Wizard World Chicago's Thursday evening preview night, now in its second year, has worked out some of the kinks from its debut but remains somewhat of an enigma on the schedule. While last year's "Premiere Night" was highly exclusive, requiring an expensive ticket package to get first crack at the rare sculptures and convention-edition comics, this year the floor was open to anyone with a three-day pass, resulting in much higher attendance. This democratic approach shaped the "preview" into something much closer to a regular day at the con, but without special programming and with few creators in attendance.
Perhaps the strongest indication that Premiere Night remained somewhat of an unknown entity came in the form of Marvel's booth: big banners, bright red carpet, completely unstaffed. DC Comics, by contrast, had Brian Wood, Geoff Johns, Keith Giffen, and Peter Gross on hand for signing, though it appeared from the chaos in the area that this was the inspiration of last-minute planning.
In Artists' Alley, roughly three-quarters of the creators set up shop for the Thursday preview. Many of the visitors to the tables appeared to be professional colleagues or friends of the artists, though there was an encouraging amount of traffic for the non-peak hours.
For many fans. the major advantage to Premier Night was the opportunity to buy the exclusive Chicago convention items before they sell out, and without having to wait in exceedingly long lines. Still, lines for Michael Turner's "Civil War: X-Men" variant cover comics and Wiz Kids' giant Spectre Heroclix obstructed traffic around several booths in the first hour of the show. Also, as Wizard World Chicago marks the second chance to buy Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's controversial "Lost Girls" from Top Shelf, Thursday proved an opportune time to drag this weighty volume home.
Wizard World Chicago begins in earnest Friday morning at 10:00, with advance ticket holders admitted one hour earlier.