This year, I was invited to attend the annual fundraiser gala for the Chicago Public Library as a Chicago author. Each table at the event is populated by a guest author, and this year I was asked to participated. An amazing honor and a beautiful evening. The folks at my table were beyond lovely, and I could have listened to Margaret Atwood and Dave Eggers, this year's recipients of the Carl Sandburg award, speak all night long! And, of course, there is nothing like being introduced on stage by the incomparable Bill Curtis with your face bigger than a house on the screen behind you.
This was my first time attending the Circle City PRIDE celebration in the beautiful Military Park. And I can tell you, it won't be the last. What an A-MA-ZING day! The people of INDY were wonderful, warm, and welcoming to us. The fabulous Bru Baker, and astounding Lisa H from THE NOVEL APPROACH REVIEWS, and myself--we all had so much fun meeting everyone. We had literally hundreds of people come our little booth to take a look at our titles and spin the wheel in hopes of winning a free book! So many BOOK LOVERS!
Thank you, INDY!! See you next year!
"The story was near perfect."
Another ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review for the audio book of LORD MOUSE!! This time from Rachelle and the lovely people at Crystal's Many Reviewers. "The narrator (the astounding Joel Leslie) did a fantastic job relaying the depth of emotion to the story as well creating a clear distinction between character voices."
Check out the full review here>>> http://www.crystalsmanyreviewers.com/2017/05/5245.html
Rating of C2E2 2017, Chicago, Illinois, McCormick Place
Exhibit Hall ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Program ⭐️ ⭐️
Cosplay ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Food ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Parking ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Location ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐
Organization ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) is the relative new kid on the block of large comic and pop culture CONs, and with the exception of GenCon in Indianapolis—which focuses more on gaming than pop culture—the most prominent in the Midwest. It is run by the same company that puts on the New York Comic Con. First inaugurated at McCormick Place in 2010, it has grown steadily over the past several years to be now recognized as one of the more note-worthy cons in the country. I am somewhat embarrassed to say—since Chicago is my home turf—that this year marked my first attendance at the con. I didn’t know what to expect—I had heard some buzz, but hadn’t really spoken with anyone who’d gone before. I am very happy that I finally made it this year.
The show floor was C2E2’s primary focus, and everything seemed to be centered around the exhibit hall. The size of the hall was great, and it had nice wide aisles for easy traffic flow. The list of venders were of good quality with a large variety of merchandise to meet the interests of the attendees. The artist alley was an impressive size with a terrific array of talent, both seasoned and up and coming. A large portion of the back of the hall was dedicated to celebrity autograph corrals—which I’ll leave to you to decide whether that’s a positive or a negative.
More so than other cons, C2E2 had more programing right there on the show floor—cosplay demonstrations, live interviews, and an impressive selection of kid programs and activities. They also had a fun backdrop area for taking photos.
Entrance into the hall, especially on Saturday, was organized strangely. People entering the con were herded into the same location that was the primary traffic for those coming in and out of the panel discussion ballrooms. Everyone was funneled into the same aisle, causing ridiculous congestion. If you were trying to get to a session in the ballrooms upstairs, you had to fight your way upstream through a steady flow of in-coming guests to get to the escalators.
There tends to be plenty of parking at McCormick Place, however some of the lots are better than others. The parking is divided into three lots, A , B and C. Regardless of what lot you choose it will likely result in a bit of walking. Lot A is probably the closest, but it is the one that fills up the fastest. Lots A and C are covered multi-level lots and have a flat fee of $23/ day, whereas Lot B is an outside lot, and it has a flat fee of $15
If you’re looking for some cheaper options, there are a couple to choose from. First, there is street parking available around the convention hall, but they get taken up quickly—which means get there earlier. They also have a three hour time limit. If you have the Chicago parking app you can extend the time remotely from your phone, but after a full day at the con you aren’t really saving that much money. If you are staying closer to downtown, there is a shuttle service that will run you from Millennium Park to the convention center. There is also a GREEN line train stop that is an easy five minute walk away.
I honestly did not know what to expect for this show. I knew cosplayers would attend but, being a relatively newer con and located in the Midwest, I didn’t know if it would stand up to some of the other mores established cons with a long tradition of cosplay. I was pleasantly surprised. Phenomenally talented cosplayers were indeed in attendance. I was astounded by the level of craftsmanship and creativity that people showed up with. I will say that there weren’t quite as many high-level participants as I’ve seen in other shows, but the quality of those that were there was certainly top notch. But even more so, I was wildly impressed by the sheer number of casual cosplayers that attended. So many people—especially on Saturday-- joined in on the fun, parading their fandom. Of course, casual cosplayers are in abundance in other shows too, but there was something culturally different about the attendees of this show. It seemed more the norm to dress as something than not. It helped create a party like energy on the show floor. Attendees weren’t intimidated or daunted by the professionals—they embraced the spirit of cosplay with vigor. It was a wonderful thing to experience.
Panels and Programing
This was the weakest category for C2E2. Although there was certainty some quality panels, with topics that were both thought-provoking and current, the amount of offerings were frankly rather limited and not as varied as I would have expected or liked. Every panel I personally attended was literally in the same room. The program book was a bit deceiving too—they had more listings in the book (and the app) than was really offered as a true panel or session. Many presentations listed were on the exhibit hall floor—like a cosplay sewing demonstration, or an interview on the Twitch live stage. Granted the interviews included some colossal heroes —like Will Weaton and Stand Effing Lee—but the area around the stage was rather small and security chased people off if the crowd got too big. And I am not throwing shade on the cosplay tips—really good stuff, but on the show floor, it got lost in the noise. It deserved its own room.
The panels themselves were run less than smoothly than I’ve seen at other cons. Several ran over their allotted time, and there didn’t seem to be as many people around to make sure it ran smoothly as I would have expected. Although, I will say the tech was impressive and that ran quite well.
This is an area that C2E2 can really expand. There is no question that the thirst for quality panels was present at the con. Every session I attended was packed to capacity with people standing or sitting around the perimeter. The organizers need to bring in more professionals discussing more topics—especially concerning diversity and inclusion. There was some…but not nearly enough.
Inside the exhibit hall, the options were limited, with most of the available choices being served from carts located about the periphery of the exhibit hall. The food was standard fair for event such as this—hot dogs, nachos, and pizza—but they did have a beer and wine cart as well. Every cart had a significant line, no matter where you went, especially on Saturday. I waited twenty minutes in a line for slice of pizza. And there were no tables at all for people to eat their food. Everyone was forced to sit on the floor. The exhibit hall’s café is located in the middle of the hall and elevated up on a high mesa that overlooks the entire hall. They had a more substantial menu, but the crowds up there were insane—I can only imagine how long it would take to get a table to actually sit and eat. All of the food was priced rather high.
Outside the exhibit hall there were more and better options for food.
The location of C2E2 gets an added bump due to its home field advantage. I’m fully aware of my own bias here, but Chicago is an amazing city and, to anyone that’s not been here, it’s worth a visit. McCormick Place is a terrific facility, but I admit, it isn’t as conveniently located as some other convention centers in other cities. But it is close to downtown, and close to public transportation. The GREEN line EL train can have you walking about the loop in fifteen minutes.
Come a few days early or stay a few days longer to enjoy the city. There's plenty of other exciting things to do-- astounding museums, world class theater, excellent shopping, and some of the best restaurants in the world.
Holy crap, I cannot believe we are already knee deep into spring. Which means, of course, SUMMER is hot on its heels! And THAT means that San Diego Comic Con 2017 is FINALLY in view on the horizon (only 3 months away). I'm so ridiculously excited. But...with no time to lose, it is time to start thinking about my own personal cosplay ideas. What should I make for the mother of all CONS?
I have narrowed this year's list down to my top four ideas. I'm thinking I'm going to choose two costumes this year, but I just can't make up my mind. I truly need your help. What do you think?
Vote for your favorite idea and leave a comment. If you have another idea that you think is awesome, let me know. AND...it you leave a comment why that's your favorite pick, I will enter your name into a drawing for a special prize--> SAN DIEGO COMIC CON swag!!
Rating of Wondercon 2017, Anaheim California
Exhibit Hall ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Program ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Cosplay ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Food ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Parking ⭐️ ⭐️
Location ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Organization ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
This year marked my first visit to WONDERCON in sunny Anaheim California, and quite honestly, I was impressed with everything I experienced. WONDERCON is the younger and smaller sister of the world-renowned San Diego Comic Con, organized by Comic Con International. It began in 1987 in Oakland California as The Wonderful World of Comics Con. It was taken over by Comic Con International in 2002 and renamed WONDERCON, and in 2012 it moved to its new home in Anaheim. All in all, it was really an enjoyable experience and I’m excited to add it my yearly con schedule.
The exhibit hall was larger than I expected and filled with a terrific variety of venders. It was a pleasant surprise to find that not every booth was filled with the exact same merchandise like I’ve seen at some cons. The layout of the floor was well organized, and easy to find what you were looking for. For most of the hall, it had nice wide aisles to accommodate the large crowds. The artist alley was four complete rows of tables and they were well stocked with impressive talent. The small press tables were more moderately staffed but it still had some interesting authors and publishers that were worth visiting. Personally, I would have liked to see more of an LGBT presence in that area.
The program had a wide variety of subjects and content available. For the most part I found plenty of sessions that piqued my interest and my schedule was fairly booked throughout both days (I could not attend Sunday). All the sessions I attended were run very well, strictly adhering to the schedule. Not one panel that I attended spilled over or started late. The sessions were all located centrally in convention center making it easy to get from one to the next. The quality of the sessions and panel discussions varied, which is typical for any convention, but I would say that the level of expertise of those who staffed the panels was moderate to good. Recognizing that I am quite spoiled by SDCC and its vast celebrity attendance, I was still surprised that Wondercon, being so close to Hollywood, didn’t have many TV show or movie panels with members of the cast presiding over the discussion. Notable exceptions for me were the exclusive premiere showing of the new Teen Titan movie and the Critical Role panel with nearly the entire cast of Vox Machina present.
I was blown away by the tremendous quality of cosplay that was at Womdercon. I had been told to expect large numbers of participants, but even with the warning, I was surprised by the sheer volume of cosplayers that attended. Cosplayers roam around the long hall just outside the main exhibit hall, but the main viewing area is outside between the convention center and the hotel. The area has a wild party like atmosphere, and the crowd is about half and half in terms of those who are in costume and those that are admiring them. And the quality of craftsmanship very nearly rivaled what I experienced at SDCC. The cosplayers were all friendly and happy to pose for a picture if you ask. Check the EPIC COSPLAY tab for pictures from the event.
The food in the exhibit hall and in the arena (where larger presentations take place) was surprisingly good. There was a great deal of variety and the quality and portion size of the food was high. Drinks available however was rather limited. Not surprising however, the food was a little on the pricy side. My BBQ pulled pork sandwich (no side) and a drink came to around $13.00.
Parking was a bit of a problem due to the renovations that were occurring at the convention center. It appears that the parking garage is being renovated currently and is scheduled to be completed later this year (2017). Finding any parking near the convention center was very difficult, and it was a reoccurring theme I heard throughout the con. Many panelists were showing up late to their own discussion panels because of the parking situation. I do believe that this was a temporary problem due to the construction, and next year with the new space completed, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The Anaheim Convention Center is located right the heart of Orange County. The center is located literally across the street from Disneyland. I could hear the screams of roller coaster riders from my hotel room. It would be worth extending your stay an extra day or two to take advantage of the proximity to Disney, and the smaller crowds that time of year. There are many restaurants located within walking distance of the host hotels that should suit any budget. The weather was perfect—a beautiful 75 degrees every day, although it did get a little chilly once the sun went down.
I will definitely be attending WONDERCON again next year.
I posted a whole collection of my favorite cosplay from Wondercon 2017 in Anaheim California. Click the EPIC COSPLAY link above
Joel Leslie is the brilliant voice actor who brought my first novel Lord Mouse to life in a way that I could never have hoped or imagined. He interviewed me at the Dreamspinner Workshop in Orlando a few weeks back. Here's our chat about the book!
Just found out today that the wonderful people at On Top Down Under Reviews (Full review here>> https://tinyurl.com/zcn9bsa ) have THE SHADOW MARK on the site as one of their books of the month!!
Read by the extraordinary Joel Leslie (@Joellesliefro). If you haven't heard his narration before, you need to stop whatever you're doing and check out his sultry and seductive voice. Listen to the sample. I promise, you will be happy that you did.
Who is Mason Thomas?
Author of gay speculative fiction and lover of all things nerdy. Mason currently has two published works, LORD MOUSE and THE SHADOW MARK. Both are available in both print and eBook formats.
Buy Links for
THE SHADOW MARK
Barnes and Noble