Seemed like Lance Fensterman started loading my inbox with notices early this year, and to be honest, that made me all sorts of happy.
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo has been knocking around the convention halls of McCormick Place for just a few years now, but it seems as if it has finally become the Pop Culture Event of the City. Actual advertisements for it are visible in train stations. Non-nerds are talking about it. Renegade geeks are blogging about it. They have their iPads nestled between their energy drinks and stacks of comics from Wednesday.
I remember its first year, where the panels were sparsely populated, the Brightest Day Presentation was disappointing, and Cup o Joe was a little too audience aggressive for my tastes. But once everyone got their feet wet, it felt like the following year was more confident and abundant in nerdery. Also some very smart panels given by people of a wide variety of intellectual pursuits and cultural interests.
The buzz generated from its presence in Chicago is palpable. Open your window. Lean out. Hear that? Thousands of tiny boom boxes playing the intro to Torchwood. John Barrowman and John Cusack in the same building?That's cray, yo. There will be an organized conflict between a zombie horde and garishly costumed crime fighters? Be still my beating heart.
Like a zombie apocalypse, but smellier.
But in all seriousness, comic book conventions in Chicago deserve the grandiosity that McCormick Place provides. It's got a palpable presence, a vastness akin to the hotel in The Shining, minus ghost bartenders and psychotic caretakers. As the popularity of C2E2 has been growing exponentially larger with each passing year, this year should be exceptional in scope. People from all over the country will make their presence known. Profiteers from the obscure nooks and crannies of the entertainment industry will emerge. Synergy will run rampant. Autographs will be sold and irrelevant dork questions will be presented at panels. Secret geek handshakes will be offered, some taken, and the rather exceptional industries that provide us with such a wide variety of entertaining distractions will swell, briefly, like a toad in a bog.
This is not a badly taken photo. It was taken as super-speed.
But where does the renegade, that exceptional convention-goer who needs to get everywhere, do everything, find himself something of interest to browse through? Here are a few pointers for the nerd on the go.
1: Bring a Buddy. I know this one almost goes without saying, but comic book conventions are best taken in groups of two or more. You can cover more ground, geek out with someone over the treasured discoveries made, and more sets of eyes can pick out the best the convention has to offer. Of course, if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself alone and attempting awkward chit chat with comics professionals. Usually it ends badly.
2: Double check the schedule of events. It's best to plan out your course of entry. If you're just there to buy fifty cent back issues of Stormwatch Team Achilles from a retailer that came in from Houston, you could probably get a better deal online. Half the heft of conventions such as these, for fans and professionals, are the panels and screenings.
Remember, post convention dumpster diving can be an excellent source of swag.
3: The C2E2 FAQs are common sense, but if you're the sort that makes a habit of missing the point, definitely double check them. There are also guides online concerning personal hygiene and the treatment of rashes that could prove useful.
4: If you didn't already, besiege Lance Fensterman's Twitter account @LFensterman with questions about the bathroom sanitation standards of the convention and harangue the official show account @C2E2 over the poor quality of the local White Castle and McDonald's, then download the Official C2E2 Mobile App, which is so exclusive I won't even provide a hotlink to it.
The key is not to stop and ask for people to pose for photos, but to wait until other people do.
5: If you want to go that extra mile and pre-plan to the minute, just to squeeze all the spontaneity out of the event but infuse all the good texture of quasi-intellectualism, try checking out the handy show planner that the organizers have designed for technologically enabled individuals. Remember that panels are all located on Level 4.
6: Like so many odd locations along the lakefront in Chicago, McCormick Place is not the easiest place for some people to get to. Sure, you can get off at Chinatown and do the character-building trek that is walking the rest of the way, or cram cash into a cab driver's hands and hope for the best, but there is a free shuttle service for Nerds in the Know. You can find the schedules and locations here.
7: Remember, this place will drain the money right out of you. Take advantage of free energy drink samples. Bring your own everything, within reason. Don't bring guns, weapons, or things that look like guns and weapons. Unless they are made of flimsy cardboard. In which case, totally bring them.
And if you are posing for photographs at C2E2, make certain you're using the buddy system.
9: For those of you 21 or older, there is a bar at C2E2, specifically, the Hyatt attached to McCormick Place, run by the fine people at Comic Book Resources. Sure, overpriced drinks with names like "Unstoppable Force" sound cool, but in reality this is a spot where you hope to find some celebrity level comic book creator knocking back one too many and telling you what he really thinks of Stan "the Man" Lee.
10: You want autographs, right? Of course you do. Well the place to be is the IGN Theater, located in room S100 on Level 1 of McCormick right after you come in the front doors.
Other items of note: the effervescent Jhonen Vasquez will be present at C2E2, and rumor has it that he LOVES PIE. What you should do is bake a pie, any variety whatsoever will do. Bring them to the Jhonen Vasquez Q & A (Sample question: "So what's it like living off Invader Zim residuals?") and, when presenting them to him, just run at him full speed. Try not to trip.
Also: A strange rumor has started, completely unfounded, right here, that superhero Ryan Gosling, who will be playing Dr. Hank Pym in the Avengers 2 (total lie) may be visiting the convention on Friday, on his way to meet with Oprah Winfrey to consult over the next phase of his hair and feminist-saving agenda. Be on the look out. And remember. Before you go convention hopping. Wash.
Yes, that is a banana in his holster. Yes, he is glad to see you. Yes, you. With the beard.