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C2E2 is Still Better than Comic Con

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Yah, I said it.

I used to go do Wizard World Chicago every year, like a religious pilgrimage to the closest shrine of comic geekdom we had. Then, one year, everything changed and it was suddenly Comic Con Chicago. Vendor booths, artist alley tables, and dealer areas were eaten away to make room for roped off and curtained no-go zones for those who paid big bucks to get signatures from celebrities like Bruce Campbell and Patrick Stewart.

Around the second year of that, if memory serves, we also went to C2E2, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.  I believe it was their second year, and it was a small convention, but it reminded me of the early years going to Wizard World.  We had a blast and decided that would become our regular yearly stint.

A bonus was that we always had to make the choice between GenCon and Wizard World. WW always won out due to price.  With C2E2 being earlier in the year, that opened up the opportunity to start going to GenCon as well.  We went to Comic Con one more time after starting to go to C2E2 and, if possible, it was worse than the time before.  It wasn’t about comic books and artists anymore.  It was all about getting in to pay ridiculous sums just to get a glossy picture of an actor signed.

C2E2, while mostly about comics and artists, doesn’t pretend that it’s only a comic book convention.  They do dedicate most of the floor space to comic artists and vendors though.  The amazing part is that in just 7 years they’ve gone from a small show with just shy of 28,000 attendees to a juggernaut topping 80K this past year.

McCormick Place is the perfect venue as well.  Where Comic Con is limited in growth by the Rosemont’s (Donald E. Stephens Convention Center) limited space at 840,000 square feet, McCormick Place boasts 2.6 million, 1.2 of which is all on the same floor.  Just three years ago C2E2 topped New York Comic Con in size, with over 670,000 square feet of space used.  It’s safe to say if it exists in the world of geek culture and you can’t find it at C2E2, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Due to its size, I recommend any attendee go for more than a day.  One day used to be enough for us, whether it was Wizard World, Comic Con, or the early years of C2E2. After the 2015 trip though we knew that wasn’t going to be enough. We were there from opening until about an hour before the floor closed and we felt like we only saw half of it.

Even this year, with two days in Chicago, we didn’t see everything, but we ran out of spending money about lunch time on Saturday and the crowd was getting to be a bit much.  Take your time. Don’t rush; and don’t spend all your money right away.  Best practice, see everything you want to see, and if an item you saw earlier in the day is still on your mind, then go back and get it.  Better to have to backtrack than buy something early and find an item you want more later, but have spent yourself out of funds.

Here’s some other tips for anyone new to large cons:

  • Deodorant
  • Comfy shoes – the show floors are hard despite the carpet
  • Backpack with water bottle compartment – water fountains are free
  • More deodorant – halfway through the day, you’ll wish you could jump into the bathroom and refresh with a damp paper towel and application of deodorant
  • Print/poster tube – pick it up early at one of the many booths selling Dick Blick products. You’ll be glad you did if you buy any art.
  • Phone charger/backup battery – Your battery will drain fast if you use your phone for anything inside a steel and concrete building with no signal strength
  • Dress light, even if it’s cold outside – no matter the temp outside it will be hot in the hall. A short cold walk beats a long sweaty day on the show floor.

Of course, C2E2 is also an entertainment con, so it has a long list of celebrity guests, and some of them cost a lot just for one signature.  The convention does a great job of giving the celebrities space without taking away floor from the comics, artists, and vendors.

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Many of the celebs you meet will also vary in price for autographs from free on up to $60.  I would avoid the meet and greets, though, honestly.  My wife did a meet and greet with Wil Wheaton this year. $60 for a picture with him that he didn’t even sign.  Want that signed? Another $40… yeah, a little disappointing for a long-time fan.

Sure, you get to stand next to them for a second, maybe get a, “Hi, how are ya!” but Michael Cudlitz (Walking Dead, Band of Brothers, Southland) was doing autographs and taking a ton of selfies with fans at his table, and actually talking to people.  We watched from the line to meet Timothy Zahn and it was great to see Mr. Cudlitz treating all of his fans like friends.  He didn’t even sit behind his high table they set up for him.  He came around the side, standing right there with the fans, and it was fantastic.  Granted, Cudlitz had far fewer people in line, but damn if he didn’t show the utmost appreciation for every single one of them.

Other than all that, plan ahead.  Make sure you know what you want to see, and prioritize. You can be in line for a signing longer than anticipated, so don’t schedule anything back to back.  Look for things that aren’t at your local shop, or easily ordered cheaper on Amazon.  Really scope out the deals and find those items that you must have and are hard to find.

Make frequent trips to the car to drop off stuff, but also to get out of the crowd and noise for some fresh air.  The population of a decent-sized city descends on that convention hall and sometimes you just need to get away from it to recharge before diving back in. Above all, have fun.  Any convention you go to is ultimately about that.  Sharing your love for geekdom and having fun.  That’s what makes it all worth it.

Volumes with Vanri: Faith, Vol 1

Written by: Jody Houser51bsrdz8b5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_
Art by: Francis Portella, Marguerite Sauvage
Published by: Valiant

While I’ve never read a comic before in my life, I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies. I know, I know, they’re not the same. I just want to get my point across. I grew up with the film, television and cartoon adaptations of Marvel and DC superheroes. From X-men to Batman to The Avengers, I’m acquainted with a few heroes. That being said, after reading Faith: Hollywood & Vine, my new favorite superhero is Zephyr, the lovable and relatable Faith Herbert.

Faith, who goes by the alias Summer Smith, is a nerdy, awkward and overweight woman who not only saves the world but also dates buff, attractive guys (it’s not impossible, ladies!). As a nerdy, awkward and overweight woman, I identify with her more than any other hero I can think of. She’s just like me, but is comfortable with and proud of who she is, which is something a lot of women and girls struggle with. She’s goals, basically.

Faith: Hollywood & Vine contains the first four issues of Faith Herbert’s stand-alone mini-series. From my research, I found that Faith’s character first appears in Harbinger #1, where she joins The Renegades to fight for good after she learns she’s a psiot (think mutants from X-Men). In her stand-alone series, however, Faith has left the Harbinger Foundation to attempt to fight crime in Los Angeles on her own.

In the first four issues, we see Faith attempt to hide her real identity as she keeps a day job at an entertainment blog called Zipline, come across a new alien enemy called the Vine, and basically just be a badass body-positive role model.

As this is the first comic I’ve ever read, I have nothing to compare it to. The artwork is fantastic. Faith’s boss is creepily intense when talking to her employees about their stories and deadlines, which is apparent on her face. Faith herself even changes slightly in appearance depending on whether we’re seeing her in her everyday life or in her fantasies (of which she has a lot!). It’s an amazing detail, as I think we all attempt to make ourselves more attractive in our fantasies, while still being us.

The story itself was a great introduction to Faith as a stand-alone hero. It’s a great time in her superhero career to break off as she knows enough to actually be able to fight crime, but is also naïve enough that she fumbles and makes mistakes. She may be a superhero, but she’s a human being who must learn and grow in her profession, just like the rest of us, and we as readers get to learn and grow with her.

If you haven’t read Faith: Hollywood & Vine, I recommend you do so. Not only is Faith funny and relatable, but she’s just the person women and girls across the world need in order to feel like they can do and be anything. I’m glad Faith was my first comic book and she certainly won’t be my last.

Volumes with Vanri is a new spotlight by Vanri the Rogue, who is brand new to the world of comics. All comics featured in this spotlight can be found in various comic stores as well as on ComiXology.

Wonder Woman Honored then Snubbed by the U.N.

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The United Nations, famous (infamous?) for having Saudi Arabia on the human rights council, recently appointing Wonder Woman as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.  Then, even more recently enough, people threw a fit that it was reversed.  Strangely enough of the people who complained aren’t who you think.  UN staffers, feminists, and non-fans of the character were vocal about their opposition.  Even written in the petition:

Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent warrior woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a pin-up girl.

What this says about women who do look like Wonder Woman is a bit of a double standard in my opinion.  While every woman is different, there are probably a great many women who look like her and girls who will look like her.  Saying they are abnormal is just as bad as saying any other body type is abnormal.  Saying she’s a ‘white woman’ shows the ignorance of people who cannot tell the difference between the wide range of  European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people, as much as the ignorance of people who think all Asians are the same.  And what’s wrong with pin-up girls?  It’s a job just like any other, and there are highly talented, and successful burlesque dancers, pin-up models, and dancers and if we are empowering women that means accepting whatever job it is they decide is best for them, right?  Who are we to shame any of these aspects of real women?

If a woman of Greek descent, who saves people all around the world and immigrates to America is too American, then which fictional character would work?  What other fictional female character is as well known, especially with the upcoming DC movie?  How many little girls, and even adults, cosplay as Diana every year?  What message does the UN send to these woman and girls, and even boys, when they say Wonder Woman isn’t womaning well enough to be an example for girls to look up to?

And current iteration?  Did they even google Wonder Woman before writing that?  Take a look.  Wonder Woman art is as varied as the artists who’ve drawn her.  Just in the top few results, we have her in the traditional red, white and blue, decked out in armor, wearing pants, and covered from neck to toe in an armored body suit.  She’s drawn as athletic and slender, or muscular and curvy, large chested or smaller, and everything in between.  The current iteration of this immigrant super heroine is quite diverse really, and it seems to me she shows that women can be whatever they want, and look however they want when they do it.

Thankfully fans are speaking out, with one 14 year old girl starting a petition to reinstate her.  Even Phil Jimenez shared this great tweet with art from Catherine and Sarah Satrun:

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Quite honestly, at the end of the day, if the point is to pick a woman who will fit everyone’s definition of a role-model, you’ll fail.  You’re not going to find a single fictional female, or male character, that everyone will think is a perfect example.  It’s simply not possible.  What I do know is when I see the faces of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman, they look like they’re having the time of their lives.  Do little girls really care what she’s wearing, or do they care that they feel like goddesses when they put on a costume and pretend to be Diana for a few hours?  Should we be focusing on what a woman wears (I’m told that’s really bad), or what she does?  Should our message be that a woman can do whatever she wants, and dress however she likes when she does it, or she can do it as long as she dresses in an acceptable manner?  I may just be one of those silly guys, but it seems like a damn confusing message to me.

Comic Book Spotlight: Batgirl #1

Title: Batgirl #1
Writer: Hope Larson
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque
Published by DC Comics
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Reviewed by Johnny Destructo
A bit of history: the first post-Killing Joke-version of Batgirl that appeared about 5 years ago via “The New 52” was a no-nonsense woman dealing with recently getting back on her feet, and the after affects of PTSD. Then the powers that be did a bit of re-branding, making Barbara slightly younger, with a whole new outfit (which is far more visually striking) and suddenly she was worrying about her online presence, Instagram and her popularity as a superhero in a piece of the city called Burnside. That brings us to this new #1! Babs has left Burnside and is doing some globe-trotting, starting in Japan, specifically to meet an elderly ex-crimefighter, Chiyo Yamashiro, aka FRUIT BAT.

 

OK, so on her first day in Japan, Babs runs into her old friend Kai, who just happens to be her new roommate, coincidentally, on the other side of the world. Even though I love super-heroes being taken out of their comfort zone and into a new locale, in this issue, Kai sees a red-headed friend from Gotham, and then runs into a red-headed Vigilante from Gotham the next day? This is the bit where we as readers have to do some belief-suspension and just go along with it. This is a long-running super-hero trope that we just have to pretend not to notice. Or is it? Should we expect better from modern comics?

 

At any rate, the action soon ramps up when Kai is attacked by a bad-ass “school girl” and Babs has to jump in as Batgirl, only to have the aforementioned Fruit Bat take care of the kid herself. She deflects a knife-toss meant for her throat, sending it bouncing off a nearby drum and through the School Girl’s tie! Not bad for a lady 104 years in. Babs sees this and decides, as good as she is, she needs more training. Fruit Bat, clearly unable to take her on as a student, tells Batgirl to “find Teacher.” Before succumbing to a weak heart, imparts, “You can’t see the future when the past is standing in your way.” This, plus a billboard, lead our favorite ginger to the MMA Grand Prix in Singapore, and to issue #2.

 

Upon a second reading, I actually liked the mystical coincidences that popped up here, despite it reeking of cliched “Asian magicks.” I’ve always enjoyed when a crime-fighter needs to travel the world to learn different techniques. It gives the character a sense of having to actually work for their abilities, unlike in shows such as Arrow where it only takes the length of an episode to become a master of martial arts and cool weaponry.

The art by Rafael Albuquerque is sketchy yet fluid, kinetic but still solid. It’s a bucket of fun to look at, and the colors by Dave McCaig have a Pop-Art sensibility and don’t take themselves too seriously, if that makes sense. It’s a beautiful book, with a fun story, give it a shot!
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Be sure to visit Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex in Manayunk for great comics just like this one! Like them on Facebook here!
Note from the editor: This month’s Comic Spotlight was delayed due to conflicting schedules.

Tim from Last Week Reviews: Dungeons & Dragons #1

Writer: John RogersD&D#1 coverArtist: Andrea Di Vito
Colorist: Aburtov and Graphikslava
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Released: 11/2010 (collected 7/2011)

Review by: Tim from Last Week

John Rogers is one of those writers that you know, but don’t know you know. He handled the first script for the Transformers movie. He was a creator on The Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon (a favorite in the From Last Week household!). He created and executive-produced TNT’s Leverage. In comics, he was co-creator of Jaimie Reyes, DC Comics’ “new” Blue Beetle. He has also written for BOOM! Studios (Cthulhu Tales, Zombie Tales).

Andrea Di Vito has been working in comics since the early 2000s. His first regular art gig was on The First, followed by Brath (CrossGen Comics). Then he moved on to higher profile jobs, including Thor, Annihilation, and Nova (Marvel Comics). Di Vito has also worked on assorted G.I. Joe titles for IDW Publishing.

On the first page, we are dropped right into the action (don’t get too excited: it’s just a tease, to whet your appetite). Dealing with zombified orphans (“…nobody’s gonna miss ’em”) seems like a good place to start! Then, flashback to earlier that day. A pre-existing party of adventurers is signing up a new member at the local bar. The team is set (but not stable): Adric Fell (human, leader), Kahl (dwarf), Varis (elf), Bree (halfling), and new member Tisha (human/tiefling). We get to see them razzing each other, just before the action starts.

Zombies break through the floor, and we get to see everyone in action trying to stop the horde of zombies. It turns out the zombies were following tunnels under the town. But, it seems that the zombies aren’t really zombies, and that leads to the gang getting arrested for murdering a bunch of townsfolk. The group is about to be sentenced, but an old friend of Fell’s, Copernicus Jinx, arrives to explain the situation. It seems darkness is seeping into this realm, and infecting people.

As Fell and the team try to escape the now-infected constabulary, Jinx tells Fell that his daughter (who also has history with Fell) had already gone to investigate this disturbance at the Orphanarium. The team splits up to try to solve the mystery and save lives, some going into the tunnels, and some heading for the orphans. The tunnel crew finds that a strange being invoking dark forces below town. The orphan crew arrives to find that the orphans have already been “turned,” and Jinx’s daughter, Juliana, is defending herself from an onslaught of mini-zombies. A large explosion occurs below the orphanage, and we leave the story, there.

Reading this comic, I reacted similarly as I have to other D&D comics, over the years (more on that, later): this isn’t a D&D story, it’s a sword-and-sorcery story that happens to have the D&D logo on it. I’m still not sure if that’s a bad thing, or a good thing. Although I played Dungeons & Dragons when I was younger, I was never deeply into it, and I have only read D&D stories in comic book form (yes, someday, I will read all of the D&D related novels). As such, I do not have a deep connection to the worlds and motifs of D&D, and that may be the reason that I do not “feel” it.

However, I do have to say that I enjoyed the camaraderie between the adventurers, and could imagine being at the table with a group of players, having similar conversations in and around the gameplay. At the same time, I generally enjoy stories about otherworldly evil/darkness affecting the “regular” world, so I think this could be a fun story to explore. Though I am still not sure how effective this comic was as a D&D story, I do need to credit Rogers with giving us a taste of what could be a good sword-and-sorcery story. Maybe that is more important…

I’ve enjoyed Andrea Di Vito’s art in most of the titles mentioned above. Between his CrossGen Comics work and his work on Marvel’s Thor, Di Vito really made a name for himself in sword-and-sorcery comics. However, I sometimes find that his art is a little too heavy for some adventures. To a certain extent, most of his characters look very strong and powerful, but I like a little more variation between dwarves and elves, for example. But, I expected certain things in Di Vito’s art for this comic, and I got what I wanted. Dynamic characters, action, and good story-telling. While I am not sure this is my favorite Di Vito art, it is still pretty good. I am hoping that his characters evolve, visually, over the course of the series.

The granddaddy of tabletop gaming, Dungeons & Dragons has had an on-again-off-again relationship with comic books. DC Comics published a line of D&D comics in the 80s. KenzerCo published D&D comics in the 90s. In 2005, Devil’s Due Publishing was adapting R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf stories. In 2010, IDW Publishing obtained the license, and is still publishing D&D comics today. This series ran for a little over a year, and had 16 issues. Those 16 issues have been collected into 3 trade paperbacks. Volume 1 (“Shadowplague“) and volume 2 (“First Encounters”) are priced $19.99, and volume 3 (“Down”) is priced $17.99.

Dungeons & Dragons, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook!

JD Reviews: Spider-Women Alpha #1

Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artists: Vanesa Del Rey
Published by Marvel

Review by: Johnny Destructo

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Silk (Cindy Moon): a gal spider-bitten by the same spider that bit ol’ Spidey. She was then trapped in a bunker for ten years, without any human interaction.

Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew): previously a super-spy, now a super-hero and recent mother, the eldest of the bunch.

Spider-Gwen (Gwen Stacy): a Gwen from another dimension who was bitten by the radioactive spider that chomped on the Peter from our dimension. Her Peter died in her arms, and she’s in a punk-band named The Mary Janes.

I’ve seen Spider-Gwen appearing in our Marvel Universe here and there, and was confused, thinking she was in her own Universe (The Gweniverse? I dunno). Turns out, she can travel back and forth thanks to a “Dimensional Travel Watch.” Think iWatch, but with +1 to Inter-dimensional Portal Apps. This is important, because most of the story hinges on this doo-hicky.

We start off in the Gweniverse, watching as Gwen is watched and plotted against by a fella in a Spidery outfit and an unknown higher-up. She zips over to our Universe (designated The 616) to get brunch with Silk and Spider-Jessy, but instead decide on heading back to Gwen’s place for alternate-dimension fooding. They fight a giant Super Adaptoid (see also: Giant Robot that can recreate your powers), and come back to get their stuff to go home only to find out that their Dimension hopper thingy is GONE.

Dun-dun-dunnn.

(Turns out the Super Adaptoid was there just to keep them busy while the aforementioned Spidery villain stole their thingy, preventing them from getting back home). Also revealed is the the Evil Mastermind behind this plan: THE—ahhhh, I won’t spoil it for you. But it was a pretty good cliff-hanger.

Now it might not seem like there’s all that much going on here, story-wise, but the delish is in the details. Each character feels fleshed out, have different mannerisms, different speech-patterns, etc. It’s really fun character work that deals with raising a new-born, adjusting to society after being away so long, and just general gossip. And they don’t all get along! I expected this book to be about 3 Spider-Friends, but not so much. Gwen and Silk both seem to be friends with Jessica, but Gwen can’t seem to stand Silk and is kind of a jerk to her. We’ve all been in this situation before, and it reads as fairly authentic.

The one negative I have about this issue though is the art. The brush work feels organic and the figures have movement, but when it comes to the faces, the work looks rushed. It’s a look more suited to a Vertigo title, or perhaps an Image book, but it seems a little out of place here.

Otherwise, this is a good beginning to a Marvel crossover event that I might actually care about!

JD can be found running his own comic shop in Manayunk, PA called Johnny Destructo’s HERO COMPLEX, hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, and graphically designing/illustrating/inking and Booking his Face off at www.facebook.com/jaydotdeedot.

Follow his twitter: @poptardsgo.

JD Reviews: Faith #1

Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Francis Portella, Marguerite Sauvage
Published by: Valiant

Reviewed by: Johnny Destructo

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For those who aren’t aware, great superhero books aren’t published exclusively by Marvel and DC comics. There are a bevy of excellent options out there, just waiting for you to take a chance on them. Invincible, by The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman comes to mind, as well as an excellent teen-hero book called Harbinger. It’s from the pages of the latter that a charming and enthusiastic hero soars to give us her first solo title: Faith.

First thing’s first. This is a super fun first issue put out by a company that has been putting out excellent superhero books for several years now, but has somehow flown under the radar. Faith is a infectiously excitable heroine who lost her parents at a young age and sought comfort in comics, sci-fi and other mainstays of geeky pop culture. She always wanted to be a superhero, and finally got her chance when she discovered that she was a Psiot (think Mutants from X-men).

She had a good run with The Renegades, the team of heroes from the Harbinger comic, but decided it was in her best interests to split from the team and go off on her own from the hubbub of L.A. She lives on her own and has a job blogging for an entertainment site. This issue is mostly set-up, getting to know our heroine and her new life on the West Coast, introducing us to her first solo villains, and then…a cliff-hanger ending. On it’s basest level, this is a hell of a fun start to a series that I plan on keeping up with. But let’s also talk about another level that this book works on…

When looking for change in a system, whether it be inclusion of different races, or genders, I often wonder, “is it better to ignore the issue, since it shouldn’t really have any bearing, or is it important to the conversation to acknowledge such things?” I was partially of the mind to do this review without ever mentioning the physicality of the main character, but I’m afraid that would do a disservice to what I think is a very important issue here: Faith is fat. The comic doesn’t mention it even once, but the reason I’m bringing it up here is that it seems like an important milestone in making comics more relatable for everyone. More people than ever before in the history of the medium can pick up a book and get an enjoyable experience that speaks to them. There have been so many conversations in my shop about how most women in comics have big chests, tiny wastes and can twist their bodies in physically impossible positions to show off all their assets. “But where are the women who look like real women?” You could go to Strangers in Paradise, Rachel Rising (both by Terry Moore) but those aren’t superhero books, and you could check out a story in Invincible where his GF Atom Eve gained a bunch of weight due to stress issues, but this is the first time that a woman of a heavier weight is the star of her own series, and that’s pretty f#$%ing important.

If you’re looking for excellent super-heroics looked at through a slightly different lens, check out FAITH. Make the leap.

JD can be found running his own comic shop in Manayunk, PA called Johnny Destructo’s HERO COMPLEX, hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, and graphically designing/illustrating/inking and Booking his Face off at www.facebook.com/jaydotdeedot. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo.