and Adrian Kali Turner (“The Walking Dead”)
  • Alaina Huffman and Julia Benson (“Stargate Universe”)
  • Edward Furlong (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”)
  • Tia Carrere (“Wayne’s World,” “Relic Hunters”)
  • Levar Burton (“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Captain Planet”)
  • Charisma Carpenter (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”)
  • Mimi Rogers (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” “The X-Files”)
  • Louis Gossett Jr. (“An Officer and Gentleman,” “Enemy Mine”)
  • Vivica A. Fox (“Kill Bill: Vol 1,” “Independence Day”)
  • Chris Hardwick (“Attack of the Show!,” “The Nerdist”)
  • Erika Eleniak (“Baywatch,” “Under Siege”)
  • Christine Elise (“Child’s Play 2,” “Charmed”)
  • Gil Gerard and Erin Gray (“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”)
  • Noah Hathaway (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Troll”)
  • Peter Tork (“The Monkees”)

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