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See You, C2E2! Our "Con"-clusion

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 30, 2014 9:55PM

I hit the floor running at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo this year. 2014 was the fourth year of the con, and there was lots to see. This year’s expo really seemed to have something for everyone, while still keeping its roots in comic books and the comics industry. There were panels and events for beer nerds, such as the Three Floyds' Brewing panel on Friday night, which featured Barnaby Struve and Nick Floyd. If your nerdery leaned towards the culinary arts, you could attend MASTICATE!, an event on Sunday which featured the masterminds behind Geek Bar Chicago, set to open this spring. Film fanatics could attend screenings of films like “Beardo” and those who had a passion for Cosplay could meet Yaya Han, a well-known and respected cosplayer who was recently featured on SyFy’s series, Heroes of Cosplay.

What I found was that if you were not among the “initiated” in any of these fandoms or pursuits, there were panels and events that were designed to whet your appetite and introduce you to them. Things like a cosplay Q&A with Yaya Han and panels for those who wanted to make video games but “didn’t have a clue” were available to attend. This was a great thing, because it allowed everyone access to the things people are passionate about, and the atmosphere became inclusionary instead of exclusionary.

On Saturday, I attended the Breaking Bad panel which featured RJ Mitte. For those of us who are still suffering withdrawals from the show, Blu-Ray barrels clutched anxiously, it was a great chance to hear more about Mitte’s role as Walt Jr., as well as the set stories and behind the scenes details that make any fan grin. He talked about growing up on the set, learning from the cast and working with Vince Gilligan as well as discussing the progression of characters during the show and its draw. Mitte also addressed what it was like to be a person with a disability in an industry in which only 2 percent of actors are. (Ed. Note: Mitte has cerebral palsy.—CS) He talked about overcoming obstacles and the accurate portrayal of disabilities in the media, and spoke about setting the standard for kindness instead of waiting for someone else to do something. I found him funny, smart and genuine and look forward to his future projects.

The floor was packed, and full of collectibles, comics old and new, gaming gear and apparel. We were particularly intrigued watching people 3-D print themselves at the Zero Point 3D booth and KosArt Effects Studio’s amazing display, which always seemed active with sculptors and special effects makeup artists. There was ample seating at the cafĂ© and good food options, but I did find myself wishing the entire floorspace of McCormick Place’s South building was used, as the aisles frequently became full to bursting.

My final panel of the con may have been our favorite. After attending the Thrilling Adventure Hour show at DePaul’s Merle Reskin Theatre the night before, I decided to stop in on the panel on Sunday. The full cast was in attendance and the panel was moderated by show creators Ben Blacker and Ben Acker. The interplay between the Workjuice players and the guest stars (Janet Varney, Molly Quinn, Timothy Omundson, Richard Speight Jr., Rider Strong, and Kevin Murphy) was amazing. Everyone was a fan of everyone else’s work, and I found the audience to be the same way, loving MST3K, Castle, Psych and Legend of Korra as much as Thrilling Adventure Hour itself (though there was an audience member who didn’t seem to know what panel it was she’d stumbled into, providing quite a few laughs). It was evident how much everyone loved the show, and just how funny each individual was, and everyone was happy to be sitting back and enjoying the goings-on.

Overall, it was a full schedule and we still could have seen more. Still, I was satisfied as I dragged my sweaty, thirsty self out of the building Sunday, bags laden with Walter White figures, Workjuice Tshirts, and autographed graphic novels. I had a great time in a friendly environment, met baby Daleks and Portal test subjects, and even learned a few things. I’d say that makes this C2E2 a success.