Coming hard on the heels of Emerald City Comic Con, WonderCon, and several other major comics conventions, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, held April 24-26 at the McCormack Place in downtown Chicago, can be a problem for some publishers. DC did not have a booth on the exhibit floor at all, and those publishers that did exhibit, including Marvel, Dark Horse, Valiant, BOOM! Studios, and Top Shelf, seemed to take up less real estate than in previous years.
ReedPop senior v-p and show organizer Lance Fensterman said attendance at C2E2 was still being counted but preliminary figures indicate the show likely attracted about 63,000 people, up from the 53,000 that attended in 2013.
Marvel had by far the largest comics booth, and attendees lined up to have their picture taken with two movie props, Captain America's shield and Thor's hammer. A number of smaller publishers, including Action Lab, First Comics, the digital publisher Lion Forge, and the children's publisher Papercutz, also had booths, as did Random House, which was promoting its genre novels rather than comics properties.
On the other hand, there was a robust Artists Alley, featuring major creators such as Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire), Neal Adams, and Art Baltazar and Franco (Tiny Titans, Li'l Hellboy), who were drawing lines of fans seeking sketches and autographs, as well as an eclectic group of indy and superhero artists. In terms of sales, opinions were mixed; it was generally agreed that Friday was a slow day, but some creators had good sales the rest of the weekend while others were disappointed.
All that talent made for a good slate of panels as well, and publishers had saved a few announcements for the show. Marvel announced its four-issue "Death of Wolverine" mini-series, to be written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Steve McNiven. Marvel will also celebrate its 100th anniversary more than a few years early (the Marvel Universe began in 1961) with a set of five special issues to be released on a weekly basis in July. The comics will envision what the Marvel Universe will be like in 2061 and will feature well known characters such as Spider-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the X-Men. In addition, a new Dark Tower series is in the works, based on the Stephen King novels. The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner will be based on a portion of the second novel; writer Peter David will do the adaptation.
Dark Horse will revamp its Dark Horse Presents anthology, bringing the page count down to 48 pages (from the current 80) and the price to $4.99 (from $7.99). The May issue will be the last one in the current format, and the new version will debut in August.
The publisher also announced Ghost Fleet, a 12-issue series that will mix up long-haul trucks and supernatural action, written by Donny Cates (Buzzkill) and illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson (Space-Mullet).
The program of panels and events was rounded out with creator spotlights (including an appearance by comics legend Stan Lee), a 20th anniversary reunion of the actors in the movie The Crow, a martial arts demonstration by Steve Cardenas (better known as the Red Power Ranger), and panels on geek culture, diversity in comics, science fiction and other genres, cosplay, steampunk, and even beer labels.
This eclectic approach was reflected on the show floor as well, where big swaths of space were given over to vendors dealing in the larger culture that surrounds comics, rather than comics themselves. As in previous years, part of the show floor was set aside as a tattoo pavilion, and the artier vendors of toys, zines, clothing, and jewelry were gathered into a separate area called "The Block."
The show was held in the south building of McCormick Place, which lacked the natural light and open feel of the other halls where the show had been previously; the main floor was cavernous and harshly lit, although the upstairs panel area was much brighter, with a glass wall that gave a view of Lake Michigan. There was also a Fan Village, a large, open room where attendees could play tabletop games, browse an exhibit of fan art, or simply relax and chat with other fans.