C2E2: Day Three

C2E2 2011 is now officially history.

I spent the majority of my day there today, and here’s what I experienced and saw…

From the second the gates opened at 10 a.m., the con was busy, packed shoulder to shoulder in some of the more bottlenecked areas.  That said, it didn’t feel as claustrophobic as I remember Wizard World to be in Rosemont.  The worst of the congestion was easy to avoid, especially once I stuck to cruising the perimeter exhibits and Artist Alley.

Here’s a view of the floor, about an hour after doors opened:

One of the first things I saw when I walked in was pro wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler tucked into a back corner, sitting all by himself.  I grew up on wrestling, so I was totally psyched to have an audience with the King.

The 60+ year-old Lawler has aged remarkably well.  I’m not sure whether he’s had some work done or is simply blessed with killer DNA, but the WWE Hall of Famer looked great.  I asked the gregarious grappler for an autograph, and his signature set me back ten dollars (Lawler’s got to make his convention expenses back somehow).

Here’s what I got for my ten bucks from the former AWA champ and Andy Kaufman sparring partner:

Retail is the driving force behind the convention floor’s activity.  Many gloved and webbed hands were seen exchanging money for services and collectibles.  Located in the center of the floor today was Chicago’s
own Challengers Comics & Conversation.

Note (below) the giant sign in the background: “We Accept Credit Cards.” That simple fact set Challengers apart from most of their retail peers, who were strictly cash-only.  How a retailer can drop anchor at a major con for 72 hours and not take credit cards is beyond me, especially with all the credit card processing apps now available on iPad/iPhone. To further punctuate the need for retailers to accept credit cards, the ATM machine on the floor fleeced visitors for $3.50 per transaction.

Pictured: Challengers proprietor/all around swell guy Patrick Brower.

Keeping myself to a strict budget today, I managed to find a few bargains without really looking for them.  I happily grabbed this beat-up but totally readable, cover-intact, copy of Flash #151 (1965) for $5:

I also picked up this shrinkwrapped HC collection of Marvel Westerns for $6 (cover price: $20.99).  Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been wanting to buy it for a while:

Artist Alley is something that I love to wind my way around, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to engage with creators in a unique, one-on-one,way.Pab Sungenis, the self-proclaimed “World’s Crappiest Sketch Artist.”  Just like the guy who draws awful cat pictures for money, Sungenis draws insultingly simple stick figures of super heroes. Seeing as I’m the type of guy P.T. Barnum could always count on, I bought a sketch of the Invisible Kid, and made Sungenis pose with it:

Sal Abbinanti (pictured below) is one of my favorite people in comics, and certainly one of the hardest-working.  It was a pleasure reconnecting with him at his Artist Alley table and getting caught up on his long-running labor of love, Atomika.

Skottie Young was one of the first brave and talented souls to commit to doing an interview for my long-defunct comics podcast, “STUN!”  Since then, his industry stock has soared.  He was swamped almost every time I saw him.  That’s him in the orange shirt, surrounded by fans:

Much of Chicago’s comic creator elite was on site today.  Though I didn’t see or interact with them, I was aware that Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother, Sandman), Art Baltazar (Tiny Titans), and Chris Mitten (Wasteland) were in the house.

Speaking of Chicago’s industry elite, I managed to shake hands and say “hey” to both Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash) and Mike Norton (lots of stuff for DC).  Both offered cheery, friendly, greetings, and were located in deservedly prime spots (Seeley at the Dark Horse display, Norton at the closest-to-con-floor position of Artist Alley).

One of the artists I was truly excited to meet at C2E2 was Kevin Maguire, to whom I credit my return to reading comics in 1987.  I’d given up comics a few years before then, back when I was in junior high school. I can’t properly explain why I walked away from comic books at that age, other than I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.Late one night during my senior year of high school, I was at my local 7-11. Out of habit, I was perusing the “spinner rack” for new comics.  I wasn’t looking to buy anything, I just wanted to peek at what I’d been missing.  As I rifled through DC, Marvel, and Archie Comics’ offerings, one title stood far and above its rackmates, demanding that I buy it right then and there: Justice League #1.Justice League #1 was the title’s relaunch, featuring a never-before-grouped-together lineup of Batman, Captain Marvel, Doctor Fate, Mister Miracle, and Blue Beetle.  The artwork I saw had character, style, and implied humor.  I just had to buy it.

I followed up that purchase with the next few issues of Justice League, and within a few months of that, I was avidly collecting again and had become a huge Maguire fan.  I never got to meet Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, or Neal Adams; their high points were hit during a previous generation. Kevin Maguire was more representative of my coming-of-age.  Today was an exciting opportunity to finally meet him.

For 45 minutes, I just…lurked…near his table, waiting for him to show. Every other artist in Artist Alley had arrived and was either pressing fan flesh or sketching to pass the time.  I wondered if Maguire would show up at all.  I decided to check back after lunch.

I returned to Maguire’s table around noon, taking my place behind two fans who were staring at him, waiting for him to make some acknowledgment of their presence.  A DC Comics representative was making industry small talk with Maguire behind the table.  Neither the DC rep nor Maguire ever concerned himself with the fact that fans were being

After what was I SWEAR TO GOD TEN MINUTES, Maguire finally grabbed a stack of Justice League comics from one fan, then another stack from the other, and signed them with not so much as a smile.

Rather than engage me with a “hello” or a smile, I was put in a position where I had to speak up. “Hi, Kevin, my name’s James.  Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said.
“So, do you have any prints that you’re signing today?” I asked.
His partner/colorist (a British girl whose name I don’t know), said “yes, we do.”
“Great, I’d love one!” I said.
“They’re fifteen dollars,” she said.
“Fine,” I replied.

The print in question is the sort of thing that an adult male can never hang anywhere in his home, let alone feel good about.  Here’s the softcore alien porn image I ended up buying from Maguire:

I suppose that’s how all alien girls dress and sit.  It’s not like there are finishing schools in space, after all.

As Maguire signed the alien porn poster, I told him my Justice League #1 story, excitedly telling him that I have him to thank for reintroducing me to comics.

“Sorry to hear that,” he said in a deadpan way that I’m pretty sure was meant to be funny. He continued, “Yeah, I’ve heard other people say the same thing about that comic.”  Maybe he meant to say, “Hey, thanks, that really is nice to hear.  Thank you for the kind words.” Hard to know for sure.

Celebrities need to understand the way they communicate in public has an impact. For many people walking the floor, these artists and writers are the biggest celebrities they’ll ever encounter.  When those artists and writers come off as indifferent, or as if being at the con is anything but pleasurable, those attitudes make fans feel like schmucks for caring in the first place. Maguire’s behavior certainly had an impact on me today.

After leaving Maguire’s table with my alien porn poster rolled up under my armpit to hide my shame, I ran into fellow Chicagoan/podcasting superstar John Siuntres. John’s riding high on the recent USA Today acknowledgment of his Word Balloon podcast as being the best comic podcast in the country.

Siuntres at the Word Balloon table:

I stepped away from the con floor for a minute or two and was rewarded with the single greatest sight in the history of comics, conventions, and rock music: Moon Knight singing “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden on Rockband.

Only at a comic book convention can something this truly wonderful and ludicrous occur.  Moon Knight wailing a Maiden song from the “Number of the Beast” album?  Crossed off my bucket list today.

The “big two,” DC and Marvel, had expectedly giant presences at the con.For Kids Day today, DC had tons of premiums for kids, including free copies of “Batman: Brave and the Bold,” “Superboy,” and “Mad Magazine.”

If I hadn’t known for sure before today, I’m pretty clear on what DC’s big focus is going to be for the rest of the year:

The Marvel area was cramped and tough to navigate around, and I didn’t get to explore it as much as I’d wanted to.  I did manage to catch a quick pic of the rock star-like Brian Michael Bendis doing an early afternoon signing:

S.H.I.E.L.D. had its own display (really?),  represented by an Acura spymobile. I have to assume this car will show up in both the Thor and Avengers movies.

If Acura put a rocket launcher/gun on the roof of all their models, I’d buy one right now.

Here’s the autograph signing area.  Tahmoh Penikett (Helo from Battlestar Galactica) for $30?  $40 for Eliza Dushku?  Couldn’t pull the trigger. One Dushku could so much easier be four Jerry Lawlers.

C2E2 isn’t the San Diego Comic Con, and it shouldn’t try to be.  The Hollywood aspects and events of the weekend are more distracting than additive. Perhaps I’d feel differently if the stars were more A-list (or at least better than D-list), but for this weekend’s con, the actors seemed unnecessary.

Cosplay was everywhere at C2E2. I’ll never understand the need to dress like comic book super heroes, but it amuses me to no end to see people dressed like them. Straight outta Thanagar, it’s the winged wonder, Hawkman:

Avengers Assemble! The Black Knight, Vision, and Scarlet Witch turned a few heads today.

I stayed away from the Scarlet Witch; I know the trouble she can cause.

My only complaint?–McCormick Place can be unruly to negotiate in and around. I grew up going to the McCormick Place that sits on the east side of LSD. The new (and infinitely superior) west side facility offers no clear direction for visitors. Pulling off Lake Shore Drive, there were no obvious signs directing traffic to the main lot.  Once I found my way to the garage, I almost accidentally merged on to the Stevenson in the process (the lanes are that close).  Signage or traffic cops would go a long way for conventioneers.

I had fun today without worrying about building an itinerary around the day’s events and panels.  I set my own pressure-free pace, letting the experience and moment push me along.

I’ll happily do it again next year.


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