C2E2 was exactly what a comics convention should be: Comics fans meeting the creators, hanging out with one another, and finding something new (or something old) to bring home.
It was all about the comics. No video games, no movies, and none of the crap they bring with them — pulsing music, flashing lights, garish displays. No little guys dressed as goblins coming up and touching me while I was trying to look at the comics (as happened at New York Comic Con a few years ago). Just a lot of creators and publishing types hanging out at the booths and the Artists Alley to meet with the fans.
The mix of exhibitors was very good, with every genre and type of comic represented except manga. I think a few manga publishers would have brought in a bigger crowd, but as Milton Griepp told us at the ICv2 White Paper that kicked off the show, it was a tough year for that particular medium. Still, I saw a lot of people who are iconic to me — Jeff Smith, Chris Ware, David Petersen, Carla Speed McNeil — and I finally got to meet Mark Waid. That's what makes a comic con so great — all these people exist in your imaginary world, and you follow their work for years, and then you finally get to meet them in person. There are few thrills that can match that.
The creators were very accessible. They all seemed to spend hours at their booths, and they were smiling and chatting as they signed books and drew sketches. The panels were an embarrassment of riches. I went to the Mike Mignola panel, and even though it was in an enormous room, there was an intimate feel to it.
That said, I didn't detect a lot of news among the creators and publishers I follow. There were some new title announcements, but a lot of the panels were spent discussing upcoming works that had already been announced.
Mainly, the show was comfortable. It wasn't too crowded, and the aisles were generously spaced so you could walk around, even in the Artists Alley, without getting caught in a crush. I know this is partly because it's a new show, and Reed Exhibitions would like it to be more crowded. It's also because McCormick Place is absolutely enormous, so the show floor was big enough to accommodate everyone. It wasn't jammed into an undersized space.
And McCormick Place is lovely. Light colors, natural light, comfortable panel rooms, a far cry from the bare concrete and dark walls of the Javits Center. (I have never been to Comic-Con International, but I can tell you that I truly detest the Javits. Even when it's clean, it looks dirty.) It was a pleasant place to be, and I think the fact that everyone seemed so relaxed had a lot to do with the venue and the lack of hyper-ness.
The show seemed to run pretty smoothly. Everyone seemed happy, although I heard a few complaints about the high price of this or that — standard stuff for anything in a convention center. (Also: It's far from the center of town and the food was overpriced.) Brad Guigar was particularly pleased — he always thinks Reed Exhibitions do well by webcomics people, he said, but this show was the best so far. As he spoke, he looked out over the webcomics pavilion, which was filled with creators of big-name comics (Cyanide & Happiness, Love & Capes) and their fans.
There is something very Midwestern about this. I say this as a former Midwesterner who grew up 90 miles from Chicago. Sometimes things get too fancy. C2E2 came back to the basics: A nice big, bright room, filled with comics, creators and fans. What more could anyone ask for?