C2E2 ‘newbie’ finds the heart and soul of the pop culture gathering
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All dressed up, with the perfect place to go!
After donning my Wonder Woman costume, rented earlier in the week from Chicago Costume Company, I was ready to experience my very first Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2).
C2E2 is a consumer-driven convention and the mecca of all things comics, pop culture, graphic novels, cosplay, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies and television held yearly at McCormick Place. Last year — according to organizers — 80,000 people attended, many traveling from all over the country.
When I arrived on Friday’s opening day, there was no need for directions. If you’re lost, just follow “Thor” or “Black Panther” and you know you’re headed in the right direction. The sheer volume of people dressed up in costume play (cosplay) was impressive.
There’s something for everyone — all inspired from some form of pop culture — from booths selling jewelry, comic books, vintage and rare toys, clothing and games. In Artist Alley, fans had the chance to meet their favorite illustrator, painter or writer. Artist after artist, whether famous or niche, sat behind a table, ready to greet and talk to fans or offer customized drawings.
Another section was full of old-time tube televisions running vintage video games, the kind of ancient gaming for which I possess enough hand and eye coordination to play. This wasn’t the only nostalgia for sale. Suddenly I wanted to buy a super cool, modernized “My Little Pony” print! (Later, I was told this is from a new reboot show called “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”.) There was the lasagna-loving cat Garfield! And I desperately wanted an uber-sized “Totoro.” But it was “display only” said the vendor.
I saw a squad of grown women “Pokemon” who had spent thousands of dollars on sophisticated 3-D printing for their characters. It was just one example of the incredible the time, money and energy some cosplayers had spent on their wardrobe.
There were plenty of snafus for this first-timer that would make any cosplayer blush. I confused “Dr. Strange” for “Dr. Who,” and the “Matrix” for “Assasin’s Creed.” Much to my photographer Eliza Davidson’s chagrin, I had no idea about “Sailor Moon,” and couldn’t tell the difference between “Yu-Gi-Oh,” “Naruto” or “Dragon Ball.”
However, there were some victories! I did recognize the “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones” cosplayers! Plus, I knew “Wolverine” from “X-Men!” And I ran into many “Wonder Women” – all versions!
The most incredible impression was how friendly all the cosplayers were to one another. I witnessed compliments said in passing to polite inquiries about costumes, which resulted in friendly dialogue between strangers.
There was a palpable sense of pride among the cosplayers and delight in being approached. Talk about unusual! People actually wanted to talk and answer my questions. Many spoke of the joy it brought them when children were in awe of how “real” they seemed!
There were plenty of cell phones out snapping pictures and selfies, but the majority of what I saw were people making real connections. The people who cosplay transcend age, gender and race and all those misperceptions about being nerdy or geeky. It was great to be among the vibe and buzz of tens of thousands of people using the basis of a common passion as a launching pad for a conversation that expanded beyond just that.
I mean, I AM “Wonder Woman” but… It doesn’t take super-hero vision to see that real, face-to-face, human connection on any level is a good thing in today’s world.