The aura of a comic book convention is like no other, so needless to say, the best thing about the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, C2E2, held every year is the atmosphere. Each year, this is the season that Chicago hotels and restaurants become clogged with thousands of pop culture junkies flocking to the area for the premier comic exposition in the Midwest. C2E2 is even bigger and brighter than its summer competitor, Wizard World.
When the doors opened at 10 am on the dot, conventioneers flooded the McCormick building to see all that C2E2 had to offer. The first stop, two booths that were kings this year just as they have been in the past: DC Comics and Marvel. From there, visitors could work their way around to the smaller publishers such as Archaia and Avatar Press. The layout of the convention floor is like an open market, full of movies, t-shirts and, of course, comics. Everywhere the eye could see there are heroes in cardboard, plastic weapons and memorabilia.
The retail highlight for many at the 2012 Expo was the Captain America auction where convention goers could bid on a piece of comic pop culture history. Up for auction were shields and costumes from the movie as well as signed posters and scripts.
To one side of the exhibition hall was Artist Alley, the place that houses the creative minds that breathe life into characters like Thor and Captain America. Those attending could stroll down the alley and have comics books signed or even purchase original pieces of art. Featured artists such as Sean Murphy, Gabriel Hartman and Ramon Perez were on hand for a chat.
While the booths are fascinating and the marketplace is a comic book maverick’s dream come true, the panels were the highlight. Panels allow conventioneers to sit and discuss ongoing plots in a series like Voltran. Guests listen to writers and creative directors provide previews of story arcs for heroes such as The Green Hornet. The panels take questions and answers to give insight on the creative process. One of the big panels for 2012 was Marvel’s Next Big Thing where producers gave away secrets on upcoming plans for Thor and the Mutant Gambit.
Convention goers that came to see celebrities were not disappointed in 2012. This year’s autograph sessions included John Cusack, Shia LaBeouf and author Anne Rice. Visitors had the chance to prescreen movies and see trailers of upcoming films. Entertainment guests sat on panels and answered questions for the audience.
True comic book fans save all year round to visit conventions that will fuel for their obsession, but if forced to pick just one, C2E2 should be at the top of the list. Smaller conventions in the region like CoreCon in Moorhead, MN or DemiCon in Iowa spread the focus to Sci-Fri and horror graphic novels. Even the conventions that celebrate comics like Midwest Comic-Con in Indianapolis or the Mid-Ohio Comic-Con in Columbus fail to draw the level of entertainment and graphic artists that are featured at C2E2.