As we continue our coverage of last weekend’s fourth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2”), we pause the cavalcade of costume photos and momentarily turn our cameras in other directions — starting with our surroundings. According to the Chicago Tribune, over 53,000 of us packed into McCormick Place over three days to share our common interests without fear, to celebrate the characters and stories that made a difference to us even when no one else got them, to encounter extraordinary sights beyond the purview of humdrum everyday life, and to buy cool stuff in person instead of from the distant comfort of our isolated world surveillance caves.
Every geek convention has its prerequisite components. And as any comic book collector knows, everything cool needs its own logo.
(You had to arrive early to obtain a crowd-free shot of the sign. Even now, you can see Ms. Marvel lurking in the shadows.)
At an average convention, the action begins at 10 a.m. If you want to snap up any convention-exclusive merchandise before it’s sold out, or merely have some elbow room in the exhibit hall for a short time before the general population arrives, you might consider arriving early, as these several thousand forward-thinkers did.
Waiting two or three hours in line before the day begins is not uncommon, least of all for my wife and myself. We’ve waited in some record-length lines in our time. A two-hour wait is nothing if you’re prepared for it. For this year’s preparation, we bought a weekend pass instead of a Saturday-only pass, took vacation time from work, arrived in Chicago midday Friday, sailed through most of our to-do list, and consequently didn’t care what time we arrived on Saturday because we had no time-sensitive matters left undone. It helps that Fridays are never as crowded as Saturdays. Value-shoppers’ bonus: when we bought tickets in advance (back in October 2012), weekend passes were only $5 more than 1-day passes.
For many fans, the highest priority is autographs, whether from famous celebrities or from our favorite comic book creators. Of all the possible lines mankind ever invented, autograph lines can be among the worst non-medical kinds. Saturday crowds kept the celebrity autograph area hopping, but on Friday it was curiously devoid of fans and guests as of 1 p.m.
Only two guests kept steady lines all weekend long, even on Friday: Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor Who; and — believe it or not — Jason David Frank, the original Green Power Ranger from the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (the original incarnation of America’s bowdlerized version of Japan’s Super Sentai series). Apparently Mr. Frank is legendary and/or beloved, as his Friday afternoon line demonstrates here.
Discussion panels and actor Q&As are a common activity. The best conventions have many to choose from, all vying for your attention. There’s always a schedule conflict between two interesting events, always hard choices to make. Lines form early for most panels because good seats can be hard to nab. Sitting in the back is serviceable, but the immediacy of the front rows is better. After all, no one attends a convention to hide from the guests.
If you’re among those blessed or possessed of proper journalist credentials, press passes can be obtained for prime seating, all the better for you professional writers to see and hear everything to ensure an accurate and glowing writeup after the fact.
You can check out the publishers’ booths for promotional giveaways or new books for sale. You can peruse the booths of the many dealers plying their wares, new or used, clearance-priced or collector-upcharged. You can visit Artists Alley to meet your favorite comic-book pros or encourage some budding young artists just getting started in the field. Or you can wander around thunderstruck and gawking at the fans in costume. If you don’t recognize their characters, feel free to ask. No harm done, and you might learn about someone new.
Important anti-stereotyping tip: cosplayers are common, frequently talented, and often wonderful, but not all of us attend in costume. Ordinary street clothes are perfectly acceptable, though you can spot costumes in every direction. There are precious few “wrong” ways to dress. (Fair warning: “naked” is indeed one of the wrong ways. I quote from the rules and regs in the C2E2 program: “Naked is not a costume.”)
At your first convention, you might stop and stare a lot. After a while you get used to the sartorial differences, and everyone lets everyone else be, no matter how colorful.
Why keep staring at people and creeping them out, when you could instead be feasting your eyes on all the things? Don’t kid yourself — this homemade Crow T. Robot knows you want him, baby!
The discerning adult shopper has many upscale products to consider. Even bedroom wear can be found for the right price, such as this genuine Wookiee-skin bathrobe.
From the look-but-don’t-try-on clothing department, on hand this year was an exhibit of actual costumes worn by real Hollywood players during the filming of The Hunger Games. Seen here are outfits worn by Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket (as well as her Reaping microphone) and Union Stuntman #71 as Fifth Peacekeeper from the Right.
Men who have no use for souvenir dresses can instead turn their attention toward the Mach 5 from Speed Racer. Costume spotters should note the cameos here by the Penguin, Ant-Man, and Bishop from the X-Men (I think — man, he’s changed since I stopped reading X-books ages ago).
Longtime MCC followers may recognize the significance of this floor art, the beginnings of a large-scale tribute to NBC’s Revolution. The finished results were posted April 28th on the show’s official Facebook page.
Some items may stand out even though they mean little to you. Start-up companies are always anxious to turn heads, attract an audience, and find some way to spread the word about their endeavors. Amazing colossal zombie kid is one such mascot who really wants to be your friend.
And then there’s…um, yeah, I don’t even know. You’re on your own with Googly-Eyed T-Rex here.
All in all, conventions for comic books, sci-fi, of gaming offer a variety of opportunities for geek culture to flourish, to revel, to synthesize itself into new forms, to relish our multimedia multiverse of options for exploration, enlightenment, or entertainment. As for my wife and myself, it gave us a much-needed chance to work out our differences by pitting an irresistible force against an immovable object. In true geek fashion, we’ll be arguing for years over who won.
To be continued!
[Special thanks to the WordPress.com Daily Post, whose Weekly Photo Challenge provided partial inspiration for the structure of this segment. Thanks for visiting!]
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Links to other installments are enclosed below for the curious completists among you. Happy viewing!
Part 1: Costume Contest Winners and the Doctor Who Milieu Revue
Part 2: Costumes from Screens Big and Small
Part 3: Costumes from Marvel, Image, and Other Comics
Part 5: Actors and Creators Who Made Our Day
Part 6: Robots, Games, Misfits and Honorable Mentions