C2E2 I: The wrap-up

201004190134 C2E2 I: The wrap up
[Photo via Mekanicat’s flickr set.]

Incredibly, The Beat is on the move AGAIN. While we’re in transit back to base, a few quick thoughts on C2E2, based on dozens of conversations with publisher, creators, and attendees.

• It was a good first-time show. This was repeated over and over by just about everyone we spoke with.

• That said, the crowds were lighter than what was expected — whether that expectation was inflated or not is open to question. Saturday, it got busy, but it never blew anyone out of the water. Friday and Sunday were quiet, in the typical convention pattern.

• Who made money or not was similarly mixed. Many folks in Artists Alley sold out; some did very slow business. Publishers had generally good but not great shows.

• Even if it wasn’t a sell-out, it was still a good show in a great market for comics. We heard a lot of theories as to why it didn’t seem like fans were breaking down the doors as they had at other recent shows. The branding not containing the word “comics” was frequently mentioned. The fact that recent Chicago comics shows have not been strong and the fans simply didn’t know what to expect was another.

• Support for the show in the professional community is very strong. The Midwest is a huge territory that deserves a great comics show, in the tradition that started there 30 years ago. About 90 percent of the people we talked to want to go next year; those who didn’t cited the cost of getting there vs. the sales as a factor.

• C2E2 was a really well run show with no major snafus that we heard of. There were some minor logistical things we noted — hey, a map of Artists Alley with names AND table numbers would have been great — but they are easily solved.

• McCormick Place pros: really great facility and the airy, lighted show floor surrounded by windows, and spectacular views of Lake Michigan from the back were commented on favorably by nearly everyone — seriously, putting some sunlight on a show floor improves everyone’s mood.

• McCormick Place cons: It’s so huge it’s kind of hard to get that bustling, busy feeling in the room. And the panel rooms were simply too big; even the smallest one had stadium seating! The Brobdingnagian scale of the place makes an intimate talk an impossibility. Even the biggest Marvel and DC panels couldn’t fill the immense halls, making it hard to connect with the audience.

• The fans we talked to were impressed by having a full-scale show in Chicago. The amount of animosity we heard for other events held in Rosemont was really widespread, and offered without prompting.

• Bottom line: It’s a good show and people want to support it, and a lot of folks want to come back.

• We managed to sneak into the kitchen and bath show for a bit today, and it was just as gleaming and sparkling as we imagined.

And now…home, dear God, finally home. But before then…what did YOU think of C2E2?

Comments

  1. “C2E2 was a really well run show with no major snafus that we heard of. There were some minor logistical things we noted — hey, a map of Artists Alley with names AND table numbers would have been great — but they are easily solved. ”

    There was a map. Unfortunately, there was only one. I think it was at the endcap of row P…somewhere around there. It had an alphabetical listing of everyone and then a table listing as well. But I did have a lot of people who asked about something like that so it seems most also missed it.

  2. Kenny Cather says:

    Did anyone cite the economy as a reason for slow sales/ business? Things haven’t exactly picked up, economy wise.

    Also a small point, but…”The Midwest is a huge territory that deserves a great comics show[.]” The MidWest certainly is huge and one show can’t cover it. From East Ohio, it’s easier to get to New York rather than Chicago. From living in Ohio and NYC, it seems to me there’s this attitude among New Yorkers that the MidWest is one place where we all sing hand in hand while skipping along on Main St. It’s probably a pet peeve, but I really dislike that mindset.

  3. Jim Higgins says:

    Thanks for the good summary, Heidi.

  4. Yes, a really great show. For me, the crowd size was perfect: big enough for a buzz…but with a little elbow room that actually helped us network and find some new artists (signed on board 3 great folks – maybe a fourth). I was also energized by the panels I moderated and the crowds in each one were really strong – especially the “Pulp Fiction” Panel and “Do We Still Need a Women in Comics Panel?” Panel.

  5. Mike Chary says:

    The great thing about McCormick Place is that it is so big that it makes me look normal size!

    Oh, and here’s that p[hot, Heidi:

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=104731&id=653341353#!/photo.php?pid=5343762&id=653341353

  6. Not to sound overly trendy, but I downloaded the C2E2 app for my iPod Touch and it was great—I made a list of people I wanted to see, and tapping their names gave me their locations on the floor and in Artists Alley.

    I loved the show. I know it’s not good for Reed Exhibitions that there wasn’t a lot of movie and gaming presence, but I did not miss the pounding music, flashing lights, and garish displays that go with all that. C2E2 was really about the comics. The floor was easy to navigate, and I didn’t miss the crushing crowds of NYCC.

    The scale of the building was a challenge but I felt like I got good aerobic exercise sprinting from the panel I was covering in room 353 to your panel in room 352, on the other side of the building—apparently putting rooms in numerical order is for chumps. The food was decent but they need another Starbucks. And I loved the airy feeling of the main hall—so much nicer than the black walls and glaring lights of the Javits. Also, the conference rooms were big but they had a pleasant, warmer feeling to them than the concrete slabs at the Javits.

    One thing that none of them gets right, though, is electrical outlets. There are almost none. Did it not occur to them that people might bring laptop computers to a convention center?

  7. C2E2 seemed so much more like a real ‘Comic Con’ rather than the Swap Meet we’ve gotten accustomed to here in Chicago.

    For me, the whole point of a Con is to meet the creators and discover great comics I have have missed. This show provided that in abundance. The Webcomics Pavilion was a nice touch as well.

    Next year, I’m definitely finding time for all three days so I can hit more of the interesting panels as well.

  8. Alan Coil says:

    Mike said: “…the Swap Meet we’ve gotten accustomed to here in Chicago.”

    A good description of the Wizard con, Mike.

  9. I’m pretty sure there was more than 1 map of Artist’s Alley….I know there were at least 2, maybe 3 (there was one down around row C or D as well), and I found them really easy to use: you just skimmed the list for the first or last name and found who you were looking for in seconds. It was heaven compared to WWC, where you have to actually dig through the program to find a map.

    Also, with those nice, wide aisles, it was fairly easy to stand at one corner of the aisle and see the signage for any artist you were looking for. I spent huge chunks of time in Artist’s Alley and never felt lost.

    “C2E2 was a really well run show with no major snafus that we heard of.”

    The biggest snafu I can think of is having the two biggest panels (DC Nation and Mondo Marvel, the two panels most likely to announce big news) overlap by a half-hour. That’s just really poor planning.

  10. Outlets: Lakeside is the original convention center, opened in 1960, rebuilt in 1971. Portable telephones? Computers which didn’t require a separate room? Inconceivable!

    Myself, I was overjoyed to find VENDING MACHINES in a convention center! (The McDonald’s was nice, too, but I didn’t use it.)

    The Artist’s Alley listing… Reed Pop has never supplied an alphabetical index on the AA maps. Myself, I always visit every aisle in the hall, so it’s not a big deal for me.

    As a former resident of the Midlands, I can state that we do NOT skip down the middle of Main Street holding hands singing pioneer works songs… one, the dogs sleeping in the middle of the street are ornery, and two, the cows leave patties which discourage dancing and prancing of any sort. Big shows are regional/national shows, and the Midwest hasn’t had a good national show since..? I saw retailers from Missouri and Nebraska, as well as further afield. There are many smaller shows all over the Midwest, but nothing on the scale of NYCC or CCI:SD.

    And remember… better too big (C2E2.1) than too small (NYCC 2006). Better “Wow, it was so spacious and I didn’t have trouble walking down the aisles” than “I couldn’t get into the dealer’s room because @#$%&! Reed sold too many tickets”.

  11. Thanks, Heidi. This was a good bullet point wrap up, and the user comments are solid, too. This combined with other blogs gave me the *feel & tone* I was looking for.

  12. Sean D says:

    Had a great time at the show. If I would touch on one thing that could be improved would be the media outreach. San Diego, NYCC, even The Rosemont show, the live local morning show will do a live shot from the comic convention starting that day. Usually with a few local 501st members in costume in the background as the show airs outside of the show floor’s operating hours.

    Friday morning the one local morning show I found was WGN and their live remote shot was a Karate event. Not sure what coverage there was otherwise, but I don’t recall seeing any video cameras shooting other than those from Websites shooting panels & interviews. It’s a little thing, but those morning show bits are a great reminder for the civilians.

  13. I think that C2E2 was an excellent first-year show – great comic guests, (including web comics), a wide selection of panels, great facility, and so on. However, it seemed as if most of the traffic on the floor was focused on the exhibitor area at the front or artist alley in the back. The whole middle section (with retailers and smaller exhibitors) seemed fairly empty at times.

    It would be great if, in the future, they could move the panels a bit closer to the show floor. That’s one of the nice things about the Wizard show at Rosemont – most of the panels were just outside of the main show area.

  14. Dave Elliott says:

    I certainly got the impression from Heidi’s coverage that it was a show I wish I’d had reason to be at.

  15. 27.5K attendance? Sounds to me pretty decent numbers for an inaugural event… although I can see in “Con Wars!” terms, not a decisive battle won compared to past WIZARD WORLD: Chicago attendance count.

    And apparently a factor in Exhibitors complaining of not “moving product” as they had expected at C2E2. Wonder how will REED respond to this? The COMICS-focused vibe of this first Con benefited MARVEL/DC/AVATAR, as they received countless web-inches of coverage for their panels and presentations— without pesky p.r. competition from
    news about upcoming genre movies and tv shows and videogames.

    But should REED try to “grow” the attendee count for future C2E2s to give those Exhibitors and extra 20-30K potential new
    customers, it’ll have to court the SAME Hollywood T.V. and Film machine that’s been dominating SDCC (and making inroads at NYCC)… along with those SAME Video Game companies who’ve been the latest ‘Invaders’ at such Big Tent Comic-Cons. On the plus side you’ll have newbie attendees drawn in by the larger “Pop Culture” elements mixing in with the traditional “Comics” crowd— but on the other hand, you’ll have the traditional “Comics” crowd forced to mix with all them newbie attendees drawn in by the larger “Pop Culture” elements.

    Wonder how long before Twilight RUINED C2E2! signs start showing up that
    adjusted Chicago “Entertainment Expo”? I’ll wait for The Beat’s report on the clash of Con cultures. ;)

    /laptop analysis of a Con I DIDN’T attend OFF

  16. This was simply the best con I’ve ever been to. Certainly the most productive for me, trying to break in the business and all…

    — Geoffrey D. Wessel

  17. Good times. Here’s my C2E2 “report”from the artists alley perspective…kinda sorta…

  18. As an attendee and a presenter, I had a great time. The Reed people were really professional and made me feel like I was important (even though I’m not really). The whole Con did, in fact — sometimes as a comics fan I feel like a minority at SD. Not here. C2E2 was just a clean, well-lighted place. Plus much better to see comics pros wandering the floor buying weird stuff. Best booth, as always: Dark Horse. Oni was good too. Looking forward to next year already.

    Brad

  19. My own con report isn’t quite finished but a dealer told me something that could have been an issue.

    Reed did a great job of advertising the con nationally, but didn’t do enough advertising locally.

    Not being from the Chicago area I’ve no idea if this is true or not, but I must say I didn’t see any advertising for the con elsewhere in Chicago.

  20. Mike Chary says:

    Well, as to local advertising, my mother, a 70-year-old woman living in Gary, asked me yesterday if I had gone to the show, and comics are simply not on her radar. If she heard about it, there was some degree of saturation, because I had not mentioned it to her, and I hadn’t spoken with her in a week or so.

  21. Torsten Adair says:

    I do not mind peripheral exhibitors at a comic-con, as long as those exhibitors have a comics tie-in. Lego? Movies? Star Wars? No problem. I loved that there were FOUR dealers selling corsets and other fantasy fashions! That there were fine art galleries selling vintage posters and original art. That there were energy drink companies handing out samples…

    Might we see crossover from the other Reed Pop shows, like Star Wars? Might we see more booths like Sherilyn Kenyon’s, via BookExpo?

    There were small panel rooms… on the second floor, near the garage. The ComicsPro panel was packed, Can the larger rooms be subdivided? Keep two rooms for huge panels, subdivide the rest. Having the large panel rooms on the third floor means crowd control can be moved to the patios outside.

    Does Reed ever fill the “stockyards” holding area for fans? Perhaps fill half that area with a free family fare festival… face painting, how-to panels, free comics, librarians promoting comics and literacy, publishers promoting their titles… kinda like the festivals Target sponsors. This would bring in the general book pubs that wouldn’t normally leave NYC. Yeah…London is a conlict, but send other staff.

  22. I think it was a great show for the fans but as an exhibitor in Webcomics Pavilion, it was pretty slow. I don’t mean just me either, but just about everyone (ok, not Danielle Corsetto) but generally, not so hot. Maybe unrealistic expectations? Probably. I did better at Wizard World Chicago! I still had a great time seeing friends and I’m optimistic for next year.

  23. Kevin T. Brown says:

    As someone who has gone to every single Chicago ComiCon/Wizard con since 1979, C2E2 was the best one to date. This is the kind of convention the original ComiCon could have evolved into if Wizard didn’t get its claws into it. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

    C2E2 was extremely well run and very organized. The size didn’t bother me in the least as I’ve been to McCormick Place many times and knew what to expect. There could have been some better signage as to where the panels were and directions as how to get there, but it’s something that’s minor. I also had no problems with finding who I wanted to find in Artist’s Alley because I read the program given to the attendees, and it was also online for people to see.

    Getting back to the size of the place, it did seem cavernous to a degree, but that was mainly due to the fact that there really wasn’t a large number of comics dealers present. Maybe about half of what that other show has. I have no idea why that was, but I suspect there will be more dealers for the next show once they see the attendance numbers. Also, while it did seem “empty” in the dealers room, if you were down one level and saw the crowd on Saturday at about 9:45am waiting to get in, you’d know there was going to be a LOT of people there.

    Overall, I’d call this a big success. I would not change a thing about how they laid things out. I’d let it “ride” for a year to see how big the crowds get. I’m going to guess it’s going to double in size attendance-wise. And if they can double the comics dealers as well as provide better signage, it’ll be golden. They have room to grow and they will.

    Finally, as a Chicagoan, it did me proud to hear people who were from out of town compliment the city. Some had no idea how beautiful it is and how diverse it can be. And most said they will be back next year. I know I certainly cannot wait for April 8-10, 2011, to get here. Chicago has a convention it can be proud of once again.

  24. Without a doubt, C2E2 was a strong first-time show. I’ve been trying to temper my comments so I don’t sound like a paid shill (I’m not, but if Reed offers, I might be willing to discuss the matter), but I’m having a hard time of it. McCormick Place is a beautiful location for a show, and Chicago’s great weather this weekend only added to it. The stunning downtown views and sunshine streaming onto the con floor surely presented a missed branding opportunity for DC’s Brightest Day.

    McCormick Place is huge—C2E2 used only a fraction of the complex—but that only works to the show’s advantage if it’s able to grow. It can sustain a lot more filling out before it starts getting crowded. Difficulties that some encountered in negotiating between the showroom and panel rooms can be overcome with better signage and the familiarity that comes with return visits to the con.

    The best thing this show had (and its biggest selling point for the future) was the positive feeling that seemed to permeate. I won’t say that I didn’t hear any complaints, but they were far overshadowed by the good mood that appeared to be shared by most everyone. And this is going to be where Reed can really build their audience. That Rosemont con has left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, and I know of at least a few local fans who took a wait and see attitude to C2E2. Entirely anecdotal, but I talked to one of them this morning who now wishes he’d attended. Next year should be better.

  25. I was really, REALLY impressed with this comic show from top-to-bottom.

    Was it the most packed-show I’ve ever attended? No… but it was well-lit, professionally run, and crammed to the gills with COMIC professionals.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, within a few years I can see this being in the top three shows of the country.

  26. I enjoyed the hell out of C2E2 & wish Reed all the best in continued exhibitions. One of the few gripes I’d have – Carrie Fisher’s line cut off some traffic for Linsner.com & Zenescope Entertainment across the way – was dealt with after I wrangled a couple of volunteers.

    We were in the exhibitor’s area, but I have to give Reed props for the Artist’s Alley setup. It was widely-aisled & gave less of the classic “The Artist’s Alley is the ghetto” approach than some other shows have.

    Definitely comics felt like more the forefront of this show. I agree there were quite as many sales or attendees as we’d hoped. BUT: that’s a first-time show. Curious to see where they’ll go. Linsner.com would definitely return.

  27. Also: would like to second the love of the sunlight at McCormick place. I didn’t realize how much I missed it, in my 15 + years of conventions, until I saw it streaming in those huuuuuuge windows.

  28. likefunbutnot says:

    Albone: webcomics are rough. I saw quite a few titles I had never heard of, including yours.

    I was surprised to find that the webcomics guys were given regular booths since the Rosemont con usually sticks them in the backwater parts of artist’s alley. The whole middle area of the con seemed to be sparsely populated compared to the big draws at the front and back of the show floor. Maybe a slight change in layout could have helped?

    Regardless, in 10 years of going to Rosemont’s con, I’ve never had an experience so solidly good as I had at C2E2. It’s vastly easier to get around McCormick Place and to get TO McCormick place (I’m local, so I drove one day and took a train in twice). The con organizers did a vastly better job communicating where and when panels were than Wizard ever has. The setting was gorgeous. Most especially, the facility is comfortable. Soft carpet, lots of clean bathrooms and vending machines ($2 bottles of water from machines that accept credit cards? Bliss!) and the temperature indoors was always pleasant, which leads me to my next point:

    My con-accomplice is a veteran of many anime and video game cons, and I’ve been going to Rosemont for a long time. One of the things we both noticed was that at no point during the con did we notice the stereotypical stench of overly warm geeks. I found that to be remarkable and so did my friend.

    One other small point: C2E2 had a lot less adult material floating around compared to the Wizard con in Chicago. I don’t mind it, but as my friend pointed out, it’s harder to defend the hobby to wives, sisters and parents when there’s bare boobs hanging out all over the place (my friend is also the person who tried to get Joe Quesada to address that issue in the Cup O’ Joe panel as well, but that didn’t go over particularly well).

  29. michael says:

    with the very low numbers, I hope that Reed and the exhibitors continue to support C2E2 in the future, so that, eventually, it will grow in proportion to the size of the place.

  30. With 9/10 loyal Beat commenters preferring REED Exhibitions as their corporate organisers of choice for a “Chicago Comic-Con”, it looks like C2E2’s future success will be rosy… despite the bumps and concerns in the actual performance of this inaugural Con.

    And, somewhat surprised at all the Wow, you could see OUTSIDE! exhortations about McCormicks— I’ve always thought Con attendees were like Vegas casino-goers and preferred being cocooned and wrapped up in their obsessions. With NOTHING to distract them away from the loud and manic embrace. ;)

    (Hmm. Have you ever seen a clock at a Comic Convention?)

    Maybe REED’s Pop Group can market C2E2 as “The Comic-Con WITH Windows!” to distinguish it from all the other Cons— though with Chicago’s April weather patterns, there’ll be the risk of looking out on a dark and rainy skyline outside McCormicks. Which then just might put a mood damper on the festivities INSIDE…

  31. Jim Caldwell says:

    I’m coming late to the party, but …

    I had a great time. I liked the busy-but-not-too-busy feel of Saturday and Sunday. Friday felt a little empty, sure, but I was having fun and talking to people, so it didn’t really matter. On the other hand, because I was talking to people on the floor, I know I missed at least two, maybe three panels I’d wanted to attend. Most people may disagree, but occasional announcements via P.A. might have served as a reminder?

    Also with the “small” crowds: late on Friday, I ran into a friend I hadn’t known was coming. We figured we’d run into each other over the next two days – it always worked that way at WWC. As it turned out, I never saw him again at the show. I’ve heard that happens a lot at SDCC, but Chicago? (Sure, maybe the unspoken punchline to our conversation was, “Not if I see you first.”)

    I don’t know how much it was promoted in other shops (though I’d guess by their presence, Chicago Comics, Challengers Comics, and the Comic Vault were quite active), but my retailer (Comix Gallery in Wilmette) was very enthusiastic about the show, and many of his customers were there. He did admit some were hesitant, though. He’s hoping to convince them next year.

    Favorite line from the show: Ranking on his own “antiquated” Palm, a writer explained just how old it was, “To reach the internet? ‘Hello, Sarah? Get me www-dot-mountpilot-dot-com!'”

  32. jeremy says:

    loved the show. well lit , reasonable crowds, wide aisles, agrear mix of comics and entertainment guests, vending machines and mcdonalds. i will definately be going next year.

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  1. […] the community are about, and now we can grow from here." Christopher Borelli, Brent DiCrescenzo and Heidi MacDonald file wrap-ups from the show. […]

  2. […] time. I’m working on a number of writeups and interviews from C2E2, but in the meantime, Heidi has a wide-ranging wrapup of impressions on how successful the show was, while the Newsarama blog […]

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