Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) was held on Friday March 22, 2019 through Sunday March 24, 2019. If you are a follower of our site, you will know that we were on hand for all three days of the festivities. Now that we have had time to recover from the great weekend that was C2E2, we want to let you know just what we thought of it.
Before we get into the details of what we saw and the review of the show, it is important to set the stage. We are extremely grateful for ReedPop providing PopCultureSquad with Press Passes for this convention. This was our first time in Chicago and the first time that I personally attended a ReedPop convention. We travelled from Baltimore to Chicago on Thursday night before the show started and stayed in one of the hotels that adjoined the McCormick Place Convention Center using the group discount rate negotiated by the Con.
Security and Entrance
First, a bit about security. In order to get into the con hall, all visitors, guests, and exhibitors were required to go through a metal detector and have their bags and packages checked. There were even bomb sniffing dogs on site to check bags. Once through security, the staff hearded visitors into large sectioned-off areas to wait for the show to open. Once the 10:00 AM hour was reached, thousands of people made their way through the entrance to the main hall in a very organized and orderly manner. Access into the show was really well done and not really a hassle for us on any day of the Con.
Location and Layout
The Con was located in the large halls of South Building of McCormick Place on the third floor of the building. The majority of the panels were held in the fourth and fifth floors of the hall which is just an escalator ride up from the floor.
After entering the event, visitors were greeted by large display booths of comic publishers. Marvel, DC, AfterShock, Lion Forge, and Source Point Press stood out. Beyond those booths to the right, there were a large number of comic, toy, and novelty dealers. In the center of the floor, there was a fairly large E-Sports setup. I did not partake in those festivities, but people seemed to be having fun.
Once making the way through all of the vendors, towards the back of the hall was a vast array of the celebrity guests available for autographs and pictures. Most of that was at a cost and required pre-purchase. We did not participate in any autograph or photo opportunities; so, we are unable to comment on how they were run or organized.
At the back and to the right of the show floor was a massive Artist Alley setup. This is where we spent most of our time, and we will go into detail about it later. There was also a nicely setup Family HQ area that provided programming for the younger visitors to the show.
The layout of the floor was well done. There were wide alleys, and getting around was easy despite the large mass of people.
There were food vendors in the center of the hall and far to the right. It was typical con food faire but definitely with a Chicago flair. You could find deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, Italian Beef Sandwiches and other classic food items. The vegan offerings were limited essentially to mushroom sandwiches, but at least there were some options available. Seating space, while limited, seemed to be adequate for the number of people. We were never unable to find table space, even if it was shared, when we needed it.
There were also beer vendors, which, having never seen open beer containers on a Con floor, was a little crazy. With that being said, the lines for beer were long at times, but we observed no issues with the interaction of beer and comic art.
There was wide variety of vendor booths. There were plenty of comic book vendors who sold classic and rare comics, as well those who had well-stocked bargain bins. Clothing and cosplay accessory booths littered the floor along with toy and other novelty vendors. There was even a tattoo booth that visitors allowed visitors to get tattooed on the Con floor. The show really had something for every type of fandom.
We saw plenty of cosplay at C2E2. You can check out our posts listed at the bottom of this article to see some of the cosplay that we were able to capture. We noticed signs throughout the entrance area and on the floor detailing the harassment policy of the con that reminded people that “Cosplay is not Consent”. We did not encounter or observe any issues regarding harrassment. It was noticeable how people were asking cosplayers for permission to take pictures, as they should. There were some really well done costumes. While Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Captain Marvel (both of them) seemed to dominate the overall numbers of costumes, there were some people who dug deep and got incredibly creative.
C2E2 had plenty of programming and panels for all types of interests. There were spotlight panels for particular celebrities or comic creators. SyFy Wire set up a stage that had rapid fire interviews that were recorded and posted on their site. Between the phone app and the signage outside of the panel rooms, figuring out what was where was pretty easy. We attended two panels and the access and organization was good for those. You can see our live blog of the AfterShock Comics Panel here.
We had planned to attend Marvel’s “Next Big Thing” panel, but when we went to line up twenty minutes early, the line was already several hundred people long, and getting into the room was not an option. There were some other panels that had the rooms capped off, and that was somewhat unfortunate. Overall the programming committee put together a great selection of off-floor content for visitors to participate in.
There were twenty-six rows of comic artists, writers, colorist, and other creators. Some were well-known, and some self-published. The planners made some smart decisions in the layout of Artist Alley. There were groupings of creators that had things in common with each other when it was appropriate. For example, the first row of creators that visitors encounter as they make there way to this area of the show contains creators known of for their all-ages content. People like: Katie Cook, Andy Price, and Thom Zahler, and at the other end of the row were the guys from Aw Yeah Comics, Franco, Art Baltazar, and Scoot McMahon.
Most of the walking areas down the rows were wide, and there were really no issues with giant lines blocking traffic. The biggest lines for creators that we saw where for George Perez, who is retiring from conventioning this year (Check out our tribute here), and Chris Claremont. They were appropriately placed at the end of rows in areas that were conducive to line formation.
Everyone that we spoke to was incredibly gracious and accommodating to the visitors to the show. There were plenty of things to purchase from creators. It was, for us, the heart of the show, constantly abuzz with people getting sketches, having books signed, talking with their favorite professionals.
Since the show ended, we have seen an article in traditional news publication that gave a somewhat negative review of the area. All I can say is that our experience was that the professionals and visitors that we encountered in Artist Alley were having a wonderful time celebrating comics, art, and storytelling.
There were a few critiques of the show that we feel like we need to address.
One issue that occured was the mailing of entrance badges. We were granted a Press Badge and it arrived one week prior to the show, which was in time, but we were getting nervous. We also purchased a three-day pass for my wife and made sure that we ordered it prior to the mailing cut-off. However, the badge did not arrive prior to our travel. We reached out to ReedPop and were told that the badge had been mailed, but if we did not receive it prior to travel that we should go to the will-call booth at the Con to get a badge. This is what we did, and it was a fairly smooth process as we went early on Friday morning before the show opened. However, as of this writing, we still have not received the supposedly “mailed” three-day access badge to the Con.
While security was relatively easy for visitors to get through, we did hear some complaints from exhibitors who were required to have their bags and boxes checked upon entrance by security. This was a new development this year, and the theme that we heard from Pros was that they wished they had known there was going to be a change before showing up.
We tend to look at shows from the perspective of ensuring anti-ableist practices. In this case, there were wide areas to move about for anyone with physical disabilities. The only concern that we had was the concession areas for food were definitely difficult to navigate for anyone with mobility issues. Also, a couple of rows in Artist Alley, that were populated with lesser-known talent, were too narrow for access of more than two to three people across.
We had a terrific time at this con. Everyone we encountered seemed to also be having a great time. There was a great sense of community, and for such a large convention, there was a distinctly local feel. This show is one we would love to go back to and recommend wholeheartedly for anyone who has never been.
Also, stay tuned for the interview posts with comic professionals that we were able to get at the Con.