Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) 2017 Report!

Chicago. I had been there before. It was 2014, and the occasion was Wizard World. April 2017 was my second trip to the city that the poet Carl Sandburg called “Hog Butcher for the World, / Tool Maker, / Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; / Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.” Railroads are no longer America’s arteries, and big shoulders are now an 80s fashion relic, but I, like Sandburg, “have seen painted women / under the gas lamps / luring the farm boys.”

   

Such women in Chi-Town can mean only one thing: the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, known as C2E2. I went with my convention buddy John, whom you will remember from Spooky Empire, Minneapolis Wizard World, and Florida Supercon. We stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Opened in 1893 in anticipation of the World’s Columbian Exposition–i.e., the Chicago World’s Fair–the place was a blend of grand and shabby. John likened it to “the Stanley Hotel meets Super 8.”

We grabbed some dinner and walked around downtown, which was eerily empty for a Thursday evening. I saw a few people with the telltale Pokémon shirts, beanies, and/or Barbossa beads and thought: convention goers. Things would heat up the next day and be full-bore by Saturday. John was looking forward to panel discussions and stellar cosplays. I had my usual assortment of books to be signed.

One thing going to conventions with John has taught me is the value of the convention app (if there is one). I still like the printed program of course–great for signatures. But John always downloads the app because it is (1) updated in real time, (2) doesn’t require him to keep up with something else, and (3) makes him feel tech wizard-y. And the C2E2 app is sweet! It has autograph schedules, prices, and locations for every celebrity. The prices were an especially nice feature. Most conventions don’t post these in advance, which makes budgeting for the weekend Mulvaney-esque.

Another innovation was getting my badge in the mail. If you read my first DragonCon report, then you know my acrimony regarding registration lines. John agrees: “Just charge an extra 40 cents and mail everyone’s badge.” How satisfying it was to open an envelope in February, slide out my shiny badge, and reflect on at least one queue not in my future.

Of course, it is impossible to avoid lines altogether. It is an axiom that, no matter which line I choose–supermarket, toll road, ATM, wherever–it will the line with problems: a technical malfunction, say, or a non-English-speaking customer, or an employee who skipped training. At conventions, I am similarly thwarted. Steve Blum was scheduled to sign at 11:00am on Friday, which was great. Fridays are the least crowded days, making them best for autographs–except this Friday. All around me, guests were meeting fans, posing for pictures, translating Celtic texts, building additions onto homes. Meanwhile, I waited. And waited. Blum’s line grew longer than the Santa Fe Trail, and still I waited. The con staff began setting up his booth at 11:50, suggesting he would arrive at 12:00 rather than the advertised 11:00. In fact, it was almost 1:00 when he got there.

Autograph lines. Look closely, and you’ll see me with a floor-length beard.

Rob Liefeld was also late, though not as egregiously. His line would have been long anyway–everbody loves Robert–but there was a new thing complicating it: VIP clients. For $125 in advance ($160 on-site), you would get two signed exclusive comics, one signed Deadpool print, one autograph ticket for your own item, and a picture with Liefeld. He is a quick signer, and friendly without being effusive, which moves the line along. But it is a gut punch to get aaaaaaalmost to the table and be superseded by a group of VIPs. I said there should be VIP signing times and non-VIP signing times, but John argued that would dilute the perks of being a VIP, one of which is the freedom not to have to visit the booth at a specific time.

Those who eschewed the VIP ticket could choose from Liefeld’s a la carte menu.

The growing practice of comic creators charging for autographs has been discussed a lot lately. I don’t mind a blanket charge because, as Dan Seitz argues, “sign your name a hundred times in a row. It’s simple work, but it’s work. You pay people for work.” I do mind creators charging more for a CGC-witnessed signature. Is it more work to write your name when a third party is watching? And charging more to sign a more valuable book like New Mutants #98 is merely a money grab. After all, a number of market forces affect secondary value that have little to do with the quality of the product.

But I care less about cost than about time, the latter of which is more precious and fleeting at a convention. Memo, then, to all creators and celebrities: don’t be late to your signings! The convention is your job for a particular weekend. Do your job. I cannot conceive of any legitimate reason for a guest who is in a city where they have no other business and is staying at a hotel across the street to be unable to make an 11:00am appointment. I am at this convention to meet you, be enthralled by you, and then carry your name across the land. Hard to do that when you’re a no-show Jones.

As for the rest of the convention, it was a delight. C2E2 is big–70,000+ attendees–but the open floor plan gives plenty of space, so I never felt pinioned. The dealer room had all the comics dealers together, all the anime dealers together, all the T-shirt dealers together, etc., which made shopping go smoother. The family area had games, a play space, chairs for adults to rest, and circus performers. The selection of comic creators was spectacular–Stan Lee, Frank Miller (too bad he was there Saturday only and sold-out), Greg Rucka, Rob Liefeld, Matt Wagner, and some who don’t do many conventions anymore, like Dan Jurgens. There were fewer actors than I expected, but this reinforces the focus of C2E2–comic and entertainment, not the other way around. John said there weren’t enough panels and seminars for a convention this size, but the ones he attended were good. His favorite dealt with using comics to boost literacy and teach science. Finally, there was a larger selection of (over-priced) food vendors than I find at most conventions.

If you’ve never been to Chicago, go. And if you’ve never been to C2E2, go. Most conventions are run by small nonprofits, who are exposed as amateurs in a number of ways, but the power of ReedPOP ups the professionalism. Despite three different volunteers being unable to tell me where Frank Miller’s autograph sessions would be held, I found C2E2 to be well-managed, well-marketed, and an all-around pleasure.

Want to see more images from C2E2? Here you go!

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse / and strong and cunning.”

 

Must. Catch. Train.

 

I always wanted to be an Ivy League graduate.

 

Look at that chicken . . . and the two cosplayers beside him.

 

At least I didn’t have to queue to see Q.

 

Strangely enough, John lost his voice after this picture with the Sea Witch.

 

“Wait’ll they get a load of me.”

 

“Sure, honey, I’ll go get your purse from the car. Be right back.”

 

Some people put a lot of thought into their cosplays. Others just wing it.

 

Two big reasons to go to C2E2 are . . . um . . .

 

C2E2 just goes on . . .

 

and on . . .

 

and on.

 

Cosplay Central: the heroes behind the heroes

 

Chicago is cold enough without this guy being in town.

 

Rhode Island Comic-Con 2015 Report (with an interview with Chris Claremont)!

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I went to Rhode Island to see John and Chris. John is my best friend of 25 years. We have been through it all: four divorces (two each), five marriages (he can make it six), new careers, new houses, and the almost-death of his first son, Jonathan, back in 2000. John and I have been to a number of conventions together (see here, for example), and it was time to add the Rhode Island Comic-Con to our roll.

Chris is Chris Claremont. I love John like a brother, but let’s be clear: Chris is what drew me, a lifelong Southerner, to New England on the cusp of winter (November 5-8). I have been a fan of Chris since high school, when my friend Margot introduced me to a pretty cool comic called The Uncanny X-Men. The first issue I bought was #216. I read it, was hooked, and started buying it each month. My father noticed my zeal, and realizing he could teach investment skills while doing something fun with his soon-to-be-too-old-for-him son, he started advancing me allowances to buy back issues. I learned to grade comics and spot value, and within a year, I owned issues as far back as #12, the first appearance of Juggernaut.

I just realized: that was when Stan Lee was still writing the series.

Eventually, I let my collection stagnate, and then I sold it in 1999 for a couple thousand bucks so I could marry wife #2. (Now I don’t have her or the comics, and guess which I miss more?) But I never forgot my adoration of Chris Claremont. Then I saw he would be in Rhode Island, and I called John, with whom I hadn’t planned a trip all year. John said, “I’m in,” and I thought, You better be.

Rhode Island Comic-Con isn’t as large as San Diego or C2E2, and it isn’t as venerable as, say, DragonCon. But it is on the rise. I had this brought home to me when I talked to Susan Soares, the director of media. She told me she was expecting 60,000 attendees. In 2012, there were 16,000. This is an increase of 275%—in only three years! It is the “largest and most income-generating event in the state,” according to Susan, who expects the convention to keep growing because (1) Rhode Island is not a saturated market, (2) the staff is professional and easy-going, and (3) they advertise the heck out of it.

The growth hasn’t been easy to manage, however. In 2014, the convention made headlines for the wrong reasons, overselling and getting shut down for half a day by the Providence fire marshal (see this link for the full story). I asked Susan how that contretemps would be avoided this year, and she outlined a three-part strategy:

Expansion. Last year’s event was confined to the convention center in downtown Providence. This year, they planned to situate some elements (like the dealer room) in the adjacent Dunkin Donuts Center.

Day 3. Instead of being Saturday and Sunday only, this year’s convention would start on Friday.

Scanned badges. Using the New York Comic-Con model, convention employees would scan badges as people enter and exit. This would allow them to track how many people are in the convention center at any time, thereby not exceeding capacity and getting shut down.

Overall, the strategy was a success. They had sold out of Saturday one-day tickets by 11:00am on Saturday, but I heard no other accounts of people being turned away. There were, however, navigation problems. In a convention spread across two buildings, I was surprised by the dearth of directional signs. Plus there were no printed maps—the only map was on the mobile app—so all weekend, I heard people murmuring “Where is the dealer room?” or “I can’t find Vic Mignogna’s table!”

After two circumnavigations of artist alley, I found Chris Claremont, who had been gracious enough to agree to an interview.

Me: Chris, I want you to know: you are the reason I am at this convention. I wanted to see you. Princess Leia? Pssssh. Besides, she cancelled.

Chris: Oh, really? She cancelled?

Me: Yeah. [And she wasn’t the only one. Nearly a dozen celebrities were quietly flensed from the web site as of Friday morning. I’m used to one or two no-shows, but double digits?]

Chris: The funniest thing I’ve heard is the projected opening weekend gross for that film global is one billion. I saw the very first show of Star Wars at the Astor Plaza in New York, and it was empty. It gradually filled up, but there were empty seats, and we figured, nice movie when it started, but when it finished, it was like, holy shit. We walked out the door, and the line was four-deep around the block, and it didn’t go away for about three months.

Me: Speaking of movies, what do you think about Marvel’s movies, especially X-Men?

Chris: So far, Marvel has done very, very well. Kevin Feige is a brilliant film exec. Lauren Shuler-Donner is a brilliant film exec. Between the two of them, they have nailed the Marvel pantheon. The X-Men movies maybe aren’t as financially lucrative as The Avengers. On the other hand, the casting of them is breathtaking, from the first X-Men to Days of Future Past—and, from all accounts, Apocalypse. Kevin, by the same token, starting with Iron Man, it’s been an incredible ride. I mean, Ant-Man? Who would have thought Ant-Man?

Me: Ant-Man was good.

Chris: That’s the point. It was good. And, more importantly, the actors playing the roles seem to enjoy the experience. They want to come back for more.

Me: Did you have any involvement in the X-Men movies?

Chris: Well, I helped crystallize the deal that got it all started back in the beginning, when I was briefly an executive at Marvel. I provided north of 80 percent of the source material for the characters. I mean, they’re all my guys and gals. And two-thirds of them are pretty much straight adaptations of my work. I suppose you could honestly say it was all my fault.

Me: And we’re very grateful.

Chris: Actually, the funny part is, every so often I sneak into the Marvel movies. Scarlett Johannson’s secret identity in Iron Man 2, when she walks into Tony’s house and is introduced as Natalie Rushman . . . well, Natalie Rushman is a secret identity that I invented for the Black Widow when she did a four-part team-up where she had lost her memory as the Black Widow and thought she was a schoolteacher from Boston named Natalie Rushman [this takes place in Marvel Team-Up #82-85, and the alias is actually Nancy Rushman].

Me: Cool. Switching gears a little, you’ve written comic books, and you’ve written prose novels. What’s the difference in writing the two?

Chris: When you’re writing comics, the writer’s job is to tell the story to the visual artist. All the work that goes into writing a novel goes into describing the scene. [He opens a copy of Marada the She-Wolf. A Red Sonja-like character, Marada was created by Chris and the English artist John Bolton.] So it’s describing this scene so that John Bolton could bring it to life brilliantly. Which he does. It’s giving him the sequence of events and allowing him to do what he does best, which is draw a picture that makes you go, wow! When I first drafted this scene, there was going to be lots of dialogue about how she lost her father, lost her mother, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. But when I got to the scene, when you see the images, when you get to this image, you don’t need any words. I mean, if you can’t figure out what’s going on, if you can’t figure out the emotional relationships just from looking at it, then neither of us is doing our job. John did his job brilliantly, unlike me talking now. The key to being a writer in comics is to know when to shut the hell up and let the artist do the work.

Me: So would your instructions for that panel be “Have someone lying on the bed,” or would you describe exactly how it should look?

Chris: Well, depends on the scene. Marvel did a 9/11 remembrance book [Heroes, released December 2001] where a writer and an artist would team up to do a poster commemorating what happened and how they felt about it, and when my page came around, I spent about 2,000 words describing the scene, and Salvador [Larocca] just drew this brilliant, brilliant picture, and as far as I was concerned, it didn’t need anything more from me. I had done my work, he had done his work, and the end result was brilliant.

Me: Very good. So you were inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame earlier this year. What was that like?

Chris: A lot of fun. One of the more unexpected things in my life. It’s way too cool for the likes of me.

Me: It doesn’t surprise me at all.

Chris: Well, you can think that. I’m not supposed to because I’m supposed to be shy and modest. But it’s way cool.

Me: When did you start doing conventions?

Chris: When they started asking me. How else can you meet the fans? In the old days, it was more fun because people would write letters, and the nice thing about them is it tells you what they were thinking of and how they were reacting to specific issues. Now it’s all posted online, and you seriously have to go looking for it. There aren’t that many hours in a day. But conventions are a really nice way of putting a face on the readership.

Me: What are a couple of your more memorable convention experiences?

Chris: Just meeting people. It’s a weird sensation when you run into creators, actors, people you’ve respected, and they tell you how cool you are, and you go, “No no no, that’s my line.”

Me: Do fans ever just go to pieces meeting you? Do they cry? Hyperventilate?

Chris: Oh yeah. But the cool thing is that now I’m starting to see a lot more young kids coming, which leads one to believe there’s hope.

Me: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Chris: Get a day job [laughs]. Being a writer is like being an artist: if you’ve got the bug, you do it. You don’t argue. You can’t argue. Then it’s just a matter of kicking at the wall until something sells. And then, once you make the first sell, you go for the second, then the third, then the fourth, and so on. There’s no real secret to being a writer. There’s just having an idea and then having the madcap determination to see it through to fruition.

You might assume this is an excerpt from the interview. It is not. This short conversation lasted over 20 minutes because we were sitting at Chris’s table in artist alley, and he was signing books all the while. My recording of the interview is peppered with crowd noise, his sidebars with other fans, and announcements blasted over the PA system. Chris had trouble getting into the convention—apparently, his vendor badge could not be located—and the interview started late, when he already had more people waiting for him than a Soviet bread line. Yet it was one of my best interviews ever. Chris is articulate and witty, and he cares a lot for his fans. Though I didn’t hyperventilate, meeting Chris Claremont is one of the highlights of my life. And it happened at Rhode Island Comic-Con.

The rest of the convention was as you might expect. Dunkin Donuts Center is a basketball arena, which makes it an odd venue for a convention. The dealer room was on the court, which was roomy, but some of the celebrities were tucked away in what looked like janitor closets. Know who had the longest signing lines that I saw? Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke—you know, SpongeBob and Patrick, which confirms my theory that the next growth market for collectors is 1990s memorabilia.

There were few fan-led panels, which disappointed John. Such panels were the seed of conventions back in the 1970s, but they are in danger of disappearing in this bigger-is-better era. John likes the panels. He considers himself a fan but not a super-fan. The super-fan award goes to the girl I saw at Jim Beaver’s table. Tears streaked her teenaged face, and after she and her mother walked away, they stopped and hugged as though a dog had died.

Friends, that is fandom. That is love. Wil Wheaton says that the defining characteristic of being a nerd is that “we love things. Some of us love Firefly and some of us love Game of Thrones, or Star Trek, or Star Wars, or anime, or games, or fantasy, or science fiction. Some of us love completely different things. But we all love those things SO much that we travel for thousands of miles … we come from all over the world, so that we can be around people who love the things the way that we love them.”

Rhode Island was a great place to go for love. The convention is young, so I have no doubt they will work out the problems of limited space and no maps and unreliable celebs. Every staff member I saw, every volunteer I talked to, was a delight, which confirms what Susan Soares told me in the beginning.

So if you have the chance, go to Rhode Island Comic-Con next November. Buy your badge early. Study the schedule. Stay hydrated. It will be one of your best shows all year.

_______________________

karen line

John and I weren’t the only attendees.

deadpool

This guy was also there. Wait, he’s at every convention!

knight

Due to the no-weapons policy, this guy wasn’t allowed to be armed.

chris

Chris Claremont signs my comic.

fonz

The Fonz tells me to leave the convention.

lost

Whoops! This isn’t the way to the men’s room.

metatron

An angel just below my shoulder.

contest

Various winners from Saturday night’s costume contest, which had 70-80 total entries.

catwoman

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Bobby

Jim Beaver asked me where I am from. “North Carolina,” I said. He nodded and said, “That explains it.” I wanted to say, “Right. Like Bobby Singer doesn’t have a rural accent!”

groot

John and Groot, not seeing eye-to-eye.

tardis

“Uh, Doctor? I think you regenerated a little too far back.”

lois

This gal is a great little Kidder.

cosplay repair

Not something you see at most conventions, but a good idea.

doctor

This guy also shows up at every convention. It’s like he has a time machine or something.

Mini MegaCon debuts in August

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Popular Southeast show MegaCon adds a second show of the year August 22nd – 23rd. Media guest signed are Charisma Carpenter from Buffy and Vampire Slayer, Rachelle Lefevre from Twilight, TNT Knockout Jackie Hass and Comic Book guests Billy Tan (New Avengers), Chuck Dixon (G.I. Joe), Mike Perkins (The Stand) and many more.

http://www.megaconvention.com/

Creature Con 1st Annual Show drops in Orlando

May 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Comic Books, Convention News, Florida

For seven years, Repticon has been bringing great shows throughout the Southeast to reptile and amphibian hobbyists. During that entire time, the Central Florida Fairground in Orlando has been the flagship show, running in the same location since the first year. Now in 2009, Herpetorama, Inc, Repticon’s parent company, will expand into a new line of family-friendly entertainment events, CreatureCon. These new comic book, collectable, sci-fi, and fantasy shows will delight fans of all ages while providing a great industry value for both vendors and attending guests. Our first CreatureCon show will be at our home base in Orlando, so come join in the fun at the Central Florida Fairgrounds on the weekend of May 30 & 31. In addition to a slate of great vendors which we will be announcing over the coming months, expect to have a great deal of interactive fun at CreatureCon. Comic Book & Sci-Fi Games with great prizes are in development. Presentations of a most creative nature are underway. Please check back to this page as the show develops. We hope to see everyone at the very first CreatureCon!

http://creaturecon.com/