by Roger Ash
This past Saturday, my friend and fellow Westfielder Mary Carter and I headed to Chicago to spend the day at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, more commonly known as C2E2. I would have liked to have gone for more than a day, but funds (or lack thereof) nixed that idea. But I wanted to go for at least a day, and I’m glad I did.
This is C2E2’s second year and, from what I could tell, it was more successful than last year but it could still do with some fine tuning. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take this from the top.
We set out from Middleton at 8:00am hoping to get to C2E2 by 11:00. Neither of us felt a huge desire to get there right as the doors opened and that extra sleep sounded mighty good. Aside from some road construction as we neared McCormick Place, where C2E2 is held, traffic was fine, but it did slow us down a bit. After parking at one of the McCormick Place’s ramps, I came to the conclusion that to work there you had to be grumpy or rude – preferably both. I know C2E2 had nothing to do with that but, man, talk about putting your guests in a bad mood from the get go.
When we arrived at 11:30, the lines to buy tickets were pretty short but you had to fill out a form with your name and address before buying a ticket. Now I can understand how maybe – MAYBE – if you were paying with a check or credit card, that information might be needed, but I was paying cash. Obviously, they were trying to fill out their mailing list, but it should have been optional not required.
Here’s one tweak that I think would improve the show: when you buy your ticket, they should have the seller either hand you a program or tell you where to pick one up. I never found a program all day and thus had no floor map or any idea where or when panels were. I heard there were plenty of good panels and the rooms were easy to get to, but I wasn’t able to enjoy them myself. Yes, there were some listings of DC and Marvel panels in the hallway leading to the convention hall, but I had no desire to go back out and check them after I’d gotten to the convention hall itself. So, simply having the ticket sellers hand out programs as well would, I think, greatly increase fans enjoyment of the show.
On entering the convention floor, I was greeted by the site of the nice new Dark Horse booth. A quick scan of the floor showed booths by publishers of all sizes from Marvel and DC to Archaia and Oni. This is one of the huge differences between C2E2 and the Wizard run Chicago Comic Con. Many publishers no longer attend the Wizard show so having them here is great for fans in the area who want to learn more about what’s coming from their favorite publishers as well as meet the creators they bring in. For me it means I get to see friends.
I’ve been doing my job here at Westfield for a number of years and am in contact with people at publishers every month. Most of these people work in marketing so they aren’t known by many comic readers, unless they become creators themselves like Jim McCann (Return of the Dapper Men, Hawkeye & Mockingbird) who used to be one of my Marvel contacts. But over time, these people have also become friends and conventions are pretty much the only time I get to see them. I also get to catch up with friends I’ve met on online forums who I only see at conventions. Lunch was spent with people I’ve come to know because of my work with the Baltimore Comic-Con. And there are also a few pros I’ve come to know over the years as well. So a good portion of my Saturday was spent seeking out and spending time with friends. If that was all I did, it would have made for a great day.
But of course, there was much more to do. The only thing I had to do was find creator Kevin Maguire so I could pick up a sketch of Ice, who he drew during his classic run on Justice League. This was something I had set up at another convention and was picking up here. I couldn’t wait to see what it had done. When I saw the drawing, I couldn’t have been happier. A fantastic piece from a very talented and nice man.
On our walk around the convention floor, which was held in a different hall than last year, I noticed a few things. First, it was much more crowded than last year. That’s a good thing. The official numbers for the weekend were higher than last year so it’s definitely a positive that the convention is growing. I also noticed that there seemed to be fewer comic guests than last year. I suspect that has to do with the fact that there were more media guest than last year, so money was spent on them that was spent on comic creators last year. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, that’s up to the person attending the convention. But that’s not to say there weren’t plenty of excellent comic guests; there were and I had fun meeting some of them.
One creator I had a longer conversation with was Terry Moore (Strangers In Paradise, Echo). We talked about various things including his new series, Rachel Rising. It sounds really cool and you’ll be hearing more about it real soon. If you think that’s a plug for an upcoming interview, you may just be right….
Another thing I noticed was that you could buy Quidditch brooms, corsets, t-shirts, and even get a tattoo in the retailer area. However, there didn’t seem to be many people selling comics. Yes, there were some but not as many as you usually see at a convention this size. And many of them did not have cheaper, reader copies of old comics, which is what I go for. Sure, I would love to get high quality back issues, but it all comes down to money. If I can get three comics instead of one, I know what my decision will be. I don’t know why there weren’t more comic retailers there (although I did hear that some were disappointed in the show last year) but I hope this changes in the future. One of the reasons I go to conventions is to find those comics that haven’t been collected. This time, my quest was to find Dell Quick Draw McGraw comics. I didn’t find a single one.
A quick aside. If you’re wearing a larger costume or a backpack at a convention, please be aware of the extra space you take up. Mary and I were whacked quite often by people who apparently didn’t realize that wearing a backpack added a foot or better to their back. And if you do accidentally hit someone with your costume or backpack, please apologize. It’s just common courtesy. Thank you.
7:00pm, when the convention hall closed, came all too soon. A note to anyone connected to C2E2 who might be reading this: please announce when it’s getting close to closing time. Simply shutting off the lights at 7:00 doesn’t give you time to buy that last comic or say that last goodbye. Anyhow, it was a wonderful (and exhausting) day and I was glad I went. The show had improved over last year, but as I’ve pointed out, there are still some things that could be done to make it better. But this is a growing show and I expect it to continue to improve.
I leave you with what is perhaps the most surreal experience I’ve ever had at a convention. I was dressed normally for myself – black slacks, a Hawaiian shirt, and a Panama hat. I was walking back onto the convention floor after lunch when a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Are you cosplaying?”
I was taken aback because I wasn’t and I had no idea who he thought I was dressed as. So I confusedly said, “No.”
“Oh,” he replied. “You look just like Richard Attenborough’s character in Jurassic Park.”
I wasn’t expecting that. Not in a million years.
“Well, even though you’re not in costume, would it be OK if I took a picture with you?”
I said that was fine and as he was snapping the photo, someone walked past and yelled out “Welcome to Jurassic Park!”
And it gets even weirder. As Mary and I were walking on the parking ramp at the end of the day, someone came up to me and said, “You look like John Hammond from Jurassic Park.”
So I apparently look like a character in a movie without even trying. Personally, I don’t see it. What do you think?
Now, go read a comic!