C2E2: An Outsider’s View Inside

Let me begin this by saying that I am not the go to comic guy. If you want to know what Magneto was up to in the nineties, I have no idea. If you are curious as to the origins of the current Robin, I only know Dick Grayson. The Avengers are a block buster movie to me, not a superhero team that dates back decades. I read some comics, mostly on the advice of people far more knowledgeable than myself. But I know very little of the comics world.

C2E2 is a celebration devoted to the people who know and love the comics world with every fiber of their being. It is filled with vendors, publishers, artists, and authors who create the characters and story lines that make people so passionate. The people who attend are ravenously searching for what’s next in the stories they have been following for many years or what new things are coming soon that have never been seen before. The authors and artists who create these plots are viewed like rock stars by those who read their tales.

Walking on to the floor at C2E2 for the first time is a bit like being caught in a colorful typhoon. Everywhere I looked, there were brilliant banners, people in costume, music, laughter, and a million stimuli each pulling me in a different direction. If I had a plan for when I arrived, it immediately fell apart when I stepped foot in the main hall. Instead of fighting it, I simply gave in and rode the torrents of excitement.

Publishers have booths scattered around the show and are eager to talk to you about what they have and why they are excited about it. One of the best experiences I had was at the Archaia booth. The people at Archaia aren’t out simply to make a sale, but rather, show you what they are excited about and why. The authors and artists are proud of their work and genuinely want to talk to you about it. My novice status didn’t matter to them, only that I like to read and they might have something I would enjoy. Judging from the stack of books I came away with, they have many things that tripped my trigger.

I spent hours wandering up and down miles of tables and booths. There were people selling all manner of T-shirts and gear. There were toys, games, book dealers, art vendors, steampunk outfitters, leather workers, and a million other things to look at. Artists Alley is filled with row after row of artists and authors of all types from mainstream comics to people just starting out. Similar to my experience, many are excited to talk to you about who they are and what they are working on. For those looking for a new piece of art, many artists will also do sketches or commissions.
I attended only one panel while at the show, but there were dozens to choose from. Crimespree’s own Jon Jordan hosted a panel called THE TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION with F. Paul Wilson, James Rollins, Jamie Freveletti, and Patrick Lee. The discussion centered on the concepts each of the authors pull from real life events and actual technologies that sound more like science fiction than real life. It was an amazing panel with fascinating insight about the authors’ processes and inspirations.

Through the excitement and noise and chaos of the show, the absolute best part of the weekend was meeting and talking to so many amazing people. Mel Caylo at Archaia was so passionate, it was impossible not to get swept away in conversation with him. Brent Schoonover was hilarious and a great artist to boot. Kyle Higgins was such a fun guy to chat with that I will end up reading his entire NIGHTWING run, just because I figure his writing is as interesting as he is. Ivan Brandon, Cliff Chiang, Brian Azzarello, Jill Thompson, Jen VanMeter, Lee Bermejo and on and on. As with most things in life, it is the people who make or break a moment. The wonderful people I was fortunate to meet this weekend definitely made it one of the most exciting and fun times I have ever had.

So, what can I tell those who have never been to C2E2? First of all, go. You’ll be glad you did. Second, go there with no expectations or hesitations. Everyone that I encountered was just having a blast and wanted me to be having fun too. Artists, authors, and publishers want to talk to you, not just to get you to buy stuff, but because they are really passionate about what they are doing and they want to share that passion with you. If you just walk in the doors and let yourself get swept into the chaos you will have more fun than you could possibly imagine. I came away with a tall stack of books and the privilege of meeting some of the coolest people I have ever met. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to attend to.

Bryan VanMeter