C2E2: Our 9 best bets for 2024, from people-watching to prom

The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo — aka C2E2, appropriately held at McCormick Place, Chicago’s own matrix of architectural puzzles — returns this weekend. This is the 15th edition, and the good thing is that not much has changed: if last year is anything to go by, this will still be huge, there will still be crowds on Saturdays, your salary will likely be gone , it will be packed with celebrities (who will themselves be picking their wallets at about $65 to $110 per autograph) and it’s still a window into contemporary fan culture.

But for a moment, the future looked bleak – like a zombie apocalypse.

A few pandemic years later, the Comic Con industry seemed on the brink of extinction, doomed by its own model: Would Lou Ferrigno insist on seeing my vaccine card before getting a hug? Was every cosplaying Justice League now destined to meet in the Hall of Zoom? Smarter artist-focused geek gatherings like C2E2 (and the indie comic-focused CAKE Con ​​in August) remained important for a simple reason: In a fragmented digital world, this audience still needs a physical space to meet — and to perform. A runway for creativity.

Essentially, social media doesn’t cut it.

“I think we’ve come out the other end of the pandemic with a stockpile of these things, and their communities are eager for in-person interactions,” said Brian McDonald, vice president of content for Reedpop, the Connecticut-based producers of C2E2. ” As well as New York Comic Con and Star Wars Celebration. At the end of each C2E2, he said, the company has several conversations with attendees, and they decide what a cocktail party will look like in the future. With Pokemon cards and cosplay workshops.

“It may sound silly, but what we say now within the company is to focus on the guys.”

With that in mind, here’s a quick list of the best bets for C2E2 2024:

1. The heart of C2E2 is to see people. In particular, cosplay – deeply recognizable by latex uniforms, inventive alternatives to Hollywood CGI and robotics, by the remarkable number of people who still want to dress as the Joker or Harley Quinn. It’s all in preparation for the Cosplay Central Crown Championships on Saturday. (And that’s a sight.)

2. C2E2 Prom, Friday nights at 8pm It’s a beautiful idea, first launched in Chicago after Reedpop’s success with Two Nerd Proms at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Costumes are strongly encouraged. There will be photo backdrops and, of course, a theme: 15 Years of Fantasy in Chicago. Entry is included with the ticket.

3. Josh Brolin. guest of honor. Straight out of a memorable guest spot on “Dune Part 2” and “Saturday Night Live,” with a memoir out this autumn — not to mention, still being feared as Thanos, one of the best villains of Marvel movies. He’s doing signings at $200 a pop, but on Sunday (with your ticket), he’s also doing a big Q&A with the audience.

4. Maya Hawke. One of the best parts of C2E2 is the inclusion of a star each year just on the cusp of superstardom (Chris Hemsworth, Steven Yeun, Millie Bobby Brown) and this year Hawk, the singer-songwriter and co-star of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman’s daughter Are. “Stranger Things” will soon play Flannery O’Connor in “Wildcat,” directed by her father. She is signing autographs on Saturday and Sunday, and interacting with the audience on Sunday.

5. Horror is the new science fiction. A generation ago, it would have been heresy to host a Comic Con without leaning repeatedly on the prototypical Nerd-Con theme, “Star Trek.” So it probably says a lot about the world that the hope of science fiction is being replaced by scary survival stories. Here’s some evidence: several panel discussions on horror as a growing literary, comic book, film and podcasting genre, including a conversation with Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright of the original “Alien,” and several presentations. James Tynion IVThe current mad god of horror comics.

6. Hollywood reunion. In addition to “Alien,” there are also plenty of cast reunions, including “Hannibal,” “Star Wars: Rebels,” “Clerks,” “One Tree Hill,” “Rick and Morty” and the movie “She’s All That.” . Photo session with Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook).

7. Stage Bound. An interesting aspect of C2E2 has been its dedication to workshops on theater and improv. This year, there are panels on using superheroes and Dungeons & Dragons in improvisation, as well as a conversation between three mainstays of Annoyance Theatre: Mick Napier, Jennifer Estlin and Susan Messing. Additionally, if you are experiencing a costume malfunction, DePaul University’s theater department has a prop repair booth.

8. Darren Criss. Speaking of theatre, stage and TV actor Darren Criss – whose theater group team starkid Was in Chicago for a while – is back to talk “Glee,” “American Crime Story” and maybe her recent Off-Broadway turn in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

9. Meetings. The best lesson of C2E2: If you’re interested in something, someone else is interested in it, too. Check out C2E2’s website: There are meetings all weekend long around McCormick for fans of Scott Pilgrim, Studio Ghibli, “Our Flag Means Death,” Tamagotchi, “Dune.” ad infinitum.

C2E2: 2024 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo April 26-28 at McCormick Place South, 2301 S. Will run on Martin Luther King Drive; Tickets from $70 www.c2e2.com

[email protected]

People will attend the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo on Saturday, April 1, 2023. (Shanna Madison/Chicago Tribune)