Besides the occasional AnimeCentral convention, this past weekend's C2E2 is the first time in years I've been to a convention as a consumer, rather than as someone with a table trying to hawk my wares.
Firstly, it's fantastic to actually be IN Chicago, rather than one of the outlying suburbs. This is great for all of the out-of-towners that always want to see Chicago-proper, but wind up elsewhere (typically Rosemont, for Wizard). Additionally, the McCormick Place is an ideal location, not only for it's skyline views, but for possessing a view at all. Several of the people I spoke to commented on how nice it was to have windows and natural light instead of simply four walls.
The other comment I heard frequently was less-than-expected foot-traffic. I was only able to make it to the convention on Saturday, which is typically the busiest day of any convention. Crowds were light, which was great for moving around and seeing everything, but not so much for the many companies and individuals trying to recoup expenses. I understand the economy is still a major factor, but I'll be interested to see if Reed makes any changes for next year, in an effort to increase attendance.
Immediately upon entering the hall, it was clear this was a much classier convention than Wizard. It's not quite the extreme (or excess) that San Diego is, but it's a level we haven't seen in Chicago since the pre-Wizard days of Chicago Comicon. One layout decision I found striking was how the carpeted area of the floor ended just before Artist Alley. Are they trying to tell us something?
My favorite booth, by far, was the Archaia set-up. Tons of books, creators signing, chairs to sit down in, and books to sample before you buy. Combine that with they Buy-One-Get-One Free Sale, and I walked away with some new hardcovers. Kudos, gentlemen. Oni had a presence, which I'm always glad to see. Top Shelf was there too, but looked somewhat cramped in their space. DC had lots to look at, but really only the Ratchet and Clank toys caught my eye. Marvel was largely wasted space - the stage was mainly used as a poster dump, and the outer edges tried to sell you on some flavor of digital comics. There were signing areas, but the lines wrapped around the booth, only increasing the amount of space Marvel took up.
I'm slightly torn on the decision to include a separate section for Webcomics. While it likely means those walking through are more open to webcomics than others (unless they're just trying to get to the Batmobile, DeLorean, or Iron Man auction pieces), it also means those uninterested in webcomics could safely ignore the entire area, potentially meaning even less people walking by during an already crowd-starved convention.
Artist Alley was packed full of great artists. A higher quality of Artist than Wizard's average, and the lack of porn stars was very welcome. I saw and met people I'd never seen at a Chicago convention before, which both surprised and pleased me to no end. I tend to do my retailer shopping on Friday's and Sunday's at conventions. Friday's for smaller crowds and Sunday's for the best deals. Since I was only at C2E2 the one day, I didn't spend much time browsing the retail section... though I did have a run-in with a fully-painted Pandora woman, asking if I played Magic. When I told her, "No" she replied "bummer" sped off in the opposite direction.
Shout-out to the random dude that asked for my autograph while I was eating lunch - create a character! Get in VOID! And say, "hi" to Mamoru for me.
Assuming they keep the Webcomics section around, I look forward to returning next year and setting up shop there.