C2E2 2013: Rick’s Reflections

Published on April 30th, 2013



Some people have the Super Bowl. For others, it’s Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, new iPhone day or the latest release of their favorite first-person shooter. Everybody has one, that single day of the year around which the other 364 days all revolve. When it finally comes about, your anticipation is palpable. For me, that day is C2E2. In the long season of comic book, entertainment and geek culture events, this convention is not necessarily the biggest, nor is it the oldest or most covered in the general media. Being a Chicago-area native and resident, however, I look forward to the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo as though it were all those aforementioned events rolled up into one. I’ve been attending C2E2 ever since its inception in April 2010, at which time it took only half the space in Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center and pulled in far fewer than the 50,000 attendees (my estimate) who enjoyed it this year. If you were in attendance during this weekend’s festivities, then you joined me as I experienced one of the most joyous events of my fanboy life. As time passes, my C2E2 activities have evolved in a drastic way. In the beginning, I spent half of my time at the convention perusing through product-after-product and the remainder in panels concerning many different topics. This year, however, was the best yet, but only because it was so different. No panels, very little shopping, yet I had more activity going on than any previous year.



One convention activity which I’ve heard many fellow comics fans discuss over the years is the acquisition of custom artwork, commonly referred to as convention sketches. This has always been a foreign concept to me, so I enlisted the aid of Pat Loika (Loikamania) to educate me in the ways of a convention art collector. With his advice, I (somewhat) confidently strode into Artist Alley in search of an elite group of artists to fill in the pages of my new sketchbook. Believe me when I say there were more creators present than Peter Parker has clones, which means that I’d have to have super-human speed to visit every one of them. Thus, I narrowed down my targets to those who I knew would deliver the goods: Thomas Zahler (Love & Capes, My Little Pony), Kyle Bice (A Book of Dwarves, The Web) and Mike Norton (The Answer, Revival). While I had a lot to learn about the process, these guys made it easy for a rookie like me, and did a phenomenal job in knocking out full-color works of Jack of Hearts, Rocket Raccoon and The Human Fly. In all honesty, I couldn’t be happier with their contributions, and it is a wonderful experience seeing your ideas/subjects presented in new and exciting ways by highly talented artists. At one point, I considered paying for a commission piece by Michael Golden, who penciled the first 10 issues of Bill Mantlo’s Micronauts. This would’ve been a centerpiece item for anyone’s collection, but the only problem was that he would’ve held onto my book all weekend long, so I wouldn’t get any more than one page filled. While I was quite happy to get my copy of Micronauts #1 signed while I posed for a picture with Golden, I elected to pursue artists who could do the work in hours, not days, so that my book could grow at a faster pace. Based on my experience, I’d highly recommend getting your own convention sketches and you’ll find literally hundreds of artists at C2E2 to suit your fancy.


Let it not be said that consumerism is dead in the heart of your author, dear reader. Indeed, I walked away from C2E2 with a fair share of comics wares. Jeffrey Brown was in attendance, so not only did I let him know how much I enjoyed his writing in the just-released DVD of Save the Date (IFC Films), but also picked up his latest hardcover works, Vader’s Little Princess and A Matter of Life. Last year, I ravenously digested the first two printed volumes of the comedic web series, Caaats! by Matt Gross, so I grabbed the next two of the series while he graciously prepared a custom sketch of my Siamese cat, Willy. A few deals were to be had among the graphic novels and art books for sale by various vendors, but I spent much more time chasing down creator signatures for my copies of Revival, Hoax Hunters, Fairy Quest, Transformers, Thor and The Answer. Despite my love for the comics I already read, C2E2 is a great opportunity to try out some fresh concepts. I’m a sucker for a giant monster story, so Kill All Monsters by Michael May and Jason Copland was a really easy decision. Despite what I felt was an overly polished sales pitch, I was attracted to the concept of samurai action and Japanese feudal lords in the four-issue Yi Soon Shin, a self-published series by Onrie Kompan and Giovanni Timpano. And, of course, what convention would be complete without a contingent of former pro wrestlers on hand? As I was strolling down one aisle, I ran into Virgil, a man who is best known for his association with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase back in the 1980s’ WWF. My own nostalgia for those innocent days washed over me, so I spent a little cash getting an autographed picture of Virgil, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper and Davey Boy Smith, some of my favorites of all time.


The best part of C2E2, however, was seeing my friends from all across the country while also making new acquaintances. Long-time and more recent friends came into town from New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Wisconsin, Indiana and even New Jersey. Whether I was able to see them for only two minutes or chat over a few hours, it was incredible to share the same space with these fine people whose Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos and Tumblr updates I follow all year long. Every year my list of people with whom I have to chase down grows larger and I feel incredibly fortunate to have wonderful friends like David Price, Alan White, Ron Richards, Chris Neseman and David Mathis (members of the comics podcasting community and/or Chicago comics scene) who always greet me with open arms and are genuinely worth every effort to hunt them down over the three-day event. If everyone in my life were just like these fine folks, among others, I’d be on Cloud 9 all year long. Ultimately, this was my absolute favorite part of C2E2, and I even spoke to some readers of Comics ‘n Coffee, so I’m looking forward to sustaining these new friendships and seeing them again each following year. In fact, YOU should come to next year’s convention so we can meet and the whole cycle continues endlessly! Until then, dear reader, keep sending your highly insightful feedback concerning my Sunday column and Fare Thee Well!


Rick “Smash” Hansen