My job regularly takes me to Chicago these days, and it just so happens that I had to be in town last week when C2E2 was scheduled. It has almost become cliché among comic book convention goers (but that doesn’t make it any less true) that the best part about “con season” is meeting in-person and getting to hang out with all our online forum friends that we only get to see at these shows. So I decided to put it to the test last week.
Many of my online comic book friends are actually local to Chicago, so I knew they’d be fired up for C2E2. I also knew a few of my out-of-town friends would be coming in town early. Knowing I wasn’t going to be able to attend the con itself because of work and travel plans, I redoubled my efforts to get out Thursday and Friday night with my comic brethren.
I had a great time out both nights with friends I had met previously, folks I had been looking forward to meeting, and people I had no idea I’d be spending time with! It was great to see Dave Mathis, Chris Neseman, and (unfortunately far too briefly) Zack Kruse Thursday night. And I finally was able to meet David Price and Jason Wood in person, and also met Will Pfeifer, Tom Fowler, Conor Kilpatrick, Ian Levenstein, and Brion Salazar (who I’d met briefly last year at Wizard World Chicago). There was good, if tardy, bar-b-q from Honky Tonk and a crazy-amusing cab ride from the restaurant to the Challengers party with an ever-entertaining and very drunk Chris. And you haven't truly felt vertically challenged until you've waited for a cab on a street corner standing between Dave Mathis and Tom Fowler.
After work Friday I was able to meet up with the guys in time for dinner again, this time at Spring World in Chinatown. David, Wood, Will, Tom, and Sal were there, along with Vince Bonavoglia, Hilary Barta, and others. Hilary, a Chicagoan and familiar with the restaurant, took care of ordering, and soon one delicious dish of food after another was brought to the table for a comic geek family style dinner.
I didn’t have a lot of time to chat with David or Wood the night before, so I made a point of making time for them Friday night. Wood and I ended up next to each other at dinner and had a nice time chatting about everything from family to comics. It was great getting to know him better and hanging out. On the other side of me at dinner was Will. We were introduced to each other the night before at Honky Tonk, but didn’t have an opportunity to chat. During the course of dinner at Spring World, we realized we’re both from Northeast Ohio (he now lives outside of Chicago). Really nice guy, and I’m looking forward to getting together with him next time he’s back home visiting.
When I think back to the origins of my book Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan, I have to lay a lot of credit at David’s feet. If it hadn’t been for his encouragement of the project and the way he welcomed me into the Marvel Noise online community, I don’t know if the book would exist as it does today. That’s what made the time we spent hanging out later Friday night at Kroll’s, where the Marvel party was being held, so special. We have spoken on the phone and emailed for years, but this was the first time David and I were in the same city at the same time.
It was interesting to be in Chicago, a city I have loved for years, and have my mutually exclusive worlds of work and comics collide. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in an all-day session at work, and on a break one of my co-workers said she was perusing Amazon and found a book written by someone with the same name as me. She asked if I wrote it. For the life of me, I can’t imagine what this woman would have been searching for that might have led her to my book, but it is always surprising to me when someone who either I don’t know personally or someone who I know who doesn’t know about my comic book enthusiasm approaches me.
When I was growing up, I had one friend who I shared my comic book habit with (and I’m fortunate that Mark and I are still friends to this day), but outside of that friendship comics were very much a solitary pleasure. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to while in town for C2E2 – I only got to say hello to Steve Bryant briefly outside of Spring World, and I never did connect with Chris Marshall, Scott Cederlund, Ryan Closs, Michael Moskop, or Rick Hansen among others, but that’s simply more incentive to attend future cons.
Would I have liked to have been able to attend the con itself? Sure. But being able to get together with friends really is what it’s all about. I know the internet spawns a lot of garbage and in niche communities there can be a lot of rotten apples spoiling the reputation (and fun) of an entire population, but on the other side of that coin is the way the web can bring together a group of geographically remote friends over the passion of a shared pastime.