The second-largest comic convention in the Midwest, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (or C2E2) is an institution among – as Norm Macdonald would put it – geeks and nerds alike. The three-day extravaganza of pop culture goodness came and went April 21-23. C2E2 has been running in Chicago for seven years, and though it’s not quite on the level of the more famous conventions in San Diego and New York, it’s quickly emerging as a must-attend for the geeky Midwesterner interested in comics, toys, cosplay and more.
With C2E2 2017 in the books, how did the convention shake up? To find out, AiPT! sent contributor and heavy metal enthusiast, Jason Kolkey, and the site’s Wrestling Wreviewer, Jason Segarra, to check it out and see just what the fuss was all about.
We present to you…
J2E2: The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo as experienced by two guys named Jason.AiPT!: How would you describe C2E2 to someone who’s never been before?
Jason K: By virtue of its location, C2E2 is situated somewhere between the massive conventions on the coasts and many of the smaller, regional conventions. The crowd is a healthy mix of die-hard comics and sci-fi fans, devoted cosplayers, and more casual attendees. The entertainment-oriented guests are a little limited, but there tend to be quite a few big names from comics. The publishers seem to see the event as a good opportunity to hype their upcoming books, away from the shadow of the gigantic movie projects that can steal all the air at larger cons.
Jason S: So you’d say it’s a convention more for the comic book purist, whereas the coastal comic cons have gone a bit Hollywood?
Jason K: That would be a more extreme formulation, but basically yeah.
Jason S: This was my first con in like 20 years, so it was a bit of a revelation for me. It’s definitely a bit revelatory that there were this many like-minded weirdos in the city. This seemed like a convention for fans of artists more than anything, as most of the big name writers and creators were relegated to panels and the biggest celebrity from the film or television world was either Mike Coulter or Vincent D’Onofrio. Not to knock either of those two gentlemen (both are great, in fact), but knowing that the shows in San Diego and New York get sneak peaks at major movies or stars like Hugh Jackman, it does feel like a smaller stage.AiPT!: Heading into the show, what were you most looking forward to?
Jason K: For me, the people-watching is the most fascinating part. I am interested to hear what panels have to say and check out some merchandise, but I personally feel no strong desire to interact with creators or celebrities. I might enjoy a lengthy conversation over drinks, but asking a single question about the book they’re promoting or obtaining a signature doesn’t really excite me. That said, I was definitely interested to hear from particular guests like Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Jason Aaron, Brian Stelfreeze, and Chip Zdarsky and see how they interact with fans. One person I was a tad disappointed not to see was Jeff Lemire, who unfortunately was ill.
Jason S: Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I was more than a little excited to check out the super-into-it cosplayers. I was also looking forward to interacting with creators and writers to learn a little bit of the behind-the-scenes life of the comic and wrestling worlds. To be fair, I wasn’t about to pay $40 to get an autograph from, say, Mean Gene Okerlund, but the chance that I might run into him buying a hot dog or something was a cool thought. Also, as someone who had to fly his nerd flag in secret for most of his life, I was just looking forward to being around people for whom my views on the utter redundancy of the Nate Grey character didn’t require an entire Wiki’s worth of context to be understood.
AiPT!: Was there anything you saw or learned from the con that has you excited?
Jason K: I want to read the mini-series Eric Powell is putting out through his Albatross Funnybooks imprint, based on Brendon Small’s Galaktikon album. I have no idea if that will be good, but it will definitely be kind of cool. And it has to be better than that time Neal Peart based a comic on Clockwork Angels.
Jason S: After the Indefensible Tastes panel, I’m pretty excited for the next few episodes of Cracked.com’s Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder, Sunday’s wrestling panels have me looking forward to the forthcoming season of Lucha Underground, Christina Harrington sold me on the first arc of Astonishing X-Men and Nick Spencer’s insistence that the end of Secret Empire won’t see Steve Rogers’ crimes just magically Kobiked away piqued my interest just a bit.AiPT!: What was the biggest disappointment of the con for you?
Jason K: It got sufficiently crowded on Saturday, so it was hard to move around. That made it tougher to fully enjoy the event and take in as much as I might have liked.
Jason S: For all their talk of doing something different and revolutionary with their forthcoming Dark Matter event, DC’s new crop of books seems pretty derivative and uninteresting. It kinda feels like they’re trying to recreate the initial buzz that came with the founding of Image comics.
AiPT!: What did you like the best?
Jason K: Observing Nick Spencer go before his public in the wake of Secret Empire, the guy in a Leather Daddy Spider-Man outfit, and Chip Zdarsky’s leggings.
Jason S: Cracked.com had two panels that were great, Artist alley was brimming with talent and enthusiasm (And easily traversed on Friday and Sunday), lots of neat cosplays and some fun meet-ups with other bloggers and fans.
AiPT!: And finally, what advice would you give someone thinking about going next year?
Jason K: Plan ahead, prioritize, and stay alert for the Hare Krishnas.
Jason S: Know what you want to see and plot out a schedule. It’s unlikely you’ll want to go all three days, so have your agenda ready to go. Also, if you want to pick up some merch (or a hotdog with Mean Gene Okerlund for that matter), be prepared to pay for it. Cons are not cheap.