Since my Spring convention schedule wrapped up on Monday, I’ve been trying to just sit quietly on the porch with my eyes closed, but I had some links and thoughts and thingies about the just passed C2E2 that I wanted to express for the big wrap-up before I slide into a puddle of my own drool. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a much longer, bigger and more maudlin write-up of all of the travels and adventures of the past two months awaiting, with pictures and more pictures….but I need to work up to it.
As most of you have seen by now, attendance for the first C2E2 was announced at 27,500, a little below projections but still a good-sized show. It never looked crowded, but the giant, giant facility tended to make everything look small, like an ant’s wagon train crossing your living room floor. In the link above, showrunner Lance Fensterman addresses some of the problems with the size of the show, but overall, the online reaction — and the in person response I heard — was overwhelmingly positive. A few links:
¶ Michael May pointed out the attention given to webcomics:
The show seemed to run pretty smoothly. Everyone seemed happy, although I heard a few complaints about the high price of this or that — standard stuff for anything in a convention center. (Also: It’s far from the center of town and the food was overpriced.) Brad Guigar was particularly pleased — he always thinks Reed Exhibitions do well by webcomics people, he said, but this show was the best so far. As he spoke, he looked out over the webcomics pavilion, which was filled with creators of big-name comics (Cyanide & Happiness, Love & Capes) and their fans.
¶ DC’s Rickey Purdin thought the show was pretty much the BEST EVAH, and summed up much of the local charm
10. ARCHITECTURE – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a city as beautiful as Chicago when it comes to layout and buildings. Downtown, the buildings are a mix of glass and metal next door to classical brick and mortar. Some even combine the two for a nu-classical style all while sitting right next to Lake Michigan, a sprawling city park, a serious public transit rail with its girder support-beam legs clomping down side avenues (see above), and a spread-out feel I’ve never seen before. The city is dripping with a character I wish I was close friends with, and that’s a fact that extends out to neighborhoods like Wicker Park’s East Village feel and Wrigleyville’s frat-powered bar scene. I wanna live here!
¶ Local media was also positive, as Christopher Borrelli at the Chicago Trib writes:
Contrary to popular impression, it is not there just for the casual comic book fans or even the hardcore nerd constituency C2E2 drew (an estimated 27,500 attended over three days, according to Reed Exhibitions). It is there for found bits of joy and understanding. For instance, ducking into a panel led by Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, we overheard him ask fellow geeks, with sincerity, “So, who do you guys believe is the best — no, the most evil — villain?” We watched a man drag a suitcase across the convention floor so full of comics and collectible statues the zipper would not close and wheels would not roll. We listened to Marvel Comics editor Nate Cosby explain his Gorilla-Man book: “The problem is, see, he killed a gorilla and became a gorilla. Now there are other people who want to kill him to become a gorilla. & We were going to call it — Hit Monkey.'”
This link sorta sums up the “new frontier” spirit of the show — which prevailed despite the fact that the “new” frontier is really an “old” frontier. The original Chicago ComiCon, which flourished in the ’80s-’90s, was one of the pillars of comics fandom, and represented a very, very strong strain of Midwest fandom, primarily superhero-focused. The eldest Chicago cons were held at the Pick-Congress…now the Congress, where a few C2E2 folk stayed — although we heard it had seen much, much better days.
Based on the comments we heard, the show in Rosemont has generally frittered away the pure comics fandom in favor of a more entertainment-focused crowd, and their takeaway has not always been joyful. That suspicion definitely crossed over to some of the expectations for C2E2. As one person put it succinctly, a lot of the fans just didn’t know what to expect from the show. Once they got there, they seemed to get it, and the word-of-mouth was strong, but perhaps this was partially to blame for the slow sales reported from several people — folks just didn’t bring money to spend.
The turnout of costumed con-goers that have made comic-cons around the world a photographer’s paradise was also low — manga was almost nonexistent at C2E2 and there was almost no cosplay. A few people attributed this to an essential element of the Midwest character. At WonderCon, one got the impression that the people strutting in their spandex — male and female — roll out of bed and put on their Black Cat outfits to go to work at the juice bar. Not so in Chicago. It’s a more conformist society — not inhibited, just more cautious about letting the freak flag fly.
The Media Panel that I put together got a lot of write-ups, because there is nothing the media loves as much as itself! Johanna has her thoughts here. Michael May here, and Matt Brady here. I believe I’ve already linked to Noah Berlatsky’s thoughts. I thought Berlatsky seemed like a nice guy at the dinner afterward, and I specifically asked him to be on the panel knowing that he would probably disagree with much of the rest of the panel, but if his “So what, it’s comics” attitude was a person, I would put on my steel toed boots and kick it into a bloody pulp. Not to be too much of an old fart, but this whole topic was buried in an unmarked grave back when The Comics Journal was numbered in the early 30s and 40s. Using it as a shield seems to be just an excuse to allow self-indulgence where possible rather than any kind of critical stance. Berlatsky’s laissez-faire towards any concept of craft in the comments to his post make me wonder why he even bothered to critique The Comics Journal website — unless it was just to be bitchy.
But why ask why: Jamie Coville has audio of the whole thing up here, minus the part where I was bitching about fan feedback and the mike started giving me electro-feedback. Listen for yourselves and draw your own conclusions.
Overall, C2E2 was a pretty fine time for ‘most everybody. I admit, this being my fourth show in six weeks, I was pretty punchy by the end, part of a rolling tour of comics and movies and cartoons and rock bands and coffee and microbrews in Hyatt bars across the country. Did I really see Stephen Christy every weekend for two months? It seems that way. Other people just blended into one big conversation. The barcon at the Hyatt in Chicago every night was pretty good — drinks were cheaper than at the Marriott in SF, and people really wanted to hang out. Team Beat was staying at a hotel on Michigan, on the park, but it was about a $7 cab ride home, so not too inconvenient to get around. I didn’t get to go to Wicker Park for any of the events that were held there, despite my best intentions, but I heard those were fun too. Chicago is a city that is improved by having car access, however, although parking and cabs add up quickly. Anyway, seeing people from so many different companies hanging out in the bar gave a nice feeling of being in this together, and I even got to meet some folks new to me who bring their own fun to the party, like Halo-8’s Matt Pizzolo and Jesse Blaze Snider, whose mohawk with paisley fade was unmissable.
There was even a cat rescue at C2E2; it was that kind of show and everyone expects next year to be bigger and better — maybe a little better branded with the word “comics,” but people seemed to dig it.
FINALLY, the video evidence:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.