Also, click the video below to hear my C2E2 2015 Rivet report, featuring interviews with Sgt. Slaughter, Mike Norton, Art Baltazar and Gorilla Tango:
Here we go again… welcome to C2E2 2015.
Here’s a look at the convention floor before doors opened Friday morning. The space is enormous.
Once doors opened, a quick left turn led fans to one of C2E2’s more memorable displays: Acrobatica Infiniti: the “Nerd Circus.” It drew a crowd throughout the weekend, thanks to cosplaying acrobats contorting and spinning in a ring perched above the booth’s table. Here’s one in a Star Trek “red shirt;” unlike typical “Trek” red-shirt crewpeople, she survived.
From a different galaxy, far, far away came cosplay Princess Leia, perched in her ring with space weaponry at the ready.
What if this isn’t an acrobatic pose, and I just happened to catch a picture of Wonder Woman crouching in her invisible jet? Suffering Sappho!
While I’m on the topic of cosplay, I mentioned this in my Rivet report, but this is serious:
For what it’s worth, the people I saw approaching cosplayers at C2E2 this year were nothing short of respectful.
And, yes, the cosplayers looked amazing this year.
A pair of Spider-Men webbed their way into my path.
And this guy totally captured the spirit of Beast Boy, from the Teen Titans.
I AM GROOT (and Gamora).
I didn’t take as many pictures of creators this year, though I did manage to run into old pal Ryan Browne, just as he was wrapping up a busy Sunday afternoon at the Image table.
(That’s his cat on the cover.)
I love running into familiar faces at C2E2. It was great to see old Emmis Interactive colleagues Tj Mapes and Paul Friemel kicking ass with their company, RIPT Apparel. Their t-shirt designs are clever, well done, and totally plugged in to popular and comics culture. Tj and Paul are model entrepreneurs, and I’m a fan.
I also ran into Chris O. Biddle, co-owner of the Uptown Underground. We’re working on seriously some fun stuff together, coming soon. More on that in a week or two.
I’m not much for selfies, but I couldn’t resist this:
One of my biggest highlights this weekend? I won a giveaway prize.
I’m an unabashed Swatch enthusiast and wearer; have been since I was a teenager. Swatch had a nice corner display at the show, and invited attendees to enter a raffle for a free Swatch. I won’t enter contests just to win free stuff, but I will enter contests if the prize is something I truly would like to win. Two hours after I filled out a raffle slip, I got a call from a Texas number: I won a Swatch, and it was waiting for me at the Swatch booth. I finally found out what it was like to be “caller 101.” It’s awesome. Here’s what I won:
As for my haul, I got a Dr. Strange t-shirt:
Also a handful of half-price trade paperbacks, and a hardcover collection of Creepy comics.
Since I tally up my C2E2 expenses every year in this blog, here’s how this year’s expenses broke down for admission, parking, my purchases and lunch (I’m not factoring in what my kids bought, because a lot of it was bought with their money, which they saved for this weekend).
|Admission (self)||Free (Press)|
|Essential Fantastic Four Volume 4||$8.50|
|Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 2||$10|
|Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 3||$10|
|Fantastic Four: Epic Collection||$20|
|Creepy: Volume Eighteen||$25|
|Dr. Strange t-shirt||$25|
|Pre-show donuts at Glazed & Confused||$18|
|Dick Tracy sketch from Jim Brozman, benefitting Hero Initiative||$2|
|Robinson’s Ribs lunch for three||$34|
|SpotHero parking (2 days @ $11/day)||$22|
Total: $219.50 (and roughly another $60 spent on the kids). I managed to stick to my $100 retail budget, and saved on parking by skipping the $21 McCormick Place parking for a nearby spot (Indiana and Cermak) which was essentially half the price.
Robinson’s isn’t my favorite lunch option, but I could’ve done a lot worse on the con floor for a lot more money.
As for Glazed & Infused, this is the second year in a row my family’s gone to C2E2’s 3rd day with close family friends. Both times, we’ve started our day’s adventure at the Fulton Market location. It’s a lovely tradition. I’m still lusting over the Green River-glazed key lime pie donut I had this morning.
I watched a lot of wrestling when I was growing up in the early 1980s. The AWA had a major presence in Chicago, and I have vivid memories of going to wrestling cards at the UIC Pavilion to see stars like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Nick Bockwinkel (with Bobby Heenan in tow), and the Road Warriors mix it up on a monthly basis.
I never missed All-Star Wrestling (the AWA’s syndicated show), which ran locally on Sunday mornings. I pounded many a Capri Sun with my dumb buddies as we thrilled to the weekly matches, and appreciated the interviewing awkwardness of “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
Around the time my enthusiasm for the AWA was peaking, I became aware of the WWF. They ran a goofy, but not totally ridiculous to my young mind, show on the USA Network called Tuesday Night Titans. Through that show, I became aware of Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter, Lou Albano, Adrian Adonis, and Brutus Beefcake. Yes, Brutus Beefcake. The WWF was more over-the-top than the AWA, if that’s even something you can measure in professional wrestling. I didn’t enjoy the WWF nearly as much as I enjoyed the AWA back then, although I did like watching a handful of its main-eventers (Piper, mostly).
Once high school got into full swing, I stopped watching wrestling altogether. In the same breath, I also walked away from comic books. Wrestling and comics are very similar: both feature larger-than-life heroes and villains, and both aggressively chase away girls.
I returned to reading comics a few years later. The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen had come out, and even Swamp Thing was getting mainstream press. It was “okay” to dip my toe back into the four-colored water.
Wrestling, however, I continued to avoid. In fact, I started to flat-out hate the “sport” when I was working at Q101 in the late 90s. The “attitude era” of the WWE (formerly WWF) had found its way into the station’s culture, and a handful of colleagues would frequently use WWE catch phrases in meetings, conversations, and memos. JVO 3:16: that’s lame.
A few years back, my son started becoming interested in wrestling. I wouldn’t let him watch the shows, because I remembered hearing about the things that went on during the “attitude era.” That material wasn’t suitable for kids. At all.
Then I learned that the WWE had scaled back the attitude, and all of its broadcasts had been downgraded to “PG.” I let my son watch an episode of Raw with me. Then Smackdown. While it wasn’t necessarily wholesome entertainment, there wasn’t any profanity, or suggested rape or murder. It was safe enough to watch, I reasoned. I credit CM Punk for much of my enthusiasm—the Chicagoan has a smart, smartassy, style that advances everything I loved about Bockwinkel and Piper back in the day. I’ve since become immersed in the WWE storylines (some of which are much flimsier than others), and have accepted the fact that I’m back in the fold.
This brings me to a divergent point, one which I frequently drag out: I hate the notion that entertainment designed for kids has been commandeered by mouthbreathing adults who demand more “grittiness” in their entertainment. Comics have “evolved” to the point where my son can’t read Batman or X-Men, and for a while there, wrestling was off-limits, too.
The WWE is entertaining, but I feel like there’s a lot that needs fixing. With the clarity (and perhaps naiveté) of fresh eyes, here are some thoughts on how to improve the WWE:
Less is more. There are just way too many “superstars” bouncing around the system, making it difficult to focus on the ones who should really matter. This audience needs less R. Truth and Brodus Clay, and more Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes.
Pushing stars that will never happen. Continuing that train of thought, the WWE seems really vested in flimsy one-trick ponies. Remember in Mean Girls when Gretchen tried to force the catchphrase “That’s so fetch?” That’s the way I feel when I see Santino marching around with a title belt.
Tag teams. The tag team pool is completely shallow. Epico and Primo? The Usos? Tag team matches are almost as uninteresting as …
Diva matches. I “get” that young boys like pretty girls, but diva matches are pandering beyond what is necessary. I can’t imagine anyone actually enjoying them, let alone not fast forwarding through them when they’re watching a DVR’d episode.
General Managers. Since I started watching again, one of the big subplots has involved the General Managers of Raw and Smackdown. File under “who cares,” and move on.
Heel turns. I remember them coming more frequently when I was younger. One of the problems with the concept in the present day is that there are too many anti-heroes to make the concept totally work. The Big Show’s move to the dark side was a welcome one; his character was an absolute stiff up until that point.
Let the wrestlers wrestle. I remember the days of long submission holds and marathon matches. You believed that the grapplers in the ring were wrestling. Let’s see less ADD-motivated contests.
Pay-per-view. The PPV events are completely cost-prohibitive. Price the non-Wrestlemania events at less than $20, and then I’ll consider them.
Matches are too predictable. The back and forth seesaw give-and-take, resulting in a rapid turnaround/surprise comeback, then immediate pinfall, is by-the-numbers, no matter who’s wrestling. The only recent exception I can recall was the 18-second title match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania. Moments like that keep things interesting, and create a sense that you never know what to expect.
Commentators. Outside of Jerry Lawler, I don’t think much of any of the commentators. Booker T. sounds foolish, and the “broadcast voiced” Michael Cole and Josh Matthews are too distracting. I don’t know what the solution is, but the problem is sure annoying.
Finally, is Lord Tensai supposed to be Asian? Really?
I haven’t watched professional wrestling since 1985. I was a high school sophomore at that point, and my social life was screaming for me to grow out of it and move forward.
Up until then, I had been a hardcore fan. My friends and I made frequent trips to the UIC Pavilion to see monthly AWA cards featuring superstars like The Fabulous Freebirds, the Road Warriors, George “The Animal” Steele, Baron von Raschke, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. We made posters, we bought the programs, and we loved every minute.
I was pretty aware of the fact that everything I saw was pure theater, but that didn’t bug me. It was like watching comic book heroes and villains come to life, only bloodier.
One I made up my mind to leave wrestling behind, no distraction could take me off point. I had no interest, for instance, in the initial round of Wrestlemanias. Not even Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy could turn me around.
Similarly, I didn’t pay much attention as the faces of Steve Austin and the Rock were seen on the black t-shirts of America’s acne-faced youth throughout the ’90s.
Moreover, I couldn’t even bother to send flowers after learning that Andre the Giant had been fatally dropkicked by heart failure in 1993.
Until this morning, pro wrestling fandom had been a long-buried facet of my life.
I accidentally started thinking about wrestling on my way in to work. I was listening to “Rumble” by Link Wray, and my brain somehow segued to “Missing Link Wray.” From there, I thought about deceased wrestling curio the Missing Link. For reference:
Then I wondered how many different combinations of classic rock stars and classic wrestlers I could come up with. This is, unfortunately, how my mind works. I took to Twitter, and my first round included:
Roddy Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Nikolai Volkoff Broadway
Bob Harley Race and the Wailers
Bruno Sammartina Turner
Sting (get it?)
Whenever I launch into goofy wordplay games like this, I’m almost immediately humbled by my friends, who are way more clever than I. My friends Justin, Justin, and Chris were responsible for the following:
Hacksaw” Jim Morrison
Dusty Springfield Rhodes
Jake “Whitesnake” Roberts
Jimmy “Supertramp” Snuka
Stone Cold Steve Boston
Extra credit goes to my friend Dan for serving up Andre They Might Be Giants.
Stretching out from classic rock and making things more contemporary, I added:
Captain Lou Barlow
Speaking of which, Nick Bockwinkel was always a favorite.