This past weekend was my fourth year in attendance at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) at McCormick Place in Chicago, and it was one of the best yet. C2E2 has only been around for five years and the convention itself has grown massively each year; the show floor and artist alley were much larger than in previous years. The panels and guests have also increased, with excellent programming each day.
The convention had a few new additions this year with the Cospitality Suite (hosted by Riot of League of Legends), the Fan Village, as well as an expanded Family Room for children’s programming. The Cospitality Suite was an amazing idea, serving as a relaxation room for cosplayers and providing respite from photographers (really no photos were allowed in there). There were materials on the tables to aide in cosplay repairs and complimentary water bottles for those walking around in large and stuffy costumes all day. I spoke with a Riot employee who informed me that the cospitality suite was a new idea they’d had and it was only the second time a convention had featured such a room geared towards aiding cosplayers. The Fan Village was another great large room meant to allow con-goers a chance to unwind and catch a break from the convention bustle. There were bean bags and areas to charge your phone or devices, along with lots of tables which became popular spots for tabletop gaming. The fan tables were also located here, along with Dorkly Fan Art, and the occasional panel at the front of the room.
The first convention day held some fun events. Personally, I ran the quidditch events all weekend which were a blast and well received. Friday night, I looked forward to the Eve Myles panel (Gwen Cooper of Torchwood) on the main stage and the Game of Thrones panel, followed by The Thrilling Adventure Hour performing improv comedy.
Eve Myles had a fantastic panel which was enjoyable for anyone despite being a Torchwood fan or not and she was amazing at fielding all sorts of questions. A couple of the highlights were “If you could bring any technology from the show [Torchwood] to real life, what would it be?” She replied “The sex gas of course, then proceeded to fake spray the C2E2 rep next to her for a full 20 seconds”. It’s always refreshing to see that an actor or actress can have a friendly banter with just your normal person. Another favorite quote from it was when she was asked if she used Tumblr; “Tumblr?.. uhh of course I use tumblr.. am I on it right now?” One fan asked about the resurrection glove and who she would use it on [SPOILERS]. She answered she would use it on Ianto, much to the crowd’s pleasure, before saying she would use it on all the Torchwood members so that they were all back.
The next panel was the Game of Thrones panel with Natalia Tena (Osha) and Kristian Nairn (Hodor). This was an interesting panel and Natalia was extremely animated and entertaining. They discussed the conditions in which they film, which are often grueling. Game of Thrones is filmed much more like a movie, than the usual television show, which is what they attribute part of the success to since it provides for a much more believable and realistic world for the viewers. Kristian discussed some of the ways he gets into the mindset of his character Hodor (and yes, he did say “Hodor” in the panel for the crowd), and spoke briefly about his own head-canons for his character which have helped him create more of a character than is perhaps written in the books. Natalia has read the books, while Kristian has not so it was interesting to hear their views on it. Unfortunately, fans made the mistake of asking the same questions one after another (the questions about Hodor’s penis were endless). They were asked twice about any hijinks or bloopers during filming, and they replied that their show isn’t set up for those sorts of funny moments or additional film reel to waste on improvised lines. Kristian did tell a story about falling down a small hill but that it was a situation where the director simply asked if he was okay and they all moved on. Regarding the props used in the show, many of them are real such as the rabbits that Osha had to skin. They also talked about their costumes, which after several seasons of being covered in mud, grime, and animal guts-smell terrible. However, Natalia says she loves her costume, “I don’t have to worry about looking pretty. I can look rough and throw mud on my face and focus on acting”. Natalia was asked a great question about the two large fan-bases she is now a part of (Tonks in Harry Potter being the other one) and if she sees a difference in the fans? She replied that Game of Thrones is a much more adult show so there’s a difference there, whereas many of the Harry Potter fans are younger (minus a few fanatical adults). Of course the one question had to be asked of both Kristian and Natalia, “Who do you think should sit on the Iron Throne?” Natalia replied that she’d like to see her character, Osha on the iron throne, while Kristian would like to see Arya Stark.
The next panel, Thrilling Adventure Hour Improv Experience, featured Craig Cackowski (Community, The Kings of Summer), Hal Lublin, Janet Varney (Legend of Korra), Marc Evan Jackson (Transforms, Parks and Rec), Mark Gagliardi (Ghost Whisperer), Molly Quinn (Castle), and Timothy Omundsen (Psych). This was a hilarious panel and just a small taste of the comedy talents of the regular players and the guest stars of the Thrilling Adventure Hour cast. They began by asking the audience for a word and would proceed to build a scene around it. The first word was “taco”, which Molly Quinn used to describe a taco place in her hometown in Texas (however she has never eaten a taco), which allowed for some amusing skits to be built. Another skit involved a man in space walking around (I was blown away by the use of sound effects), scanning the audience for signs of life. The actors use of space, sound, and witty banter had me laughing the entire time, whether it was Tim O. pretending to be a housewife) or Janet Varney with a new take on Ariel.
Saturday was another day that had many panels but unfortunately I had to miss a few I was looking forward to (The Hobbit for example). After running my own event, I was able to attend the DC Comics-Batman panel, which I hadn’t been expecting to attend. Posters were given out to all attendees and the panel was very interesting, despite the fact that I am not exactly well-versed in the DC comics world. The speakers were some of the creators and they were great at fielding fan questions. They seemed very involved and interested in their fan-base, offering to give fans their email addresses to receive feedback. They also explained to the audience, when asked about certain spoilers and return of characters (such as the Joker) why they can’t exactly give that information out since it would spoil the surprise. However, they did say they were interested in bringing back the Joker, who would certainly be sporting a new look and would perhaps be a much darker incarnation than previously seen in the series. The speakers were also asked which Batman series, movies, or comics have inspired them most and the answer almost across the board was “Batman: The Animated Series”.
The next panel in that room was one I was excited about, being an avid League of Legends player. “Unique Challenges in League of Legends Animation” hosted by two game animators (Rory Alderton and Sho Hernandez). They discussed animating some new characters (Braum) and the way they achieve some of the in-game visuals and how that differs from animating for movies or television. They also explained some of the time constraints such as cast times and the animations for them, and how the visuals can’t affect the game-play, so it is a collaboration between animators and game designers. Some fans were able to ask questions about animating and getting into the business (honestly, who wouldn’t want to work for Riot Games?) and the speakers gave excellent information about how they got into it (not necessarily needs a degree even!). It was an interesting panel and I hope they expand it next year to include more Riot staff to go into the character designs, animation, and game mode modifications.
I wanted to say a little bit more about the League of Legends booth on the show floor which was a personal highlight. They had an amazing booth that contained character art on the walls, as well as the replica of Leona’s sword (which actually passed the watermelon test, as Riot made sure to find out in an all-staff event). There were free posters handed out that had been created specifically for C2E2, as well as cards containing a free Varus skin (artic ops) and a free ward skin. They also had a display where you could select your favorite champion and take a photo in front of it which got emailed to you, and a similar set-up with a rotating camera in a booth (in the style of a Vine). This was certainly one of the most interactive and fun booths to stop by and later on they had their animators take the mini-stage and discuss more about animation (such as animating Lee Sin). I definitely hope they are back next year, and I couldn’t say enough about how helpful and friendly all of the staff were.
Sunday, the last day of the convention, and I was so tired I wasn’t sure I’d make it to another panel…but I did! I attended the Thrilling Adventure Hour panel which had the addition of Richard Speight Jr and Rider Strong (two people I was definitely excited to see). I’d unfortunately not been able to make it to their show on Saturday night, but all of them were incredibly funny that even their panel had everyone laughing. Of course, with such a diverse cast of people, both regulars and guests, there were all sorts of questions asked by the crowd. One fan asked Rider Strong about the new “Girl Meets World” series, and he gave a great response. He’s directed one episode so far and will be returning to direct another, and the great thing about the new show is that all the same writers, crew, acting coaches, etc, are a part of it. As a child actor, he described the direction he received and how he was encouraged to think about his character’s decisions, rather than the stereotypical child actor direction of “just have lots of energy”, and that it helped make Boy Meets World such a great show. Keeping with the Disney questions, Tim Omundsen got asked about his role in “Luck of the Irish” (way back when), to which he told us that in-fact, it was not him dancing but someone else with a “much better behind”.
Apparently Tim Omundsen and Richard Speight Jr shared a hotel room, as one fan asked if they shared shampoo since both of them were sporting incredible hair. There were jokes about the sharing of hotel rooms, and the two of them are clearly close friends. Another fan asked the speakers “outside of the people here, who are some of your favorite actors to work with?” Richard Speight Jr responded with, “Rob Benedict and Misha Collins” which leads into another question a fan asked, regarding Richard’s role on Supernatural: [SPOILER] “Is Gabriel alive?”, to which he was unsure of what to say (I assume because the show itself has left it rather open-ended after his return), but the moderator (Ben Blacker) jokingly said “Yes! Next question!” to move the line along.
Another fun question was for all the speakers, from a young girl dressed as the angel Castiel from Supernatural; “what are your favorite animals?” which received all sorts of various fun responses, of which my favorite was from Janet Varney, “fire ferrets”, of course a reference to her show Legend of Korra. As the panel wrapped up, Ben Blacker let us know that they had done a collaboration with the podcast show “Welcome to Night Vale”, which sadly had been corrupted, but that they were re-recording it; so fans of both shows, look out for that in the near future!
This winds down my panel recaps as the rest of my Sunday was spent running an event in the Family Room, but this was one of my favorite convention experiences. The panels were all run very well and the C2E2 staff remains amazing to work with. The show has come so far in just a few years and I can’t wait to return to C2E2 in 2015.
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