C2E2 - The dream I didn't know I had

I’ve never been to a con before. Why, you ask? The big comic-cons are on the coasts, much too far away. The Harry Potter cons that I thought about going to were always during the summer. All of them are pretty expensive. I always wanted to go -- I was beyond jealous of Suzanne when she made it to the NY Comic-con this year. And yet, when the matter of going to my own comic con came, I was hesitant. I don’t read comics. Would I find anything to enjoy?

Turns out, I needn’t have worried. Three days at C2E2, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, were some of the best geeky times I’ve ever had. By far the best decision was going in costume. I’d never cosplayed before, and never really dreamed I could. My sewing skills are hopeless, and neither my budget nor my ambitions are big enough to spend the months and hundreds that some people spend gathering together the perfect outfit. So it was a stroke of luck when a wonderful friend, Jorie (who made herself a fantastic Venetian Hooker Dress), offered to make a costume for me less than two weeks before the con. After an evening of brainstorming, we had an idea. A week of late nights of packing and sewing and ironing later, I had a sari.

A TARDIS sari. I rocked it. And my boyfriend rocked the Tenth Doctor suit.

And here is my advice about cons: cosplay. Because there is nothing like people asking to take your picture to make you feel confident and amazing. Over 5 hours on Friday, at least 50 people took our picture. That was before we entered the costume contest, and counting became impossible. And it was equally as enjoyable to admire the costumes that everyone else was wearing. There were plenty of Doctors (Four, Nine, Ten, Eleven), Amy Pond, Craig Owens, and a TARDIS or two (who were not as cool as I was). There was Katniss, Effie and Haymitch, a few Kaylees, a Gandalf, a Princess Tiana, and a Captain Jack Sparrow who looked exactly like Johnny Depp. And those were just the ones that I knew. Hundreds of other people were cosplaying video game and comic characters that I couldn't begin to identify.

But of course, there was way more to this than cosplay.

There was the show floor, with more geeky memorabilia than you could ever want. There were big displays by DC and Marvel, and a huge one for the actual props from Captain America, a bunch of which were auctioned off on Saturday. Even though I'm not at all a comics person, it was a pretty amazing display.

And there were plenty of things that were up my own fandom alley. There was a booth with corsets (as well as one with kilts). There was a booth that sold gorgeous custom-made gaming tables that I could never afford. There was a booth that sold monocle-like mustaches, complete with a chain. There was the official Doctor Who booth (it was so hard to walk away from that without buying anything), as well as plenty of unofficial ones. There were towers of t-shirts, lines of comics, and piles of memorabilia. There was the Artists' Alley, where hundreds of independent artists were hawking comics, original art, and fan-based art. I bought more than a few pieces. And there was the bakery that made 3 foot-tall custom fantasy cakes, and was selling TARDIS cookies. When a TARDIS ate a TARDIS, I'm surprised the universe didn't implode.

There were some great panels, too. My boyfriend enjoyed those on writing for TV, and we both had a great time at The One Ring.Net's Hobbit news headlines, but my favorite by far was called The Geek Girl and the Artist: Women's Perspectives on Geek Culture. Led by six amazing Chicago geeky women of all different walks of life, from photographers to lighting designers to writing professors, it was a fantastic discussion of personal experiences of women's part to play in a heavily male (and often sexist) nerd culture. Objectification, exclusion, inclusion, and acceptance were talked about, and stories of strong female characters and courageous female fans were told. It was late in the day on Friday, and I was quite tired, but it was a panel well worth staying for. I think these conversations are overdue, and I was proud to be watching them happen.

There were so many other things I wanted to make it to -- the panel by Nerdist Industries, the one with StarKid, the troupe that did the Very Potter Musical. There were also some pretty big names present. Anne Rice was there, as was John Cusak and Val Kilmer. Anthony Daniels, the man behind C-3PO, did a panel and signings. A last minute addition to the event, who autographed on all three days, was Sean Astin. I decided not to get his autograph, but I walked past his table quite a number of times, and definitely started squeeing when I saw Samwise Gamgee sitting 20 feet from me.

But the highlight of the weekend was John Barrowman. I missed his panel on Saturday, which I deeply regret, but it was beyond worth it to come back the next day for an autograph. The lines were much shorter on Sunday, and we were only waiting for about an hour and twenty minutes, but it was time well spent, and honestly, very much enjoyed. We saw a lot of fantastic costumes, met some great people (one of whom wrote an equally wonderful article about the con for a Northwestern publication), and had some wonderful conversations.

The closer we got to John Barrowman, the more I had to remind myself to breathe. The best news: he is just as hot in person as he is onscreen. But even better, is that he's just as funny and charming and real, even when you know he's been signing his name and hearing the same things about how great he is over and over for the past four hours. He smiled, he laughed, he listened to everyone, he took a picture with all. After a guy a few ahead of us in line who was cosplaying Marvel mercenary Deadpool knocked on his own codpiece (to the surprise of everyone present), Johnny B asked "Can I try?" and promptly reached over the table and did so. I couldn't have hoped for better.

When we finally got up to him, both Greg and I were tongue-tied. We got a signature and a picture, and said something about how we loved him, and then our time was done. Somehow, it was enough. As someone at the Women in Geek Culture panel said, "John Barrowman is the great equalizer." So true.

My first con -- SUCCESS. Hopefully many more to come!