From its advance announcement and competitive market presence to its location and guest list, Reed Exhibition’s first annual Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (or C2E2) has been a buzzed about event beyond the bounds of other regional comic book shows. But now that the con is in the comics community’s rear-view mirror, plenty of questions still remain as to how the show was pulled off and whether Reed’s Pop Culture group delivered the major “event” show at McCormick Place they’d hoped to.
To that end, CBR News spent Sunday afternoon walking to floor of the convention and talking to some of the biggest exhibitors in attendance from marquee publishers like DC, Dark Horse, Marvel and Image to new media players to retailers. Each offered their take on what the show was like from attendance and energy to sales and space issues.
And for more information on the show, be sure to check out all the news out of C2E2 including publishing announcements, video interviews, panel reports and an incoming interview with show organizer Lance Fensterman – not to mention plenty of first-person reporting and reactions from Robot 6.
DAN DIDO, CO-PUBLISHER OF DC COMICS
“I’ve been enjoying it since I walked in the door. I love this convention center. The lighting, the open space -Â they’ve set the space up really well. The fanbase that’s been here has been enthusiastic. They’ve been great. We’ve had really strong attendance on our panels, and from my standpoint I couldn’t be happier for where we are.
“I actually did walk around the floor too. I was more impressed with the fact that it dealt a lot with the comics and the comics collectibles. It wasn’t about the other media and mediums. There wasn’t anything dealing with movies or anything like that. That was an interesting thing because for something being put together at this size with this scope, I though that was an interesting change.
“It took me a little while to get my bearings straight, but any time I go to a new convention center it’s a bit of wandering around getting lost. But the panel rooms are a nice size. They’re bigger. It’s a wonderful facility to be doing something in.”
DIRK WOOD, DARK HORSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS
“I think the show’s been a success. I’m really happy about the way things have been run, the size of the place, the organization. We’ve been treated really well. I think everybody’s a little underwhelmed by the size of the crowds, but it’s not untypical of a first year show. Think they were swinging for the fences and came up with a solid double. I think it’s important to remember that if this crowd had been shoved into a smaller building, people would be saying it’s incredible. And so I think some of that maybe ended up taking the energy of the room down a bit, but I think it’s a positive first sign [overall] that is going to be a good show.”
“I probably would’ve downsized our freebies a little bit, and we probably could’ve done a little more with the programming side of it. But it’s hard to say because I find it to be a total success this year as the panels and promotions we did went off really well. I probably wouldn’t have rented a car. [Laughs] But other than that, I think it’s like any show: once you figure out how it works, then next year will be bigger and better. I think next year will be great. I wonder when they’re going to have it.”
MIKE PASCIULLO, MARVEL COMICS VP OF MERCHANDISING & COMMUNICATION
“I thought it was a pretty good show, especially for a first year. There’s a lot of energy and excitement – definitely people are more enthused about being in downtown Chicago. And there’s a lot of new faces I hadn’t seen before.
“In the last few years we’d kind of limited our con presence, and now we’re trying to do a lot of new things. This is the first time we’ve had a stage in our booth outside of San Diego. We wanted to take a lot of things we did as far as the stage and the game shows and the costume contest and do that here at a smaller venue. It’s been really good.
“[Panels] are actually something we’ve been talking about. Is it a good strategy to announce things at a show, or are you better off doing it at a time when there’s less news out there? We’re looking at that, and we think part of it is a reward to the fans – the people that come to the shows and sit and listen to us talk for hours -Â getting them that information first and being a part of it. Seeing a panel is much more than an announcement, it’s an experience. You get to interact with the creators or Joe [Quesada] and it has a different feel to it. Marvel has that tradition of being very interactive and being a community where it’s us talking to the fans where they feel we’re all part of one big family. It gives us an opportunity to be part of the experience rather than us just sending out a press release with some artwork.
“There’s definitely going to be a learning curve for us at this show. Looking at the panels, we started introducing video into them this year, which is nice to hear from creators that couldn’t make it into the show. They’re able to do something special for the fans that came out here to Chicago. There are a few things we’re taking a look at, but we we thought it was a good presence here. There was a lot of interaction and a lot of energy in the booth itself -Â a few things that worked well and a few things that didn’t. Now it’s time to debrief and start getting ready for next year.”
ERIC STEPHENSON, IMAGE COMICS PUBLISHER
I think it was a great first year show. I think the venue was fantastic. I’ve never been to a convention with as much natural light as this, so it’s been a pleasure to be here. I think attendance is a little less than what people expected, but at the same time, they compensated because the first New York show was such a ‘success out of disaster area’ thing that they didn’t want to run into that again. I think they’ve got a lot more space here than the initially had in New York, and so maybe it seems like there’s a little less attendance than there actually may be. I’ll be interested in what the numbers are for the show. But we’ve had a great show. It seems like everybody that’s here wants to be here to talk about, read and buy comics. It’s good.
STEPHEN CHRISTY, ARCHAIA DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
“This is the first time we have [had a lounge in the booth.] It was funny. We went to a corporate retreat a week ago at our warehouse where we keep our books, and we built the booth in our warehouse just to make sure that it actually worked. I’ve been blown away by how successful it’s been. People love it. The thing that makes me happier than anything at this whole show has been that like 75% of the people that came here -Â not only had they not read Archaia books before, they’re not really comic fans. They say, ‘I don’t really read that much comics.’ We saw that here and at WonderCon a lot. And Archaia does this really cool program where the whole convention season has us giving away single issues for free. We have them, and if they’re more than six months old, we’re not going to sell them. We’re not a company that does variant covers or anything, so why not give them away? Why not build the fanbase and promote the product and bring people back to the hardcovers, which is where our bread and butter is? It’s been amazing to bring new fans to that, and I think this booth is a big part of it. People sit down and go, ‘I don’t know who you guys are, but I’m going to sit down!’ It’s really nice.
“I think that the show was a little light, but I think the reason we’re thinking that way is because the aisles are very big. This is a huge convention center and a big area. It seems like it’s really light, but we’ve made a lot of money. We sold a ton of product, and we brought a ton of books, and now they’re all gone. We’ve got all these empty bookshelves.
“I’m really curious to see what happens in year two. I think it’s really hard to get to McCormick Place. There’s no good public transportation here. Even at Rosemont, you could take the Blue Line out there and walk right up. And if you drive here, it’s $20 to park, which sucks.
“I think this is not as good of a first year as New York Comic Con, and the reason I think that is because there was no convention in New York before Comic Con came. There is a convention here with Wizard World. I grew up in Chicago and for years, that was our show. I think it’ll need time to grow, but I think all the fans that came here had a good experience. I think some publishers didn’t have a good experience because they didn’t make a lot of money, but I’ve seen so many happy fans coming out of the show. Frankly, I’m not sure how to improve it because every single publisher is here. Maybe more big names? Neil Gaiman is great, but I was actually surprised they didn’t have more celebrities.”
HATUEY DIAZ, RETAILER WITH CHICAGO COMICS
“One thing we’ve been talking about is that there wasn’t that much local advertising. There’s was lots of stuff in the issues and what not, but all the vendors thought that there could have been more. And turnout was really good. I think the space was so much bigger than a lot of people are used to that it seemed thinner, but more people is always good, you know? But it was a good turnout for the first year. The space is awesome. The [advanced ticket sales in our store] went really smoothly. The impression seems to be positive over all.”
FILIP SABLIK, TOP COW PUBLISHER
“I think it was good first year show. I think Reed really knows how to do a really ambitious, beautiful show. The venue is really awesome. Looking around, everybody in the industry was represented publisher wise, and artist’s alley was really huge. There was a lot of great press coverage from various news sites. I think it’s off to a good start, but like any first year show, you’re going to have hiccups and things that need work. But we’re pretty confident that Reed knows how to do that.”
JEFFREY ROWLAND, CARTOONIST OF “WIGU” WITH TOPATOCO WEB COMICS
“I think they planned really well, but it might be a bit too large of a venue for a first time convention. They might have overreached just a little bit. We sponsored the webcomics pavilion, but no one actually noticed that we did. We were supposed to have our [TopatoCo] logo on [the sign in the rafters] but it didn’t. We had [our name pasted on a sign in the aisle.] Everyone’s been really nice, and we had a good time. Just some things went wrong. I’m not really sure why the turnout was a bit lower than people expected. Maybe comics fans aren’t as willing to get taxis from the city. It’s really hard to get out here. There are some shuttles that come out, but they’re hard to find. We sold some stuff, but we did a lot better at MoCCA last weekend as far as sales go. It’s the first year, though, so I’m sure they’re going to figure out what their mistakes were, and take this as constructive criticism. Because as far as the atmosphere went, I really liked how things were organized and laid out.”
DAVID STEINBERGER, PRESIDENT OF COMIXOLOGY
“The space is incredible. The windows on three sides makes for a totally different experience than anything I’ve been at, which makes it much easier to do three days in the booth. I feel like the amount of publishers and stuff here was great. We had a great crowd on Saturday, a decent crowd [Sunday] and a kind of light one on Friday, but hopefully they continue to do it because I think this could be a really good show in Chicago. We had a good time.”
BASIL, 7 YEAR OLD COMIC ENTHUSIAST
CBR News met Basil on the floor Sunday afternoon shopping with his father and looking over an issue of BOOM!’s “The Incredibles.” When asked what his favorite part of the show was, the young fan said, “I got an autograph from Art Baltazar.” And when asked who his favorite Tiny Titan was, Basil growled “KID DEVIL!” before displaying a sketch Baltazar had done for him. The young fan also supported a number of buttons, a Black Lantern ring and carried “a bunch of Tiny Titans stickers in my backpack.”
Thanks to Shaun Manning, Caleb Goellner and Jami Socha for contributing to this report.