The Captain's Veranda by Joe Sarno


After talking to Nancy Warner my first though was to bring in two friends that I knew would be interested in putting on a comic book convention in Chicago, Ross Kight and Larry Charet. Ross had been a co-anchor with me for a number of Fantasy Collector of Chicago meetings, and Larry had been one of the first fans to open a "comic book store" and we were often on the phone talking about deals, and possible deals, comic arrivals and the like. It was Larry who told me about Phil Seulings brand new Direct Sales comic service. Of course they both thought it was a great idea so I wasted no time in calling Nancy Warner back and telling her we'd take over the convention. A meeting was set up with Nancy and we all agreed that we needed others to come in with us if we were to put on a successful show. I was Larry, a very good friend of Mike Gold, who suggested at D.C. and Marvel, and helped to get Mike Grell and Tim Conrad as guests for that show. And it was Mike Gold that made the initial contact to bring in the newly hired Jenette Khan as extra special guest for our first two shows.In fact Mike was hired away form us by Jenette to head up the Public Relations Department at D.C.

I'm fairly certain that among the attendees of that first meeting were George Hagenauer, Mike's Girlfriend Ann, Ross's wife Marilyn, and my wife Joan along with Nancy and Alma Warner. My right hand man at the time was Bob Villani, who was also there. At that meeting Nancy Warner turned over the hotel contract to us, and offered to sell us her mailing list of the 500 names for $500. We turned this down, as we wanted to start from absolute scrach and our first decision was to ask Stan Lee to be our very first Guest of Honor ( he accepted).

Future meetings would be attended by Bill Martin, Jim Engel, Chuck Fiala, Gary Ricker, George Breo, Joey Santagarda and Ron Massengil. There may have been others, but we're talking about the events that happened 25 years ago, and for whatever reason no records were kept regarding these meetins, but who would have thought that the predecessor of Wizard World, Chicago Comicon, would still be around 25 years later.

While George Haganaur would put in charge of a comic art auction for the benefit of the Alternative Scools Network, we held a special comic art exhibit on Thursday evening before the convention complete with champaign, and at least 30 pieces of art where displayed were from our own collections.

I cannot stress how important it was for us to overcome the Chicago stigma of putting on poor comic conventions. The New York shows hosted by Phil Seuling had been going on for a number of years, usually held in July and November (the latter being called Creation). The San Diego show was already considered to be the top show in the country, but we had hopes of making Chixago the 3rd best of the trio as the Detroit Triple-Fan-Fair also had a great repution. Orginally I wanted to model Chicago after the D.T.F.F., and included Movies, Radio and early Television as part of the mix to appeal to collectors from those areas as well. I also wanted to give the convention a longer handle such as Chicago Comic Art and Nostalgia Convention in fact the very first flyer that we mailed out referred to the con as a "Nostalgia Show") but I was voted down in favor of the name Chicago Comicon.

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Originally published in the C.B. WEEKLY (Comic Book Collectors Bulletin) Vol 3 #89 September 12, 2001 copyright Joe Sarno and respective copyright holders 2003.