Let It Rip Chicago: C2E2 2024

Let It Rip Chicago: C2E2 2024

By Kevin Hoskinson

Entertainment Editor

Chicago is known for many things, not the least of which is its impact on pop culture. From the films of John Hughes, The Blues Brothers, The Smashing Pumpkins, and most recently, The Bear, the city has held a special place in many a nerd’s heart for decades. As somebody who has watched the culture from afar, visiting The Windy City this past weekend was an honor. I wasn’t there only to check out the sights but also to check out one of the biggest pop culture events in the country, Chicago’s own C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo). I have had the privilege of covering comic cons in the Pacific Northwest. Still, I have never been able to wander outside Oregon or Washington to experience other events in the United States. It was put on by Reed Pop, home of the most fantastic pop culture events worldwide. They also put on Emerald City Comic Con, one of my favorite events in Seattle. It’s always a good show, and it was no surprise that when I got to day one of C2E2, I felt right at home. 

Upon entering McCormick Place, the sprawling convention center where the expo is held, I was overwhelmed by the scope of it all. It was super easy to navigate, but I was hit with a wave of emotion. Nothing you see on social media can prepare you to walk through those doors and realize where you are and who you are surrounded by. This was my first time in Chicago, and I was surrounded by people who were all here for one reason: to nerd out and be their true, authentic selves. The last part is what’s generally expected when attending any event like this, but the first part hit me hard. It was a nerdy dream come true to travel to somewhere I’ve never been and participate in something I love. Even though I didn’t get a chance to explore the city, I got a good glimpse of what it’s all about by being in this atmosphere, and I was not disappointed.

The first thing that struck me was how welcoming everybody was. The staff was terrific, and even though I walked around the show floor with my Portland gear on proud display, it was like I was home. Covering events like this can sometimes be intimidating, but I felt instantly welcomed and comfortable at C2E2. I’ve always been open about my severe social anxiety, and all of that went away during my time there. The cosplayers came out in full force with some of the best outfits I have ever seen, and not once did I feel like I couldn’t approach them and tell them so. I’ve never been on the other side of it, but it’s a great feeling seeing somebody’s face light up when you tell them how amazing their cosplay is and asking if you can take a picture. The Queue Hall was the central hub of the show; it was a party atmosphere in which everyone had a great time. This was where many of the fantastic cosplays could be found throughout the event, and it was a vibe. There was a live DJ, dancing, socializing, and plenty of photo opportunities, including the iconic red C2E2 sign. You could enter the main show floor or up the escalators to the panel rooms. 

The bulk of the show took place on the Show Floor. It was a balance of big and small vendors, all offering something cool and unique to look at and take home. Funko, who also owns Loungefly and Mondo, was there, and they were a massive presence, sharing an area while also being separated by brand. RSVLTS Apparel had a booth with some exclusive C2E2 swag as well as a fantastic show store selling all things C2E2, including magnets, shirts, fans, stuffed animals, and much more. You will also find Writers Alley and Artists Alley, where you could meet your favorite novel and comic writers and artists. The amount of talent on display always blows my mind, and the fact that you can talk to the people who created them is a fantastic experience. Some of the special guests this year were Adi Granov (MCU concept artist for Iron Man, Black Panther, and more), Arthur Adams (X-Men, Godzilla), Chip Zdarsky (Batman, Daredevil), and Rachael Stott (Fantastic Four, Doctor Who, Star Wars). They also hosted panels where they got in-depth about their careers and what makes them tick. 

It wasn’t just comic book talent at the show. Big-name celebrities were also there to sign autographs and meet fans, including Maya Hawke, Freddie Prinze Jr., Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Kimiko Glenn, Lars and Mads Mikkelsen, and Hugh Dancy. It was a big year for One Piece representation, with voice actors Colleen Clinkenbeard, Ian Sinclair, Luci Christian, and Sonny Strait on hand to take pictures, sign autographs, and even host a panel discussing the show and telling stories about making it. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was meeting the voice cast of X-Men ’97. Cathal J. Dodd (Wolverine), Jennifer Hale (Jean Grey), Holly Chou (Jubilee), and Lenore Zann (Rogue) were there and were a joy to talk to. Lenore was excellent and took time to chat about how feelings are integral to being a nerd and how they play a big part in what they are trying to accomplish with the show. Overall, the guest list was massive, and no matter what you are into, there is somebody there you would love to meet. 

One of the big things that set this event apart from the rest is different from what you would expect. I have been to quite a few of them over the years, and there is often a struggle to find somewhere to eat around the area. Chicago did not disappoint in this department. In the main area of the show, there were plenty of places to get good local food. Food carts were set up selling Chicago Dogs, Deep Dish Pizza, Italian Beef Sandwiches, BBQ sandwiches, walking tacos, churros and fudge. The Yard was a favorite of mine and so many others. Sponsored by local craft brewer Revolution Brewing, it was an indoor “beer garden” of sorts offering button making, a speed puzzle competition, comic signings, and, of course, local beers and another live DJ. It provided a nice place to relax and take a load off while surrounded by new and old friends. Leaving C2E2 each day, I was full of great food and a full heart from being around such wonderful people.

To sum it up, C2E2 was a blast! It had a beautiful sense of community and a very welcoming atmosphere. Reed Pop always puts everything into its events, and this was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. There is so much to do for the entire family, and it’s almost impossible to see and do it all in one day. It was totally worth making the trek halfway across the country to be there and hang out with the nerds of Chicago. I would certainly recommend checking it out, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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