C2E2 had some pretty high expectations to meet. Comics fans and professionals have been looking forward to it since it was announced, but especially after the disappointment of Wizard’s Chicago Comic-Con last year. Though people had some fun at the Wizard show, that seemed to be in spite of the convention rather than because of it and it’s been even more fun to anticipate having a truly awesome comics show in Chicago again. And with their success in New York, Reed seemed like the folks to do it.
LucasFilm artist Grant Gould and I drove to Chicago from Minnesota on Thursday and met our other roommates — Jason Copland (The Perhapanauts) and Uko Smith (FX 2: The Lost Land) — at the hotel. The downtown location of the convention was already an improvement over Wizard’s Rosemont location. Chicago’s a beautiful city and there’s an excitement in staying on Michigan Avenue that you just don’t get out in the ‘burbs. A couple of blocks’ walk and the four of us were at Lou Malnati’s having some of the best pizza Chicago has to offer.
Friday morning, Grant and Uko went to McCormick Place early to set up their tables, but Jason and I didn’t head over until later. Since the show didn’t open until 1:00, we weren’t sure how early Jason’s professional pass and my press pass would get us in. Grant called from the floor to let us know that Jason could come on whenever he wanted, so that just left me. I sent off a quick email to Reed to see if I could get in early, but I didn’t have a lot of hope for a response. I mean, it’s the first day of the show and Reed certainly has a lot more important things to do than answer dumb questions from bloggers who should have thought to ask this stuff a long time ago. Within a couple of minutes though, I got my reply and yes, I was welcome to enter the convention during set up.
What it was like after the break.
Picking up my press pass was the easiest I’ve ever had it at a convention (though my experience is limited to a few years of Wizard World Chicago and one time in San Diego). They’ve set up a bona fide Press Office — complete with Internet access — and it only took me a a couple of minutes to get there and check in. The line for Jason’s pro badge in the registration hall was longer, but still efficient.
McCormick Place is fantastic. The Exhibit Hall is carpeted and has huge windows on three walls that offer views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. The cafeteria area offers the usual convention fare — pizza and hot dogs — but also barbecue, salads, and organic turkey sandwiches. It’s all way overpriced of course — $15.00 for a sandwich, drink and cookie — but that’s no surprise. And the cafeteria’s view of the lake almost makes the prices worthwhile.
After lunch, we spent the day in the Exhibit Hall; mostly in Artist Alley. I picked up Ryan Kelly’s Funrama #1 and caught up with a bunch of creators: Phil Hester, Katie Cook and Brent Schoonover, for example. I stood in line for a J. Scott Campbell print for a friend in Minnesota who couldn’t make it to the show and ran into Josh Fialkov, who was on his way to a signing at Archaia’s booth.
Archaia’s area was a big surprise. It’s as big and well-staffed as DC and Marvel’s areas, for one thing. For another, it has really classy shelves full of hardcover books along with clusters of comfortable chairs in which to read them. It’s like a little Barnes & Noble right in the middle of the convention.
Less of a surprise, but no less a treat to visit, was Tonner’s booth. I always enjoy seeing their new dolls, and there are some especially cool ones this year, like the Huntress, and Alice from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
I didn’t get to half the people I wanted to talk to today– the webcomics area, for instance — but most of those will have to wait until Sunday. Saturday will be full of panels, though I would like to spend some time hunting for cool costumes that day.
I got a taste of the panels tonight though at the Comics Media one. Reporting on how that went will require a post of its own, but I was impressed again with McCormick’s extremely comfortable panel rooms and auditorium chairs.
It’s too early to tell how the whole show’s going to go, but C2E2 is off to a great start. Attendance wasn’t overwhelming, but everyone I talked to is excited about the location and the professionalism of the staff. And we’re all even more interested in seeing what Saturday’s attendance looks like. As someone reminded me though, it took New York a year or two to get as popular as it is. Even if the numbers aren’t dramatically high this weekend (not that I’m making any predictions), the show is well on its way to generating the kind of buzz it needs to become one of the most successful in the country.