The annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) has now concluded, with thousands of comic book, anime, video game, movie, and television nerds all resting from a wild weekend. C2E2 is one of the largest conventions in the area and brings fans from all over the country to the Windy City. We could not have asked for a better weekend weather-wise, and I was happy to get out to enjoy the sights of McCormick Place first-hand. There is only so much for one man to do, so here are my personal reflections on my time spent with the geek hive-mind.
I started with some window shopping and stopped by a couple booths to investigate their wares. I had coin, so I was looking for some fun and interesting things to walk away with, or to at least look up online later. There is a wide range of shop booths at C2E2 where you can walk away with mass-produced plushes, clothing, and more big-headed Funko Pop toys then you can even imagine. Other shops gave a more personalized touch with hand-made jewelry, leather-bound journals, toys, and knick-knacks from independent creative minds. I was intrigued into one board game in particular, but the folks at Golden Bell Entertainment were promoting a variety of table-top games, including the upcoming “Pretending to Grownup” and “Turtles Riding Airships.” A few booths over, I ran into comic artist trio Unshaven Comics, who last year sold me on their series Samurnauts. The short version: samurai monkeys in space battling pirates. If that doesn’t sell you like it did me, you need to rethink your imagination.
Lys Galati, Tim Smyth, Brit Francis, Adam Ebert, and Dr. Kate Monnin led a fantastic panel about pairing comic books with subjects taught in the classroom. They are able to grasp the attention of their students and improve comprehension and social understanding by utilizing visual arts as an aide to novels. Let’s face it, no one talks or writes the same way as they did when the majority of the classics were written. I know when I was a student, I struggled with the small details or certain descriptors that would confuse me from the main story and motifs. Using graphic art can re-tell the story from a different perspective. A classic like Romeo and Juliet, with a little help from Marvel, can become a tale of cybernetic robots in the middle of an apocalyptic war. Although robotics were most likely not a thing during Shakespeare’s time (I don’t know, I wasn’t there), it will certainly help to make sense of the language. Other comics help to engage real-life events, such as March, which highlights the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s. They were all careful to note that the comics do not replace the original stories, but they are used as a resource to help students engage and understand. There are opportunities to combine all sorts of subjects too. After all, how many of our favorite comic book heroes are scientists?
After the panel, I decided to walk around a bit and experience the expo as a fan. The energy is always high, it’s loud with excited chatter, and most of all people get to just be themselves… or, you know, someone else. While some may take their cosplay to LARP-levels, many are dressed to impressed no one but themselves (but color me impressed by a lot of the cosplay this year). Memes hold a special place in many peoples hearts, and one of the most recent and quickly-spread meme was from the show Rick and Morty. No major spoiler, but one of the big takeaways from the season 3 April Fool premier was Rick dying to get his hands on a special sauce McDonalds promoted for the Disney cartoon Mulan. Of course there were plenty of Ricks at C2E2 of all varieties, but Imgur user mcjakes definitely nailed his first go at cosplay as a giant dipping sauce.
I talked to a group who was in costume for C2E2, some who were attending for the first time. From the surrounding Chicagoland area, the group was there for the amazing variety of things the expo has to offer: cosplay, the shops, the comics, and even a guest or two. The variety of costumes presented was the perfect representation of C2E2: comic book heroes, movie icons, cartoons, and–one I didn’t get right away–musical legends.
You don’t have to always be in costume. You also didn’t have to go just to go. Some attendees had a very specific agenda in mind. Couple Brett and Abby, from almost 4 hours away in New Castle, Indiana, were there for the legends of comics Stan Lee and Frank Miller. After a few cancelled appearances due to illness, it was nice for them to see Stan Lee better and ready for a grand appearance, one of his last stops before retiring from the convention circuit. Between main stage presentations, Brett and Abby were walking the shopping area, searching for what they admitted was probably more Funko Pop figures than they should be getting.
Altogether, it was a great weekend. I came home with a lot of random loot, some good some not. I met some really cool people and experienced the rush of everyone setting down their differences and coming together to geek out about what they love. Maybe next time I may try a cosplay. Comment your suggestions and I’ll see what time and budget will allow me to produce. Until next time, C2E2!
Some honorable mentions I’d like to make for shops:
- The Blonde Swan– a hat and accessories boutique that features customized pieces from all sorts of fandoms, and if you don’t see your favorite one listed, they do commissions. Slightly pricey, but the craftsmanship and design make it well worth it.
- Texas Custom Sabers– because you know you want your own light saber. Use the force, which in this case is a credit card, and order your very own light saber hilt and maybe in the next few years, we’ll find the crystals or technology to figure out the blades.
- Sarah Wilkinson– an artist with such an eye for detail. Her own creations are stunning, along with a gallery full of pop culture/fantasy/nerd paintings that show off your fandom while being a piece of exquisite art for your wall.
- Forteza Fitness– someone took their childhood imagination of playing heroes and dragons and turned it into a reality. Adult and child classes are available to learn a variety of combat and swordsmanship with experienced personal trainers.
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