C2E2, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Con
I recently had my first con experience. Yep, con as in convention–in this case, the 2015 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, C2E2. I’ve been a pop culture junkie since I was a kid, constantly trying to read books and listen to music and watch TV all at the same time, but the con-going had somehow passed me by. Maybe its because I lived most of my life in a small town where the nearest con was hundreds of miles away. Or maybe, as I confessed a little while attending this C2E2, it was because I was a little intimidated.
Despite my attempts to mainline pop culture at all turns, I’d never dipped into the actual comic book realm. I love the movies and the TV shows and, OK, I did read Watchmen, but reading/buying the comics was just something I hadn’t done. The backstories could be so elaborate, so gargantuan, how could I ever catch up?
But as cons become more mainstream, drawing in actors and authors and performers of all nerdy stripes, I could no longer deny the pull. (Also, I got a free pass. Thanks, Editor in Chief Mike!)(Editor’s Note: You’re Welcome!) So I braved the interstate traffic and hit the con floor at McCormick Place on a rainy Saturday. And it was the right decision.
Now, I feel like I hear about the gratitude and dedication of fanbases a lot, but to be amongst the cosplayers and kids, the artists and their fans, the well-known stars and the niche attractions, I really found that the people were the energy of the con.
The first panel I attended, Fierce Females of TV, featured some ass-kicking ladies from shows like Orphan Black and Firefly, where they gave honest and helpful answers to girls in the audience seeking advice and aspirations in what can be a guy-heavy arena. Next up was a spotlight on Jason Momoa, Khal Drogo/Aquaman himself, which seemed a little looser and included a maybe somewhat inappropriate arm massage, but was great fun nonetheless. The dude knows how to play to an audience. Several of his answers were things he deemed for the ears of attendees only, so go to your own panel to get the dirt!
From there, I roamed out to the floor, which was already crushed with people. I had hoped to walk aisle by aisle, but the onslaught on people, costumes, and even just the square yardage that needed to be covered rendered that idea quickly moot. So I ping-ponged from t-shirt stand to fine art booth to Artists’ Alley and back again, listening to people excitedly hunt for issues and figures, friends and something to drink that cost less than $10. But maybe the best part was the cosplayer interactions I saw–they were all so incredibly well done. From the wardrobe to the poses to the patience to the comraderie, I was really amazed at their dedication and creativity. I saw an incredible Beaker and Carol-Burnett-as-Scarlett-O’Hara-in-the-drapes-dress, a multitude of Constantines and Deadpools and Jakes and Finns, Ghostbusters complete with Stay-Puft Marshmellow Men, Gamoras and Starlords, Wolverines and Gambits, on and on and on. And each busting out their best fighting stance when someone’s iPhone pointed their direction. All for the love of it. It was pretty cool.
On Sunday, I showed up early to see a very fun Thrilling Adventure Hour panel, complete with stars and guest stars and one very well-made puppet, and was complimented on my United States of Film t-shirt by a very impressively decked out Brienne of Tarth in line for the Game of Thrones panel (I was incredibly humbled, as she was wearing actual armor) where Loras Tyrell (aka Finn Jones) and again Khal Momoa entertained the audience with answers to questions about nudity and and a clever Throne, Bone, Kill game, a variation on Marry, Fuck, Kill that discussed who they wanted to see on the Iron Throne, who they wanted their character to have some sexposition with, and yeah, who they think deserves to die next.
I wandered the floor a little more as the event slowed to a close on Sunday, picking up my first comic trade–wish me luck!–and spying a last few dedicated cosplayers, including a delightful Groot. But eventually my feet gave out and I headed home, tired but truly impressed at this undertaking of nerds. It was truly a sight to behold, and I can’t wait to do it again. I never felt out of place or intimidated, even when flanked by Hellboys and eager fanboys. Everyone was excited to be there, and it showed.