With it’s sixth year now in the books, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, better known as C2E2, is becoming the biggest and best comics convention in the Midwest. Reporting over 60,000 attendees over three days this year, the show just felt massive. This was the show’s third year in the northwest hall of McCormick Place, and it feels like it is settling in nicely. The show expanded its footprint in the hall this year, widening the aisles to let traffic move much more easily. That might be because there were fewer vendors this year. Though I don’t know for sure if there were less, it sure felt like there weren’t as many booths hawking toys and comics this year. My search to round out my collection of astromech droid action figures only yielded one new guy.
That said, Artist Alley was much more robust this year. Even with the much wider aisles, it was still constantly crowded with huge lines for stars like Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, and Skottie Young. First thing I did when I got there Friday morning was to hit up Chip Zdarsky’s table for a Chewbacca sketch for a future twitter icon. I wandered around for a while after that, chatting with Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko about their new Image series, Invisible Republic, and picked up their convention exclusive variant for issue #1. They are two of the nicest people in comics, and I highly recommend checking out Invisible Republic and their work on Star Wars: Legacy. Speaking of Star Wars, I went to Daniel Warren Johnson’s table (artist on the Dark Horse title Ghost Fleet and his own webcomic, Space Mullet) and picked up his mini-comic, Green Leader, detailing the last moments of the A-Wing pilot who crashes his fighter into the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor in the battle at the end of Return of the Jedi. It’s a beautiful silent comic that just oozes with Johnson’s talent. He’s got some unannounced projects coming up, so it’s great to hear that comic companies have seen what he has to offer.
I didn’t hit up a lot of panels. Late April is a weird time for comics, with the summer series already announced, but it’s still too early to announce the aftermaths of the events. Attending Marvel’s Next Big Thing panel on Saturday, the answer to any question of what happens to any series or character post-Secret Wars was “Everything dies.” They did announce that Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s Miracleman run will begin in September with a new #1. Past that they announced a few Secret Wars one-shots and some comics to celebrate the 50th anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D. in September. Otherwise, it was just that repeated mantra of “everything dies.” Comics are fun!
DC’s biggest (and only) announcement was that Brian Azzarello was co-writing Dark Knight III: The Master Race with Frank Miller. With no artist announced yet (my bet is Jim Lee) it’s tough to judge what’s going to come out of this. While it’s easy to write off anything from Miller after the racist debacle that was Holy Terror, I’m still interested. Frank Miller was still one of the greats, and with Azzarello tamping down his worst impulses, DK3 could be interesting. However, without Miller on art, it’ll be a high hurdle for it to feel like his Dark Knight.
I tried to get into the “Kick-ass Women of S.H.I.E.L.D.” panel featuring Hayley Atwell and Ming-Na Wen, but it filled up rapidly despite being in the biggest hall they had. Agent Carter was easily the most popular cosplay of the show, with women in smart blue suits and red fedoras everywhere, so it’s not surprising that they packed their hall. I did attend the preview screening of the new Fox series Wayward Pines with a Q&A by producer M. Night Shyamalan and star Matt Dillon. Based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch, Wayward Pines stars Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent searching for his former partner who has gone missing. After waking up from a car crash, he finds himself trapped in a seemingly idyllic town (that is Definitely Not Supposed To Remind You Of Twin Peaks) full of secrets. The show was pretty good, with only its striking similarity to Lost and the spectre of Shyamalan’s influence to give me pause.
The crowd for this show was great. Far more diverse than in past years, it was wonderful to see so many different kinds and ages of people. It seemed like everyone was cosplaying, especially the younger crowd, with so many teenagers and kids dressed up as superheroes and anime characters. While Agent Carter was the big winner, Tina from Bob’s Burgers was a close second.
Another highlight and example of how inclusion has become so important to the con scene was the prevalence of the anti-harassment policy, with large placards scattered throughout the con floor, and it was printed on the back of every badge. It’s great to see that organizers understand how important safety is to the community and that in turn, the community is diversifying in response to it.
C2E2 2015 was a blast, bringing some great creators and, even better, a lot of good friends to my city. While comics fandom can be a place full of negativity, this show was unrelentingly positive. To see so many different people, especially young people, there with so much love for comics was incredibly refreshing. With ReedPOP announcing attendance growing by 12% this year, it’s hard not to see it as a sign that the fandom itself is growing and diversifying. On top of this, I spent most of my time meeting and buying stuff from creators I’d just recently discovered. While the old guard of comics will always be there (see DK3 above), it’s great that there are so many new voices out there. Though I’m exhausted from a nonstop weekend of convention-going, I’m already excited for next year.