Today is a very special post.
A titanic post. And not because it's a lumbering, arrogant compensation-device bound to hit the biggest humiliating force of nature in the ultimate example of post-industrial hubris. It's a titanic post because it's huge.
Today's blog is about my impressions of Chicago Comic Entertainment Expo (C2E2) 2013. In a lot of ways, C2E2 was the final impetus that got me back to blogging here on the Nerdery. It's a fantastic convention here in the Midwest that has grown by leaps and bounds since it started in 2010. I'd heard about it in previous years, but never really felt the pull to go. That was largely true this year, too. Despite how much I'd loved attending Fire and Ice, I knew C2E2 would be vastly different and the basement-dwelling homebody nerd inside kept telling me I didn't want to go to such a vast, impersonal convention. Plus, I hate going into the city, and it'd be expensive, and a dozen other chirps of procrastinating unambition from the drowner within. No, I wouldn't go, and I was pretty certain I'd be a happier nerd for it.
That worked well enough until my wife happened to win a pair of weekend passes to C2E2 from a local radio station. Whoa. My cheapskate crutch snapped under its own weight as now the only real cost of C2E2 would be entirely volitional--I'd only spend money if I couldn't keep a steady grip on my wallet. So we'd be going, I reluctantly agreed. Reluctantly still, because that infernal pasty guy who never leaves the game room still wasn't that excited about going. But he was okay with doing research. And research is what did him in.
"It's a titanic post because it's huge."
Just looking over C2E2's website was enough to melt away the pasty contrarian in a wash of pure white fire. Hundreds of artists in Artists' Alley, a huge swathe of the convention floor dedicated to tables for artists from all sorts of comics, each with prints to sell and commissions to take. "Oh, I do love the artwork," crowed the little drowner, rubbing his clammy murderous hands together. "Maybe I could get something with the Avengers in it--or Ms. Marvel. I likes Ms. Marvel..." The creature's resolve was already cloven. Then I went over the guest speakers and panels. "Marvel vice presidents and editors talking about future of comics?" he drooled into my inner monologue, dropping his articles like a slob. That was a sign of weakness, as even the demented internal voices of the Nerdery's fragmented subconscious are grammatical sticklers. Once I clicked on the featured guests, the fight was done. "Ron Perlman?! Hellboy?!" screeched the drowner in helpless fanboy giddiness as I dropped my blessed silver claymore down on his clavicle, splitting him wide. There would be no second thoughts, no hesitation. I would meet the Perlman and would make his signature mine. Oh yes, I would make his signature sit on my Hellboy Director's Cut and it would be most sweet.
And so I went from being staunchly opposed to going to being ravenously excited about the proposition of meeting the man who is the hub of my Movie Web (it all begins and ends with Ron). Not even the brutal and graphically rendered slaying of my slacker subconscious could allay my enthusiasm for leaping into the unknown and coming out with my trophy in the form of Ron Perlman's handle scrawled on my DVD set.
Seriously, my mouth is watering right now.
So I went after all. The first day, Friday, I brought my 14 year-old brother in law because my silly pregnant wife was having a sympathy attack over my two year-old who'd been sick that week. Seriously, the sympathy attack is one of the most illogical and destructive beasts of living with a pregnant woman--and the sympathy never flows towards you, either. It pretty much always opposes your enthusiasms and has water in its eyes even when 'everything is fine'. Bah, I didn't have time for that on April 27--that was my day to capture Ron Perlman's script on my tomes of Hellboy! So I picked up my brother-in-law and we rode the train down into the city, while I gave him a primer on the birds and the bees of comics, Nerdery, and what wonders we would inevitably see (since I knew so much).
"That was a sign of weakness, as even the demented internal voices of the Nerdery's fragmented subconscious are grammatical sticklers."
Saturday my son was feeling better--actually, my son was feeling better on Friday, but after a day of sympathy attacks my wife was feeling better--and so I took the missus with me on the continuing nerd fest while my son terrorized my parents for the day. It was great, and we got to see even more awesomeness, despite being hamstrung by my wife's over-encumbering pregnancy. Although I did find that drafting behind her made navigating the dense crowds of the convention much easier--no one wants to bump into a strange 8-month pregnant lady at a nerd gathering.
Then on Sunday we brought my son. Decked in a Spider-Man hoodie and wide-eyed over the spectacle of getting to ride a train for the first time in his life, and into a tunnel no less, my little sidekick was beside himself with manic joy at the con.
For those of you who are considering bringing a toddler to any convention, let me prepare you for it. First of all, the ladies will constantly be complimenting you on how cute you are with a blonde-haired blue-eyed toddler in your arms. And it is cute. Guys will say it's awesome to see your little Web-head going fwip-fwip to show how he uses his web-shooters. And it is awesome. You'll also have to lug a thirty-five pound snatching kleptomaniac around all day, wrestling him into your arms while he donkey kicks your junk in an effort to get to the toy retailers' alley or to sprint ahead of the line to sit in the Mach 5. You get to watch his hands so he doesn't yank people's hair as countless strangers with fascinating heads pass within claws' reach. Yeah, maybe it is cute. But it's also a pain in the arms, back, and gonads, and people give you funny looks for every tantrum he throws rather than thank you for restraining him from ripping their redheaded wig off at the scalp.
And to top it all off, when my son saw a perfectly realistic Spider-Man posing with other people, he was totally speechless. The shrieker gasped and his slack-jaw look of wonder had all the pronouncing power of an old fish. Just flapping lips, wide-eyes, and a faint press of air that could only vaguely be translated into words.
"Well then, call him."
"Over here, Spider-Man."
"No, Buck, he can't hear you. You gotta call louder." A small pinch on the thigh, trying to either throw some sense into him or encourage him to narc on me to the red and blue hero.
"Spider-Man. Spider-Man come 'ere." As faint as ever, though plaintively urgent this time.
"Spider-Man," he said, voice now contentedly smaller than ever as my wife and I got some of the only pictures of him both awake and still from the whole day. When that was done, he hugged Spider-Man around the neck.
"Bubye, Spider-Man. See you later."
Yeah, maybe it is awesome. But I still don't recommend it.
In the interest of breaking down my impressions into easier-to-digest chunks (yeah, right, like I do that), here's the major categories of attractions at C2E2 that thoroughly enchanted my weekend.
There was a tremendous amount of star power at the con. Convention veterans like Burt Ward and Julie Newmar were there, as well as a bunch of stars from The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Felicia Day, Sam Huntington, and Patton Oswalt were also there meeting fans and signing autographs, but the biggest three in my esteem (other than The Man himself) were the Babylon 5 trinity: Bruce Boxleitner, Mira Furlan, and J. Michael Straczynski. I'm actually a very belated fan of Babylon 5, only recruited through Netflix Instant Watch, so I didn't have any signable goodies for them. If I did, you can bet I would've hit them all Friday morning after stopping off at Ron Perlman's table.
Ah, Ron. I was pleasantly surprised that going straight for the autograph tables immediately after getting to the con Friday morning was the way to go. There were hardly any people at all getting autographs yet. Except for Ron. Out of maybe 40 fans getting signatures at that point, I'd guess that twenty of them were in line for him. I felt perversely proud of Mr. Perlman for it.
"I would meet the Perlman and would make his signature mine."
Now, I had a really stupid pact in my mind to be charming and erudite when I met one of my cinema idols. There was a vague scenario sketched in my mind where I could say the right words that would get the celebrity to want to strike up a friendship with me and go play wargames or something. Unfortunately, the Ron Perlman fan in front of me was a svelte She-Hulk wearing booty shorts and a tattered tank top, so by the time I got up to the front of the line of fans all I had really determined was that I should not make an ass of myself. See how that went with my poignantly-remembered transcript:
Taking my Director's Cut in hand, Ron says, "Where would you like me to sign it?"
"Right there on the front," I answer dryly. At this point, I'm thinking: Man, his head is really a normal size. Yeah, I know. Somehow, over the years of seeing him tower over other actors in these grand roles, I'd gotten the impression that he'd make me feel like Frodo's scale double once I met him, never mind the reality that he's only an inch taller than me. So for an awkward silence, I just chanted: Don't talk about the size of his head, Ben. He will totally go Angel on you if you freak out on him. Be cool. So I was being cool. I was also suddenly aware that I was standing in front of Ron Perlman and I wasn't talking--not cool! "I really love the video commentary on this set. Your comments are especially well-informed and they show how well you know and appreciate the material," I say, silently complimenting myself on not sounding like a lunatic.
"Yeah? You know, I don't think I've ever sat down and watched the video commentary since we recorded it," he says with a smirk. Ron can smell loon.
"Really?" I ask, idiocy welling up within, boiling over. "Well, if you want to watch it you could borrow it. I'm going to be here all weekend." Now, I had thought that would be a clever way to ingratiate myself to the celebrity, still clinging to the delusion. Of course, I went home and started blogging zombie party favors, so you know the story doesn't work out that way.
"Oh, that's okay," Ron said with that Vincent smile. "I'm pretty sure I have a copy at home."
Oh my giddy-odd. Did you really just say that? He probably thinks you're a loon. Just get the picture taken with him and go.
"Mind if my brother takes a picture of us?" I say through the stupid-stupid-stupid in my throat.
"No problem," he says, magnanimous in the face of demented fanboy.
Wow, his hand is like not really warm or cold. It's a just right hand. Shut-up! Don't say anything but thank you!
|Ron Perlman's frakkin' shaking my hand!!!|
Walking through Artists' Alley is a real chore. And I don't simply mean because it's super-crowded navigating the rows of tables and aisles choked with fans to find the artist you're looking for. I mean because there's so many awesome pieces of art on display. Each table sports a dozen or more display pieces, and then they have entire portfolios of art prints that you can pick up right there. I really liked chatting about the art with the creators--especially the couple that were really impressed by the details and elegance of their work. Even surrounded by fans, they were genuinely impressed by viewers who saw and loved the details. And then there's the great commission prices for artwork. You can watch artists at work on those commissions, sketching iconic characters in real-time while you chat about the latest scandal in nerd interests. You know: Star Wars being ruined for kids these days, the New 52, and Michael Bay. Yeah, it's definitely a part of the con where I could envision spending an entire day next year. (Oh, did I mention I am definitely going next year? Spoiler alert: I'm going next year.)
One of my favorite pieces of art was one I found on Friday, by Stephen Bryant. I was drawn to his table by his painted covers, in particular a piece called "The Power of Three" featuring Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Liz Sherman. Having just come down off my I-met-Ron high, I picked it up right away and started talking with the artist and assistant as I went through the rest of his portfolio. Then I found my favorite picture of the con. Entitled "Iron Man: Dreaming Big", it featured a young boy lost in a thick volume of Essential Iron Man, with a image of the cinematic Iron Man floating above his head, springing from his imagination. Oh, I love that piece, and so that got added into my impulse purchase as I gushed to my brother-in-law over it and proved much more socially competent with Mr. Bryant than I was with Ron. Then, joking as I realized I was breaking my own personal promise to 'not spend that much,' I grabbed a print from Stephen for a friend whose birthday was coming up. It depicted Deadpool in Eddard Stark's classic "Winter is coming" pose. The best part? I had been at the con like two hours and already spent almost as much money as I would've on the two weekend passes. Oops.
So then the rest of our time we spent in Artists' Alley on Friday was ulterior-motive scouting. For those of you who aren't married, that's when you look for products to show your spouse to make them assume you must've spent a lot more money than you really did. "Hey, I know I picked up three art prints, but if I was really out of control I would've picked up a dozen. See? Look at all this great art I didn't buy...Can we get that one, too?" So on Saturday we grabbed another 5 or so art prints, this time impelled by my wife, and we really only stopped because of failure to visualize where they could go in our house.
Artists' Alley: totally worth a day on its own. Don't go there at all if you don't want to spend money. Just don't.
The panels were great, and varied from intriguing and intellectual to creators having mass love affairs with their fans. The rooms where the panels were actually located, however, were harder to find than a matte surface in Abrams' Star Trek reboot. If you're going to the con for the first time, know that all of the panels are held upstairs, and--while there are stairs leading up inside the main convention floor--the stairs you want are actually up the escalators before even entering the main floor. Yeah, those other stairs just lead to a sort of island food court that is designed to fulfill the same function as the Lost Woods in the Zelda games--be as confusing as possible in a confined, closed space.
The panel with the Marvel leadership was great, and since that was a Friday panel, I had the pleasure of sharing it with my brother-in-law who was pretty ignorant of all things Marvel that weren't in the last batch of movies. (I say was pretty ignorant because I think he went home that day a genuine Marvel fan.) It was a great time that made me proud to be a Marvel fan. In a fairly packed room, the Marvel heads were funny, personable, and showed they not only knew their fans as an abstract demographic but also were able to read us as a collective batch of Midwest nerds sitting in front of them. I loved it, and by the time I left they had sold me on Marvel Unlimited and gotten me excited for the upcoming Project Gamma.
But of course, my absolute favorite panel was Ron Perlman's Q&A on Saturday. In a massive hall filled with probably fifteen hundred people, Ron fielded questions direct from fans in a frank, crassly charming hour or so (too too short). There were a lot of good questions asked, and it was clear the room was full of true fans. A couple of fans just gushed over Ron more than ask questions, and he handled it with hilarious and dirty back-talk. He even shared a few details that I'd never heard before, one of which was clearly a tender subject for him, so it all felt intimate despite being so grand. I wanted to ask him a question or two, and I would have done so, but by Saturday it had dawned on me how dumb I came across the day before. So I kept my trap shut.
An aside: my wife would tell you that at one point I got quite animated and pointed to some random fan thinking he was Guillermo del Toro popping in on the Q&A, but that's ludicrous. First, I totally never said that. Second, I don't get dumber the closer I get in proximity to Ron Perlman, but I might get more loony. Thirdly--and I'm not admitting anything--but it would've been an awesome publicity stunt if the director of some of Ron Perlman's biggest movies, including his next one Pacific Rim, had just shuffled into the room and stolen the show for a few minutes, right? I mean, it's not a totally dumb idea. But I never said that, so it's all just my wife's gravid eccentricity.
Lionheart Cosplay and Makeup Effects went as a female Carnage--the insane symbiote that makes Venom into an occasional hero by comparison. She had white-out contacts, painful-looking dentures, and that latex tongue hanging from her jaw. Probably the greatest crime about the whole affair is that a lot of the fabulous, scrupulous details of her costume were really hard to notice and appreciate from a distance. When I talked to her after Friday's contest, it was clear that the entire getup was exhausting her in real-time. Lionheart, indeed.
Cosplay4UsAll. She dressed up as the nurse from the horror game series Silent Hill, and in that costume she won the crowd's approval for best cosplay in Friday's costume contest. Besides having a great costume, she also had far and away the most disturbingly accurate twitch-walk that perfectly emulated the horrors from the Hill. The contest's MC (I believe her name was Trin) simply wigged out as Courtney shuffled up onto the stage, and as we all cheered I'm pretty sure she was planning an escape route. I love the roleplay aspect of cosplay, and the fact that Courtney stayed in character for her stage walk was fantastic. Included below is a brief video of her creeping around GenCon 2012. Even after the show, when I met her and the rest of the family composing the Cosplay4UsAll team, she stayed disturbingly mute. It was only when we I started talking about video games that she had to break character to brag on some of her Mass Effect and Borderlands cosplay as well. Even then, she kept it hushed so other people wouldn't see her talking. Great people, and I'm already working with them on another project. Filmatleven.
And yes, I like Ms. Marvel. Shaddup.