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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.

Goodnight, Sweet Princess

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2016 has been a rough year for fandom.  We have lost some of the most iconic actors and artists from some of the best that geekdom cherishes.  Of all of the losses this past year, I think I am the hardest hit by the death of Carrie Fisher.  Of course our grief isn’t nearly as profound as that of her family, especially with the passing of her mother shortly after.  Having lost my own mother this year, I can empathize with what they are going through, and I know that what we feel as fans is nowhere close.  Our grief is real, though, and, while different, it is a sign of just how much Carrie meant to all of us.

Carrie was young when she landed the role that would forever place her among the stars.  In her life, she fought substance abuse and mental illness.  She battled internally and externally to find a healthy balance in her life, and is a real inspiration for people who are suffering from the same struggles.  She was a daughter, and mother, writer, and actress.  Of all the things she’s done, what most of us will recognize her for is her role in the iconic Star Wars saga.  It’s easy to forget the real trials she went through, and focus on the screen image we have of her, but I think for many these go hand in hand.  Neither should be discounted, since each is equally as important for different reasons.

“She was my first hero,” my wife sent me in a text when we got the news.  That is a powerful thing in geekdom.  We tend to choose our heroes a little differently than most people.  We look at fantasy worlds, and the people that inhabit them, and choose characters we would most want to be like.  Carrie, as Princess Leia, was just that for a lot of people of my generation.  She was a hero, for boys, but probably for a lot more girls.  She was a leader, a rebel, and a graceful woman.  She rescued the rescuers, didn’t take any flak from anyone, and gave as good as she got.  When her lover was captured, she put herself in danger to help and when she was captured herself, she took matters into her own hands and got herself free.  Eventually she would become a symbol of hope for the future Jedi, and finally a General.

In her most iconic role, and in her life, Carrie is a symbol of strength.  When the world – or the Empire – beat her down, she got back up and kept on fighting.  When drugs -or a giant space slug – enslaved her, she took that chain in her hands and strangled them.  She had a rough life, but I’m thankful that the last images we do have of our Princess, and our General, is again one of beauty and grace.  She will continue to be an example to people who struggle.  Her writing and her work will live on for generations.  She’ll be missed, but as many popular images are going around, she may be more powerful now than she was in life.

We will miss you, Carrie.  You are our hero.

This isn’t the Pop Culture You’re Looking For

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Few other cultural groups are as invested in their particular loves as geekdom, and I use that term in the most loving and proud way, as I am a geek myself. When we fall in love with a movie we don’t just want
to know how it ends, we want to know everything. We often buy the art books, encyclopedias of our favorite fantasy worlds, history books of fictional places, novels, comics, and anything else that expands the universe we love. Many of them have histories, mythologies, and people as diverse and complex as that of the real world. We know these planets, universes, hobbit holes, and starships like they are real places.

The other thing we are is welcoming. Every geek I know would love to sit you down and tell you all about their favorite Jedi, or the best scene in Aliens. We can talk for hours about the differences between Star Wars and Star Trek, and we’d love to give you a rousing rendition of the time our 12th level fighter/mage bit it while swinging across a chasm trying to fight the last great dragon of the depths. Sometimes that can be overwhelming, but believe you me, if you sit and listen to these stories without rolling your eyes, sighing, or talking about how childish it is, you’ll have a friend for life.

I’ve watched this culture grow over the years, sometimes slowly, and recently by leaps and bounds. No longer are geeks reviled…in most areas, and it’s even cool to call oneself a geek in most places. The drawback to this being fashionable, is suddenly you have people doing it because it’s cool, not because they’ve found something they love. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing, being ignorant if you will. There’s nothing at all wrong with dipping your toe in because you liked Avengers, or Star Wars has caught your interest with the new movie. What really gets under our skin, those of us who have been living this our whole lives, been bullied, pushed around, called names, and suddenly seeing people wave a geek flag to be cool, what really flips our asshole switch? Fake. Don’t…be…fake. Don’t pretend you know something, ask. Remember above? There’s not a geek alive that wouldn’t love to tell you all about whatever it is you want to know. If you’re doing it just as a fad, well great, that R2D2 dress looks great on you, but don’t mind me if I go find something more interesting to do. I’m not into fashion trends, clothing or otherwise. I’m a geek remember?

So, the point of all this. Worse than the fashion geeks, who are really harmless people looking for the next thing that will make them cool, are the pop culture writers who couldn’t be bothered to actually learn a little of what they’re writing about. Like a school of pilot fish following the biggest shark, pop culture writers latch onto whatever is trending and write articles that fit whatever narrative their particular outlet is in love with at the time. Sadly, to the general public, and those new to geek culture, these articles often make a lot of sense, and lead to a great deal of ignorance.

Take, for example, this piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, Please make a Muslim hero character, J. J. Abrams, – we need it. The writer claims to be a fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, but is he? Or does he have just a passing interest in them? The writer would like to see a Muslim hero in a Star Trek or Star Wars movie, one where humans have given up all pretense of religion, and another where Earth, and her religions are a long time in the future and far, far away. How can anyone not expect the geek community to get upset about this? In order to insert such a character into either franchise would be the definition of tokenism. It would just be for the sake of representation, because it would entirely defy the lore of both universes. Now, while Star Wars has real world equivalents, there would be no such thing as Arabic, or Islam. It just isn’t possible. In Star Trek, however, there have been characters of Middle Eastern descent, most notably in DS9’s Julian Bashir, and recently Captain Robau in the new alternate reality movies. Could we see a main character/hero of Arabic descent in Star Trek? Sure. Why not? But Muslim? Or in Star Wars? How would it even make sense without being 100% tokenism?

Another frustration for me as an avid lover of SciFi all these years are all the articles coming out about how Rey, of the new Star Wars: Episode VII is somehow this breath of fresh air in science fiction (Star Wars is fantasy, but I’ll let that slide), and completely erasing all the strong female leads we’ve had since I was a kid. For frak’s sake people, Google is a thing, you know. It takes roughly ten seconds of research to find out that of all the movie genres available, SciFi has been one of the most prolific for female leads. Hell, the top search result, The Top 40 Kick-Ass Female Sci-Fi Characters, is quite honestly a kick-ass list, and not even complete. Rey is awesome, I liked her, and I do not agree with a lot of the criticism, but let’s give it some perspective. She is not the first, and thankfully won’t be the last, kick-ass woman to wield a blaster, or light saber. Even in the Star Wars universe she isn’t the first, and it sucks to see people act as if all those who came before are meaningless.

On a final note of absolutely ignorant clickbait, for the sake of what’s popular…

 

The title of the article doesn’t match the tweet, “Female superhero movie fastest to reach $1 Billion”, but the article itself does say, “TFA’s success is a testament to the storytelling and history of the franchise. But it also should be a nail in the coffin of the myth that a female superhero movie can’t be successful.” First of all…Vox…if you’re going to write about Star Wars, you really should learn that it’s not a superhero movie. If you really want to write commentary on geek culture, geeks will welcome you, but we can spot a fake a mile away. Of course they link to, The Long List of Successful Action Movies Starring Women which is an article about other non-superhero movies staring women that doesn’t at all support if there’s a myth one way or the other. It actually states that some have been successful and some haven’t, so really…not a myth at all. At the end of the day, the entire thing is manufactured, and ignorant. It’s just another example of people trying to cash in on what’s popular, currently geek stuff, and really not knowing what it’s all about.

I can’t say it enough, if you want to explore geek culture, you are very welcome, but if you’re going to treat it with disregard while you’re ‘slumming it,’ no thanks. We love to read about what we love, so take some care and do some research. We’ll watch endless documentaries on actors from our favorite shows going to conventions to talk about those shows we love. What we don’t love is people who clearly have no knowledge about the topic trying to get involved, especially when that involvement turns to politics, shaming, or chest beating for your favorite pet movement.