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March 17, 2011

The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

imageBy Tom Spurgeon

* and here we are at C2E2, the key comics event of 2011 at least in terms of the general ebb and flow and newsworthiness of such events in and of themselves. What's crucial to watch is that this is the sophomore year for that show, and the show has to show signs of catching on without the artificial boost that comes with the novelty of a first time out. The show itself is important because Chicago is a great comics city and ReedPOP is doing battle for its convention business -- at least perception-wise -- with the summer's traditional show, owned by Wizard. That would also give them shows in Chicago and New York on which to build their pop-culture convention business. So all eyes on the Windy City. I'm pulling for them.

* two things to look for. 1) The crowds generally. The slightly lighter-than-expected number of attendees is of course a primary issues, and just looking at how crowded things are is easier than figuring out which of the potential infrastructure problems -- people in Chicago are sometimes less than willing to come downtown, for instance -- may be in ascendancy. 2) The number of mainstream comics company announcements of the storyline and creative team variety. There is no better way for a mainstream comics publisher to show its fealty to a show than to make it an occasion for announcing a forthcoming storyline or creative team.

* if you're in Chicago, I always suggest eating out as much as possible. It's not the nation's greatest food city, I don't think, but it's close. And it's clearly the most democratic, with an unparalleled range of great options up and down every imaginable price range. Chicago's not-so-secret strength especially in those neighborhoods closer to downtown (and extending out to those neighborhoods that house Chicago Comics and Quimby's) is Mexican. But it's hard to go wrong. Let a local drag you somewhere, if you know a local, but sometimes guessing yields the best results.

* I'm not kidding about the value of the random restaurant guess. Anyone who tells you they know all the good places in Chicago is a liar, and ungenerous to book. Besides, it seems like every food location in Chicago has a weird and glorious history, whether or not you can actually recommend the restaurant. In some cases, this is based on the quality of food dispensed over years and years (the stalwart sit-down Everest), in others some set of indelible cultural quirks expressed for the first time in a major Midwestern city (the cook-on-your-table Ron Of Japan), in still others a forgotten food experience (take a break from shopping at the Walnut Room at Macy's) or perhaps purely on location (the multi-generational hipster-ubiquitous Clarkes On Belmont). If you get to Miller's Pub (next to the Palmer House), remember to lift a beer to the signed photo of Dick the Bruiser. If you're near an Ann Sather's, get a cinnamon roll. If you end up in legendary, long-ago scoot-off-the-highway pilgrimage burrito joint Arturo's, use the jukebox. It's hard to eat poorly in Chicago, although some of the deep-dish pizza places cut it pretty close. (If forced, try the original Uno's location or Bella Bacinos.)

* Chicago has a bunch of great comics stores, but since I'm old I still visit Quimby's and Chicago Comics when I'm in town. Within their chosen areas of expertise they're both great neighborhood shops and destination shops, which isn't as easy a marriage as you'd think.

* here's the big CBLDF-related event for the weekend. I encourage you to go, if you can. I would imagine that as a new show and with it being headquartered far away from one of the traditional neighborhoods that there's a still a hotel-bar feel to the nightly goings-on, but I could be wrong.

* it's sad to think that this weekend's SPACE goes this far down the page, but C2E2 version 2.0 is that crucial of a show. I can't imagine anything better if you're local for a creator-focused show in your hometown.

* the writer Brian Bendis talks about maybe not doing conventions for a while. That seems to me eminently logical, to take off huge chunks of times between flurries of doing shows. You could do nothing but attend conventions if you said yes to everyone.

* I did not participate, but I'm hearing in anecdotal fashion that the Comic-Con International hotel lottery went reasonably smoothly and well, at least for enough people that there wasn't a groundswell of complaints. I'm sure someone out there got screwed. If I didn't know the Comic-Con people to be honorable, I would have suggested a long while ago they probably could have solved the bulk of the hassle with complaints by red-flagging about 20 key professional/press hotel requests and making sure they were taken care of, even if everyone else struggled. But this seems like it just actually worked, at least for a number of people.

* we're closing in on the final day to send in Harvey Awards ballots. That awards program announces its winners at the Baltimore Comic-Con.

* finally, good news: Craig Thompson is planning to appear in San Diego.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

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