Roger’s Comic Ramblings: Musing about C2E2

I could've sworn KC was here

I could've sworn KC was here

by Roger Ash

This past weekend, May 16-18, was the first C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo). The event took place at Chicago’s McCormick Place and was organized by Reed Exhibitions, the same people behind the wildly successful New York Comic-Con. Expectations for the event were high due to Reed’s past successes. How did things go? Well, come along and I’ll fill you in as a fan and worker as I was in the Westfield booth this weekend. But first, a slight diversion.

One of the reasons I enjoy comic conventions is I get to catch up with friends. This includes friends in comics who I’ve gotten to know over the years, longtime friends who have scattered across the country but come together at conventions, people I’ve met through various boards, and I’m always making new friends. Comics are really like a big family and conventions are like a family reunion. If you’ve never been to a comic convention before, I strongly recommend you give it a try.

Walking into the convention hall for set up on Thursday, two things jumped out at me. First, the aisles were very wide. This made getting around at the convention very easy. Often when walking around at conventions I’ll wind up stuck behind five guys with backpacks who stop in the middle of the aisle to have a lengthy discussion about some dang thing. This was not an issue at C2E2. The aisles were wide enough that I could easily get around them. The wide aisles also gave you a deceptive idea of how many people were in the hall. Even when there were a lot of people there, it never seemed that way as people could move about smoothly. Second, there were lots of windows which allowed in natural light. I heard from many, many people this weekend how much they liked that.

Roger Ash & Doug Sneyd

Roger Ash & Doug Sneyd

Attendance Friday seemed a bit low, but that’s not surprising as it was a work and school day. That did make it nice for those of us who like to get convention sketches, however. Artist’s Alley was wonderful with a nice mix of creators, which I was pleasantly surprised to find included legendary Playboy cartoonist, Doug Sneyd. If you’ve ever seen an issue of Playboy, his lush style and attractive ladies will be immediately recognizable. He was very friendly great to chat with and I left his table with a nice collection of rejected cartoon roughs signed by the man himself.

Paul Pelletier

Paul Pelletier

The artist I was most looking forward to meeting this weekend was Paul Pelletier whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years, most recently at Marvel on books such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Incredible Hulk. I was bound and determined to get a sketch from Paul of my new favorite Marvel character, Cosmo the Cosmonaut dog from Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only did he do a fantastic piece for me, everything I saw that Paul drew at C2E2 was fantastic. He’s a guy who really deserves wider recognition.

On my trip around the convention floor, I also ran into old friends including (but not limited to) KC Carlson (who you should be following on the Westfield blog); Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading; Amy Huey, Jeremy Atkins, and Michael Martens from Dark Horse; Fletcher Chu-Fong  and Vince Letterio from DC; Marc Nathan who runs the Baltimore Comic-Con; Top Cow’s Filip Sablik who introduced me to the wonderful writer, Ron Marz; and my friend Paul Greer from the John Byrne Forum, along with Paul’s friend Shawn and Jason Hickok, who’s also a Forum member. See? I told you it was like a family reunion.

Back at the Westfield booth, my co-workers Brook Anthony and Miles Perzewski and I spent the day meeting all sorts of nice people, handing out Westfield bookmarks and magnets, giving away some darn cool prizes, and enjoying the wonderful costumes that some of the attendees wore. You can find out more about that here.

At the end of the day Friday, I realized I had never heard a single announcement all day. I’m not sure if the speaker system was lousy or if they just weren’t making announcements, but that’s something that needs to be corrected for next year. You can easily get distracted at a convention and lose track of time so it’s nice to hear announcements like the DC panel is starting in 15 minutes, or Mike Mignola is now signing at the Dark Horse booth, or even that the convention hall is closing in 10 minutes. As a convention goer, I find such announcements to be extremely useful.

After a long day at the convention, there’s nothing nicer than getting off your aching feet and sitting down to a nice meal. KC, Miles, and I had a wonderful supper at the Elephant & Castle then headed back to the hotel where KC and I sat in the lobby and were joined by Paul and Shawn. We discussed comics (what else?) until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.

Saturday is traditionally the busiest day for comic conventions, and that was the case here as well. Saturday was also the day that I proudly displayed my geekness for all to see. My friend Paul and I regressed to 12-year-old boys as we waited in line to get a photo signed by actress Carrie Fisher. We weren’t being immature, it was just an incredible excitement at being able to meet the actress who played Princess Leia in Star Wars and played so many other roles through the years. I’m happy to report that she was very nice. When I told her that I enjoyed her cameo in The Blues Brothers, she commented that she believed filming that was the last time she was in Chicago.

I have the worst luck with women.

I have the worst luck with women.

Meg, co-worker and Brook’s wife, joined us on Saturday as did their kids Lauryn and Dylan. It’s always fun when they come to conventions as the kids are always so excited by everything going on. Their excitement is infectious and is a welcome boost.

Saturday at the convention ended with the Iron Artist panel, which was a fund raiser for Reading With Pictures, a nonprofit group that promotes use of comics in the classroom to improve reading and literacy. The evening was emceed by Reading With Pictures’ Executive Director, Josh Elder. I was one of the two judges for the competition in which artists such as Jill Thompson (Beasts of Burden, Scary Godmother), Thom Zahler (Love and Capes), and Jeffrey Brown (Unlikely, Little Things) competed to draw scenes suggested by the audience or Josh’s co-host, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember. Favorites of mine included Brown’s drawing of Galactus playing cards with a flowerpot, Zahler’s drawing of Batman on vacation, and Wolverine barbecuing in his skivvies. It was a fun event that raised money for a good cause.

Miles models his bib at Carsons

Miles models his bib at Carson's

Dinner that night was a mighty gathering of fans and artists for ribs at Carson’s where bibs were mandatory. There were actually quite a number of people at the table that I didn’t know, but that didn’t matter as conversation flowed easily as BBQ sauce flowed like wine. As I said before, I’m always making new friends at conventions. It was a meal of epic proportions and the walk back to the hotel after was a good way to end a wonderful evening.

Sunday was Kid’s Day at the convention and it was great to see so many kids at the convention. I know people like to say that Marvel and DC, as well as other publishers, need to put out more for kids so they can get into comics, but that won’t do any good unless parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., share their love for comics with the kids they know. It was wonderful seeing so many parents sharing their love of comics with their children.

The retailer area where the Westfield booth was located was hopping on Sunday with people looking for last minute deals. The dealer section didn’t seem very large to me and hopefully that will change next year. However, I still saw lots of people walking around with their new treasures. Oddly, there were three (I think) booths that were selling corsets and related items. I didn’t realize comic fans were that into corsets….

All in all, it was a very fun and solid first convention and I look forward to returning next year (April 8-10 2011. Mark your calendars!). But as I mentioned above, there are some things they could improve. They projected an attendance of 30,000 at the convention and reports online are that they fell a bit short with attendance being given as 27,500. I wonder if they unwittingly sabotaged themselves by constantly referring to the show as C2E2? I have friends in comics who had no idea what that meant. Perhaps using the full name of Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo so people know what it is for the first few years would have been a good idea. After it became established they could have changed the name to C2E2. But hindsight is 20/20. It was a fun show and I hope to see you there next year.

Now go read a comic!

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