March-May is the mad busy con season with shows piling up like bumper cars in the corner. Two recent showrunner interviews give us a few more facts and figures on two, this week’s C2E2 in Chicago and Portland, OR’s Stumptown in TWO weeks.

• C2E2 is in its make or break third year—or as we call it, “The Mark Sanchez Year”—and it’s make or break not just because after three years you have an idea if this thing is gonna fly or not but because Reed signed a three-year deal with McCormick Place. After a plucky but underperforming first year, and a chipper but not quite up to potential second outing, this year, show runner Lance Fensterman reports, looks like things are up quite a bit.Ticket sales are up 50% and exhibitor space has doubled; Artist Alley has nearly doubled.

“Year one was good, we expected more attendance but we were optimistic going forward,” said Lance Fensterman, ReedPop group v-p and manager of C2E2. “Year two was solid, we had fewer exhibitors but more fans,” he said. “This year we want it all to be up,” Fensterman said, comparing the show to an adolescent, “Year three is pivotal. We’ve invested heavily in the show, we’re not making money and its time for the kid to get a job, stand on its own feet and pitch in.” 
According to Fensterman, all the signs point to a profitable 2012 show, including attendance by the major comics publishers, including the Chicago-based distributor IPG representing its clients, and major programming aimed at librarians. “We work closely with ALA, which is based in Chicago, and librarian registration is up 40% this year,” Fensterman said, “and we’ve got a bunch of panels designed for them.” Artist Alley, the section of most comics shows that feature independent artists, will have more than 400 artists this year, up from the 286 that rented space last year.

400 artists! Bring a sketchbook!

• Meanwhile, over at Stumptown, showrunner Indigo Kelleigh says this show has also expanded, but they are hoping for more people to walk through the doors:

IK: The floor is a bit different. Last year was the first time we tried having booths in addition to tables. We got a good response, so booths were added as an option this year. The show isn’t in the same hall: last year we were in Hall A, now we’re in Hall B. It’s closer to the main entrance and box office, so people don’t have to walk as far. The other benefit is that the workshop and panel rooms for Hall B are bigger. Hall B is slightly smaller because of the main doors’ orientation, but not significantly.

PCBE: What’s the ratio of applicants to available tables?
IK: We have 130 tables and about 45 booths, and got over 300 applicants, so about two to one. We decided not to increase the floor space this year because if we doubled the square footage, but got the same number of attendees as last year (3000), it would have felt like an empty show. The energy has to grow, from both the fans and the exhibitors. If we get closer to 5000 attendees this year, we’ll expand.


  1. As I posted the past two years, getting to McCormick Place is not that difficult. The El is a bit of a walk, a mile away, but the #3 bus runs along Michigan Avenue to the convention center. The Stephenson (I-55) and Lake Shore Drive (US 41) are nearby, and the Dan Ryan (I-90/94) runs a few blocks to the west. Parking is expensive ($14-$32), but there is quite a bit nearby (5800 spaces at McCormick).

    The square footage for the dealers room varies:
    2010: D1+D2 = 300K square feet
    2011: F1 = 224K sqft
    2012: B1+B2 = 496K sqft

    2010: 27,500
    2011: 34,000 [23% increase]
    2012: 51,000 [Est.]

    Does anyone have any pre-show ticket sales estimates from 2011? Has WonderCon announced attendance figures yet? WC’11 = 37K, and that took…24 years.

  2. “400 artists! Bring a sketchbook!”

    Yes, do! And be sure to swing by booth G19 to check out Ink & Drink Comics, a fantastic collective of St. Louis-based artists doing genre-themed short story anthologies. Our new Western collection “Off the Wagon” is debuting at the show, and it is fantastic front-to-back.

    I really do hope that C2E2 “makes it” in Reed’s mind this year, as it really is a fantastic show. I enjoyed the last two years more than any WW Chicago show in nearly a decade, and am indescribably excitedfor this year.

  3. WonderCon ’11 was 49k, not 37k.
    It will be interesting to see what the ’12 figures are. People think that it might have gone down a little due to the change in venue, but it still had an obviously good turnout.

    Another one — Emerald City Comicon ’12 in Seattle had 53k. That’s quite a big jump from 32k in ’11.