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Exploring Chicago's Largest Con, The C2E2 Adventure!

This article was written by guest writer

Stuart Copland

Chicago: home to the Willis Tower, deep-dish pizza, perpetually cold wind and, of course, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo—or as most know it, C2E2! As a seasonal con goer who attempts three conventions minimum a year, C2E2 has been on my list for a long time now. I hadn’t been to Chicago before; but knew the convention had grown from around 27,000 attendees in 2010 to 90,000 as of last year and that it stages one of the most renowned cosplay competitions in the world. The latter alone was a major attraction. With such an important contest there had to be some top-notch cosplay. I won't lie to you, there were a few disappointments along the ride, but I’m happy to say the cosplay was in fact amazing!

So our adventure to the windy city started Thursday before the convention. We arrived in the morning, checking into our Airbnb, picked up our passes, ate some deep-dish pizza so we could parade the fact that the NY slice is of course better (albeit, Pequads makes a damn good pizza), and checked out the former Sears Tower. With Thursday's tourist ride aside we move into Friday, our first real run of the con.

Friday was all about exploration. Most of us left our costumes in our room so we could check everything out unimpeded and understand the layout of the convention. C2E2’s show floor is pretty similar to other large con floors like New York Comic Con which I can’t say is surprising being that both are run by Reedpop. Something I did find odd was that the Artist Alley, arcade, and autograph lines were attached to the regular merchant area. Everything was on the same floor in the same—albeit massive—room. Clearly this wasn’t a bad thing, just unusual.

It really just means the merchandise and other attractions are even closer together, and C2E2 did not lack in that regard. Prints, toys, video games, comics, special guests, and apparel—it was all there en masse. Of course, there were panels as well, but very few we took interest in, so we mostly kept to the main floor. Something different I did find on the floor was a small cordoned off area housing a small stage, a few tables and other games. Not traditional video or arcade games but trivia and the like. When we passed there was some Mortal Kombat Trivia going on which I’ll admit even I didn’t know the answers to, but throughout the day there were different happenings taking place. Usually simpler or more niche games and experiences are sectioned off from the main event in smaller panel-like rooms, but in this area, there was always some smaller game or social event running. It’s an avenue I think more conventions should pursue that would create more personalized experiences for everyone, even if they seem small or inconsequential.

One gripe I did have with the convention was the lack of a cosplay-centric locale. The very first C2E2 was held in April, a time I think we’d all find far preferable to the end of February. Sure, we’re out of the worst of winter but you still won’t find a great many cosplayers wandering the streets for those urban background shots in the cold & I just don’t think the current number of backdrops at the con really get the job done. Most conventions I frequent take place outside of the colder months so cosplayers can take advantage of the surrounding area for some unique shoots; other conventions like Anime Expo have aisles with ten or more backdrops for photos as well. Of course, there is the chance I didn’t get to see everything the con had to offer. I’ve been going to DragonCon for years and am always astounded by the new stuff I find. That said, we walked up and down each aisle on the show floor and only found a handful of backdrops on the opposite side of the main floor entrance. I found this especially surprising given the cosplay competition being held at the very same convention. With that in mind, it wasn’t all bad. While distinctive shooting space was limited, the cosplayers came out big.

So first, congratulations to JinxKittie Cosplay, Xephyr Studios, and LeeLooKris Cosplay for first, second and third place in the Crown Championships of Cosplay. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to make it to the competition, which oddly wasn’t streamed this year, but we ran into plenty of the great cosplayers involved around the convention. Having moved into Saturday’s festivities my friends and I were all dressed up this time around, meeting up with friends and taking photos with the other cosplayers. I was in costume as Mr. X from Resident Evil 2 along with a one buddy of mine cosplaying Leon Kennedy from the same game.

As I’ve come to expect of most cons, everyone was friendly. We took pictures and videos ourselves off on the side of the show floor then trekked the convention in search of other Resident Evil fans. My Mr. X was pretty simplistic, but I’m happy to say a few people stopped me for a photo so it looks like something went right. Towards the end of the day we briefly ran into the second-place winner of the competition, Xephyr in their Moira cosplay, and snagged a quick picture. As someone whose main Overwatch healer pick is Moira, I can greatly appreciate the art that is this costume!

When 5pm rolled around we headed back to our room, got out of cosplay and rested up a bit before venturing out to catch C2E2’s nightlife. Shedding our costumed skins, we grabbed a not-so-quick bit to eat in little Italy... followed by some Mexican food—because we’re savages that need to eat two meals in an hour’s time—then made out way back to the convention center.

C2E2’s party scene could use a little work. The bar built into the connecting halls between McCormick Place where the convention is held and the Hyatt lobby houses a chill lounge scene. There is some music, food and plenty of booths, tables and chairs for you & the squad to post up at for few drinks. I am a big fan of this vibe—but who doesn’t want some more lively energy when bouncing around the con on a Saturday night? Of course, the McCormick Center where the con is held does host an official “Cosplay After Dark” party, but this thing is located in the far corner of the panel hall with too few places to grab a drink nearby and it took a strong hour just to see the lights shut off and the music to bump up. I’m not one for dancing myself, but I sure like to be in the energy of con parties and things were rather enervated. A lively few kept it going. Typically, as the night progresses, I find that those small groups of hype men and women tend to get the rest of the crowd going. Here it felt tame, though I chalk it up to the nature of an official, on-location party.

Having waited years, I have finally experienced C2E2. If I had to sum it up, I’d say it’s the “Big Con” experience, and for anyone local to the area, it’s a must see. There’s plenty of stuff to buy, there are games to play, and panels to attend. There are special guests for autographs and a few places to grab after-con drinks. Most importantly to me, there’s some damn impressive cosplay. My grievance is that it ends there. There isn’t much that’s unique or anything that goes above and beyond the other large conventions out there. Katsu has beautiful scenery, Pax has an overwhelming number of games, NYCC & Anime Expo are larger and take place during times of year where you can take advantage of the local. C2E2 is definitely growing, I just think they need more of their own niche approach, or lacking that, at least choosing a date where attendees coming in from some ways away can use the nearby aesthetics for their cosplay. All of that being said, it’s still as fun as any typical con experience & the people certainly made it memorable. I'm sure it’s only going to get bigger and better, and if you’re just trying to snap some quick pictures of high-grade cosplay, this could be the place for you! ! One last thing that I forgot to mention that did have a bit of a new touch was the introduction of wrestling. It was C2E2 sponsorship AEW (All Elite Wrestling) which they were giving away bags as swag at the entrance for every member who walked in the convention.

If any of you went this year or previous years let us know what you think! Maybe my friends and I are just garbage in the cold or perhaps we missed some hidden away part of the con. WE WANT TO KNOW! Catch you fools later!

P.S. NY Pizza > everything else.

Did you go to C2E2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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