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Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo Celebrates Popular Culture

By Igor Studenkov
On March 28, 2011

The 2011 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) took place on March 18-20 in McCormick Place's west building. The showroom was open between 10a.m.-7p.m., but there were a few events that took place afterwards.

The convention attendants spent most of their visit wandering around the showroom floor, which was filled with all sorts of exhibitors. Comic book and video game publishers sold their products and offered free samples, while comic book creators chatted with fans, gave autographs and showed off their work. Many of the creators in attendance were locals, which enhanced the convention's Chicago flavor. Other Chicago area comic book stores, toy stores, movie retailers, ardent comic collectors, and miscellaneous fan-orientated retailers sold their products, usually at some sort of discount.

The showroom was also home to the Artist Alley, a place where professional and amateur creators can display and sell their work. The name was something of a misnomer, since it featured almost as many writers as it did artists. Many of the creators involved were locals, and were happy to chat with fans and sign autographs.

C2E2 featured over a hundred of panels dedicated to a wide variety of topics. Some focused on certain comics, movies and television shows, while others dealt with the creative processes, the history of the medium and other more technical topic. Fans of genre television got a chance to ask questions to the cast of HBO's True Blood and A&E's Walking Dead. The fans of Chuck had the opportunity to see the exclusive footage from the show and talk to its creators.

C2E2 also played host to several screenings of movies and television shows, including new and classic Japanese cartoons, independent films and preview compilations. Highlights included Jerry Beck's Worst Cartoons Ever!, a compilation of some of the cheapest, worst animated cartoons in history, and Boy Wonder, a psychological deconstruction of superhero morality.

But one of the most distinctive aspects of the convention was the array of costumes. As usual in genre fan conventions, many attendees engaged in cosplay (costume play), that is to say, they dressed up as various fictional characters. The costumes ranged from amateur to almost professionally elaborate, and it was hard to point a camera without at least one cosplayer getting in the shot. The cosplayers even got a chance to show off their costumes at the daily costume contests and at the Saturday Night Masquerade, which gave fans a chance to perform skits while in costume.

For most of their history, comic book conventions were niche events that interested fans of comic books and virtually no one else. But over the last few years, long-running conventions have expended far beyond their original scope, covering movies, television shows and video games. Many media companies have used comic conventions as venues to unveil and advertise their products; San Diego Comic Con, for example, has become a popular place to unveil new television shows, movies and video games, thus making these conventions more popular than ever.

With this in mind, it was only natural that Reed Exhibitions, one of United States' largest event organizers, wanted to get in on the action. In 2006, it launched the New York Comic Con., and in the spring of 2010, it launched the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. Set up at McCormick Place Convention Center, the convention drew approximately 27,500 attendees last year. While that number was not quite as large as Reed Exhibition hoped, it was large enough to ensure that C2E2 would return this year.

While much of C2E2 was geared toward the fans of comic books, it had something to offer to genre fans of other mediums too. And, if the turnout in the past two conventions is any indication, it will continue to do so for years to come.

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