If the 72 hours or so surrounding this very moment were an anime title, it’d probably be the one above. Technically I have been to one or two Wizard World comic cons in my life, but they didn’t really have any comic creators or anyone besides a select number of entertainment-guests, and they felt about 1/1000 the size of C2E2. Nevertheless, since I am one of the few on staff from around Chicago and because I’ve always wanted to meet my favorite creators in person, I decided to go for it. Over the next three days, I will provide y’all with more personal style recaps of what will hopefully be my journey from comic con zero to hero, or at least zero to one.
I haven’t written many personal articles, but I suppose now is as good a time as any. I am quite introverted, especially around new environments. Golly gee was C2E2 2020 a new environment. I arrived at the convention center around 9:30 AM and almost fell over at how big it was. C2E2 is one of the largest comic cons in the world, and the convention center still had empty wings. Speaking of which, whether it be because of nerves, because I can’t read, or because it’s the map’s fault, I somehow manage to navigate my way through an entire empty wing before realizing that the will-call was, in fact, up the stairs, and to the left from where I entered.
Luckily, I found my way back and got my badge without another hitch and by that time, the line had begun moving and people began to walk onto the show floor. I trudge along with them carrying my backpack of water, snacks, about 2 dozen various comics, my computer, and other miscellaneous items (it’s a very large backpack). As we begin to enter the show floor, I can hear and feel the buzz of excitement, but I can’t quite see anything yet. Then the sea of booths, comics, and Funkos enters my field of vision. That was the second time I fell over.
I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to do. There were so many vendors in front of my eyes, and I’m frankly not sure how to engage with them. I came here with a specific amount of money to spend, and it was almost exclusively going to be on comics and art that meant a lot to me, so the vendors didn’t really seem to fit with my plan. It’s possible over the next few days that something will catch my eye, but for art to mean a lot to me, it either has to be done by a creator who means a lot to me or be of my favorite character of all time: Martian Manhunter. I am going to take a brief interlude to tell y’all why.
While I have not been officially diagnosed and probably should be, I believe I have a form of Alexithymia, which I take to mean that there are gaps and distortions in my emotional spectrum. There are certain things, like nostalgia or grief or even certain types of stress, that I barely feel at all. I had trouble with empathy when I was younger, but since college, I’ve worked incredibly hard and am proud to have achieved a ton of personal growth in that area. One of the ways this manifests most apparently is that during all of the feelings and experiences you’ve just read and will read, I probably look exactly the same. Showing emotion is a whole different ballgame. So where does Martian Manhunter come in? Well, he’s the character with the most complete emotional spectrum I’ve ever seen. He can feel things on a Martian level that humans can’t even comprehend, and as someone who couldn’t comprehend every human emotion, that really struck me. At the time I thought, “who better to learn from than him?” There are plenty of titled “Empaths” in comics like Raven, numerous X-Men, Mantis, or Comet, but Martian Manhunter always stood out to me. Through the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, the Ostrander run, the J.M. DeMatteis series, and his portrayal in Morrison’s JLA, I saw him feel what other people were feeling whether it be pain, sorrow, or happiness. I saw others recognize Martian Manhunter’s empathy of them and I thought, if he, as a Martian, can learn to be human, why can’t I?
So now you know my policy with art. Now, just because art doesn’t have enough personal meaning for me to buy it doesn’t mean I won’t engage with it. For the next hour or so at least, I wandered through the rows of artist alley just marveling at the spectacle of it all. There is something about creators standing next to their work that makes the work so much more powerful. It feels like a piece of the creator’s soul is in the art or comic, and a small piece of whatever they drew or wrote is within the creator. So there I was, a guy with the ginormous backpack walking back and forth in artist alley for 60 whole minutes. It was then I thought that I should talk to my first creator. Silly me. Talking to creators is very difficult for me, but it might not be because of the reasons you might think. For one, I don’t generally find interviews to be too difficult and they’re actually one of my favorite parts of writing about comics. I could endlessly listen to creators talk about their process, choices, and really about anything else on their minds. They have an expected topic or series of topics, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at doing a thorough research and coming up with engaging questions. When there’s no expectation and the conversation can be anything, however, my comics knowledge suddenly fades away, I don’t want to make it a barrage of questions like an interview, and I’m left with nothing to talk about. Now I know they say, “remember creators are people too just like you and me,” and that provides me comfort for a few moments. Then the thought inevitably enters my mind: How do I talk to people? It’s difficult if I have trouble looking excited about their work even though I am, or don’t have that twinkle in my eye, even though I have it in my heart. I talked to three creators today and they were all extremely brief, but positive interactions. I just hear of these fabled long and magical conversations with creators at cons from my colleagues and wonder how they do it.
It was probably around this time that I left my body and witnessed everything that followed from somewhere else. I went into panel coverage mode which provided a nice, purposeful time to collect my thoughts. The first panel was the Marvel Artists Extravaganza, where wonderful Marvel artists Jenny Frison, Ryan Stegman, and Skottie Young talked about their work and inspirations. It was a lot of fun to learn that Frison first reached out to Young when she was starting out 11 years ago, that Ryan Stegman’s biggest inspiration is Todd MacFarlane, and that we should all read Strange Academy because of Skottie Young’s passion for the various magics of Marvel and these new youngsters.
We learned these creator’s origins stories too. Frison’s was the X-Men cartoon, Stegman’s was Todd MacFarlane’s Spider-Man, and Young’s was a weird mixture of G.I. Joe, Alf, and Daredevil. In addition to plenty of other stories, we received some very cool news that a new ongoing Silk series will begin in July written by novelist Maurene Goo with art from Takeshi Miyazawa. It looks amazing, and I’m excited to read it.
Then came the Marvel Fanfare panel with C.B. Cebulski, Jonathan Hickman, and Al Ewing. It was a fun and informal conversation that allowed me to practice my live-tweeting skills before the big event. I only did okay, but it was enough to prep me as they shared some funny stories and creative opinions on their work at Marvel. Finally came the X-Men panel! We got some juicy details about all of the X-Men books coming soon, and I’d like to think I did a great job getting those out to everyone. How about that X of Swords huh? That hour really flew by fast as my fingers flew over the keyboard. All and all, it was fun to see genuine, wholesome excitement from so many people all at once about all sorts of Marvel subjects. Covering those panels was a great time, but as we all wandered out of the room, I found myself just as lost as when I went in.
For my last panel of the day, it came down to a personal vs. professional judgment: Tower of God Ep 1: vs. the DC Nation panel. I picked Tower of God and from the looks of things, it was the right call. From what I heard from friends, no notable news came out of the DC Panel, while the Tower of God premier left me incredibly excited to see more of this fresh, fun, and well-made comic adaption of one of my favorite Webtoons. I had a great time.
After that, I started to collect my thoughts, write this article, and head home. Today was exhausting and a lot to handle, but, even despite everything you just read, I loved every second of it. It wasn’t perfect, but I never expected it to be. I was left in awe but wasn’t overwhelmed. Even though I probably looked neutral the entire time, I let wave after wave of excitement from everyone around me wash over me. I couldn’t feel it, but I sure could feel them. If anything, I have new and exciting goals for day 2. I want to talk to more creators, cover more panels, and get some cosplayers involved too. If you read until the end, thank you very much for doing so. I hope you enjoyed my day one experience. See y’all for day two.