by Seth Ferranti
If C2E2 was a race I was in it to win it. As I stood in the long line waiting to get in, I felt like I was being herded like cattle. But instead of cattle around me, I turned to my right and there was Captain America, or at least a facsimile of him. A C2E2 staff member bellowed on a megaphone, “Move up closer to the people next to you. More people have to fit in. If you don’t move up I’m going to tell you the ending of Daredevil.”
I had only been to one Comic Con before, Planet Comicon in Kansas City, just this past February. I had a good idea of what to expect, but from everything I read and heard, the C2E2 event in Chicago was way bigger then the KC Comicon I attended. The C2E2 events by ReedPOP were supposedly the creme de la creme of comic cons and I was ready to find out.
As I stood there waiting I wondered what does C2E2 stand for? I guess its a take off on R2D2, I did see a lot of those little robots moving around. Maybe I didn’t know what C2E2 stood for but I was ready. At the starting gate and chomping at the bit. It seemed everyone around me was eager to get in also. We had our programs, our Star Wars lanyards and our Naomi Novik Uprooted bags, all freebies that the organizers were passing out.
Looking through my program I identified several panels that I wanted to see- Comic Book Secrets Revealed, Self-Publishing Unmasked, How to Manage Your Brand as a Creator, How to Write for Video Games and Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way- and quickly scheduled them on my C2E2 app. I wouldn’t be missing any panels. My iPhone would alert me. I had business to attend to.
You see not only was I a Comic Con newbie, I was an aspiring comic creator. My plan was to soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as I could from the pros by listening to them at the panels. C2E2 provided a unique opportunity to hobnob with the writers and artists of the comics that I loved. I would immerse myself in their craft. Comics is one of the only industries that offers this type of meet and greet to their fans.
I listened eagerly to superstar writer Mark Waid and fan favorite Gail Simone. I was schooled on branding by Dirk Manning. I learned video game scripting from Andy Schmidt and got the 411 on the Marvel way from C.B. Celbulski, Charles Soule, Dan Slott and Al Ewing who advised us to “fish for contacts, don’t hunt them.” These are the people responsible for Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Avengers, Inhumans, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, Write or Wrong, Swords of Sorrow and The Avenger so I took it all in attentively.
Surprisingly, the panels that I was attending were full. It seems like a lot of people were at the comic con for the same reason I was, to learn how to break into comics. It just wasn’t all cosplay, celebrities and exhibitors. Although there was plenty of that. As new celebrity guests arrived at the autographing booths their sessions were announced by intercom booming through the convention center, “CM Punk is now signing autographs in booth 2.” I was surprised how much they charged for an autographed, most were like $50 a pop.
Cosplay is a huge element of the cons and even though I wasn’t dressed up I tried to interact with them. I found that they all wanted to punch me, or shoot me or use the Force to control me. I ran into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a giant robot and Darth Vader. I was looking to mix it up with some stormtroopers, but I missed them. With the new Star Wars trailer out the characters were very well represented.
I took in the screening of Wayward Pines, the new Matt Dillon and M. Night Shyamalan vehicle and came away impressed. Matt Dillon has always been a big actor to me ever since The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. That screening was on the main stage.
I wanted to see the Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Podcast that night, but it was sold out and I couldn’t get in. I was a big Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes fan ever since Clerks. I hung around the main stage hoping to sneak in, but it wasn’t happening. Not getting into that show was one of my only regrets. I vowed that next time I would pay closer attention to the panel scheduling and buy tickets beforehand for the stuff I really wanted to see.
My Friday complete, I took the shuttle bus back to my hotel and rested up for Saturday. I still had two more days of adventure in store. And everyone told me that Saturday was always the big day for comic cons because on Friday most people were working, except for the die hard con goers. So I went to sleep dreaming of the new Avengers movie, The Age of Ultron.
On Saturday I woke up early in anticipation of the day. I expected the crowds to be humungous and they were. I barely caught the shuttle to get there in time. There were more people, more costumes and a lot of kids walking around with light sabers, cutlasses and swords. “Walk the plank, matey,” one kid told me. I just kept moving. I didn’t want any trouble. There were so many characters represented in costume I didn’t even know half of them. And the police box people were crazy. (I later found out that was a Doctor Who thing.)
I walked around Artist’s Alley. I went by Scott Snyder’s booth, but he had a long line. He was the most popular creator/artist there by far. Other guys had lines, but no one had a line like Scott Snyder. It was constant. Even when he wasn’t there people were lined up waiting for him to get there. That’s the price of fame for a superstar artist who writes Batman, among other books.
I stopped at the Marvel booth and got some free swag. I picked up as much stuff as I could. Everyone was giving out flyers promoting their work and some were giving out free comics, like Marvel. Image had a massive exhibit set up with towering posters of the Walking Dead and the other comics they put out. I went by the Block exhibit and checked out the graffiti that artists were drawing right then and there. I saw Captain Jack Sparrow and Poison Ivy, multiple times. Comic Con is like a fantasy world where you can go and just be someone else. I’m not into cosplay, but a lot of people are.
I went to the panel Breaking into Comics and Staying In, the Jason Momoa Spotlight (he is the dude who played Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones and will star as Aquaman), and that night I went to the Hip-Hop and Comics panel which looked at how the cultures are combining, a very informative and interesting panel since I have always been both a big comics and hip-hop fan. I talked to Matthew Rosenberg, who wrote the Wu Tang Clan and Ghostface Killer comics and was on the panel.
Later on that day I saw Jason Momoa walking around the con and I went up and shook his hand. He didn’t look that big on stage, but right in front of you the dude is massive. He played Conan the Barbarian also and being right next to him I can see why. He was a cool dude, very relaxed and at ease with himself. He was checking out some artwork at my friend K. Anthony Lawler’s booth. I met K. Anthony at the Kansas City con and we are collaborating on a graphic novel that is in the works. He also drew a bad ass portrait of my wife and I that we are going get framed and hang on our wall. Another C2E2 memento.
By Sunday I was getting kind of tired. The floor at C2E2 was like multiple football fields. You had to walk a mile to get to one place from another. And the crowds of people were so thick you had to press your way through. I was enjoying myself tremendously. Moving through the dense crowds was a skill I was acquiring. It became a game to see how quick i could get off the floor and up to the rooms where the panels were.
The comic con was like an escape into another world. All the movies, video games and comics that I enjoyed were all represented at the con and I got the chance to meet the creators, artists, editors, and media producers that helped to bring these works to life. It’s a one of a kind experience. Where else do you get the chance to meet your hero up close and personal?
My trip wasn’t going to be complete without going to the Stan Lee Spotlight on the main stage Sunday afternoon. To me Stan Lee is what comics are all about. I saw him walking around, but he was so mobbed by fans I didn’t get a chance to meet him. But I saw him talk at the panel for an hour. He was gracious and funny and forthright. I had a lot of respect and admiration for the man who basically is Marvel comics. Watching his appearance topped of my weekend.
I grew up reading the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Avengers, Iron Man, the New Mutants and all the Marvel comics. I have always been a Marvel guy. When they started making big Hollywood blockbuster movies on all the characters I grew up on I couldn’t believe it. To me comics were always kind of this trendy, almost counter-culture genre, but now it is so mainstream and it really hits home how big comics are when you go to these cons and see how many people are there.
This was only my second con, but I will continue to go. As a fan, as an aspiring comic creator and as a journalist. I am working on some comics projects with the goal of being a guest at a comic con in the future, but for now I am just a fan and journalist who enjoys the atmosphere and spectacle of the event, writing about my adventures and journey into the world of comic cons.
Text and photos ©2015 Seth Ferranti