Convention season is a particularly special time of year for any member of the comic book community. Chances are that if you’re into comics and/or geek culture, and live in a town with more than 15,000 people, you’ll be able to find some kind of gathering, large or small, that is devoted to the delightfully geeky pursuits. When I walked into McCormick Place in Chicago for the 2014 edition of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as C2E2, I had only one thought upon seeing cosplayers, Court of Owls masks, and long boxes: “My people…I’m home.”
My very first comic convention was a far dingier affair than the bright halls of McCormick Place and occurred nearly 20 years ago, but the same feeling that my 7-year old self had still manages to wash over my 26-year old self, regardless of the venue, the guest list, or the exhibit hall. From walking the corridors of a bingo hall in Bakersfield, California at my first convention, to the rain-spotted windows of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle for the Emerald City ComiCon, to the impossibly high ceilings of McCormick Place in Chicago, and the sea of humanity that defines the experience in San Diego at Comic Con International, the sense of community, camaraderie, and overriding fun still manages to universally define the experience of a comic book convention. C2E2 was no different.
The first thing that struck me about the event was the grandeur of the venue. I walked through McCormick Place the day before the convention started in earnest, and I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but the convention center managed to really exceed any preconceived expectations I may have had. From the enormous entry hall, ascending the staircases to the floor of the actual event, and the sheer size of the show’s exhibit floor, C2E2 was a massive operation perfectly befitting the scale of the city in which it takes place. Chicago, of course, is one of America’s largest and most well-known cities, and C2E2 managed to be exceptionally reflexive for Chicago itself.
The same can’t really be said of the attendees, because by-and-large, comic book fans are exactly what you might expect them to be, particularly in large groups. A massive group of people that tend to believe in characters like Superman or Captain America are largely always polite, accommodating, and help to make the experience a largely easy one, even though it may look unwieldy. C2E2 was a particularly joyful affair, though, because the organizers and attendees alike subscribed heartily to a notion of fun. Outside the main exhibit hall, there was a DJ spinning everything from hip-hop to 90’s rock-and-roll, and a bunch of things in-between.
While there wasn’t exactly a great deal of star power behind many of the celebrity guests, there were certainly a great number of personalities to enjoy for people within the geek circle. Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, The Crow) were signing in front of the actual Ecto-1 vehicle used during the making of Ghostbusters II, easily making for one of the most memorable visuals of the entire event. Nicholas Brendon of Buffy fame was on-hand, always lighting up the faces of devotees. Professional wrestling legends like Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and even Hulk Hogan were in attendance during different days of the show, and only in a convention environment can you walk into a hotel restaurant, look around, and say, “I think I just saw Brian Posehn grabbing a burger!”
I also had a unique experience this year, since I actually sat on a panel. I contribute occasionally to the Modern Myth Media podcast, and at C2E2, MMM had the distinction of being the only podcast at the show to get a panel this year. So, this past Sunday afternoon, the MMM family and I were able to sit on a panel in front of a few attendees who had both listened to our show in the past as well as others who just wanted to learn about legitimizing pop culture conversations with their own show some day, and we had a great time in getting to geek out on a whole other level than is typical for most convention attendees.
Comic book conventions are incredible events for people that want a sense of community. Even though geek culture has a degree of general popularity and outside/mainstream interest, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the casual observer is on the same level as the entrenched. When it comes to a comic book convention, everyone is welcome, from the casual observer to the most devoted diehards of sci-fi, fantasy, and superheroes.
C2E2 is a comic convention that very easily carries that spirit forward if it’s 2014 show is any indication, and a well-designed floor, plentiful vendors and collectibles, hot names in comics, old celebrity favorites, and interesting things to see in every direction your head and body can possibly turn, C2E2 helps to meet the expectations of everyone, and help to show geeks of all shapes, sizes, colors, personalities, and devotions that you are among friends.
Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
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