It was a day of discovery for the comics industry gathered in Chicago for C2E2 yesterday. Discovering where things were; discovering who was there; discovering how to get past the toilet and sink show.
The first major discovery was that — as many locals had warned us — the McCormick Place convention center is HUGE. Brobdingnagian. It is the largest convention center in the US, with 2,670,000 sq. ft. of space. That’s FOUR San Diego Convention Centers. Your feet will hurt!
Arriving at the show yesterday, I was confronted — as Torsten had it in his transport guide — by immense signage for the KBIS kitchen and bath show. Well-dressed, sales-focused men and women were streaming into halls full of gleaming porcelain cabinets and sparkling tile counters. I felt intensely Gulliver-like as I passed a hall filled with the echoing whoosh of a fountain and imagined displays of giant toilets flushing and insinkerators crushing. Kitchens and baths are bigger than comics, no question, ‘cuz you need a place to eat and a place to sit and read your iPad.
(Photo via Agent M)
To find the comics, one had to cross over a kind of rainbow bridge to Valhalla, aka, the Lakeside Hall. Here things were equally vast and roomy. If I’ve spent the past few weeks of convention travel trying not to get jostled, at C2E2 I had found a happy realm of wide aisles and expansive vistas.
Because the show was so big, it was hard to get a read on the crowd, honest. It was definitely on the light side — there were no giant crowds or lines — but it seemed to be slow but steady every time we stopped to chat to someone. It was a perfectly fine day at a show, but people had perhaps been expecting a big crowd to surge in at some point, and that point never happened.
Despite this, no one was complaining about the show, at least in our ear shot. Over and over, I heard (without any prompting) “This is so much better than being at Rosemont,” from artists and fans. Not one person expressed nostalgia for the days at the convention center in Rosemont for Wizard World Chicago/Chicago Comic-con. Points for C2E2: a better setting, downtown Chicago and a focus on comics.
Nonetheless, today will be a big day that decides the story of the show. As Calvin Reid tweeted:
Today is a big day for #c2e2 the show need a big turnout today. Exhibitors are very happy with everything but traffic needs to be better.
A few pointers and talking points:
• The programming rooms ARE a bit hard to find if you don’t know the layout. They are concentrated in one area, but separated on opposite sides of a giant auditorium, so, for instance, to get from the Mondo Marvel to the DC Nation panel last night (scheduled to overlap, rather annoyingly) you had to go out of one room, go down an escalator, walk across the hall (did we say the hall was big?) go UP an escalator and finally find a a mirror image universe panel room that had Dan DiDio instead of Joe Quesada.
• This is what artist Tom Fowler aptly termed “a big breakfast show.” McCormick is off in its own section of Gladsheim, and there is not a lot of food in and around the convention center; what exists is ludicrously overpriced, even by convention center standards. $25 for two pieces of pizza and a couple of drinks was an oft repeated price point. Our advice: tank up on a big breakfast, pack a lot of snacks, fruit and water and hold out for a big dinner at one of Chicago’s world class restaurants.
• Similarly, the Kitchen and Bath Show people have completely jammed up the Starbucks near the Sky Bridge to Bifrost. There is, however, another coffee spot selling — excuse me, “proudly brewing” Starbucks DOWNSTAIRS, near the line to get in. There is also a coffee spot on the floor near the back of the hall on the way to the outside patio. There was no line at either when I saw them yesterday.
• If you are taking a cab to the show, make sure to tell them to go to the “Lakeside hall” if you don’t want to walk through Kitchen Valhalla.
• The outside patio, overlooking the emerald green waters of Like Michigan, is really awesome. We ran into a few pals there and spent over half an hour in a relaxing chat about many things. However, during the chat, one pal began to get tummy troubles from the “BBQ sandwich” purchased inside, so those with delicate digestion should be forewarned that a lot of the fast food in Chicago is not for beginners.
• The comics media panel was an all star-fest with Lucas Siegel, Brigid Alverson, Johanna Draper Carlson, Noah Berlatsky, Ron Richards, Caleb Goellner, and Rick Marshall. As usual at such fests, the audience was mostly other journos and bloggers, including Glen Haumann, Michael May, Troy Brownfield, and probably other people I’ve forgotten from the scrum at the end. It was a very lively panel which covered a lot of topics, and could have lasted a LOT longer but the late start hour made post-panel hot food a necessity for THIS writer anyway. Noah, ever the hooded individualist, has a post up talking about the panel that sort of takes the piss about a few things said; Noah’s own “It’s only comics!” attitude was mostly scoffed at by the other panelists and is, I think, a giant step backwards, but you know what, I’m glad to have put together a panel where not everyone agreed, because that gets old fast. Anyway, Jamie Coville was recording it, and I did too, but there were a lot of audio problems so it may have to live on in our memories.
• After the panel, I had a really nice dinner with Brigid, Johanna, Noah and The Other Matt Brady at the Hyatt where the subjects of the panel were discussed at much greater length and WITH names.
• Barcon was at the Hyatt, and it was pretty good. Many folks compared it to the olden days at the Hyatt Rosemont in “Fisters” and the McCormick Hyatt bar may be known as “Fisters Too.” Its general superiority in terms of having access to air and light were widely commented on.
• Hotel report: We are at a “budget” hotel across from Grant Park, about a $7-8 cab ride from everywhere we’ve gone so far, which isn’t so bad. Although there is a suspiciously stained chair seat (now covered by a towel) the beds are very clean and comfy, the free Wi-Fi works better than a lot of places where we paid $15 for it, and when we called down for a toothbrush, it was in the room inside five minutes. So, all in all, good value for the money.
• A note from the retailer summit we forgot to mention: DC Entertainment bigwigs Diane Nelson and John Rood were there all day on Thursday, and sat in on DC’s focus groups, so it’s safe to say that connecting with DC’s retail partners is important to them. They were also at the convention and DC panels yesterday.
• Milton Griepp held his white paper yesterday afternoon. We took a lot of notes but a few data points. The comcis market overall was down five percent for books and periodicals last year. Manga has fallen about a third in two years; the digital marketplace is anywhere from a $500,000 to $1 million business.
• The long march…: One late night conversation turned to a reminiscence over various methods offered to save comics — whether it was Stephen King writing comics, a national advertising campaign, a return to newsstands, comics in PXs, or whatever. Looking around the packed bar, and recalling the authors, artists and characters I’d seen all day, the real answer suddenly dawned on me: Comics Saved Comics. Tell it.
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.