Chicago Comicon was founded by Nancy Warner, a school teacher and collectibles dealer from Chicago. The area’s first comic and collectibles convention was held on July 22–23, 1972 under the name Nostalgia ’72, Chicago Comic Con. The event drew about 2,000 attendees. Warner ran the show for three more years, but by 1975 its attendance halved.
To save the convention, Warner approached Joe Sarno, a local comic book store owner, and his associate Mike Gold. They agreed to produce the show, brought in new people to join the team and invited special guests such as Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) and Jenette Kahn (DC Comics). This allowed to save the convention’s reputation.
The name Chicago Comicon was adopted in 1976, although Sarno wanted to name the show the Chicago Comic Art and Nostalgia Convention. It was renamed Wizard World Chicago in 1998 after being bought by Wizard Entertainment. The show benefited from the change of the owner. In 1998, its attendance jumped to 25,000 people (five times more than the previous year). By 2009, Wizard World Chicago boasted attendance of 70,000 people.
Originally Chicago Comicon showcased mainly comic books and collectibles. Over the years the show has expanded to showcase other popular culture elements, such as science fiction, fantasy, film, television, animation, anime, manga, webcomics, toys, collectible card games, video games, professional wrestling.
The show’s programming includes events that are typical for pop culture conventions such as panels, seminars and workshops with comic book artists, writers and publishers, sneak-peeks at upcoming blockbusters, award ceremonies, cosplay contests. Every conventions features panels, photo ops and autorgaph sessions with special guests. For example, in 2016 attendees had a chance to converse with Michael J. Fox, Carrie Fisher, Christopher Lloyd, Dean Cain, Gillian Anderson, Ian Somerhalder, John Barrowman, Matt Smith, and William Shatner.