Editors note: This article was written by DaveG, a member of the FoCC forum.
I’m writing this to give readers a little perspective on C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo). This was my second C2E2 and the basis for any comparisons comes from having attended dozens of Wizard World events (Chicago, Columbus, & Arlington), Gen Con (since its early days), and ten of the past twelve SDCCs (sadly I will be missing this year).
In terms of size, C2E2 would probably be placed in a second tier. It’s not nearly as large as SDCC or NYCC, but comparable to a Wizard World Chicago or Gen Con. Last year they reported 70,000 attendees and I’d say this year felt about the same.
C2E2 has been held annually since 2010 at the McCormick Place convention center near downtown Chicago. If you believe Wikipedia, it is the largest convention center in North America. I haven’t seen anything larger. While I haven’t seen panel halls as big as Hall H or Ballroom 20 in San Diego, I do believe they could easily fit SDCC in this convention center with plenty of room to spare. That’s not say SDCC should move to Chicago. It may be near the downtown area, but there isn’t nearly the hotel space or restaurant choices within walking distance that you have in San Diego.
But enough on comparisons. The main attractions at C2E2 include a sizeable exhibit hall floor that this year attracted some popular exhibitors like Funko and Marvel.
They didn’t bring any con exclusives, but did have a noticeable presence. Artist alley is one of the largest I’ve seen (and that includes San Diego) with over 250 tables. It was very cool. They attract a good number of comic book writers and artists, which is also very cool since some “comic cons” these days tend to downplay their comic book roots.
They do bring in about a couple dozen celebrities for panels, autographs and photo ops. My favorite this year was Chloe Bennet from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If you attend this con, you should not have to worry about obtaining or attending any of these. Although, while the panels come with the cost of admission, you will pay for any autographs or photo ops. If this is your thing, I recommend making sure you attend both Saturday and Sunday. Not too many celebrities show up on Friday (a few do), so you’ll want to focus on Saturday and Sunday. If you have patience, wait until late Saturday to go for autographs. I talked to someone who waited 1 ½ hours for a Melissa Benoist autograph on Saturday morning. At 6pm on Saturday I was able to get Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh and Chloe Bennet autographs all within the space of about 20 minutes. Some people were actually able to walk up to them without any wait. My friends got to chat with Chyler Leigh for 15 minutes before someone else showed up for her autograph. Lines are also rarely too long on Sunday.
C2E2 does offer VIP badges to a limited number of attendees. This does get you access to a quiet lounge as well as some line and panel seating privileges. There may be more perks, but I just went with a normal 3-day badge. While VIPs get perks, they really are VIPs and are limited in number. One of my pet peeves with the WW cons is that almost 50% of attendees are there with a VIP badge and you end up not feeling all that special, you just paid more money. That’s not the case at C2E2. Every line I was in usually had no more than 2-3 VIPs at the front, so general attendees did not have to wait long for them to clear out. At a WW con, you can be a VIP and still end up behind a hundred or more people in line.
I think C2E2 also does a great job of being family oriented. They have a separate family area that has a lot of activities aimed toward kids of all ages. This year they also displayed some Star Wars Lego sculptures.
The convention pays particular attention to family-oriented aspects and it shows more than at most other cons I attend. If you’re into cosplay, you’ll find a lot of like-minded people at the con. There were simply some amazing cosplayers there this year and a Crown Championships of Cosplay was held with some impressive professional judges.
Overall, I like C2E2. Would I recommend it to others? The answer actually depends on your priorities. Based on overall “con experience”, whether it’s your first con or fortieth, I think you’ll enjoy it. They have a large exhibit hall with a wide variety of vendors, an extremely large number of artists in artist alley, as well as other comic book professionals. There are celebrities, panels, family activities and a very well done cosplay competition. You have a limited number of food choices within the convention center, but more than you would see within say the San Diego convention center. You have plenty of space to explore and you won’t feel like you’re compressed into a convention that’s outgrown its facility. It would be difficult to outgrow the McCormick Center. With over 60,000 attendees, you will feel like you’re attending a major event.
So why wouldn’t someone want to attend? If you’re there just for the celebrity panels, autographs and photo ops, make sure to wait until closer to the con before committing. This is one of my priorities and until they announced the Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. guests, I was on the fence. I love the con, but this is what made it a “must” event for me. Announcements normally occur 3 to 4 months in advance. If you commit earlier, make sure you’re okay filling your day with other things if they don’t announce anyone you’re interested in seeing. Also, if the entertainments guests are of interest to you, I have not been to a con where the lines are shorter or the guests more accessible. Avoid the peak times and your wait in line can be a matter of minutes. If you are in line at peak times you’re talking one to two hours at the most. Compare that to SDCC lines and it feels amazingly short.
If convention nightlife is a big draw, then realize two things. One, very little happens at the convention center at night with the exception of a few panels may run late and the cosplay competition, which held Saturday evening. Two, a LOT is going on in downtown Chicago and you’re not that far away. Bear in mind that downtown is not really in walking distance and the activities will not be “con-related”. It would be advisable to dress accordingly as springtime in the upper Midwest can be almost summer-like or you could be stuck in a blizzard. This year it was cold, but free of precipitation.
If this convention at all sounds interesting to you my recommendation would be to attend. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
To share your experience or see what others are saying about C2E2 click on the link below.