I’ve never been much of a con guy. Kind of like Groucho Marx was once quoted as saying, I never want to be part of a club that would have me as a member. I was also on the other side of a couple of conventions. I worked at a cafe across the street from a Star Trek convention one time and I was a security guard for a couple of Cubs conventions here in Chicago. I just felt I wasn’t that into anything, or at least not enough to spend an entire day or weekend or day waiting in lines for just a brief moment of time with my favorite celebrity.
So why the change of heart? Simple. I am a devotee of Critical Role, the streaming program that watches a bunch of “nerdy-ass voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons” (their words). As with most of my fandoms, I’m not the biggest fan out there, but I’m usually one of the biggest fans you’ll meet of whichever tribe we’re talking about. (I am at the center of the Phish/White Sox/comics/Critical Role Venn diagram. It’s a small group.) However, I’m a big enough critter (along with my son!) that when Critical Role announced they were coming to Chicago, I knew I had to go.
However, C2E2 itself is obviously much bigger than Critical Role. While most of my day was Crit-centric, it was impossible not to be taken in by all the sights and sounds of the convention floor. The sheer amount of merchandise that was available to peruse was almost intoxicating. I would have bought a little something from all the fiefdoms of pop culture. If I had unlimited resources, that is. A light saber here, Captain America’s shield there, a die-cast dice set and loads of comics everywhere. Hell, I could have even gotten a tattoo!
Alas, I do not have unlimited resources, so my budget was spent on buffing my autograph collection of the Critical Role cast. I know some people find the whole charging for autographs thing unseemly, but I’m okay with it. Folks are just trying to make that hustle. The best part is there is still a lot to do at C2E2 that doesn’t cost anything extra. Most of the folks in Artist Alley don’t charge for their signatures (thanks Gail Simone!) and they are really approachable. Also, and I was blown away by this, the panel discussions were great. The panels ranged from all out fanfests like Critical Role’s Q+A and A Farewell to Arrow, but they also included discussions about the writing process, the comic business and other serious presentations about pop culture. The editor-in-chief of this very blog, Daniel (aka the Pop Mythologist) was a panelist of one of the latter panels called Wakanda Forever: The Psychology of Black Panther, where the panelists discussed the eponymous character from the lens of various sub-fields of psychology including cognitive psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, and the psychology of religion.
Of course the best part of C2E2 is also the easiest to enjoy: the people watching. To be more specific, the cosplay watching is an event unto itself. There was an area dedicated to cosplay on the main floor, with a stage to host contests and the like, but it mainly provided a great place to congregate and see all the great costumes. And yes, there are some amazing costumes to see, I particularly liked the folks who dressed up on a more limited budget. Retrofitting and upcycling materials around the house is downright inspirational. I particularly notice all the Critical Role cosplayers, naturally, but pretty much every fandom of sci-fi and fantasy was represented.
I was as shocked about this as anyone, having not previously been a con goer, but even after an eleven hour day at the C2E2 I still felt like I wanted more. Maybe (*gasp!*) two whole days! I’d pack a lunch, though. The choices inside the convention are fairly limited, over-priced, and not very good, as I’m sure veteran con goers know well. I’d eat a cold hot dog, however, if it’d mean that I got to chat with my favorite dungeon master again.