C2E2 2012

c2e2 sign

Since the last time I went to C2E2, it’s become a really big deal.

Everything about the event felt bigger this year: bigger hall, bigger stars, bigger attendance.

You’ll probably read and see lots of reviews from mainstream sources over the next day or two about how C2E2 legitimizes nerd culture, or some such thing. In a world where Hunger Games, the Amazing Spider-Man, and the Avengers are anticipated to be among the highest-grossing movies of the year, the notion of “nerd culture” is unfairly reductive … if not altogether ignorant. C2E2 reflects pop culture and has the admission sales to prove it.

I got there at 10 a.m. today, right when doors opened. I had a feeling that the crowds would thicken up in short order–since I get easily claustrophobic, I decided the earlier, the better.

I have an irresistible temptation to start buying every cool thing in sight when I walk into C2E2. Sure enough, the first booth I saw was Graphitti Designs, the company that makes the coolest (and frequently, the most obscure) comic-themed t-shirts. Within seconds, I was ready to part with $21 for a Swamp Thing logo shirt. They didn’t have my size, so the money burning a hole in my pocket got a reprieve. In hindsight, I feel vindicated–Graphitti marked their shirts up $2 from what they cost on the Graphitti website.

The beauty of events like C2E2 is running face-first into a happy surprise. After failing to get my Swamp Thing t-shirt, I turned the corner and ran into a DC Comics autograph table where Len Wein, co-creator of Swamp Thing, was signing autographs next to legitimate comic book legend Joe Kubert. The line to meet them was only “two deep;” that’s it. Two people. I didn’t question it, and got right behind those fans. It was a thrill to meet the near-90 year-old Kubert and the ever-personable Wein. Wein, it should also be noted, co-created a few other familiar characters you may have heard of: Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and the Human Target.

I was totally unprepared to meet them, so I had them sign both my C2E2 program (instead of, say, this or this):

It didn’t occur to me until I walked away that I should get a picture of Kubert. Here he is, peeking out from behind the bearded gentleman in black:

Within seconds of leaving Kubert and Wein, I ran right into Kevin Brown, a.k.a. “Dotcom” on 30 Rock. He was there promoting a “Dotcom for President” campaign. I’m not sure I understand what he’s running for, but he was easily the nicest celebrity I met today.

 Dotcom: You were a switch hitter?

Jack: Switch hitter, pitcher, catcher. Whatever the boys needed.

Props and costumes used in Captain America were on display near the entrance. They were featured in an auction geared towards those with lots of disposable income (as well as large open spaces in their homes):

There were smaller props on display, too, like Thor’s hammer and the dreaded Cosmic Cube:

And then there’s Cap’s-shield-on-ice, first seen as a completely-missed Easter egg in The Incredible Hulk.

Moving C2E2 to a larger hall at McCormick Place this year was a good call; there was a lot more humanity trickling through the aisles and displays this year. From what people told me today, the crowd situation yesterday was insane, a can’t-breathe-totally-packed-oh-my-God scenario.

One of the benefits of the new hall was easier access to food. Last year, con-goers had to walk up to a second floor food court to get their $5.75 hot dog/soda combos. Not a hardship by any means, but it was nice to only have to take a few side steps for my encased meat needs.

The real fun of C2E2 is Artist Alley, where creators, wannabes, and big-name pros mix it up with the masses. Artist Alley is a great place to meet people on their way up (like Ryan Browne, whose work I adore), and those who’ve already “made it,” like cheesecake artist Adam Hughes. I made a point of going to Hughes’ table–he wasn’t all that personable when I met him, but I still bought his sketchbook (his signature, seen in the corner, is “AH!”):

And when I say Adam Hughes draws “cheesecake,” I mean, well …

Drawing a crowd in Artist Alley was recent Shark Tank success story Steve Gadlin and his “I Want to Draw a Cat For You” work:

I interviewed Steve about his business a year and a half ago. If you’ve never heard the interview, check out my summary and the audio link here.

Some celebrities charged a shit-ton for the privilege of getting something signed by them. Anthony “C3PO” Daniels wanted $40 for the pleasure. I settled for a long-range photo instead. That’s him, blurry with white hair, in the back:

Meanwhile, back at the DC booth, I was reminded how much I love Mad Magazine.

No story here. I just like having an excuse to drop Alfred E. into my blog.

Hey look, it’s that guy from One Tree Hill and Freaky Friday! The line was insanely long to meet Chad Michael Murray.

c2e2 chad

Chad was there to sign his Archaia comic Everlast. I think it would be awesome if former House of Pain star Everlast wrote a comic book called Chad Michael Murray.

The Ted DiBiase-less Virgil was manning an Artist Alley table. Here he is, organizing something or another:

On the way out, I walked right past Neal Adams, one of the most influential comic artists of the past 40 years. Seriously–Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, X-Men, Superman, Deadman–the impact of this guy’s work can’t be overstated. I decided to wait in line to buy a sketchbook from him, but there were too many fans abusing their window of opportunity: they wouldn’t fucking leave the table.  That seemed to be a common trend at the con today: fans not knowing when to make their exit. I got impatient and resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t meet Neal. This is all I got for a souvenir:

neala

And for reference … Neal Adams is a comic book god:

Surprisingly, I didn’t spend as much money on comics and memorabilia as I did last year. For perspective on my spending, I was pretty psyched to pick up these two Essential Marvel collections for four bucks each:

I could’ve spent longer on the floor–maybe even taken in a panel or two–but by 2 p.m., it was hot, sweaty, and maybe even a little smelly in the hall. Showbiz 101: quit while you’re ahead.

C2E2 is an awful lot of fun. The close proximity and access to writers, artists, creators, and stars that it provides makes it a truly memorable experience. See you there next year.

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