C2E2, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, held March 18-20 at the McCormick Place exhibition center, puts comics up front but includes plenty of other pop culture activities as well. This year's show featured first time exhibitors, manga publisher Viz Media and online manga/anime subscription service Crunchyroll. Indie houses Valiant and Lion Forge showed new properties and the show also offered an appearance by Supergirl TV star Melissa Benoist, cosplay and gaming events, as well as plenty of other comics content for the purists.
One marked difference from previous years was the presence of anime/manga publishers Viz Media and Crunchyroll, who were both exhibiting at C2E2 for the first time. Adam Sheehan, Crunchyroll director of events, was promoting Crunchyroll's premium subscription service, which delivers streaming anime and manga for a monthly fee. "Here, we are reaching those big fans who are either unaware of us or want to try anime but don’t want to buy big stacks of DVDs,” Sheehan said. He estimated there were 500 to 600 people at the Crunchyroll panel on Friday, which provided info about the $6.95 per month premium service, which delivers ad-free streaming of 20,000 episodes of 700 different anime as well access to digital manga..
Manga publisher Viz Media held a panel on its revived classic shojo series, Sailor Moon, featuring voice actors from the anime, and a separate panel at which they announced two new art books: The Art of Castle in the Sky, based on the Hayao Miyazaki film, and Yoshitaka Amano: Illustrations, featuring the work of the game character designer and illustrator of the Vampire Hunter D and Guin Saga novels.
Marvel Comics had a booth on the show floor and ran six panels, plus a special event for members of its Marvel Unlimited digital comics subscription service. Marvel’s announcements focused on the upcoming Civil War II crossover event, a story that will pit the characters Iron Man and Captain Marvel against one another. The crossover will consist of the six-issue miniseries Civil War II: Gods of War, plus a second miniseries announced at the show, Civil War II: Choosing Sides, and various individual issues of different comics.
Marvel also announced that Ryan North and Erica Henderson, the writer-artist team for its quirky hit comic, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, are working on an original graphic novel, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe.
A handful of other traditional comics publishers had a presence on the show floor, including Valiant Entertainment, which made its first big convention appearance at C2E2 in 2012. "We love having C2E2 as the start of the tour every year," said director of sales Atom! Freeman. "This was the first convention that we did and it was really where we started building the momentum of fans."
This year, Valiant was showing off a new and very popular property, Faith by Jody Houser, Francis Portella and Marguerite Sauvage, which features a plus-size superheroine. "Faith tells people that just because you don't look like a superhero doesn't mean you can't be heroic," said Freeman. "I think that really resonates with people who don't feel like they are represented in comics." The first issue, he said, is in its 4th printing and sold a “record” number of copies at the show. Other new Valiant properties included A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong, which is being written by Plastic Farm creator Rafer Roberts, and the 4001 AD crossover event that will launch this summer.
At the Lion Forge booth, marketing director Jesse Post was showing off the company's newest children's comic, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, based on the 1980s cartoon from the same team that made Voltron. The comic is updated with a new look and written by Maighread Scott (Transformers, G.I. Joe). In terms of adult graphic novel properties, the graphic biography Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven by Brandon Easton and Denis Medri, sold out completely by Sunday morning, and Post was handing out samples of another wrestling-related property, Warrior's Creed, a superhero story based on the real-life wrestler Chavo Guerrero, written by Deadpool co-creator Fabian Niceza.
Another return exhibitor was former Chicago Bears football player Israel Idonije, who debuted his self-published comic, The Protectors, at C2E2 in 2013. The first collected edition of the comic, which is written by veteran comics writer Ron Marz and illustrated by Bart Sears, has just been released, and Idonije said work has begun on the second story arc.
The Artist Alley has always been one of the strong features of C2E2, and this year was no exception, with almost 400 tables and an array of talent that included the departing Batman team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Skullkickers creator Jim Zub, and Eisner Award-winning Scary Godmother creator Jill Thompson.