Sunday, May 5, 2013

C2E2 2013: A Convention Experience From Someone Who Has Been Away For Awhile

One of the many welcome banners

   Last weekend I managed to con my way in to C2E2 by which I, of course, mean I managed to get a job at the convention center and was able to enjoy the main convention floor for free.  I worked Saturday and Sunday over 12 hours across both days but I was able to find time to walk around the floor and take in the whole experience and what an experience it was.

  This was my first convention in over ten years.  Where I grew up, a small town outside a small capital city (so adjust your expectations appropriately) back then being a “geek” was something you did in private.  These conventions were a haven almost exclusively reserved for guys like Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons and young, young kids who were just discovering comics, which most parents hoped was just a phase.  I went to the biggest convention every year plus a couple lesser conventions throughout the year for quite a while.  But when I turned 17, during the last convention I would attend for over a decade, I realized that I was stuck in kind of an awkward middle.  I had become the oldest of the young kids but I was still the youngest man and the old timers didn't take kindly to me.  It would normally just be me and a handful of peers while the rest of the convention goers were either cynical older men who had made comic book collecting their begrudged living or grade schoolers with their parents.  So at that point I kind of decided to put my geekiness aside and then I spent the next 10 years denying that it was ever a part of my life.  But these conventions were almost entirely comic books, rows and rows and rows of short and long boxes.  Private collectors selling their excess, comic book stores from all over the tri state area and a couple of toy sellers.  Occasionally you would get a silver age artist or a major artist who happened to live locally to sign things or on rare occasions draw an original for you.  The last convention I attended I happened to be huge into the Justice Society, Dr. Mid-Nite especially, and Irwin Hasen was the biggest name there and he drew a Dr. Mid-Nite for me.  There was a very small artist alley of course but there were rarely ever panels and there was NO ONE in costume.  All in all it was a very sober affair where it was a place mostly for businesses to do business with each other.  There was a lot of trading goods and stores buying from each other to bring new goods back to their local area.  It felt like fan participation was an almost unwelcome byproduct of these people doing getting together to bolster, diversify and refresh their inventory.  I just don’t remember it being very raucous at all, it was loud and crowded but that was really more due to the incredibly small spaces afforded to this event.  But it wasn't necessarily "fun" or "interesting" it was just utilitarian, I needed comic books and these places had more comic books than my local comic store.  Plus they occasionally had different toys than my local toy store.
Some local flavor
                So that had been my experience up until last weekend.  I, of course, knew that cosplay had exploded in the meantime and I had known that conventions had evolved, I knew all that on a conceptual level but I had never really experienced it.  A part of me was still stuck in the convention scene of a small town at the start of the 2000’s no matter how many pictures I saw.  To me, for some stupid reason, these ‘super conventions’ that I saw people in costume at were things only VIP’s went to.  Why would a normal person attend?  It was for the best of the best.  Do they even sell comics at these things anymore?  Isn't it just basically a big social convention where people go to meet celebrities and attend panels and dress up?  Surely not just anybody could get in could they?  But no, that wasn't true at all.
Some amazing original art I got and not some bootlegs.
I don't usually like to support bootleggers but if I can't get it legitimately,
if the companies don't want my money, then I'll give my
 money to someone else, hypothetically.
Not pictured: all the action figures I bought.

  First off I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the venue.  McCormick Place is huge, at one point I got lost and was told that I had to walk 3-5 BLOCKS in the other direction and at no point did I even have to GO OUTSIDE.  While I was lost I wandered into a transition area that connected buildings that was bigger than any of the previous convention centers I had ever been to.

  Then when I finally found my way to the convention area I was greeted by a DJ playing awesome music, a dancing Wampa and a full costume, incredibly intricate and awesome Durge.  Then it was just a sea of people with cosplayers sprinkled throughout.  I couldn't help but smile, I had never seen so many of my own kind in one spot.
I spent a lot of money at the Super Hero Stuff booth.
Clockwise from upper left: Daredevil, Red Skull,
Blue Beetle, FF and a seat belt style belt belt.
     There had to be thousands total but perhaps hundreds were milling about in front of the entrance to the main convention floor.  Inside was just amazing, there was more to take in then I could have ever anticipated.  The booths, the costumes, the visuals and the sounds.  I've heard of “con funk” but I never noticed a smell that was beyond what you would expect from such a huge number of people stuck together in a relatively small space.  There was a rest/eating area that was the size of the conventions I was used to at the center of the show floor. 
Yes, yes I did.

It was just so overwhelming to such a degree that it was breath taking.  My brain was going a mile a minute the first couple hours of my first shift.  Is that a celebrity?  It was, it was Amber Benson!  Is that G’Nort?  Yes, yes it was.  Is that booth selling bootleg DVD’s?  Yes it was, they were selling the 1960’s Batman TV series and I may have, hypothetically, bought one.  But I saw bootlegs of the Gen13 movie, the Generation X TV movie, the Fantastic Four (1994) movie, just everything.  Up until now I got my very few, hypothetical, bootlegs from a friend, now I know where he got them from.  There were comic books upon comic books upon comic books, masses of action figures, artists both famous and starting and original art.  It was a great experience, it was overwhelming and it’s all a bit too much to really express in words actually.  But I can say that if this is what conventions are now days then count me in, I look forward to attending many more.

I came out on my last day to Silent Hill.  My one piece of advice is "Don't park in B lot".

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