Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I spent two days at the seventh annual Chicago Comics and Entertainment Exposition, where Midwest comics fans in particular and geeks in general gather together in the name of imaginary worlds from print and screen to revel in fiction and touch bases on what’s hot or cool at this moment in pop culture.
Last year Anne and I discussed the notion of no longer considering any conventions an automatic buy-in until and unless the guest list gave us a solid reason to commit. They’re expensive and the guest lists aren’t always tailored to our specific areas of fandom or nostalgia. When C2E2 added TV’s John Ratzenberger to their 2016 roster, he was the first sign that I knew we’d be there. From TV’s Cheers to every Pixar movie ever, ol’ Cliff Clavin has been a part of our lives from childhood to adulthood. We met him twice at C2E2 — once at his autograph booth, where he confirmed he’ll indeed return for Finding Dory, and once at his photo op, where we sensed he was not a jazz-hands kind of guy. ‘sokay, no harm done.
We spent most of our C2E2 time wandering the show floor, perusing the wares and works, buying stuff from writers and artists, and noticing there were dealers but not really doing much for them. The usual boxes and shelves full of $5 trade paperbacks were in shorter supply than usual. With the destruction of my old comics want list in the Great Hard Drive Crash of July 2015, my interest in ’80s back issues has taken a nosedive now that I no longer know or remember what specific singles I’m missing. We stocked up on T-shirts from StylinOnline, SuperHeroStuff, and even the official C2E2 merchandise store, because I’ve never owned a piece of their con merchandise and they finally came up with a shirt design that caught my eye.
Fun true story after our shopping experience: when a charge showed up on my wife’s account under the thoroughly generic name “Super Hero Stuff” outside our home state, her credit card company pegged it as possible fraudulent activity and immediately froze her card. This well-intentioned yet uninformed monitoring made for a moment of awkwardness when she tried and failed to buy us lunch Saturday, and had to call them Sunday morning to clear up the matter.
We appreciated seeing big-name companies like Marvel, Valiant, and WETA Workshop among the other booths. DC Comics sent creators to represent for them in spirit but once again had no booth. Dark Horse Comics sadly skipped this year, a shame considering they’ve released two books in the last few months that I’d very much love to buy in person from someone someday. Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint was in the house, but the rest of Image Comics bowed out after last year’s debut.
On a smaller scale, we were happy to reunite with a few folks we’d met at previous cons. Matthew Rosenberg, whose super-teen fugitives miniseries We Can Never Go Home was one of my favorite comics of 2015, is currently working his way into DC’s graces and was on hand to promote his next Black Mask Comics project, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank. Writer Russell Lissau had more indie projects on hand, including a young-readers’ sci-fi comic called Stranger that looks promising. We stopped by the booth of sci-fi author (and fellow WordPress user!) Luther M. Siler, trying out C2E2 for his first time. He’s posted dozens of cosplay pics on his own site along with a candid write-up of his three-day bookselling experience.
I’ve already posted about our second time meeting the great Gene Ha and the wondrous sketch he did for us. Here’s him in action sketching my wife inside the copy of Mae I’d just bought…
…and here’s Anne in her first non-paying gig as a geek model, holding very still for several minutes while Mr. Ha captured her likeness.
Other upstanding folks we met in that large, jam-packed Artists Alley:
Met but not pictured:
* Lee Cherolis and Ed Cho, local creators of the webcomic Little Guardians (appreciated the sketch!)
* Kel McDonald, creator of the webcomic Misfits of Avalon (currently being collected in trades by Dark Horse), who’s working on a Buffy young-adult graphic novel
* Artist Mark Dos Santos, whose resumé includes the Image title Superior (with Steven T. Seagle)
I wish I could follow up with a long list of panels we attended, but the truth is, of the five Friday comics-related panels I was interested in checking out, four of them conflicted with our two timed-ticket photo-op appointments. I’ll admit I was bummed, but this is what happens when one set of schedules is released farther in advance than the others, and it’s what happens when a con dumps all the most interesting programming into a single, narrow, compacted afternoon. After all appointments were met and I’d finished my first Artists Alley run-through, I insisted on attending one panel late in the day: the annual Silver Age Trivia Challenge!
I’ve been reading about this event for literally decades, on the rec.arts.comics.* Usenet groups and in Comics Buyer’s Guide back when it was held at the erstwhile “Chicago Comic Con” (now Wizard World Chicago), but never saw one in person till now. Once upon a time, fans and pros formed two teams and faced off in a trivia contest made entirely of questions about Silver Age comics, spanning from the mid-’50s to the early ’70s. After a while it was noticed that comics writer Mark Waid was basically carrying his team, so the event was restructured and now every year it’s a group of longtime fans vs. just Mark Waid.
Our moderator, Craig Shutt, a.k.a. Mr. Silver Age, was once a columnist for CBG and currently has his own forum over at Captain Comics. As he used to do in CBG, he’s posted a thorough rundown of the entire event, including all the questions he posed to each team if you want to test your own knowledge of obscure comics or just get a better idea of how truly goofy comics used to be.
Even with the addition to the fans’ team of the skillful Tom Brevoort, Senior VP of Publishing at Marvel Comics, Waid still won for, like, the eighty-seventh consecutive year. The other team tried. They really did. And everyone contributed, not just Brevoort, though Waid had to confess that a few of his zillions of comic-book memories are slowly beginning to fade. It’s conceivable there may come a day when Waid loses the Silver Age Trivia Challenge without dying first. I wouldn’t call it probable, though.
Likewise, I wish I could say our Saturday was made of comics panels, but the Supergirl experience took up over half our day, and the remaining options for which we did have plenty of time were a lot of not-my-thing, mostly divided as they were into three popular categories: How to Make Some Comics; Hurray for Event Comics I Won’t Be Buying; and Diverse Diversity in Diverse Comics Diversities. It’s extremely cool and encouraging that those platforms and networking opportunities are in there and in greater force than ever before, but I’m not sure the presence of a superfluous straight white prudish Christian guy would add much to the ambiance. I have this mental image of entering a room only to have one or more fans turn with a burning gaze to yell at me, “YOUR KIND HAS MUCH TO ANSWER FOR!” so I tend to buy their comics but sidestep their panels.
Otherwise, a lot of our weekend was browsing, shopping, hanging out, and crowd-watching among those with whom we share a lot of touchpoints. Fun times, all told.
Oh, and about the other photo op we did on Friday: movie star John Cusack, another name dating back to childhood, from the constant cable reruns of One Crazy Summer to the many romantic comedies to the latter-day explosions of Con Air and 2012, with a heartfelt stop in between for High Fidelity, one of the few movies from the last twenty years that I personally, genuinely consider influential.
When we ran into the photo-op booth and asked if we could do jazz hands, he quickly replied, “Uh, you guys can!” And so it goes.
To be concluded! Other entries in this 9-part series:
* Part 1: C2E2 Kicks Off Our 2016 Convention Season in Style
* Part 2: Dance of the Mad Deadpools
* Part 3: We Are Here For Supergirl!
* Part 4: Star Wars: The New Cosplay Order
* Part 5: Gaming and Animation Costumes!
* Part 6: Comics Costumes!
* Part 7: Last Call for Costumes!
* Part 9: The Things They Carried