C2E2 | From Detroit to Chicago, and back again

[Editor's note: Doug Zawisza, who regularly writes reviews for Comic Book Resources, joins us for a look at his one-day con experience at C2E2 this past Friday.]

The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo opened its doors for the 2012 edition at 1:00 in the afternoon on Friday the 13th. I decided to tempt fate, spit in the eye of superstition and join a trio of friends from my local comic shop to make the four-hour trek between Detroit and Chicago, take in the sights to see at C2E2 and return home, all in one day. That's right: I was silly enough to think a whirlwind visit to Chicago would be a good idea.

We hit the road around eight o'clock and with a pair of stops on the way to coincide with the wonderfully easy traffic all the way into the great state of Illinois, we made it to McCormick place by 11:15 Chicago time. Coming in from the south side of the convention center, we mingled with Chicago White Sox traffic (oddly enough, the Detroit Tigers were in town to play the Sox) and managed to find parking at McCormick after driving through the shipping area of the parking facility.

Held in the North Building of McCormick Place, C2E2 offered a lot for every fan to enjoy. There were plenty of 501st Star Wars cosplayers there, as well as others dressed in the garb of many of their favorite characters.

General admission folks were queued up to the side, away from the main entrance to the expo floor. All attendees, unless they were exhibitors or creative talent, were shuffled over to the side. The main entrance could not be accessed until after the queue over to the side was released onto the show floor. That irked my traveling companions a bit. They quickly gave up their complaining and joined the cattle-call to enter the show.

Since I was only going to be there for one day -- Friday no less -- I decided I wasn't going to assign any of my time to covering panels. No sir, I was going to hit the floor, meet some people and try to score some deals.

The first creator who I found on the floor was Jamal Igle. He was at the DC booth, which was quite sizable and strategically placed right near the entrance to the expo floor. Igle recently finished working on The Ray for DC with Jimmy Palmiotti (who was also at the show with his wife, Amanda Conner) and Justin Gray. He's currently working on KISS kicking off from IDW in June. Igle also said he has another story that he's working on with a writer he has worked with before, but they haven't landed with a publisher yet, so that series is up in the air.

Following my brief talk with Igle, I joined one of my buddies as he went autograph seeking, meeting Jason Aaron and Dan Slott. Slott teased a bit about what's coming up in Amazing Spider-Man, mentioning that he feels like he just finished writing Amazing Spider-Man #600 and has some massive surprises in store for #700. Jason Aaron, in turn, welcomed my pal into the student body at the Jean Grey School.

After that I stopped by the one table at any Chicago convention guaranteed to make a grown man say, "Aw yeah!!" Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani were doing their customary crayon sketches aimed at the younger fans. One lucky young man got a sketch from Art that featured Hank Pym as Ant-Man changing in size and costume to Yellowjacket then to Giant-Man. It was pretty sweet and inspired me to ask Franco for a Robotman sketch. Aw yeah, Doom Patrol!

Throughout the day, professionals were signing at their tables in Artist Alley or at publishers' booths. The biggest line, which simply wouldn't fit in a photo, was the line waiting for Geoff Johns at the DC booth at the end of the day on Friday. It stretched all the way around the booth. Fans were lined up to meet DC Comics' chief creative officer and he was definitely going to get a severe case of writer's cramp from signing his name. Might be time to consider a rubber stamp, Geoff!

The show floor wasn't insanely packed, but it was nicely crowded, with fans of all kinds bumping into each other's backpacks or messenger bags or getting in the way of photograph accidentally and apologizing profusely. Cosplayers were all over the place and wonderfully represented all entertainment interests, from a young lady dressed as Dark Phoenix (who later was a Skrull version of the same) to a fellow dressed as the Cat in the Hat.

I found some deals, including a stack of t-shirts to take home for my wife and daughters and also managed to score a full set of action figures for the Justice League Unlimited versions of the Doom Patrol. Once again, I say, "Ah yeah, Doom Patrol!"

I also had the pleasure of finally meeting my reviews editor, Steve Sunu. Prior to covering any panels for the day, Steve was able to enjoy some time on the floor as a fan, taking in the sights and sounds, shaking hands and collecting sketches. I'll let Steve explain the reasoning behind his choice of character, but I will say that he has the greatest collection of Gwen Stacy sketches I have ever seen.

The biggest downside that I can relate to going to a con like this on a Friday is that not all of the talent was present and/or available. Ramon Pérez of A Tale of Sand, Kukuburi and John Carter: Gods of Mars fame wasn't there on Friday. Joe Kubert, who I was hoping to have sign my personal copy of the Hawkman Companion wasn't at C2E2 on Friday, which kind of broke my heart a little bit. I missed out on an opportunity to have Shelly Moldoff autograph it and now it seemed as though I missed out on Joe Kubert as well. Maybe he'll be at another con I hit sometime soon.

My timing seemed off on a couple other professionals. I somehow completely kept missing Patrick Gleason. I went to his table, he was at a panel or the DC booth. I bumped into Mark Waid a number of times on the floor, but he was enjoying the con with his family. It was nice to see the professionals enjoying the show just as much as we fans were.

Speaking of the fans, there were a large array of unique opportunities at this con, from having your photo taken and turned into a zombie-ized version of yourself to getting a tattoo - - right on the convention floor, mere yards away from the food court! Fans of George Pérez lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with fans of Shia Labeouf. The conversations exchanged there were neat to hear, as many fans of Labeouf didn't quite realize that Gorgeous George is one of the greatest icons in the comic book industry. C2E2 wasn't all comics for everybody, but for me, it certainly was.

Around 6:40, my traveling companions were just as tired as I was. We all ran separate gamuts, found deals and met people we wanted to meet. It was time to go home. We piled back into the wagon and hit the road, stopping twice again, for gas and burgers.

As it turns out, going to C2E2 and getting it all done in one day wasn't a good idea. It was a great idea. The expo is a wonderful array of amazing information (as you can discover from the panel coverage on CBR) and a great variety of things to see and do. If you're not hitting the convention for panels, it certainly is doable in a day, but some careful planning is highly recommended. As with any convention adventure, though, you're certain to walk away saying, "I should have gotten. . ." With C2E2, however, you'll definitely be walking away knowing you had a good time and enjoyed a fun show.

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