April showers bring May flowers, but April in Chicago brings the best weekend of the year for local geeks: C2E2!
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) is a three-day extravaganza of panels, celebrity appearances, autograph hunting, photo ops, merchandise, art, cosplay, and nerdgasms. I fondly refer to it as “Nerd Christmas” – you can get pretty much everything you want at this con, and best of all, you don’t necessarily have to shop for anyone but yourself unless you want to. Maybe “Nerd Black Friday” is more accurate? Whatever.
Seasoned convention goers are familiar with long lines for star-studded panels and queuing for autographs and photo ops, but the uninitiated are often jaw-droppingly disoriented by the bright red carpet, the flashing lights, the pulsing music in the lobby and the swarms and hordes of cosplayers, a veritable ocean of creatively constructed costuming and the proud folks who wear them. Whether it’s a Batman tee and sneakers or a full on Full Metal Alchemist getup, C2E2 has some of the most fantastic cosplaying crowds in the biz, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen photos of big cosplay draws like Wondercon, Dragon Con, and of course SDCC, but I’m proud to say I’ve seen incredible artistry right here in our Windy City each and every spring at C2E2. Last year, they even opened up a Crown Championships of Cosplay competition – ‘professional’ cosplay artists enter their portfolios for review and are selected to compete live in a contest at C2E2 after hours before a massive audience and celebrity judges (this year’s panel included cosplayer Ivy Doomkitty, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. costume designer Ann Foley, and Neville Page of SyFy’s Face Off) for a massive prize of $5,000! (This year’s winner was an outstanding Groot by cosplayer Jim Schmid.)
Artist’s Alley is a huge draw as well. Aisle after aisle of tables and banners signifying a wide spectrum of artists both famous and unknown – but all outrageously talented and professional. It’s easy to get lost in paging through their art portfolios and drooling over gorgeous prints, massive posters, and hand-painted delicacies of all kinds. The artists tend to be cheerful and eager to chat with con-goers, and will often commend cosplayers on their costuming as they peruse the art for sale. I love seeing these interactions, and being a part of them – it’s cool to strike up conversations with people who are talented in totally different ways than you. My personal list of usual suspects for Artist’s Alley are Megan Lara, Karen Hallion, Amy Mebberson, Katie Cook, Ilana Brodsky, Cara McGee, Joel Siegel, Ali Cantarella and Warwick Johnson (the last five being friends of mine!) but I love seeking out new folks to follow and admire.
On Saturday we did a little schmoozing and passing-out-of-postcards to promote Space Happens, and then I dashed over to the Family HQ and performed as the special guest on The SNORF Show, a puppet show in the style of the Muppets that some friends of mine are involved in. It was SO fun and I think I probably laughed as hard as the kids in the audience, if not harder, at several of the jokes.
This year my big personal autograph goal was to meet Hayley Atwell, star of Marvel’s Agent Carter and all-around beautiful British lady. First thing on Sunday morning, the Fella and I BOLTED to her autograph line — and I mean bolted, like we ran like were training to be Santa’s reindeer — and meet her we did. She is stunningly lovely in person, very attentive and kind, and seemed genuinely thrilled to be there and to meet everyone. I had her sign a photo for my dad, and she complimented my costume (I was a hand-made Yoshi to the Fella’s Mario that day). Mission accomplished. Dad was a happy camper when I handed him the autographed headshot.
C2E2 is generally a rough weekend physically, not only because the con floor is cement (under a sham of a carpet) but also because the die-hards (like me and my group of friends) like to go all day erryday. When you’re also an actor, though, sometimes your show schedule coincides with the con. So this weekend several of my friends and I suffered for our art – we went to C2E2 all day until 5pm then booked it uptown to Evanston to perform in “The Venetian Twins” at Piccolo Theatre. WOOF, guys. Talk about sore and worn out! But as usual, it was all totally worth it. The con was a lot of fun, the shows went well, and we all went to sleep dreaming of the shimmering lights of the convention hall at McCormick Place, which will welcome us home again a year from now. Le sigh.
Now for a small sampling of the photos I took this year!
And don’t worry – I’m already contemplating next year’s cosplays. 😉