Sunday, April 15, 2012

C2E2 Returns and Conquers Chicago

Chicago is home to several amazing conventions and expos ranging from Home & Garden, Autos, Coins, Trading Cards and now for the third year in a row the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo a.k.a C2E2. It's kind of like the cantina in Star Wars. There are a lot of weird-looking, colorful characters jammed into one place and if you aren't careful someone might lob your arm off with a light saber or some other bizarre weapon of choice.

Whether you are a fan of comic books, television or movie stars, pro wrestlers, tattoos, cosplay, fantasy games, trading cards, movie props or simply hanging out with other people with similar passions, you need to visit C2E2 at least once in your life.

For comic book fans it is a melting pot of artists, creators and resellers with anything and everything you could ever want or need. From modern age to vintage you can find comics, artwork, previews, props, and more at your fingertips and it can be yours if the price is right. For instance, there was a live auction for Captain America movie props. The Shield from Captain America sold for nearly $25,000. If you walked less than 50 feet from the auction you could pick up an authentic samurai sword. Walk another 100 feet and you could get a sketch or autograph from one of hundreds of today's most popular and upcoming artists.

If walking the floor got tedious at any time, you could attend one of multiple panels ranging from a Q&A with Comic Book icon Neal Adams to how graphic novels are some of the most popular content checked out at Public Libraries across the nation.

Of course running into or seeking out some pretty popular entertainment stars is also a key portion of the C2E2 weekend. From an incognito appearance by Shia LaBeouf to TNA wrestling knockout Lisa Maria Varon, a spectrum of stars were on hand. Some of the more popular names to attend this year were John Cusack, Val Kilmer, Anthony Daniels, Chris Hardwick, Sean Astin, Tom Morello and the Walking Dead's Lauren Cohen and Steven Yeun.

Each year, I both love and dread heading out to the show. I know I am going to have fun and always look forward to it, but I also know I am going to see a million things I want to buy on impulse. However, this year, I set out to do specifically do a few things and wasn't leaving until I got them done.

For years I have been a tremendous fan of artist George Perez. Along with Ralph McQuarrie and John Byrne, Perez was a major influence on my choice of career as an adult. Their talents gave me the notion to pick up a pencil and begin drawing. I was nowhere near as good, but it encouraged me to attend the Joe Kubert school, and further my skills afterward as a graphic artist. It has enabled me to make a pretty decent living, and I've done some pretty good things with my talents over the years. I've met George before, but it was usually in a huge line of people where you are ushered in and out like cattle. This time it was early on the first day of the show and there was virtually no line because no one knew where he was. I got to tell him about the first convention I attended to meet him. It was several years ago in Philadelphia. I had just gotten my drivers license and drove from Atlantic City to Philly. Well to make a long story short, I got to attend the show, but the alternator in my piece of crap Dodge Aspen died on the way... It was a mess, but I still got to meet one of my childhood idols, so it wasn't all bad. This time around I was so happy that George was doing head shot sketches, and he drew Iron Man for me. He also signed 7 of my absolute favorite comics in the world including all 4 issues of JLA vs. The Avengers, Avengers #1, and the first 2 issues of his recent Brave & The Bold run. I wasn't at the con an hour and one of my two goals were already met. Ironically George wasn't supposed to be there, and was a last minute addition. Thanks to Twitter, I found out the night before the show.

The second was to drop by and say hello to TNA Knockout Lisa Marie Varon. You know her as Tara or even Victoria from her WWE days. She is far and away the most talented female wrestler on the planet. Better yet, she's just really a sweet person. I've spoken with her at several events like these over the years and she is always smiling. It's infectious. My co-host Russ Cohen and I met her originally several years ago at a THQ WWE video game event in New York and she did a quick interview for our then fledgling radio show in like 2004. It was awesome to have her back on the show recently in 2012 and I wanted to make sure I stopped by to say thank you and hello. We are looking forward to seeing her open a restaurant in Chicago and wish her nothing but the best. Like I said her attitude is infectious and it's inspiring.

Within a couple hours, I had met my goals, it was time to get down to business and some more fun. I snapped plenty of photos of the hundreds of costumed characters in the building. You could walk an inch without seeing someone expertly or horribly attired like their favorite super hero or pop culture icon. As I was walking the floor, I noticed that DotCom from 30 Rock was setting up a little space at the show. I like 30 Rock a lot, mostly because of Tracy Morgan and his crew. It was a completely unexpected treat to meet Kevin "DotCom" Brown. You want to talk a bundle of energy? He was unbridled passion. Unlike the sports shows where these guys barely speak to you and charge enormous amounts of cash for their attitude and autograph, Kevin was snapping photos and conversing with everyone. He is every bit as cool as he is on 30 Rock and then some.

I almost forgot to mention the Shia LaBeouf appearance. I don't think it was even announced that he was going to be at C2E2, but he was set up right next to George Perez, and no one was even paying attention to him at first when I snapped a couple of photos. Within minutes he was swamped, and the only two people that had steady, growing lines in the artist alley area were Perez and LeBeouf. Contrary to rumors or what you read on the Internet, he was gracious, kind, and polite to every one that approached him. He took photos, signed autographs, and really seemed to enjoy himself.

Marvel and DC brought out their popular artists and writers and held several autograph signings for fans. They had a few freebies for the just dropping by their booths. The con also saw the return of two old-school publishers -- First Comics and Valiant Comics. Valiant seems poised for a big return with X-O Manowar and many of the character from the initial run when Jim Shooter at the helm. First Comics, who brought us characters such as the Badger and E-Man is also looking to make an impact. Archaia also had a huge presence at C2E2. They brought out several creators and gave lots of free comics to attendees.

Cryptozoic Entertainment who are riding high off the success of their recent entertainment trading card releases of Big Bang Theory and Walking Dead were promoting their Walking Dead game and World of Warcraft gaming cards. They were pretty much the only trading card entity at the show. I sure wish others would follow suit and appear at the show. A sample pack of cards or stickers handed out at an event like this could spawn a whole new breed of collectors! Heck I'd even volunteer to run a booth for Topps, Panini, Tristar, Rittenhouse  or any other manufacturer free of charge just to help spread the hobby love.

It was a weekend of 100% crazy and just as I am ready to call it a night, I am already jacked up for it to come back next year.

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