Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
It’s that time again! The eighth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking…
…and the densest Artists Alley we’ve ever seen. Eleven double-length rows of writers, artists, cartoonists, painters, print makers, button sellers, novelists, professionals, amateurs, up-‘n’-comers, elder statesmen, internet sensations, and quiet ones you gotta watch. It was an array so nice, I had to walk it twice, and I still missed a few people I’d wanted to meet. Some had autograph lines longer than the voice actors’. Some just weren’t at their tables when I passed by. A few called in sick, but are hopefully feeling much better now.
But before we got that far, we managed to make time for a pair of panels — one about comics, the other about Star Wars.
As soon as we arrived at McCormick Place on Friday and got our bearings, we headed up to a 12:15 Q&A with Timothy Zahn, one of the most celebrated authors ever to bring the Star Wars Expanded Universe to life. My wife Anne first met him several years ago when he did a Barnes & Noble signing here in Indianapolis, but a lot’s changed since then.
Zahn’s previous work in the Expanded Universe included such novels as Heir to the Empire and Outbound Flight. Though the Expanded Universe in general has been rechristened “Star Wars Legends” and superseded by the new canon in the wake of The Force Awakens, one of Zahn’s most memorable creations, the devious Grand Admiral Thrawn, was recently recruited as a major Big Bad for the animated series Star Wars Rebels. For value-added synergy, Del Rey and showrunner Dave Filoni invited Zahn to rejoin the fold and provide an origin tale. Hence his latest novel, Thrawn, which debuted up high on last week’s New York Times bestseller list.
Zahn spoke a bit about the book without spoilers and about the collaborative process with the Lucasfilm Story Group, for whom he had nothing but praise. He may or may not have hinted that he’s not finished with Star Wars yet. And he kindly shared his thoughts about his place in the old Expanded Universe, particularly the fact that his Star Wars novels by and large haven’t been wholly nullified by the newer books or works yet. Thrawn is a prequel that takes place well before his original trilogy and interlocks with the majority of it rather nicely. Even if parts are ultimately removed from continuity, he described their standings as “campfire stories” — tales that retain a basis in their reality and are still worth telling and hearing. If there was anyone in the audience dying to make an obnoxious “Bring Back Legends” protest stand, they kept their mouth shut and their manners in check.
After the Q&A, Zahn and most of the audience adjourned to the celebrity autograph area in the exhibit hall for a round of book sales, signings, and happy exchanges with the author.
Later on Friday afternoon, I was glad to fit in a comics-related panel, what with C2E2 being a comic convention and me being a comics reader. Seems like a natural idea, but too many cons pass by with me missing all such chances, or lamenting the dearth thereof. In this case the lucky event was an Image Comics panel focusing on “relevance”, which took on different definitions depending on which guy was speaking.
Seated left to right: Jonathan Hickman (Black Monday Murders, The Dying & the Dead, East of West); Paul Azaceta (Outcast); Kieron Gillen (the internet-popular The Wicked + the Divine); and relative newcomer Daniel Warren Johnson (the recently launched Extremity). Not pictured: scheduled panelist Jeff Lemire (Descender; A.D.: After Death; Royal City), who was unable to attend due to illness. Each had their own thoughts to contribute about their approaches to art, theme, sociopolitical ramifications, and so forth, though to be honest I got the impression Hickman would rather have been either writing or partying than talking about writing.
And then there was Artists Alley. Lengthy and scintillating and jam-packed with sellers and buyers and gawkers alike. Best of all, I found reading material! Longtime MCC readers may recall I’m on the prowl for comics and graphic novels wheneve I’m angling to empty my wallet in an Artists Alley. In my darker moments I’m tempted to look into printing a standoffish T-shirt that reads “NO PRINTS, NO POSTERS, NO PLAYTHINGS, JUST GOOD COMICS.”
The following talented creators put up with my wife and/or me within the space of a valuable moment of their time at C2E2 in between finishing commissioned sketches and other, more desirable endeavors. I made a point of throwing money at them and amassed quite the presumably amazing addition to my reading pile.
There was one more very special name hanging out in Artists Alley, but we’ll get back to him in Part 4. Not pictured but a pleasure to spend with:
* Ale Garza, artist of Get Jiro, a DC/Vertigo graphic novel written by TV chef/foodie Anthony Bourdain.
* Writer Charles Soule, who’s been listed in previous years’ write-ups and for whom I may need a frequent-buyer punch-card.
* Trevor Mueller, whose Albert the Alien is a delightful all-ages science adventure romp worth seeking out.
The list of great folks we didn’t get to meet is ten or twelve times this. For curious comics fans out there, the longest autograph lines I saw in Artists Alley belonged to writer/novelist Greg Rucka, the UK comedy team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, and former jeans model Rob Liefeld.
To be concluded! Other chapters in this miniseries: