This year’s C2E2 was our 14th convention in Chicago, starting in 2001 with Wizard World, then Comic Con for a couple of years. This year, like every year previous, I was pleased to note a greater increase in diversity in my beloved fandom. Not just in fans, but in creators, artists, ideas, and books. I truly believe variety is the spice of life, and nothing keeps comics fresher, more interesting, and more alive than variety of ideas, themes, and experiences. I think I saw more families, very young fans, and even older fans this year than any year before. A lot of women and young girls exploring comics, figures, and art as well which is great. There’s no denying, the more people reading comic books, the better for all of us. Anyone that tells you comic book fandom isn’t a rich tapestry of awesome people is being entirely dishonest, or has never really bothered to look with their own eyes.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the cosplay I saw at the convention. Cosplay can be an expensive and time consuming hobby. It shows dedication, and love of a character, for someone to invest that time and money, then show it off in front of thousands of people. Every year the cosplay gets more interesting, more diverse, and more unique, and we love seeing that. I’m always amazed at the level of detail and skill involved, and at just how many people are taking up the hobby. We saw an entire family dressed as DC characters, even the baby in the stroller, several female Thors, various male crossplays, and more than one black Captain America and black Thor. It was interesting that of all the female Thors we saw I didn’t see a single version of the current Thor, they were all in the armor of Odinson, and the black Cap wasn’t the current Falcon Cap, but a variation of the Ultimates/First Avenger WWII costume worn by Steve Rogers. If anything is a measure of what fans love, it is what cosplayers dedicate themselves to portraying.
We also saw more people of all shapes, sizes, and ages are getting into cosplay, which is great. I saw a Superman in a stroller, countless little Spider-Mans, as well as a very clever Han Solo cosplay being pulled off by an older guy which I hope was a play on Harrison Ford’s age as he goes into the new Star Wars movies. To me that’s what it’s all about, having fun enjoying the things you love. Escaping, for a time, in a world of fantasy and adventure and becoming something heroic, fun, sexy, strong, mischievous, or scary. Above all, doing what you want and owning it.
I’ve heard a lot of talk over the last few years that the comic book industry is suffering, losing money, and struggling to maintain readership, but year after year I just don’t see it. Early estimates put the attendance this year at just over 70,000, up 12% from last year’s 62,900. That’s a lot of people to show up for a convention about comic books in what some people are calling a struggling industry. In my opinion, what’s more likely is that the big two are struggling because the market is expanding and readers have more choices. Not only are big names like Dark Horse, Image, IDW and the returning Valiant pulling in a good share of the market, more independent publishers are hitting the scene and with more quality content than they have in the past. Some creators who have worked with the bigger houses are starting their own publishing companies, some even opting to sell on the digital market rather than traditional print media. Some companies may be struggling to maintain the market share they are used to, but if the steady increase of fans attending C2E2, and the rapidly expanding con itself, is any indicator the comic industry, and fandom is changing and growing. This is also supported by a steady increase in overall sales year to year.
Pictures by Julie Bierschbach, see more of her art at artfullydistracted.com