For the past two years, the two years I’ve attended C2E2, a comic and entertainment convention in Chicago that also throws in wrestling and tattoos into the mix. It has happened each year at McCormic Place. The best way to get there is by the #3 bus. For some reason Google maps isn’t very helpful, but the bus drops you off right outside. The other options are to take one of the free shuttles from the hotels there, or you can always take a cab, drive or walk. I also noticed this year a metro stop inside/connected to McCormick Place which is apparently a stop on the Metra Electric Line. The best way to find it is to follow the large crowds of people, especially if there are people in cosplay. Last year I volunteered and this year with some help from some friends I managed to go for free. Tickets are not badly priced, especially in comparison to other conventions.
Last year I volunteered for Archaia comics, but they’ve recently been added to Boom studios. I had a ton of fun last year, I hadn’t read any of their comics but I had heard a lot about them, and having just spent a semester studying book binding I absolutely fell in love with the way their comics look, like books. It’s exhausting to spend a long time in a booth, standing day after day selling comics, especially when at the end of the day you’re right next to the Marvel booth. Marvel is awesome, but it destroyed my voice trying to talk to customers at the end of the day with Marvel’s giveaways which induced mass screaming and large crowds. This year I was excited to see what Boom studios had done with Archaia and was disappointed to see a much smaller booth for both of them, with less people (none of whom I recognized) and a lot fewer Archaia books pushed off to the side.
But, my book crush on Archaia and disappointment aside, C2E2 is a fun event. Each year I go thinking that I’m not going to spend much money, and always end up disappointed in myself, but super happy overall and waaaayyy exhausted. Whether you go in cosplay (dressed up as a character), work the event, help out in some way, or go for fun by the end of a day you’re most likely going to be exhausted. McCormick Place is huge and it tends to move around a bit. Last year it was on one side of the building, this year on the other.
Last year I went for three days, and on break I’d run off to go grab lunch with a friend and go look around for a bit and look at the schedule while eating breakfast at Panera or on the bus. This year I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I found out rather late that a friend got me a ticket for Saturday (and later another friend donated their 3 day pass so I could go Sunday) so I looked at who all was coming into town, since another friend had freaked out over Teen Wolf and a Harry Potter guest and I thought about if I wanted to get a signing. I hadn’t done any last year and I wasn’t sure how it worked.
So on Saturday I stood in line for ridiculous increments of time. Pretty much for nothing. The first case was due to a time restriction and that the guests do have to leave for lunch, breaks, and photo ops. The second line I was in was huge. I didn’t have a clue how long it really was because it had somewhat merged with a pro wrestlers line. A volunteer told me I’d probably be out of line by about 2:30, which was perfect because I had a friend waiting for me for a Teen Wolf panel, and they were holding a spot in line. They moved the line I was in and suddenly it was snaking around the aisle and I was surrounded by people. I decided based off the info the volunteer gave me that if the line didn’t move by 2:00 then I’d have to jump out of it, I told a friend who called trying to find me, and someone in line said that the person I was waiting for wouldn’t be back till 2:30, so I left the line caught up with some friends for a bit and then went to the Teen Wolf panel where we had front row behind the empty reserved seats, and it was fun.
That’s the only panel I’ve been to at C2E2, but there are so many other amazing things to do. This year you could get a martial arts lesson by one of the old american power rangers which another friend did, or learn how to play Quidditch, or use a sword, most of the cast members for shows or just the guests in general had panels, there were how to’s and fan related panels, and even one for librarians. (And that’s just some of the stuff I was interested in/can remember and didn’t have time for, there are so many other things) The friend who saved us seats for the Teen Wolf panel went straight to the line up when she arrived, which meant she showed up over an hour early, so depending on the size of the room, where you want to sit, and how popular the panel may be, you need to calculate that into your arrival time.
Another packed place to look around is the artist alley. You can never be too sure who you’ll run into, just chilling in the artist alley. Last year Archaia had several of their artists who would be primarily at the artist alley but who would then come to the booth at specific times for signings, and occasionally I’d have to run back and forth if something happened, like if we sold out of their books. Several of the artists would do drawings next to their signatures. Artist Alley is also a great place to buy stuff, check out independent comic artists, have commissions done, or just to look around. This year I found Tony Moore doodling away and signing The Walking Dead comics or poster prints. Usually the artists in the artist alley will sign stuff for free, they did even when they came over to the Archaia booth, and I think they do for other booths as well, you just have to buy or bring something they’ve done, if you can.
At the end of Saturday when I was exhausted and about to head out to go grab tea with friends I decided to do one quick sweep of the signings to see if there was anyone who I may have wanted to get something signed by who might have been still around. Most everyone was gone for the night and had little sticky notes or written things on their sign like ‘see you tomorrow at 11:30’, or ‘be back sunday’. A friend was with me and I saw one booth that had people at it, but no sticky notes on it yet and no one in line. It was Nicholas Brendon and a friend and I stared at the booth trying to figure if he was there or not, because a guy was there but he didn’t look like Nicholas Brendon, or Xander from Buffy at all so I was trying to figure if someone could drastically change that much. When he left my friend checked, chatted with the people who were still sitting at the booth and then waved me over, saying he was going to be back in just a bit.
Now the other lines we’d been in had been long, and for me unfruitful and very strict. No photography, just signing and quick conversation if that and move on, which I got to experience again the next day, but a few people like Nicholas Brendon had an awesome booth. His sign said, even though he did have photo ops (photo opportunities where you pay $40+ to get a photo with them per actor/actress) $40 for a photo at the booth and a signature, and Free hugs. As a person who had a friend addicted to Buffy and a very contagious addiction it was, Xander had been one of my favorite characters. At most booths the actors have head shots that you can get signed, or photos from the set, it’s usually about $40 and they’ll sign it, address it to you and you get to head home with something to frame. So I thought it was awesome, when in the Teen Wolf line if you had your phone out past a certain point you could get kicked out, that one of Nicholas Brendon’s friends would take a photo with you with your camera or smart phone after you picked a shot you liked from the show for him to sign, and he’d ask if you wanted a hug.
Other people whose lines were booths were enjoyable include the people from Game of Thrones, which included Natalia Tena (Tonks from Harry Potter and Osha on Game of Thrones) I went with a friend because the line I wanted to be in was closed, and Natalia Tena had music playing and they were just sort of dancing and having a blast keeping themselves amused and they had practically no line. I could take as many photos as I wanted on my friends phone while she signed the photo from Harry Potter, and it was totally fine to just go up and say hi even if you weren’t going to get anything.
At the end of Sunday I had a bit of money left, enough for one signature and so I went over to the Warehouse 13 booth where Eddie McClintock, Saul Rubinek, Allison Scagliottii, and Jaime Murray were. They didn’t have very long lines, except for Eddie McClintock but his line was definably not as long as Tyler Posey’s or Stan Lee’s. But Eddie McClintock, according to a fan who stood with us for a bit while I waited for Allison Scagliottii and the cast to get back from a short photo shoot, said he was amazingly nice and was, like Nicholas Brendon doing free hugs. The entire cast that was there had another option which was for $20 you could get a lean in photo, which meant you could get a photo with them across the booth, which I did, because Allison Scagliottii and Saul Rubinek play my favorite characters on Warehouse 13. After meeting so many people I didn’t know what to say and I had changed my mind last minute from autograph to photos. My first photo went okay and quick because Allison Scagliotti had a line, but Saul Rubinek did not when I went up, and he at first didn’t know what I asked but then told me to come on back and had his friend/money holder move out of the seat and out of the way. If a woman with a baby hadn’t gotten in line and if my mind hadn’t gone uber blank I think we could have sat and chatted for a good 10 to 20 minutes. My friend was getting use to her contacts and the lights were agitating them, so when I had decided to get into Eddie McClintock’s line for a free hug she was suddenly in a lot of pain so we moved away and headed home.
Other than actors, voice actors, wrestlers, and comic book artists the convention also hosts authors, last year one of the free signings was for R.L. Stine, who I would have gone to visit but due to my limited break time for volunteering never managed to make it over.
Next to the signings/autograph lines are photo ops. I suggest you buy a ticket for who you want ahead of time, such as maybe in the morning or sometime before the photo op starts and then when the time comes get in line. You get two things, a photograph and a jpeg copy that will be e-mailed to you. You have a couple of options, especially if it’s for a show, you can get singles, doubles or group photos with the stars. Usually doubles and group photos are cheaper than getting a bunch of photos with single actors. It doesn’t take too long, except maybe the wait in line, and then after the photo is taken they suggest to come back in about an hour and the physical copy of the photo should be ready for pick up. The photos with Stan Lee looked like family portrait photos.
There are three days of the convention. Saturday is probably the busiest day while Sunday is a shorter day and also kid’s day, the only day for kids to get a cheaper ticket and full of kid friendly programing. Sunday is also a great day for deals because a lot of the event people don’t want to lug all of the stuff they brought with them back onto the plane. Not that there are not deals already, certain places wave taxes, have get one free for certain amounts sold, or booths like the Bristol Renaissance fair have discounts on their tickets if you buy them at the booth. There are also different artists and toy companies with booths, certain ones give out free promotional material, like a company called Energems that was giving out free samples and coupons for their caffeinated and vitamin chocolates. Big publishing companies also usually give out free things, so I suggest checking out Dark Horse Comics and Marvel if you go. They usually have art, posters, pins, and some free sample comics. And of course as I mentioned before at the end of the day Marvel draws a huge crowd and gives out more free stuff. Dark Horse Comics and Marvel are usually easy to see and find because they have large signs that you can see from far away, usually towering above the other booths or hanging from the ceiling.
Overall there is a ton to do at C2E2. This year I spent a ton of time in lines, but didn’t mind and got to chat with a lot of different people, some were fans trying not to hyperventilate, others were just chatting about their lives and favorite comics or shows or anything that falls under the C2E2 bracket. I got to see some amazing cosplays and some super creative ones and I got to pet snakes at a snake rescue booth. There is a ton to do and so here are some suggestions on how to survive C2E2 (or really any convention).
Wear comfortable shoes, before the end of the day my friends whose cosplays included high heels were wandering around without shoes or had brought a different pair and would swap them out for photos.
Bring hand sanitizer. Without meaning to you get caught up in shaking hands, going through ancient stacks of comics, handing over money, high-fiveing people and Con plague is a thing. (getting a pretty nasty cold or flu after a con)
Pack your lunch or a snack and bring water. Convention food is expensive even if there is a McDonalds within walking distance or in the building, it adds up and you’re paying for convenience when instead you could be buying something awesome. This year I ate lunch while sitting waiting in lines, but there are tables and open spaces off to the corners where you can grab a seat. Most of the food at the Convention outside of being expensive can end up having long lines, especially places like McDonalds and a lot of the food that the Convention place is selling doesn’t taste all that good.
Bring cash. Signings, certain booths, and even artist alley are not all set up for credit and you could miss out.
Try and take a look at the schedule before hand and try to figure out what you want to do and be mindful that you may not get to everything.
If you go with a group, have your cellphone accessible, charged and on because it gets packed and you could loose each other. The worst thing to see is a parent whose lost their child at the convention or to see a child wandering around by themselves without an adult nearby. So keep an eye on one another and usually there are signs or numbers on booths so you can figure out where you are in relation to one another.
Pace yourself and take care of yourself. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, a lot of cons are huge, and you’re covering a lot of distance even if you can’t tell because you’re looking at so many cool action figures, posters, clothes or cosplays. It can be exhausting, just chat with anyone, by the last day everyone is zapped of energy, even after one full day, everyone can be exhausted, whether they were standing in line all day, shopping, or going to panels.
Have fun. C2E2 is a ton of fun and great convention to enjoy nerdy things, show off a cosplay you’ve been working hard on, buy gifts, or find something you may have been looking for or get to meet the people who work on your favorite shows, video games, art, comics or movies.