C2E2 is a huge event for me on the most personal level. Much like Civil War in the Marvel Universe will always hold an unnecessary favoritism in my mind for events because it was the first, the entry into something much better (and more monstrous). You never forget your first comic con. For me it was C2E2 2011, short for Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, and the world that opened up before me.

Misconceptions are that comic conventions are full of people in costumes (cosplayers), acne, fanboys, and bad smells. I can confirm at least 2 of those are mostly true, but stepping onto a show floor of a convention instantly removes all those preconceived notions. Immediately you see towers of t-shirts, 2 story posters for upcoming movies/TV shows/comic books, video game publishers and their latest titles, and most of all, passion. C2E2 2013 was no exception.

This year, Brian of ComicUI and I took the trip together for the first time. This was my third year and his first, so we decided to really go all out. We left early Friday morning and trekked 3 hours from Indy to Chicago discussing all the panels we’d watch and stuff we should buy. The whole point of comic cons is actually to find parking: the rarest, most elusive thing of all. To solve this crisis, I taught Brian a thing or two about how to work a system in our favor (another story for another day), but to say the least, that parking pass is being saved for a long time.

Once we arrived in the McCormick Place event center, grabbed our press passes, and headed to the floor, it immediately became apparent that this year was going to be twice the show I’ve ever seen. From the doors, Marvel’s booth was directly to the right, t-shirts straight ahead, and to the left were the artists. The best way I can break down the floor space is in 4 sections: Artists, Autographs, Publishers, and Purchases.

The section designated for the big names/publishers this year was actually smaller than ever. We got Marvel, Dark Horse, Monster Hunter, Hawken, and that’s about all I can remember. DC was definitely a no-show this year, something Marvel took a chance to poke fun at during their panels, and the #swag from these companies was limited to lanyards and buttons (some buttons can be pretty awesome, such as an I [punisher symbol] Marvel) but no real treats to take home and show off from the visit.

First order of business was a picture with the props from Marvel’s cinematic films, and by props I mean fake ones. We had a choice between Mjolnir, Cap’s Shield, or Hulk hands. We went hammer and shield, ironically the names for SHIELD in the past 4 years (it was HAMMER under Osborn). After that was done, in about 15 seconds, we moved on to the next area, purchases.

The sales portion of the floor was enormous this year, covering probably 1/3 if not up to half the space. The variety was what really shocked us this year. There were toys, comic books, indie artists, props, outfits, and the ultimate item, swords. Walking through this sea of booths and people (where the odor was most palpable), it can become overwhelming and almost distracting. Keeping a flow of movement and trying to stop at booths is the impossible task that people still try to take upon themselves. Brian got excited when we saw the Cyanide and Happiness troupe and we had to stop, which paid off due to Brian getting a custom drawing of (what I think) to be a time machine hat. Their work method was brilliant and admirable, which is also another story. There was way too much to remember everything that was for sale, but to say the least, any collector could go away a happy person.

After the sales portion, we decided to take up some dining opportunities. This consisted of a large 2 story structure in the middle of the show floor. We trekked to the top, picked out some overpriced sandwiches, and then hunted for a table much like men hunt for women, without much to show for it until we got lucky. From here, I took a panoramic shot of this third of the convention hall, yes, just ONE THIRD of the space that was there.

When lunch had ended, we proceeded to look at the autograph area, which was pretty empty due to it being early Friday. There are roped off sections for lines and little tables people sit at. And that’s it for that part.

Lastly, the artist alley is one of my favorite things at comic cons. It was not always this way, hardly at all, but after meeting some great people my first year and at subsequent conventions, I have become an artist junkie. Most notably I favor the 8-bit artist, Victor Dandridge, a friend of mine who I love tossing money at. He created the Sentry in 8-bit form for me in 2011 and my current avatar for this website, Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet is one of his works as well. This year he presented an 8-Bit Challenge involving Iron Man due to the movie’s release the week after. The premise is that you pay $2 and you can guess 10 of his 8-bit characters from his huge poster. If you do, you win level 1 8-bit Iron Man card (Mk 1 suit), another $2 and you guess another, different 10 and you get to level 2 (Mk 2 suit) and so forth until you get to level 8, which is Hulkbuster. Needless to say, I was the first winner of C2E2 2013 and the winning character was Reverse Flash (how ironic). If you get a chance and see Victor with his 8-bit works at any artist exhibition, please stop by and check out his awesome work. He also draws a full comic, The Samaritan, which is available in digital online as well (Vol 1 and Vol 2 are on Amazon, they’re $3 for the whole set).

iron man 8bit challenge

In what I have to deem ‘short’ summation of the convention floor at C2E2 in 2013, I must say that I was most impressed by the people who weren’t publishers. It was extremely obvious that artists, comic book stores, and the indie vendors were the true heart to what made C2E2 so great this year, instead of the big names that obviously save their huge reveals for larger places (I’m looking at you SDCC). For that reason, I choose to spend the majority of my dollars with them and will always support their efforts at any convention we visit. Stay tuned as we write some synopses of the panels and share our photos of the artwork we gathered over the weekend.

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Co-host of Superhero Slate podcast and the co-founder of ComicUI. My passions lie with Marvel, Star Wars, Halo, the Muppets, and my huge Funko Pop! Vinyl collection. Ask me about it sometime!