J&STAC: Onwards to C2E2!

-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature  and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”

This weekend marks the annual event of Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, commonly known as…


-J.: Hooray! Hey, Steph, what are the status of your cosplays for this weekend?

Steph: uh… uh… Hah hah, hah. Hah. Hah. (quietly sobs in the corner)

-J.: Okay, we’ll come back to that later.

Steph: I guarantee I’ll still be in the corner sobbing, except I’ll also be covered in hot glue.

-J.: I get the feeling. Some of it, at least, when it comes time to run events later this year at Gen Con. But there will be far less hot glue involved then.

Steph: True.

-J.: Although that’s gaming, and this is comics and pop culture, so I’m getting a bit off topic–

Steph: Not really. A con is a con. Some are more specific, like Gen Con, and Acen, but I like that C2E2 is so broad. It’s open to every type of fandom you can think of.

Do All the Things!

-J.: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s C2E2?

Steph: Same thing I look forward to every year — Artists’ Alley!

-J.: I don’t spend as much time as you do in Artists’ Alley, but I do enjoy occasionally wandering its aisles. There’s always something that catches my eye.

Steph: I like seeing the different ways artists can plug favorite pop culture characters into their art. If you go with a more mass appeal character, especially one like Doctor Who, you can generate (see what I did there?) a lot of interest. People are always coming up with clever ways to use popular characters in their art.

-J.: Which can lead you to looking up the rest of their art. That’s how I discovered Chandra Free’s art last year — she had the coolest Venture Bros. art, which got me into her God Machine series. That is something I enjoy about broader pop culture cons like C2E2: discovering new stuff, meeting new people, and getting to hang out with friends and acquaintances you only see a couple times a year.

Steph: It’s like a nerd haven. Random strangers who share your interest gathered in one spot, new friends are bound to be made,  and there are a lot of panels and workshops you can attend. Like the “Do it Like a Knight” where they’re going over sword fighting, or the panel on self-publishing, the dozens on drawing, stage combat, discussing of LGBTQ representation in literature and comics. There is not a moment when something isn’t being taught or discussed.

-J.: I do enjoy me some panels, though C2E2 doesn’t have as many options that appeal to someone whose geekness tends towards tabletop gaming. (That said, last year had Matt Forbeck, Will Hindmarch, and Kenneth Hite discussing the “State of Play in Tabletop Roleplaying Gaming,” which is a great way to wrap up any con.) Since I tend to be ‘meh’ about pop culture cons, sometimes C2E2 degenerates into me wandering the tightly-packed exhibit hall.

The Con Manifesto

Steph: Normally going to a place with so many people would set my teeth on edge. But at C2E2, this is my tribe. It’s so much fun to share in the joy of just being a fan. We share creativity with each other. There are some cons that don’t live up to this ideal, but C2E2 is one that does. The basic premise of any con should be sharing what you love with other people and that makes me happy.

-J.: That’s probably why my favorite C2E2 experience was the year they had a strong focus on tabletop gaming. Sharing my love of games brings me immense joy.


Megan and Steph as Poison Ivy and Catwoman, respectively

Steph: My cosplay is how I share my creativity and love of this culture with my fellow nerds.

-J.: And you really knocked it out of the park last year.

Steph: Last year was the first year I did a dedicated cosplay, and everyone wanted to take pictures, and I didn’t realize how little else I did during the day. Simply wandering around — and barely getting more than three feet for hours at a time — was exhausting. Delightfully so, to be sure, but at the end of each day all I wanted to do was sleep.

-J.: Tiredness is the enemy of all social events, though I wish I had more opportunity to hit some of the after-parties, since they tend to strike closer to my geeky passions of games and cocktails. That’s why I was super-excited to see Comic Book Resources partnering with the con to set up the “CBR Bar” at the Hyatt adjoining the McCormick Center. There will be beer from Revolution Brewing and specialty cocktails…

Steph: I’d like to be optimistic and say we could totally hit those up, but…

-J.: Then I clicked on the CBR Bar menu, and I was horribly disappointed. The cocktails were “specialty” in the way that the spinny rack at Wal-Mart had “specialty” comic books. A lot of drinks mixed with “sweet & sour” mix, which is code for “get a beer instead.” Bleargh. I should’ve known better, though I think I’ve been spoiled by the Geek Bar menus. Have you seen their cocktail menu? That’s how to do geek-themed drinks which also appeal to cocktail nerds.

Steph: It has “Geek” and “Bar” in the title, of course they know how to do nerd cocktails.

Final Thoughts

-J.: You made a salient point earlier about exhaustedness, and I think that’s the perfect way to wrap this up. Would you have any tips for folks who are cosplaying for their first time at C2E2?

Steph: Try not to take it too seriously. The first time I ever cosplayed, all I had was a yellow t-shirt and a purple dragon/alien puppet as a casual Kitty Pryde. I was worried no one would get it, or they wouldn’t care — but people loved it. People are going to love whatever you cosplay, so don’t worry. Advice I wish I could currently take for myself, but perfectionists cannot be parted from their worry so easily. No matter what shape your cosplay is in, go to the con to have fun, because then fun will happen.

-J: Geek maven Sam Maggs posted a brief and informative C2E2 survival guide earlier this week, and the main thing I would add to it is this: Always be aware of your personal status. C2E2 is an amazing time, but you’ll enjoy it even more if you get rest, stay nourished, and occasionally pause to take stock of your energy level.

To Sum It All Up

Get your nerd/geek on this weekend at C2E2!



The entity known as -J. would be at home in a place like Carcosa or Night Vale, but instead lives near a far more dreary place -- Wrigley Field. He is the patron Addisonian of whisk(e)y and tabletop games, and is often adorned with a waistcoat & his ridiculous mustache.

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