Tag Archive | Challengers Comics

C2E2 2013


When reviewing last year’s C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo), I wrote, “Everything about the event felt bigger this year: bigger hall, bigger stars, bigger attendance.”

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.

 Item Cost    
Admission (self)  Free (Press)
Admission (son)  $40
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:




Sal Abbinanti Podcast Interview

I had a great opportunity this week to catch up over the phone with my friend Sal Abbinanti. Sal’s artwork will be showcased at Rogues Gallery starting on Friday and running through early January.

Take a listen!


My book is now available!

I really tried to stick to my initial plan of a June 7 release date so that the paperback edition and Kindle version would be available at the same time.

As of today, the Kindle conversion is moving slowly and word of my book’s availability has been leaking, so…I’m officially saying that Off the Record Collection: Riffs, Rants, and Writings about Rock is a real thing.

Here’s where you can find it:

CreateSpace (an Amazon company) (get $3 off the cover price with discount code DF5K8AAD)


Kindle (coming very soon for a very reasonable price)

If it moves you, please leave a review on Amazon. You can say mean stuff in the review, but do know that such behavior erodes the soul.

To celebrate the book’s release, I’m inviting friends and family to join me at Challengers Comics (1845 N. Western) for a cocktail/beer/reception/signing on Friday, June 24, from 7-10pm. More on that in the weeks to come.

I was interviewed about my book on Haaf-Onion’s site. Read it here.

What’s Off the Record Collection about? Here’s an excerpt from the “official” description:

Off the Record Collection compiles Chicago media personality/author James VanOsdol’s writings about rock and roll in its myriad forms, with special attention paid to classic rock, alt rock, and the dynamic Chicago music scene.

As an active member of the blogging community since 2004, VanOsdol’s turned in a wealth of material about the music he loves, loathes, and simply can’t understand the appeal of.

Included in Off the Record Collection are old blog entries put into contemporary context, never-before-seen material, and content created exclusively for this book’s release.

It’s important to mention/reiterate that this is a completely self-published work. As a result, you may find some errors within. Even though I used the book’s intro to apologize in advance for possible mistakes, I felt the need to acknowledge discovered mistakes in their own post:




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.