(My C2E2 audio wrap-up for Rivet Radio is at the bottom of the page)
Like Giant-Man or Colossal Boy, C2E2 just keeps … growing.
My legs hurt from walking the massive showroom floor. My feet resent me. Each year, C2E2 carves out more real estate than it had the previous year, creating more space to walk and explore. For those of us who eat lots of pizza while reading comic books, the brief flirtation with cardio fitness probably isn’t a bad thing.
Though the space was bigger this time around, the starpower wasn’t. Outside of Stan Lee, the celebrity guests weren’t necessarily “must-see” or “must-meets.” And from a “why wouldn’t they be there?” perspective, it seems strange that DC Comics was again absent from the showroom floor this year.
So what brings the (estimable) crowds to McCormick Place? Could it be that the idea of the event is bigger than the details? It’s certainly been enough to keep me hooked these past few years; the panels and autograph signings always seem like too much work to consider.
I went on Sunday this year: “Kids Day.” This was the last time my son could get in on the deeply-discounted $5 ticket (To his disgust, he absolutely hated the fact that the Kids Day laminate featured a Hello Kitty design). You take your breaks where you can get ’em.
We went with another family this year (hi, Jack), which helped balance out the costs of visiting the con. I normally plan to spend a max of $100, and fail miserably. Between this year’s two-family entourage, and the fact that my son saved his money and paid for his own stuff this time around, I actually came in under budget. My total expenses for the day are itemized at the end of the post.
I tend to get the most out of walking Artists Alley each year. It’s an oddball mix of known professionals and totally green artists and publishers. There were hidden surprises in practically every row this year, like Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, the Flash). I had him sign a Daredevil comic for me–five bucks all in.
As for the retail side of things, I can’t resist trade paperbacks. My favorite vendor at the con had a massive display of paperback and hardcover collections, all for 50% off. I walked away with three of the b&w, reprint-only “Marvel Essentials” titles–they’re my favorite cheap way to build up a nice reading library.
I’ve been tempted in the past, but this year I finally bought an autographed print from Neal Adams. The man pretty much created the modern Batman, so I figured $20 was the least I owed him.
Nostalgia’s a powerful thing. I stopped in my tracks whenI stumbled across this display of Mego action figures. I owned every one of them when I was a kid. Every. One. And now the Falcon’s worth $450.
And hey, let’s hear it for cosplay, a comics convention favorite. Is there a Deadpool in the house? Let’s hear it for Li’l Deadpool!
Batgirl was pretty fabulous:
Captain America takes his job seriously:
Walking on stilts at a crowded convention can’t be easy:
The Rocketeer squeezes out pulpy goodness!
Not the droid I was looking for:
Next year, I’m committing myself to all three days. I’m going to plan a sensible (but allowing for fun) budget, and wear much more comfortable shoes.
In case you’re wondering, here’s how this year’s expenses broke down:
|Admission (self)||Free (Press)|
|Essential Avengers Vol.2||$7|
|Spiro’s Greek Myths #1 (indie publisher/Artists Alley)||$5|
|McCormick Place parking||$21|
|Essential Peter Parker Vol. 1||$7|
|Essential Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4||$7|
|G-Man #1 (signed by Chris Giarrusso)||$1|
|Pre-show donuts at Glazed & Confused||$18|
|Signed Neal Adams print-Batman #244||$20|
|Signed Mark Waid Daredevil comic||$5|
Rivet Radio audio recap:
Previous years’ coverage:
(Some NSFW language and topics follow)
It’s impossible to keep track of Marvel’s X-Men universe and the endless series of X-titles that have wrestled for shelf pace over the years. I tried to keep track of the characters and titles at one point in my life, but realized I’d feel a lot better if I gave up.
This week, I stumbled upon a new X-Men “#1″: Amazing X-Men. The cover stood out because it featured an all-time favorite character (Nightcrawler), and the artwork took me straight back to the early days of the (Cockrum, then Byrne) “All-New X-Men.”
It wasn’t just the artwork; the story itself was a flashback to those days. Just as I had myself convinced that comic book publishers had forgotten that comics can be fun, I was thrilled to discover that Amazing X-Men was cover-to-cover fun. Take, for instance, this panel with the super-brainy Beast, chasing down some of the villainous, elfin “Bamfs.” They’re accused of stealing equipment and drinking Wolverine’s whiskey:
With panels and direction like that, creators Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness crafted a comic that could have worked for all audiences. All the elements are there: great story, great characters, and a sense of fun. However, because the book’s rating is “T+,” there are a few things that prevent children under…let’s say 15… from reading it.
That’s right–Wolverine and Storm talk about foreplay. Storm is a woman of needs, dammit, and Wolverine is sure as shit going to take care of them before they “do it.” Was this exchange necessary? NOT IN THE LEAST. In fact, the “T+” rating could have been taken down to a “12+” by simply, um, massaging the dialog a bit to not be as overtly sexual. The conversation was completely out of place with the tone set for the rest of the book.
And just so we’re clear: everyone’s banging at the ole Mutant Mansion:
Yep, Iceman’s added another cube to his freezer, and there’s another one lined up behind her. You da man, Ice-dawg!
I don’t get the need to sexualize comic book super-heroes. Further, I don’t get why children are being frozen out (Iceman-style) of the target audience. Would the comic have suffered without the sexual references? Of course not. Did it suffer because of them? Well, younger kids can’t read T+ comics, so you tell me. Should kids be allowed to read X-Men comics? What about when the new X-Men movie hits in 2014, and they’re dying to investigate the source material?
I had the same issues with a lot of the garbage flushed out by DC Comics’ “New 52″ line of books. It’s just not right to tell a young boy, “Sorry, son, you can’t read Batman until you’re much older.”
For one hot minute on Friday, I had planned to go to the Wizard World comic convention in Rosemont on Saturday.
I made the decision as I was roasting at a White Sox game, when the thought of walking an air conditioned floor alongside Batgirl cosplayers and fellow back issue-seekers was especially appealing.
When I got home from the game (a trouncing that involved a Minnesota Twins grand slam), I went online to see how much Wizard World tickets were: one-day passes for Saturday were just shy of $60 per person. Since I had planned to take my son, that would mean a significant investment, not including parking, just to walk in the door.
I hadn’t totally ruled it out at that point. Instead, I kept reading through the Wizard World site to learn more about the event. Loads of genre celebrities were in town: Stan Lee! Wil Wheaton! Zachary Quinto! Brandon Routh (the George Lazenby of movie Supermen)! Each of them had predetermined autograph and photo-op prices that caused my debit card to release an audible yelp. Though the Chicago autograph pricing is no longer available, check out this analogous example of “VIP” experiences currently being offered on the Wizard World circuit. Once I added up the jawdropping cost of “once in a lifetime” opportunities with beloved sci-fi and fantasy celebrities to the already suffocating admission price, I decided to make other plans for my Saturday. For the record, those plans involved enchiladas at Uncle Julio’s and an afternoon screening of Red 2 (Total cost for two: $75, significantly less than a day at Wizard World)
I love the idea of creators, artists, and actors meeting and interacting with their fans and admirers in a friendly place like a comic con. As a pop culture fan, I totally get the desire to further personalize a piece of art (movie, picture, comic, etc.) with a creator’s signature. Perhaps I’m a cranky old man for saying this, but there used to be a time when those interactions didn’t carry a price tag–or at least not such a high-rolling price tag.
When Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics by Les Daniels was published in 1991, Stan Lee did an in-store signing at the Kroch’s and Brentano’s on Wabash in the Loop. I bought a copy, and he signed it (“Excelsior! Stan Lee”). It was a simple, easy-to-understand, transaction. In 2013, for the price of $299, one can get in on the Stan Lee VIP Experience. As Wizard World’s page explains, the VIP treatment includes an exclusive badge, lithograph, autographable 8×10, a photo op, early access to the show, guaranteed access to the Stan Lee panel, and “speedpass” access for Stan Lee’s autograph session. So, for the general price of a monthly car payment, you can line jump at the comic con for a one-minute interaction (autograph + picture) with Stan “The Man.” And you get an exclusive badge.
The speedpass concept has irked me since I first came to consider its existence at Great America. It was maybe ten years ago; I had just shuffled into line for the Demon, and had accepted my fate of having to wait in line for 45 minutes to finally get my chance. As I leaned back against the metal bar line partitions, I noticed kids running past me in a totally separate line. They had paid extra for the “Flash Pass,” a way to circumvent lines for a bunch of extra money. The Flash Pass seemed like extortion (if you really want to have a good time, you’re going to have to pay up); a fact that felt especially icky at a general admission park that entertains kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Expanding the “Flash Pass” mechanics to shaking hands with celebrities is just plain twisted.
Stan Lee’s autograph isn’t something that should be “Flash Passed.” Furthermore, as the creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Hulk, it comes across as more than a little greedy to ask that much money of his fans.
Along those lines, shame on anyone who pays $175 for speedpass VIP access to WWE superstar Sheamus. You’ve been had, fella.
I understand that charging top rates for autographs and photo ops is a new and lucrative economic model for celebrities, Stan included; this is how they make their money at conventions. Since this model works, I’m not foolish enough to expect it to go away. I would like to recommend some changes, however …
From here on in, celebrities should charge half of what they currently charge for autographs. Instead of counting on a small handful to pay a big premium to cover their nut, they should allow for more people to get in on the autographs at a lower cost. I’m not going to pay $30 for Ernie Hudson, the black Ghostbuster, to sign something for me, but if he was asking $15 I’d consider it. And as much as I enjoyed the Adam West Batman show growing up, there’s no way I’ll spend $60 to get Adam West to sign his name for me. On the other hand, for the price of $30, I’d happily whip out my Bat-Sharpie and let him go to work.
Considering the expense-to-profit ratio, I tried to figure out what a celebrity’s cost to attend Wizard World might be, and what the potential profit could be.
If a celebrity stayed in a standard room at the Hotel Intercontinental near the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for three weekend nights (Thursday-Saturday), he or she would pay somewhere around $199 per night, for a total of $600, pre-taxes/fees. Depending on airline flown and how far in advance tickets are purchased, a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Chicago would likely run between $750-$1250. Add a few meals and some ground transportation into the mix, and the total cost for the weekend trip would probably come in between $2500-$4000.
Using Adam West as an example, at $60 per autograph, maybe he’ll get 300 takers over the course of a weekend. That’s 18K in his pocket for signing his name, less whatever percentage needs to be kicked back to the promoter. By any standards, it amounts to an insanely healthy profit, even once expenses are backed out.
Let’s now say that Adam West were to charge $30 per autograph. Suddenly, he might see more parents walking their kids over to meet him. People who might have been on the fence about spending money to meet the potbellied Batman would more enthusiastically whip out their wallets. Maybe the total amount of takers would inch closer to 500 for the weekend: the result would amount to a total of 15K, only 3K less than the profit potential seen with higher priced autographs. Only in this case, he would have turned off a lot less fans. And really, that 3K can’t make that much of a difference.
The practice of charging for autographs is here to stay. I accept that. But I challenge celebrities to be more fan-friendly in the way they place value on their signatures.
I can’t explain it, but I always have to know in advance what surprises await at the end of every comic book movie I see. Plot setups, Easter eggs, jokes–I’ve sought them all out well in advance of my movie-going experiences.
Case in point:
(Spoilers ahead for movies that have been out for longer than two months.)
Daredevil? Spoiled. Bullseye lives.
The Incredible Hulk? Spoiled. Tony Stark in a bar.
Iron Man 1-3? Spoiled. Nick Fury. Thor’s hammer. Bruce Banner.
X-Men 3? Spoiled. Xavier lives.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Spoiled. Deadpool? Logan drinking.
Green Lantern? Spoiled. Yellow Sinestro.
Thor? Spoiled. Cosmic cube. Loki.
Captain America? Spoiled. Avengers preview.
The Amazing Spider-Man? Spoiled. I don’t know what that was.
Avengers? Spoiled. Thanos and shawarma.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the details of The Wolverine leading up to the film’s release. My expectations were fairly low after the last solo Wolverine movie, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the comic book miniseries the movie was based on. I knew I would eventually see it, of course; comic movies sucker me in every time (although I’ve yet to see Man of Steel, and am in no hurry).
Only one day after The Wolverine arrived in theaters, there I was in my local theater, eating nachos, drinking Coke Zero, and taking in a 3 p.m. screening. It was much better than I had expected–Hugh Jackman continues to own and grow the role. It’s remarkable to consider that The Wolverine is Jackman’s sixth movie appearance as the clawed Canadian mutant (including his profane cameo in X-Men First Class, which I spoiled for myself well in advance).
Once the credits started, I got up and headed for the exit. I never thought for a moment about the possibility of a post-credits sequence. As I walked down the stairs and past the screen, I realized that no one else was getting up from their seats. No one. They obviously knew something I didn’t.
Hedging a bet, I parked myself in a seat by the exit to see if there was something extra waiting for me. I didn’t have to wait too long–shortly after the initial round of credits rolled came what had to have been the most exciting post-credits moment since Samuel L. Jackson first popped in on Robert Downey, Jr.
No joke, I got chills as the post-credits sequence unfolded and beautifully set up the next movie in the X-Men franchise: Days of Future Past. And that’s as spoiler-y as I’ll get.
Iron Man 3 isn’t a very good movie.
When you go to see it (because I know the draw to see it is impossible to resist), you’ll disagree with me for the first 30 minutes. “This is awesome,” you’ll say. “You hate fun,” you’ll add. And then, the movie will break bad on you just as it did on me. Here are seven reasons Iron Man 3 failed to deliver on the momentum created by the first wave of Marvel Studios movies:
1. You can fly an Avengers Quinjet through the plot holes. I realize we’re talking about a comic book movie here, but nothing seemed logical from the moment Tony Stark crash landed in Tennessee.
2. Tony Stark befriends a boy genius (Hey! He’s just like a young Tony!). Great effort is put into Tony Stark maintaining his acerbic edges around the youth, but the contrived relationship never feels right.
3. Iron Man 3 exists to sell toys and merchandise. There was no real story-advancing reason to transform War Machine into Iron Patriot, but the armor sure would look cool on the shelves at Target. And that armor bonanza that flies in to save the day at the end of the movie? Action figure money in the bank.
4. The Mandarin. Missed opportunity in every possible way. Anything said beyond that would be a violation of Spoiler Law.
5. Extremis. The main plot point (a bio-electronic virus), based on one of the more memorable Iron Man comic book story lines of the past 20 years, was never well explained in the movie. Furthermore, it wasn’t enough to carry a two hour movie.
6. Iron Man. There’s just not enough actual Iron Man in the movie. Most of the scenes involving Iron Man armor found Tony Stark manipulating it remotely, or struggling to make it work.
7. War Machine. His repeat inclusion in this sequel was an unneeded distraction from the crowd-pleasing feature attraction of Robert Downey, Jr. in the dual role of Tony Stark and Iron Man. By shoehorning the one-dimensional War Machine into Iron Man 3, director Shane Black moved further away from storytelling that actually advanced the characters and story.
And yes, there’s a post-credits scene that ties into the greater movie universe. It’s more along the lines of the “shawarma” scene at the end of the Avengers than the “Thor’s hammer” scene at the end of Iron Man 2.
This year, the convention adds another pen mark to the growth chart on the wall. McCormick Place carved out more space for the 2013 show, a canny decision forced by the size of last year’s crowds. The result was more forgiving aisle and walkway space, alleviating some of the can’t breathe, shoulder-to-shoulder bottlenecking that defined the con’s peak hours last year.
I picked up my pass at 9:30 this morning, at which point the line to get in (doors opened at 10 a.m.) was easily a few hundred deep. I hate waiting in line for anything, from roller coaster rides to restaurant dinners, but at least there was visual entertainment. As I cooled my heels, I saw four Harley Quinns, a Ghostbuster, the Martian Manhunter, Captain America, the Falcon, and Black Canary.
Cosplay was everywhere this year, much more so than I can remember in the past two years. Every comic character seemed to be represented at C2E2, from the obscure to the well-known, A-Z from Ant Man to Zatanna. The amount of care and effort put into some of the outfits falls somewhere between Broadway show to Hollywood production. Here’s Spider-Man and gal pal Mary Jane (with Poison Ivy and someone Catwoman-ish to their left):
Running around with the cosplaying Hawkmen, Jokers, and Deadpools were some of the most scantily-clad characters in comics, including Starfire, Emma Frost, and the aforementioned Zatanna. It was like walking through the dorkiest gentleman’s club in the Midwest (cue: “Welcome to the Jungle”… “All right guys, now approaching the stage, please welcome … POWER GIRL”). I had had to make a point to distract and whisk my 11 year-old past those particular cosplayers (“Hey, son, did I just see Stan Lee? No? Oh, my bad.”)
The naughty cosplayers all came dangerously close to violating this rule, spelled out in the C2E2 program guide:
I’ll reserve judgement on the guys lining up to take pictures of and with those girls. Maybe they just happen to be huge fans of the characters, and were thrilled to see those super-heroines brought to three-dimensional life.
Speaking of cosplay, I don’t know what this was, but it was awesome:
… and I’m not sure what this was, either. A Star Wars character?
The first publisher I noticed when I walked into the hall was Dark Horse, whose bright, well-organized space was positioned in what was arguably the event’s prime location. Curiously, DC Comics was nowhere to be found at C2E2 (outside of its writers and artists making panel appearances). Seems like a huge missed opportunity to me, but it’s a move consistent with several years of awful editorial decisions. Call me bitter; I hate super villains who rape, and I miss Superman’s red underpants.
We made a few panels, including one featuring “Toy Hunter” Jordan Hembrough. The worst part of panels tends to be the Q&A portion, which gets tiresome fast. Usually the first 3-4 questions are fine, but then a handful of attendees force themselves out of their seats to ask a question for the sake of “having a moment” with the panel guest. Whenever I hear a fan say, “I have a two-part question,” I start clock-watching, if not heading towards the door. Understanding that iPhones take lousy long-range pictures, I ask that you please forgive this shot of the Toy Hunter panel:
Just like going to Vegas, I always set a budget before walking into a convention. My budget for purchases this year was a combined $100 for my son and me. What I foolishly failed to include in the budget was the cost of parking, food, and admission. For the past three years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have media access to the event. Furthermore, for the past two years I’d gone to C2E2 on Sundays so my son could also go for free (children are admitted for free on Sundays). Since I’m committed to a Sox game tomorrow, “free day” wasn’t an option for this year. What I never bothered to check was how much a paid admission actually cost. The answer: $40 for the privilege of walking in the door to spend more money.
My son was on an action figure mission, and shortly after we walked in, he found a wall of DC Universe figures. “It’s Black Manta! I never see him anywhere!” he said. “There’s no price tag on it,” I said, knowing that meant I’d have to go “Turkish Grand Bazaar” on the dealer and haggle, which I enjoy as much as waiting in lines. “How much for Black Manta?” I asked the dealer. “Ummm … forty-five dollars,” he said. I explained to my son that we’d see Black Manta again, and probably for less money. Sure enough, within ten minutes we found the Aquaman nemesis for ten dollars less. The scourge of the seas is now the scourge of my son’s bedroom:
Black Manta sez: “I will kill your baby, Aquaman.”
In addition to Black Manta, I got that Hawkman t-shirt I never needed, a black and white collection of Marvel Horror comics from the 1970s, and an autographed Dick Tracy poster from comics great Joe Staton:
I also picked up an Iron Man trade paperback from my pals at Challengers Comics. They’ve got the con thing figured out: they stocked only the most in-demand trade paperbacks and sold them at a discounted price. Beyond that, they staffed their area with cute girls. Elementary? Perhaps, but I was impressed.
The Artists Alley is always a favorite haunt for me, as it’s really the best opportunity to meet and interact with creators from across the industry. I also enjoy the comfort of seeing familiar faces there, as I did today in Ryan Browne (God Hates Astronauts), John Siuntres (Word Balloon), and Sal Abbinanti (Atomika).
Random thing I thought was amazing: The freaking Mach 5. Go, Speed Racer. Go.
So, how did I do with my Vegas budget? Total bust. I went $20 over on product, and way over with everything else. This trip hurt.
|Admission (self)||Free (Press)|
|Iron Man “Extremis” TPB (thanks, Challengers)||$12|
|Lunch for two (burgers, fries, bottled water, cookies)||$36|
|Black Manta action figure||$32.78|
|Two t-shirts from Graphitti Designs||$41.41|
|McCormick Place parking||$21|
|Essential Marvel Horror, Star Trek Gold Key, War Machine TPBs||$17|
|Autographed Joe Staton Dick Tracy poster||$20|
Hurts so good, I suppose. I thought that C2E2 was beautifully run and much more navigable and manageable this year.
Previous years’ coverage:
Last week at this time, I was fearing impossible scenarios that could arise from Chicago’s hosting of the NATO summit. That’s not surprising for me: the apocalypse seems to be a common theme in the entertainment I consume.
I started to think about all the different end-of-the-world things I enjoy and put together a starter list for your armageddon-themed entertainment. This list is in no way meant to be exhaustive–if you have additions, let me know!
Time Zone “World Destruction”
Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon teamed up to list the reasons why we’re all pretty much fucked.
“Mother Nature is gonna work against you / Nothing in your power that you can do.”
Morrissey “Everyday is Like Sunday”
“Armageddon – come armageddon! Come, armageddon! Come!”
To paraphrase: “Bring it, bitch!”
Iron Maiden “2 Minutes to Midnight”
Legendary metallers synchronize their watches with the Doomsday Clock:
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Forget the Will Smith movie–this desperate, lonely, nailbiter about a vampire apocalypse is a quick and unforgettable read. George Romero even acknowledged its influence on Night of the Living Dead (I’m getting to that one in a few).
If books aren’t your thing, the movie looks like this:
World War Z by Max Brooks
Brilliant idea–take a zombie apocalypse and have the story told, oral history-style, by its survivors. Brooks took the concept from Studs Terkel’s The Good War.
The Stand by Stephen King
The Stand isn’t perfect, and it’s not even King’s best book (I prefer It and Carrie). However, the post-superflu world King created–and the good vs. evil story he tells–are as good as post-apocalyptic fiction gets.
In all seriousness, this is my favorite movie ever. Terry Gilliam directed this sci-fi masterpiece that brings together a world-ending virus, time travel, Bruce Willis, an early Brad Pitt performance, and monkeys.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Not far behind 12 Monkeys is my love for this 1978 remake of the 1956 horror film (which itself was based on a book). I’ve been told that this movie’s one big allegory, and I couldn’t give less of a shit about that. The bottom line is that this is a tense, creepy, flick with knockout performances from Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy.
Spoiler warning: this is the end of the movie. It’s awesome.
28 Weeks Later
I prefer this to its predecessor, 28 Days Later. The best of the modern-day zombie movies, in my opinion:
Night of the Living Dead
There is nothing–nothing–I can say about this b&w classic that hasn’t already been said.
Fail Safe (1964)
The television play remake in ’00 was pretty great, too, but this version resonates more. It’s the U.S. vs. Russia, during one of the Cold War’s most tense peaks:
I remember watching this one with my parents when it came out–generally the same time when the world was buzzing about The Day After. Testament takes a sobering, more personal, look at the devastating aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. No embeds allowed; click here to see one of the film’s early distressing moments.
Jack Kirby’s Kamandi tells the story of “The Last Boy on Earth,” living in a post-apocalyptic (the Great Disaster) world. Every page during Kirby’s run screams of invention and insanity, as the titular boy finds his way in a world run by highly-evolved animals. The first 20 issues are collected here.
Also recommended: The Walking Dead, Y: the Last Man, Wasteland, Deathlok.
At some point down the road, I’ll cover Dystopia’s Greatest Hits (another favorite of mine).