C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo) covers comics, movies, television, toys, anime, manga, video games, and books. So many fandoms are represented in one sprawling convention center that I couldn’t even begin to list them all. Like many comic book and pop culture conventions there are panels, autograph sessions, photo ops, exhibitors, and artists.
It almost isn’t fair to attend C2E2 so immediately after Star Wars Celebration. It’s a whole different animal. As a first-time attendee of C2E2, there was a lot with which to get oriented.
With the wider mix of interests at this con, I found it harder to gauge which panels would be the most popular. Estimates based on how many people you saw wearing something from a certain fandom didn’t help. Plus rooms weren’t cleared after panels and so you’re encouraged to come to an earlier panel to get a good seat at the one you actually want to attend. The hilarious yet chaotic Doctor Who main stage panel had a fair amount of seats left even after it started but the Game of Thrones event that followed it had every lane of the queue filled and continued down a long hall before the doors opened.
And since panel start and finish times sometimes had a small overlap and other times started at the exact same time another ended, I ended up going to far fewer panels than I initially hoped to make. I was also surprised by how quickly some panels went to audience questions (at least one only ten minutes into an hour-long session) although that was great if you had a question you really wanted to ask. It was nice to see though that not only were panels offered on a variety of topics, but that those topics included female characters on television, anti-bullying, and diversity.
Exhibitors and Artist Alley
The exhibitor floor had a wide variety of companies represented from publishers like Quirk Books, Del Rey, and DK Publishing to vendors of steampunk accessories, comics, and classic, if sometimes eccentric, toys. Her Universe items popped up in several booths including a nice spread by Superherostuff.com that featured clothing items from several fandoms for men, women, and children. The aisles are mostly wide and there is a lot of ground to cover. Additionally an area called The Block felt like a cool Etsy-esque pop-up shop. There was a definite aesthetic that set the art, design, and fashion in that zone apart from the rest of the show floor. It was also where Todd of Junk Fed (and a guest with me on the latest Doctor Who episode of Nerd Lunch) had his impressive line of Space Madness toys for sale at the Nerd City booth.
My favorite part of the show floor though was Artist Alley. C2E2’s website listed 400 artists and the area was a veritable wonderland. A diverse representation of art was on display and it was a great opportunity to talk with artists I was familiar with as well as discover new ones. Of course Joe Corroney’s The Force Awakens inspired print immediately caught my eye. Katie Cook’s adorable drawings were so consistently popular I never was able to even get close to her table. Similarly it took several pass-bys to be able to flip through Karen Hallion’s books and let her know how much a fan we are of her at FANgirl. Charles Thurston was there with his mini books to introduce children to fandoms while making sure they’re not too scary as well as his ingenious answer to Elf on a Shelf – Wedge on a Ledge. My favorite new (to me) artist discovery was Chrissie Zullo. She has a limited Leia print that is gorgeous and it doesn’t hurt that she’s a fan of Rey too.
C2E2 is a big encourager of cosplay and hosts The C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay (which I unfortunately couldn’t attend due to another commitment). From what I’ve seen of the photos, it’s the place to see some of the most technically impressive costumes out there. On the show floor there were a lot of male and female Deadpools as well as female and male Harley Quinns. Agent Peggy Carter had quite the presence too. Since I spent some of my time at the con cosplaying as Rey from The Force Awakens I got to experience the daytime cosplay environment first-hand.
For the most part fellow attendees were fairly polite. I usually don’t mind when someone asks for a photo. There were a few times though I caught people peering out from behind a column or booth attempting to photograph me. It’s one thing if you’re stopped and posing for others and someone jumps in to also take a photo or if a member of the press is photographing the event and you’re included in their snap. It’s another to be caught totally off guard by someone trying to hide the fact that they’re photographing you. There was also an incident of a stranger grabbing me by the shoulder as I walked by. Luckily the gentleman of Nerd Lunch had my back, but it’s unfortunate that even with ReedPop’s huge Cosplay is Not Consent signs, things that can make you feel less comfortable still happen.
One cosplay feature I haven’t experienced anywhere else is C2E2’s Cospitality Suite. It included good-sized changing rooms and attendants on hand for any needed costume first-aid. Not only was it a nice amenity but it added to the sense of community among cosplayers who aren’t necessarily part of the same fandoms. Hopefully that’s something more conventions can offer in the future. Attached to that room was the Fan Village which gave visitors a nice place to sit down for a bit as well as being a hub for the Nar Shaddaa base of Rebel Legion and the Midwest Garrison of the 501st. Those two groups were so welcoming to fellow Star Wars fans and I had a great time chatting with them about costumes and the new movie as well as taking part in some photo ops.
Overall C2E2 is a fine place to bring your family to geek out as well as a great place to catch up with friends. There’s music keeping the energy up and so many things to see. It was a fun adventure and I look forward to experiencing even more conventions for the first time in the months ahead.
Kay grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. A voice actor, photographer, and artist who also consults in communications and marketing, Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, reviewing, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs, hobbies, and fitness routines if she was a Time Lord. You can follow her on Twitter.
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