Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
It’s that time again! The ninth 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. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.
In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…
…which as always includes the densest Artists Alley in the Midwest. 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. Diversity fans could find something to their tastes in virtually every conceivable corner of the medium. I tried to walk it twice per my annual ritual, and saw every table at least once — with or without their assigned artist at them — but had to bow out a few rows before the end of the second run-through when exhaustion and budgetary conscience both began tearing me down.
Many talented creators put up with my wife and 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 once again added several pounds to my reading pile and our convention bags. Anne did what she could to help me out when my back began failing under the accumulated weight, but now I owe her a new bag for the damage done. Next year I need to remind myself to wait till the end of the day before splurging on any hardcovers.
Some of the winners of my money and gratitude in exchange for arts rendered, in order by their books pictured above:
Two artists met but not pictured: Hollywood animator Stephan Franck, whom I first met at C2E2 2015 (likewise sans photo) and who’s now into Volume Three of his graphic novel series Silver; and writer/artist Jeremy Haun, who had the other best cover of the Alley, an homage to one of the Dungeons & Dragons sets of yesteryear adorning the hardcover collection of The Realm (colored by Nick Filardi — cf. C2E2 2016). I walk briskly past comic-book covers that just show a character standing motionlessly and staring at you without any indication of premise or any discernible activity that requires more than a single verb to summarize. If your dude is just standing, running, or flying, and that’s your entire cover, then I’m walking.
Knowledgeable comics fans may notice a dearth of ostensible “hot” A-list talents on the list. That’s not for lack of trying. Tom King, one of my favorite writers of the moment who ranks near the top of my Must List, is currently driving Batman up the sales charts and was therefore too, too beloved for me to get to, based on the hour-by-hour schedule he tweeted for Friday and Saturday. As soon as we general-admission fans were allowed inside Saturday at 9:55, I made a beeline for King’s table in Artists Alley, only to find that over five dozen VIP fans had already beaten me there. And his first signing was only an hour long before he had to go tend to other panels and appointments. The math didn’t work out. I never saw his line any shorter the rest of the weekend and reluctantly gave up. Maybe I’ll have a shot at saying hi when he’s 60, or if he ever flies out to the Superman Celebration in Metropolis.
King wasn’t the only hot ticket in the house. Also blessed with long lines were writer Gerry Duggan (Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy), eternal British fan favorite Alan Davis, and Big Hero 6 creator Chris Claremont, still an icon after the many decades he spent overseeing the fates of the X-Men. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar were deemed so popular that C2E2 let them use actor-sized autograph booths for their respective signings. Millar — the creator of Wanted, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and the elderly version of Wolverine that was a big influence on James Mangold’s Logan — was also deemed soooo massive that fans with lots of disposable income could buy pricey VIP admission packages in his honor with shiny perks. (Marvel’s and DC’s respective booths had their own signing schedules and perpetually long lines as well, but I knew better than to pay attention to those.)
That’s not to say all my dreams were dashed upon the unforgiving rocks of frustration and failure and futility. One writer who deserved to have a line reaching from Artists Alley to the show floor entrance and out the front doors of McCormick Place did not, sadly, have such a line. General audiences should at the very least know of Christopher Priest as the inventive genius whose significant contributions to the Black Panther mythos factored heavily into director Ryan Coogler’s recent runaway blockbuster. Currently he’s wrapping up a ten-issue run on Justice League while continuing the knotty machinations of Deathstroke, my favorite DC Rebirth title to date. Going back farther, I’d have to begin typing voluminous paragraphs about Quantum & Woody and Power Man & Iron Fist, to say nothing of obscure gems such as The Falcon, The Crew, The Ray, and Xero, plus there was that time he was the first black editor at Marvel Comics, where he gave future comics writer Peter David his first opportunities, and jump-started the careers of who knows how many other comics pros.
Priest was and is cool, in person and on Usenet’s comics newsgroups when those were a thing. Priest is hyper-intelligent and fun to listen to even when he’s answering other fans’ questions before he gets to you. Meeting Priest essentially made my C2E2 2018. Even if we’d left and gone home right after his table, it would’ve been money well spent.
He didn’t have any books for sale, but he graciously signed my copy of Quantum & Woody #1, which artist/co-creator Mark Bright signed for me at Cincinnati Comic Expo 2016. My entire 2018 in comic conventions is hereby made. I’m dead now. Also, Priest was one of several established talents who had donation buckets at their tables on behalf of the Hero Initiative, a non-profit tasked with drumming up support for elderly or ill comics creators in dire need of financial assistance. Making comics is reportedly a blast, but it’s not a career that comes with a built-in pension or health insurance.
I wish I could’ve bought more than this, but our funds and time were regrettably finite. Now if I can just figure out where to store all these new books, I’ll be all set…at least until our next convention, whenever that is.
To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries: