The seventh Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, AKA C2E2, was held last weekend in Chicago, and nothing unusual happened.
Cosplay was as amazing and varied as last year, and rivals many larger shows.
Artist Alley featured a diverse selection of creators, many of them repeat attendees, many of them with long lines all weekend.
While there weren’t many major comics publishers exhibiting (because of another major show scheduled for this coming weekend), editors and creators were in attendance, and many announcement were made. Marvel only had a signing area with no MCU media tie-ins, although nearby you could get your photo taken with the crushed Shelby from the first Iron Man movie. Valiant had a big booth, as did Skybound. Zenescope was there, and Aftershock was a nice surprise!
The exhibitors… while some could complain that it wasn’t “comics pure”, almost every exhibitor had a geeky reason for being there. (Still not sure about Geico, but they had long lines to enter their tour bus, so if people were having fun, I guess it’s okay.)
It was once again in the South building, and aside from a few new ripples (panels on the two upper levels above the show floor), ReedPOP built on the successes of previous years while maintaining a fun and mostly stress-free experience.
It’s not growing as fast as New York Comic Con (2015: about 70,000), and it still has room to grow in it’s current location. (Once again, the back quarter of the hall was not used.) Crowds were easy to navigate, both inside and outside the exhibition hall. McCormick Place is well designed for large crowds, even if convention attendance is dropping each year.
C2E2 is a major regional convention, and should become an excellent third option to the two coastal behemoths which are already saturated. Chicago is easy to get to, easy to navigate, and the area around McCormick, long an industrial zone, is being redeveloped into an entertainment district with a Marriott Hotel and arena. (And maybe the Lucas Museum!)
The show has yet to sell out, which means it probably has yet to exceed current capacity, which means that it’s not as jam-packed as other shows. This may change in coming years once Chicago hits a critical mass, although there is much more space in McCormick to accommodate growth than in New York or San Diego.
So… what did I observe this year? Some interesting changes, which will probably be seen at other shows around the country:
👾 Mystery boxes and grab bags were common.
I noticed this last year at the Vienna Comic Con, but thought it might be a European thing. This year, there were many boxes (about a cubic foot in size) being sold, guaranteeing a certain value of merchandise inside. Some other vendors offered grab bags, based on the same idea.
This is a good marketing ploy. While attendees have long thumbed through long boxes of $10 graphic novels and 50%-off Silver Age comics, it’s not as common to see exhibitors offering advertised discounts on other merchandise. Toss it in a box, print something clever on the outside, and not only does the consumer get something at a good price, it also doubles as a (very sturdy) tote (which, of course, doubles as advertisement)!
👸 Metallic prints are beginning to become common in Artist Alley.
Take a simple sheet of metal. Transfer artwork onto the surface. Sell it at a premium.
The art becomes even more eye catching, as the color will sparkle as the light is angled on the surface.
It’s more eye-catching than a regular print, and more durable.
Me… I’m waiting for a return to black-velvet and black-light posters!
👽 The exhibition floor was very diverse.
My favorite block: Bernina of America backed with Yaya Han/Wyla fabrics. Wyla has a lot of cool fabrics designed for cosplay designers (I love the brocades!) available at Jo-Ann stores. Bernina really got my brain storming, as the three machines featured were cutting (!) and embroidering by computer! (Yes, you can sew stuff as well…) The sales representative said that it takes about five minutes to finish one color on a design, and that they sell a machine with 16 different needles. (Colors are stitched sequentially, but you don’t have to change threads.) Imagine… why buy a screen-printed shirt when you can get one with embroidery?! Or set up a digital camera which converts a photo into an embroidered image! Or make activity badges for sale! Bernina was promoting the Simply Red machine, but had two other models making designs on automatic.
As with other shows, ReedPOP organized the booths into subjects. Generally, it followed the previous year’s layout.
Comics retailers were up front, to the west. Behind them was Artist Alley. Then you had the non-comics retailers (mostly toys and figures), and then the “big boys”… publishers, companies, corporations. The show appealed to a variety of fandoms (of which half appeal to me on some aesthetic level), so there was something for everyone. (Yes, even a few tables in Artist Alley were offering sports-inspired prints.)
💫 Con Crud finally caught me cold.
I always forget one thing when I pack, and this time, it was my toiletries bag.
Thus, I didn’t have any Vitamin C to pop like peanuts when I felt my throat getting sore. I soldiered on Sunday, drinking OJ periodically, and thankfully, there wasn’t much left to do that day. I took a short nap off the beaten path, and then headed out early to the airport. And then another three hours commute from Newark to my apartment. I called out sick Monday, and am slowly getting back to normal.
👺 The best find in Artist Alley…
…was meeting the Rt. Rev. Ryan Richards, keeper of the Cult of the Month Club. He was visiting a friend, we got to talking about various things, and somehow we got into strange religions and philosophies, like invisible pink unicorns, celestial teapots, and Discordianism.
👿 That’s the primary reason I attend these shows…
…to discover something new, to get re-energized, and to have some fun.
Part of me was full of ennui… I really couldn’t generate much excitement anymore . I tend to nod off in panels. (Nothing against the panelists… it’s the subdued lighting, the talking, and the not moving which causes my body to go into screensaver mode.)
I love to brainstorm, to see something wicked cool and clever in Artist Alley, and to give some crazy ideas back to the artist behind the table.
C2E2 is a good show for that… it’s not as crowded or overblown or stressful as other shows. It has a an enthusiastic cosplay community (where else will you see Hamilton cosplay?!), a diverse mix of exhibitors, retailers, and artists, an eclectic programming schedule, and is well-run. If I had to chose one show to attend each year, it would probably be this one. ReedPOP does a professional job of running a great show, while still having fun. Next year: April 21 – 23, 2017! Earth Day on Saturday! Two weeks before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Free Comic Book Day! They’ll be sharing McPlace with Coverings’17, a tile and stone trade show over in the West Building,
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!