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C2E2 Day 1


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.


  1. So, is C2E2 shaping up to be ‘the Con Chicago DESERVES’?

    I know that’s just organisational bluster thrown at that Other Chicago Comic Con, but all I’m picturing is The Sting… With Gareb as Robert Shaw.

    Looking forward to more of your reports and analyses here at the Left Coast.

  2. Great report. Looking forward to more, especially for those of us who didn’t get to go this year, but thinking of next year. So any more tips would be much appreciated.
    BTW, which “budget motel” are you staying at? How is the promised shuttle working between hotels and convention, or are you having to resort to cabs?

  3. Thanks for the report, Heidi. I’ve scoured the Internet blogs for full detailed reports and the offerings are few. Even less when it comes to photos. I wanted to go but couldn’t make it so a lot of my decision for next year will depend what I read / hear from others (on both sides of the aisle).

  4. The C2E2 Comicon was a lot of fun. By far the best Chicago area con I’ve been to in at least a decade. Met my friend Jeff in person, got autographs and ,wow!, a sketch from Frank Cho, my Chip Kidd Batman toy book autographed with a Batman sketch, got my picture taken in the Batmobile (Hint: Pose with the Harley Quinn model (just trust me), saw cool toys, saw Iron Man movie props. It was a great time.

    Frank Cho was very friendly and he signed my Jungle Queens hardcover. He drew a nude Jungle Girl next to his autograph! That was really nice of him. Cho’s book and the Batman toy book going on my oak bookshelf next to signed copies of John Updike, Joseph Heller, Galbraith, Sartre, Alan Moore.

  5. I stayed in town (LA) and went to the Anaheim Convention. Seems like there was no comparison between the two, which I had thought were competing shows. This was a medium-sized con with a good chunk of the floor taken up by a cornocopia of B-list celebrities (Linda Blair, Shannen Doherty, the gal from Stargate: Atlantis, you know, that one) and some more well-known folks like Nichelle Nichols, Mickey Rooney (Mickey Rooney?) and Ed Asner. The website listed about three times as many as I saw seated there but maybe they were hiding in another room.

    Artist’s Alley was quite small and over all it had the feel of a NYC Big Apple Con. But I saw Shatner who told a great hour of funny and wacky industry stories. There seemed to be a fair amount of people at the show in general.

    Looking forward to more coverage from Chicago. Can you talk about which publishers showed up and any rumors or news you hear about the attendance numbers? Hope you’re having fun!

  6. Re: size

    Yes, McCormick Place is huge. Really, really big. I mean, you might think it’s a long way down the street to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to McCormick Place!

  7. Yup… Comics saved comics. Pokemon to be exact. That juggernaut of games, cartoons, and comics swept through the cultural minefield and blazed a trail for manga. Viz had bookstore distrbution (PGW), the Japanese knew how to sell comics to bookstores, and the bookstores had the computer systems in place to track the sales.

    Within ten years Kids’ graphic novels will be as lucrative as adult GNs, and we might see GN subcategories in genre categories like Mystery and Romance. How-To publishing will realize how effective comics can be as an educational tool. Within 25 years there will be a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a Nobel Literature Prize within 50.

  8. Some of the thoughts I had and also picked up from other attendees at C2E2.

    The con was spacious which may have given a less filling sensation but it was a fairly steady crowd with the usual slow and busy periods you find at any con but it did seem more consistent throughout.

    Although the attendance “felt” about the same as the Wizard Chicago show, it had a much better vibe, one that seemed much more comic oriented. I would easily accept numbers that ranged from 30% less or 30% more than the Wizard show.

    Although a lot of professionals may have liked it being in “downtown” Chicago, I’d say it was actually mixed. If you didn’t fly in and had to negotiate the travel back and forth and pay the insane parking rates everywhere in Chicago, Rosemont sure looked very appealing and almost nostalgic. It was also mixed with the fans I talked to, about 50-50. To go downtown is a real hassle. Fridays were not even considered and on Sunday, the train service is very limited. There was also a sense of once leaving the con, the con atmosphere was gone since in Rosemont, being so isolated, everyone around there is with the con. Not so here. From what I heard, the location of downtown versus Rosemont is a push.

    The biggest advantage that C2E2 has is attitude. I think most liked the atmosphere compared to the other show. Probably the biggest advantage C2E2 has going right now, is this was the first show and has potential to get bigger whereas Wizard is in decline in most perceptions. Perhaps it is a self fulfilling perception.

    There was a sense of disappointment with the show in the sense that many thought it would be bigger. A few people I talked to agreed that when the NY show launched to a staggering response, it would happen in Chicago and when it didn’t, it was a let down.

    I have to say that the Reed people were great to deal with. They were always in constant communication, answered emails usually within hours, and treated everyone great. I went to the con as myself, not Transfuzion Publishing, so I was in artist alley. I’ve almost always gone as a publisher to cons over the years but now often times I set up in artist alley as an individual. Far too often, artist alley is treated almost second class but with C2E2, it wasn’t. The Webcomics Pavilion was a cool idea and seemed a progressive step.

    Overall, a good show, not great but lots of potential. With Wizard focusing more and more on the celebrity side of things, there’s probably room for both but for pure comic fans, it seems C2E2 will be more appealing.

  9. While I had a hotel room on Michigan Avenue, the bus and el ran perectly. Ten minutes was the longest wait for the #3 bus, the connection to the red line was easy, I transferred to the orange line to Midway with no hassle, and the shuttle bus on Saturday was well run and speedy.

    Consider this: the first NYCC had an exhibition hall about a third of Lakeside. 30,000 was the sellout then (due to firecode regulations). Better too big, with spacious aisles, then too small. That’s a positive for next year… both for people who were behind a table, and the people walking by.

    Most people I talked with seemed to be happy. I think the first C2E2 was as successful as the first NYCC.

    Like San Diego or any big regional con, people will find a way to get there.

    As for the daily diaspora, there was the Hyatt bar-con, as well as many parties throughout the city. It’s probably best to have things scattered, to avoid the velvet rope burns that seem to have afflicted downtown San Diego during CCI. If/When C2E2 engulfs the entire McCormick Center (McC2E2?), then that might be a concern, as the show parties will probably migrate north to Downtown, and other hotels will become “con” hotels. Less a diaspora, more of a migration. or infestation. (Hmm… pub crawl? Cosplay Pub Crawl! Like that Santa Claus thing. Zombies?)

  10. This was a GREAT assessment of the show – the write-up here was accurate, per usual. The natural light at C2E2 was one of the highlights for us exhibiting there. What better way to see art than the way it was intended?

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