Chicago's Comic & Entertainment Expo, C2E2, is one of the latest in a line-up of fan conventions produced by Reed Exhibitions: a line-up including cons ranging from New York Comic Con to Penny Arcade Expo. The convention, April 16-18, brings a mix of comics, anime, and movies to the largest convention center in the world, McCormick Place.
View pictures from C2E2.
C2E2 was situated in the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place which has a fantastic size for conventions, despite being among the smaller two of four convention center buildings. The convention center was like many others, including various food stands throughout the center, and even a McDonalds less than three minutes from the main function space. All the food stops cost about twice as much as you would pay outside of a convention center, as we expected.
The biggest function of C2E2 was clearly the 290,000 square feet of exhibit space. Marvel and DC both had prominent exhibits, along with at least a dozen comic book stores, around a hundred independent artists, and a handful of the same types of vendors you see at your average anime cons; they sold everything ranging from art supplies (Blick), to anime plushies (Yes! Anime). There was also a section with a dozen webcomics, and another half-dozen for comic-related podcasts.
C2E2 also had hundreds of comic book artists, ranging from famous featured guests with big publishers like DC and Marvel to dozens and dozens of independent artists as well. There were several lines and crowds in the exhibit hall as attendees awaited autographs.
On Friday, panel attendance was rather low, even as the exhibit hall had decent traffic. Highlight events on Friday evening such as the Chicago Premier of the Iron Man Extremis Motion Comic, which had 1200 tickets ready for the screening, had under 200 people in the audience. The convention had done a excellent job in scheduling a wide variety of panels, but attendees were mostly interested in the exhibit hall on Friday. On Saturday, after overall attendance picked up, panel and video rooms had a more decent level of traffic. One of the biggest events of the evening, "An Evening With Neil Gaiman", which supported the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, drew nearly a full auditorium.
The exhibit hall closed at 7:00pm, and convention events ended by 10:00pm Friday and Saturday. There was no dance and no late night at-con programming at C2E2. The two after parties we heard of were by Nerd City, and the PopCult. We didn't find out about any room parties in the convention hotel, the Hyatt, but we may have missed them. We were told both afterparties were pretty packed.
Overall C2E2 attendance is tough to estimate based on the enourmous size of the exhibit hall and convention center. We had a meeting out of town and missed everything on Saturday that happened before 7:05pm. However, based on what we did get to see, we estimate there were under 30,000 and over 20,000 attendees including the many professionals, exhibitors, and press. We will get a better estimate after we review some Saturday pictures.
Attendee impressions seemed to be very high; the expo was extremely professional and well organized. We found very few complaints, and the convention seemed to be a major success. We bet it will grow to the size of New York Comic Con in a few short years if they keep it up.