I love C2E2, not just because it’s located in the great city of Chicago, home of the best pizza, rappers, and (As of this writing.) basketball team in the world. C2E2 one of the few big time cons that still focuses on comic books and their creators, not just celebrities and movie trailers. It’s also the first comic book convention that I attended many moons ago in 2013 when I strode into the press lounge asking how to interview a comic book creator and frantically texting my editor. But it was a great time, and I got to see some of my heroes, including Felicia Day, comic book painter demigod Alex Ross, Kieron Gillen, and the very kind Doctor Who and Wolverine writer Paul Cornell.
I am very excited to return to C2E2 in 2017 and bask in the glow of comic book fans, creators, and publishers. Here are six things you should check out at (or after) the show, which runs from Friday, April 21 to Sunday, April 23.
- C2E2 Exclusive Variants/Comics
At their most primal (and capitalist) level, cons are about buying stuff that we think is cool. Whether that’s a celebrity pretending to care about us for sixty seconds, a print by our favorite artist, or a replica of Mjolnir because we have a god complex. One thing I love about comic book conventions is the opportunity to get special covers of comic books. It can be a snapshot reminder of meeting a certain creator, having an artist draw a character you like, or a bit of both like when I picked up Joe Quinones’ Serenity: Leaves of the Wind variant at Baltimore Comic Con in 2014. (Mal and Inara drawn like a pulp novel cover equals major heart eyes.)
Number one on my list of special comics to pick up at C2E2 is an exclusive early copy of Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss’ hilarious 80s period piece/crime comic Four Kids Walk Into A Bank #4, published by Black Mask Studios. There are only 66 copies of this comic, which features a cover by We Can Never Go Home so get to their booth quickly, and all proceeds to go to the anti-gun violence charity, CeaseFire Illinois. You get to read a cool comic early and help an important cause. Some other comics worth checking out are horror maestro Rafael Albuquerque’s variant for the new Alien: Dead Orbit series, Scott Hampton’s classic fantasy style cover for American Gods #1, Matt Wagner’s creepy Joker-centric cover for The Dark Knight III #1, and Mike Allred doing Flash of Two Worlds Harley Quinn #1 style.
And if you’re a huge Lord of the Rings geek and have money to burn, you could always grab an exclusive Helm of Sauron from Chicago Costume…
2. The Valiant X-O Manowar Release Party (And General Con Presence)
The resurrection of Valiant Entertainment as a publisher has been one of the great comics success stories of the past five years. And they have quite the C2E2 planned with everything from a special beer to commemorate the launch of X-O Manowar #1 by Matt Kindt and my favorite Conan artist Tomas Giorello to Bloodshot coffee mugs.
Valiant is doing a full spread of panels, including ones about X-O Manowar’s past, present, and future as their flagship book and one about the upcoming Harbinger Wars 2 crossover with never seen before art and information about this book, which will affect almost all Valiant titles, including Faith. There’s also an early look at Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe, a live action webseries featuring many Valiant heroes, like Ninjak, who will be played by Jason David Frank. (The former Green Power Ranger.)
And to cap things off, there’s the X-O Manowar #1 release party held at 7 PM on Friday at the Cobra Lounge. The party is also celebrating the release of Pipeworks Brewing Company’s X-O Manowar Galactic Golden Ale and has a $5 cover charge that will be donated to the suicide prevention charity, Hope for the Day. Comics and craft beer are an excellent combination, and maybe you’ll spot Valiant’s famous ale and wine swilling immortal, Armstrong, at the party.
3. Image Comics Panels
Image Comics is home for some of the creative comics of the 2010s in a variety of genres from dystopian science fiction (Bitch Planet) to space opera (Saga), urban fantasy (The Wicked + the Divine), and even sex comedy (Sex Criminals) and autobiography (Self-Obsessed). And all of Image’s books are owned by their creators.
One place to see all of your favorite Image creators at one place is at various panels. The one I’m looking forward to most is “Image Comics Presents: Storytelling Essentials”, which will be held on Saturday at 11:15 AM and is a general chat about craft, influences, and inspirations. The panel lineup is pretty stacked and includes up and coming writer Donny Cates (God Country), queen of all colorists Jordie Bellaire (Injection), artist of all the pretty people Jamie McKelvie (WicDiv), the legend Greg Rucka (The Old Guard), the artist with one of the cleanest lines in comics Declan Shalvey (Injection), and writer/artist of adorable superhero babies and demented fairy tale characters Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland).
I can’t wait to hear the interactions between this eclectic group of creators, who demonstrate on a daily basis that comics are much more than superheroes, and artists and colorists are equal, if not superior participants to writers in the creative process.
4. Weta Workshop Awesomeness
Before I got into comics, I was a huge (and still am) J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings nerd. They weren’t splashed on the covers of Entertainment Weekly and People, like the trilogy’s stars and Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson, but the visual effects and makeup team at Wellington, New Zealand’s Weta Workshop truly brought the denizens of Middle Earth to life in both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Plus they’re named after a prehistoric, resilient cricket that only lives in New Zealand.
Weta is also responsible for crafting the worlds of Narnia, the Planet of the Apes, Mad Max Fury Road, and the upcoming Thor Ragnarok and excels at both practical effects and CGI. One thing that they are especially known for is creating large scale miniatures, like the ones of Minas Tirith, Helm’s Deep, and the dark fortress of Barad-Dur in Lord of the Rings as well as the Great Wall of China in the recent 2017 Matt Damon film with the same name.
And lucky for fans of science fiction and fantasy, they have booth and panel at C2E2 where you can geek out over Gollum, King Kong, Elven blades, or Power Ranger suits and check out the company’s portfolio and history. As icing on the cake, you can see a live makeup “transformation” featuring Warren Dion-Smith. Basically, you will see how flesh and blood human beings become orcs live and in person. The panel is at 2:30 PM on Sunday.
5. Mike Colter Panel
Marvel Studios is bringing several of the actors from their TV shows to C2E2, including Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, who play the adorable, quirky British agents in Agents of SHIELD, the Kingpin of crime himself Vincen D’Onofrio, and finally, Mike Colter, who played Luke Cage in Jessica Jones and Luke Cage and will reprise his role in the upcoming Netflix series, The Defenders. Before playing the hero formerly known as Power Man, Colter was a crime lord in CBS’ The Good Wife and had roles in The Following and American Horror Story: Coven.
Colter’s appearance at C2E2 is almost perfectly timed as a bulletproof, black superhero is a powerful image for the United States in 2017. We currently have an Attorney General in Jeff Sessions, who has disparaged the NAACP and was considered by Coretta Scott King to be too racist for a federal judge and is one of many cabinet members and high ranking racist, xenophobic (usually) men that run this country. By standing up for his community of Harlem against corruption, Luke Cage is a symbol of hope in this dark time, and Mike Colter embodies him perfectly by playing him with a wonderful mix of physical presence, understated politeness, and a touch of rage in the middle of battle.
And, on a pure fan level, it will be interesting to see how much (or little) Mike Colter is allowed to say about Defenders, which is coming out in about four months. I am intrigued to see if he has anything to say about working with Finn Jones’ Iron Fist, and if they had any of the chemistry that Luke Cage and Danny Rand had in the comics. Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cage were all enjoyable shows, and the environment in this panel room is bound to electric with anticipation for their team-up in Defenders with the audience hanging on every crumb of information Colter doles out about the upcoming show.
6. WicDiv Panel and Exclusive Merchandise
If you have read my work at all, you know that I wouldn’t end an article about a comic convention without bumping The Wicked + the Divine, which is my favorite current comic. Writer Kieron Gillen is making his first appearance at C2E2 since 2013, which was the glory days of Young Avengers, and artist Jamie McKelvie is going to his first C2E2 ever. They are bringing some exclusive merch, including pins of a death skull and Persephone’s hand and a very metal Baphomet t-shirt. Wearing this shirt instantly gives you the superpowers of ripped abs, Andrew Eldritch sunglasses, and fire swords.
And it’s kind of fitting that the WicDiv panel is being held on Sunday as fellow fans, er, worshipers of the Pantheon can join together and air out our feelings about the bittersweet ending to the “Imperial Phase” arc and get ready for the WicDiv #455 featuring the gods of ancient Rome. The panel is at 2:30 PM and will most likely have some glorious cosplay.
And that is my highly subjective list of the six coolest things to do at C2E2. Remember to stay hydrated, pack a portable phone charger, and take plenty of selfies with your favorite comic book creators and fans of general awesome things.