C2E2 2020: The Last Con of the Year?

C2E2 logo

That’s a joke title, based on people getting squidgy about the coronavirus. But already I’m hearing about people pulling out of the soon-upcoming Emerald City Comic Con because of travel and infection concerns.

I went to C2E2 in Chicago, where I had the pleasure of rooming with Brigid Alverson and Heidi MacDonald, who make every show better. Here are some thoughts and experiences. (If you want to hear us talk about some of this, check out the podcast — episode 1 and episode 2.)

C2E2 2020 opening

In general, there is a heavy cosplay presence here. And wrestling, especially since there was an AEW live event Saturday night at the next-door arena. I didn’t get to find many new projects — I like going to cons to find out about newer creators and comics I’m not already familiar with — but I had some wonderful conversations with old friends. Including an impromptu CompuServe Comics/Animation group reunion! There were lots of reminiscences, which tend to happen when you’ve been doing this for multiple decades.

There weren’t a huge number of publishers — beyond DC and Marvel, I was happy to see First Second (part of a bigger prose publisher presence) and Oni Press. There was a lot of superhero-themed merchandise — including baby clothes and pet toys — and a ton of gaming gear, ranging from dice sets to over thousand-dollar game tables. (Support for the idea that the show is relatively local in focus.) In my opinion, this is still something of a one-day-plus show, not really a three-day show (the placement of all the best panels on Saturday afternoon argues for this, as does the half-hour wait to get through security on Saturday morning when you can walk right in on Friday), but it’s drawing well from the Midwest.

Oni Press booth at C2E2

Convention exclusives at Oni Press booth at C2E2

Meet and Greets

One of the enjoyable activities at a larger show for me is getting to put a face with a name, particularly of the folks I talk to about books for review. I had the pleasure of meeting Clark Bull at the DC booth, who was dapper in a smashing suit. I was a bit freaked out at realizing I worked as DC’s webmaster almost 25 years ago, and then even more so when I figured out that some of the helpful booth assistants might not have been alive then.

Anyway, Clark was kind enough to introduce me to the gentleman who was currently in charge of DC’s digital division. (Yes, it now takes a group to do what I did all by myself back before everyone was heavily into digital marketing. Heck, my job wasn’t even in the marketing group back then — it was licensed publishing, because of the AOL site.) I did impress them by remembering the 13 hours a week of live guest programming I ran in the AOL chat rooms. Ah, different times. (A/S/L?)

I enjoyed getting to say hello to Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, who had a panel and a signing to celebrate Pumpkinheads. The panel was more like a conversation, allowing a lot of audience members to ask questions, and hearing how they worked together was amazing. Faith, who has 14 graphic novels under her belt, is already working on another one which sounds terrific and a really smart idea.

Johanna and Faith Erin Hicks

Johanna and Faith Erin Hicks

It was also a pleasure catching up with Thom Zahler. We got a chance to talk about his new publishing strategy. He makes every show better.

One of the very best conversations was late Friday night when Heidi and I met some of the DC video hosts. Amy Dallen and I had a fantastic conversation about the history of women in comic fandom. She was either actually interested or incredibly polite. I was told she ran the DC panel after Dan DiDio’s departure and did a terrific job.

Heidi MacDonald, Amy Dallen, Clarke Wolfe, Johanna Draper Carlson

Heidi MacDonald, Amy Dallen, Clarke Wolfe, me

Good Books to Read

I had the pleasure of meeting the women behind Go With the Flow, Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann. I’m looking forward to reading this graphic novel about friends in school dealing with periods. It’s a subject that we’d never have seen in comics until more women started making them.

I was fortunate to get an early galley of Box Brown’s upcoming Child Star, which sounds fascinating. It’ll be interesting seeing him do a fiction story after so many of his great non-fiction graphic novels.

Lucy Knisley signed a copy of her debuting Go to Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood, which is exactly as described: adorable baby cartoons.

I was really sorry to miss the panel on comics and food, since it’s a huge interest of mine (see above comment about all the panel collisions), but I did get to see Sarah Becan after and have her sign Let’s Make Ramen!.

Being a Fan

The DC booth, in addition to giving out different first issues every time I went by, had this Wonder Woman through the ages poster. Wish I knew who the artist was, since I know who the influences are of the different eras, but they’ve all been redrawn.

Wonder Woman giveaway poster

I bought a crystal Doctor Who keychain that lights up. Silly, but cool. The booth also had a bunch of crystal statues of each Doctor — which I couldn’t get, because then I’d have to choose a favorite!

Doctor Who crystal keychain

Doctor Who Crystals booth

I also was happy to pick up this Geico gecko giveaway — which was at the Marvel booth, for some reason. But a con always goes better with a stuffy friend.

Geico gecko

The actual comics I acquired, I’ll be writing about separately. Thanks for reading! One of the nostalgic discussions this weekend was about convention reports and how they’d disappeared. I had stopped doing them for a while, since I feared they risked descending into name-dropping. But this was fun, and I know I’ll appreciate the memories in future years. Thanks also to Chris Arrant for joining us for a hugely insightful breakfast discussion about life on the web, and to Paul Storrie for a much needed pick-me-up when the show floor became overwhelming. Next show: TCAF! (Unless you’re a Holmes fan. In which case, see you at 221BCon.)


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