Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2)
What: A massive comics and pop-culture convention making its debut. Hundreds of top comics creators will be on hand, along with celebrities from TV and movies.
When: 1 to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 18
Where: Lakeside Center, McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Tickets: Single day passes are $25 and weekend passes are $50. Available at the door or at c2e2.com.
The new Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo opens this weekend, and organizers hope it draws fans to McCormick Place faster than a speeding bullet.
The event, known as C2E2, features dozens of professionals and vendors from the worlds of television, movies and, of course, comics.
C2E2 is run by Reed Exhibitions, the company that launched the New York Comic Con five years ago and quickly turned it into the second-biggest show of its kind in North America.
Organizers say they hope to bring a little of that New York magic to the Windy City.
"We're pumped," said Lance Fensterman, manager of the show. "Our customers in the comics industry told us they wanted a premiere event like the New York Comic Con in downtown Chicago. We were more than happy to oblige."
The arrival of C2E2 in Chicago means the area has suddenly become home to two major pop culture conventions. In August, the long-running Chicago Comic-Con (formerly known as Wizard World Chicago) will be held in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Last year, that convention scaled back its emphasis on comics in favor of a greater number of TV and movie celebrities. (William Shatner is among the guests scheduled to appear this year.)
For those of you new to the world of comic conventions, a word of warning about this weekend's C2E2: There will be lots to do.
The floors will be packed with 200 booths occupied by comic-book publishers (Marvel, DC, etc.), dealers and professionals. There will be roughly 175 panel discussions and screenings throughout the weekend. More than 250 artists will sell their work and meet with fans in the "Artists Alley" area. There will be autograph sessions and appearances from TV and movie celebrities.
"We specialize in doing big events in big markets," Fensterman said. "Given that this is our first year in Chicago, we didn't hold back."
The C2E2 guest list is long and deep enough to make just about any comic fan drool. The keynote guest is Alex Ross, a North Shore resident and artist known for his hyper-detailed and realistic paintings of popular superhero characters like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. Also on the guest list are contemporary superhero comics stars like Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Mark Bagley and Streamwood resident Art Baltazar.
The "indie" or "alternative" comics world - in other words, the one that doesn't involve superheroes - will also be represented with appearances by up-and-coming cartoonist Dash Shaw and Oak Park resident Chris Ware, one of America's most acclaimed cartoonists and a key figure in the rise of the literary graphic novel.
"Having Chris Ware is very exciting," Fensterman said. "He doesn't do tons of these things, so we're really proud to have him."
Other highlights of the weekend:
• Cast members from the buzzed-about new superhero flick "Kick Ass" will be signing autographs and meeting with fans Friday.
• The massive "Star Wars" entertainment franchise will have a strong presence at the show. On Saturday, April 17, Lucasfilm will give a formal presentation on all things "Star Wars," and actors from the various films and TV shows will make appearances throughout the weekend. Among those scheduled are Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace," and - get ready, fans - Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original trilogy. (Fisher is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday only.)
• Sunday is Kids Day. Children under 12 will be admitted free, and there will be a host of activities geared toward youngsters, including an appearance by Chicago Bears star and comic-book enthusiast Lance Briggs.
Fensterman said he's confident that C2E2 will take strong hold in Chicago. He expects between 35,000 and 40,000 people to attend the show this weekend.
"We know what we're doing," he said. "We've assembled an amazing array of talent for the show, and we've taken all steps to make sure the fans have a comfortable, pleasant experience. It's going to be a blast."