C2E2 2023 Photos, Part 3 of 4: Comics!

Six graphic novels by the creators listed below, plus the official C2E2 program to fill a gap between books.

This year’s modest graphic novel loot pile.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

My wife Anne and I just got home from the latest edition of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), a 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. After its 2010 inception, we attended every year from 2011 to 2019, then took a break due partly to the pandemic and partly due to guest lists outside our circles of interest. This year’s strong lineup lured us back in, much to our delight…

…and for this 50-year-old who’s been collecting comics since age 6, it was great to return to C2E2’s Artists Alley, consistently the best assemblage of comic book creators available in any large-scale Midwest entertainment convention. Scores of writers, artists, colorists, editors, and otherwise collaborative bookmakers gather in lengthy rows, some narrower than others, and tempt me to spend and spend and spend on new reading material. This year was naturally no exception, which is why — more than jazz hands, more than the cosplay — Artists Alley has always been my favorite part of every C2E2.

This time, though, I restrained myself a bit compared to my shopping sprees of years past. The older we get, the harder it gets for the two of us to lug my purchases around the long and winding exhibit hall, all the way out to the parking garage in the next McCormick Place building over. If I indulge in one too many hardcovers, the strain can really add up. Also, I had to remind myself I still have a large reading pile left from last year’s comic-con revival, where I may have gone a little overboard. So I enforced a modicum of self-control.

Longtime MCC readers know I almost never buy prints, posters, or sketches. For me, Artists Alley is a great place to stock up on new reading matter. Fortunately several talented professionals were more than happy to oblige. While I normally prioritize new folks I’ve never met over those I have, on occasion I’m happy to shell out for encores.

Ryan Browne happily pointing at you while standing in front of his table banner.

Ryan Browne! A Chicago regular and co-creator of the Image Comics projects Curse Words and Eight Billion Genies with writer Charles Soule (whom we’ve cheerfully met at past shows).

Author Saladin Ahmed, seated at his table and smiling, little realizing how he'd soon be sold out of nearly everything he brought along.

Saladin Ahmed! Of the frequently award-nominated SF author’s works I recommend his Ms. Marvel run and what might’ve been The Best Black Bolt Story Ever, among other works.

Pause for confession: I didn’t know he was tabling at this con and, excited to see him, slightly went into fan-babble overdrive…which resulted in me unthinkingly complimenting him on a miniseries that was actually written by the entirely unrelated Ram V. I didn’t realize this till an hour later; when I did, I wanted to spend the rest of the day hiding under our hotel bed in shame.

Dave Acosta!

Dave Acosta! he and Ahmed collaborated on a Kickstarter’d book called Dragon and have a new Image series coming soon called Terrorwar.

Ahmed and Acosta held a Terrorwar panel on Friday at 5:15 that I’d scheduled in the app. Unfortunately by 3:30 that day Anne and I were both nearly clinically dead and surrendered too soon. I regret adding to my shame pile.

Steenz, masked and holding up two of their books.

Steenz! At various times a comics editor at Lion Forge, a tabletop RPG magazine illustrator, and currently writer/artist of the comic strip Heart of the City, which our local newspaper fails to include but is available online.

Meredith McClaren smiling at her table!

Meredith McClaren! Past works include Hopeless Savages and Jem and the Holograms; more recently she co-created the Image fantasy-noir series Black Cloak with writer Kelly Thompson.

Ryan Dunlavey and Fred van Lente at adjacent tables!

Ryan Dunlavey and Fred van Lente! I previously met the Action Philosophers! masterminds at C2E2 over a decade ago (before this blog began), once found one of their historical efforts at a museum in Philadelphia, and really, really wanted a copy of their Comic Book History of Comics.

Value-added comics-adjacent bonus: while I was in one of David Boreanaz’ lines on Saturday, Anne had the pleasure of once again meeting author John Jackson Miller, whose latest novel is a tie-in to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is a grade-A TV show. She last met the Comichron.com overseer and former Comics Buyer’s Guide managing editor at Indiana Comic Con 2022, where she got me a copy of his Star Trek: Picard prequel novel Rogue Elements starring Captain Rios, which was one of my favorite reads of last year.

John Jackson Miller holding up a copy of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: The High Country!

I also highly recommend his Dark Horse Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, which Marvel reprinted in “Legends” trades not too long ago.

My biggest regret of this year’s C2E2, besides quitting too early Friday, is my failure to attend hardly any comics-related panels. In my defense, 90% of this year’s panels were tutorials for creating and/or publishing your own comics. I smothered that dream back in high school and have no plans to resuscitate it. Of the remaining 10%, nearly all of them were scheduled at the same time as the actor photo ops and autograph signings we’d planned. Before Saturday was over, I was dead set on attending at least one. I’m happy to say I met that modest goal.

Thus our very last act of C2E2 2023 came at 5:15 on Saturday — a fun Q&A with the aforementioned Charles Soule and Ryan Browne, focusing on the eight-issue Image miniseries Eight Billion Genies. Its premise is simple yet fraught with philosophical conflicts and various extrapolated complexities: what if, one time without warning, all eight billion Earth residents suddenly had their own genie to grant them exactly one wish? The results so far have been gloriously messy, occasionally tragic, deeply thoughtful, and realistically goofy.

Charles Soule and Ryan Browne at a ground-level panel table, their heads obscured by large microphones.

Our least worst photo of the panel. Their table was at audience level, not on a platform, and we were a few rows back. But I promise it’s really them!

Seven issues have been published to date; the grand finale will be in stores next week. The panel’s big news was to confirm the announcement that Amazon Studios has optioned the book for adaptation into a feature film, followed hopefully by a TV series designed to tell stories set in the same world but apart from the main characters and narrative. Soule and Browne will be executive producers, but are largely entrusting the results to the showrunners and their staff.

The audience brought great questions — some about issues raised in the book and some about the creators’ bonus thoughts and opinions. But the absolute best part was the story behind a variant cover to 8MG #1 that was ostensibly a photo of Andrew Divoff, in character as the evil genie from the nearly forgotten horror film Wishmaster. Making that cover happen cost them more than any other variant cover of the entire miniseries, and it sold the least number of copies. I could retell the tale, but for the most hilarious impact you really had to be there and hear them in person. I’m grateful to have had that opportunity.

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 1: Cosplay!
Part 2: Actors!
Part 4: Convention!
Epilogue: Chicago!

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