Another great Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) has come and gone. April 24th to the 26th saw record attendance for this relatively new comic con here in Chicago. I attended the very first C2E2 back in 2010 and it was my first convention as an artist. I chose a major event to kick off my career. It paid off nicely. So today, I want to review this year’s C2E2 and give you my perspective 5 years later, and chat about how this comic con has grown, as well as my own comic career.
First, the biggest change for me this year was that I was hired by Smith Micro, the distributors of Manga Studio EX5, to be a demonstration artist in their booth. I was supplied with a very nice MAC Mini and an incredible 22” WACOM Cintiq HD tablet to use for the weekend. The tablet made my weekend! More on that in a moment. Thus, the biggest change for me was instead of paying to be in Artist Alley as I have in the past, I was PAID to be at the convention as an artist. It gave me quite a different perspective on the convention and it was great to see C2E2 from another angle.
Smith Micro met their sales goal for the show, and Sunday was the best sales day. As a three-day show, I saw a lot of people who were there all three days. They spent Friday and Saturday “kicking the tires” so to speak, and then came in Sunday with cash in hand to buy. As a side note, that’s a very intelligent plan of attack if you’re an attendee. Save you cash for the final day and avoid those impulse purchases. This gives you time to walk the show a couple times and really evaluate where you want to focus your purchases. But my other observation was that many vendors were a bit edgy about their sales levels at the end of Saturday, which was C2E2’s biggest attendance day in the history of the show. But I saw Sunday as the gold mine day as far as making sales. Smith Micro did more sales on Sunday then Friday and Saturday combined.
That may not be true in Artist Alley, but for vendor or small press booths, this may be more of a trend. As they like to say on TV “Your results may vary.”
Overall, this year’s C2E2 was a very well organized show. Security made its presence known without being over-bearing. K-9 Units were seen here and there, which is not surprising given that Chicago is a major metropolitan region. I saw attendees being pleasant (there’s always exceptions, but none viewed by me) and I think the overall atmosphere was “Let’s have some fun and forget our problems, but at the same time let’s show some respect.” Reed Pop, the organizers of C2E2 and New York Comic Con among others, knows how to put on a damn good show. The floor is always organized so that every vendor booth and artist alley table is generally easily accessible. And you can’t complain about the traffic flow both Saturday and Sunday. There were people everywhere and apparently prepared to buy. That’s a good thing!
My only complaint, and this applies to most major conventions, is that it’s nearly impossible to do everything you want to do. So many guests, so many great panels, so many excellent artists and a ton of vendors make for a very busy show, even for 3-days. That’s a good problem to have, but it can be a tad frustrating. C2E2 is not as crazy as San Diego Comic Con, so this is a minor nit-pick.
For me, I’ve seen C2E2 grow from a start-up comic convention to a major Midwest event. It’s a great way to kick off Spring here in Chicagoland and it attracts a lot of people from Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and beyond. If you have a solid business plan, being in Artist Alley will pay off in the long term. I was in Artist Alley three times over four years and each year I saw my sales grow as well as my audience. This year was my first year as a professional artist. I cannot thank Smith Micro enough for inviting me to be their demonstration artist. It was a great experience!