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C2E2: How a Three-Year-Old Comic Book Convention is Disrupting the Chicago Convention Scene

Pop culture fanatics all gather at McCormick Place for a fun-filled weekend of celebrity guests, crazy costumes, and the latest and greatest in entertainment. In summer of 2011 I wrote about my inaugural attendance at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. After going (and loving it), I decided to branch out and try another of Chicago’s comic book conventions: Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, also known as C2E2 in spring of 2012.

I was warned that the convention was small and not terribly impressive, but I wanted to go anyway.

Though if C2E2 wasn’t impressive last year, that certainly was not the case this year. And I enjoyed C2E2 2012 much more than I enjoyed Wizard World 2011. I am not alone in my feelings.

So how has C2E2 managed to become a must-visit when there’s already a giant convention in August? Let’s discuss…

captain america auction

Costumes and props from the film “Captain America: The First Avenger” were auctioned off at C2E2 – talk about exclusive!

Exclusive Attendees

While many of the same vendors and artists visit both comic conventions, C2E2 has bragging rights for hosting the two most popular comic book publishers: Marvel and DC. Publishers use conventions to announce new series and promote upcoming movies or TV shows. Considering the amount of content that comes from Marvel or DC, C2E2 has a major leg up on delivering breaking news.

Wide Variety of Interests

C2E2 had something for everyone. If you were interested in comics, anime, fantasy, or mustaches, there was a booth or vendor for you to visit. All facets of nerdom were proudly represented.

Better Organization

c2e2 show floor vendors

The carpet! The clearly-marked signs! Oh, what luxury!

Panels, screenings, and Q & A sessions with celebrities are the highlights of a convention and lots of people will show up just to attend these break-off sessions. Wizard World completely dropped the ball at making nice, organized lines at their convention, but C2E2 completely succeeded. With less confusion and tension, the atmosphere of C2E2 was much more relaxed.

Simple Comforts

Carpet. C2E2 had carpet. Anyone can attest that walking around for hours will take a toll on your legs and feet. But by adding carpet, the entire experience will be (and was) much more comfortable. It made me linger at booths. It wasn’t a pain to get up and down to look at merchandise. And I listened to a DC employee’s entire pitch about their new “Before Watchmen” comic book series** because they had the plushest carpet in the entire room.

There were also plenty of tables for tired attendees to take a break.

buttons koozies lip balm

The free swag at the Yelp table gained them tons of new email signups!

Awesome Giveaways

First of all, Wizard World tickets are wristbands. C2E2 tickets are full-color badges attached to lanyards. These badges don’t just look cooler, but they are easier to display as a keepsake. This makes them collectable and far more memorable tickets.

Second, one of the best things about C2E2 was that promotional products were everywhere. From giant booths like Marvel and DC to the smallest table at the back of Artist Alley, lots of people were giving away logoed freebies like pens, buttons, and bookmarks.

These promo items served as great icebreakers, gave the vendors an initial chance to convert interest into a sale, put a vendor’s logo into potential customers’ homes, and act as great mementos for convention attendees. Basically, they create the ultimate win-win situation.

After coming home with two tote bags full of promotional comics, buttons, and other miscellaneous items, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back at C2E2 next year.

There are ways to stand out in a niche already dominated by a huge brand. Just follow these business takeaways from C2E2:

spider-bubba saves the day

Spider-Bubba is pulling for C2E2’s success!

  • Your product may be similar to others, but make sure that it offers a feature that no other product has. The unique feature will get your customers in the door; the full package will make them stay.
  • Obvious, but love your customers. Anticipate all of their needs: would couches be a nice addition to your brick and mortar location? Would a pop-up window for customer service be welcomed on your website?
  • Continually expand your product offerings. Once you’ve established a customer base, challenge yourself to come up with other services to attract new business and appease all potential clients.
  • Hand out awesome promotional items. There’s no better way to market your business than with a tangible product. People love free stuff.

If C2E2 continues on this level of excellence, then I imagine it will someday surpass Wizard World as the best comic convention in Chicago.

Have you ever been to C2E2? Any other examples of smaller brands pulling the upset on larger brands? Do you love free stuff? Don’t agree with my review of C2E2 2012? Then leave a comment and we’ll discuss.

**I don’t like Watchmen, so this is a seriously impressive feat.



Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. Rachel

    Aw, the way you talk about it, now I wish I had attended. 🙁 I think if there had been more names I recognized at the panels, I would have gone. Regardless, I’m glad you had such a good time and that C2E2 impressed you so much!

    And great takeaways, too, especially the point about everyone loving free stuff. And then people at the convention will share that free stuff with people who didn’t attend, thus expanding brand awareness. I am proof of this! (Thanks for the swag, Mandy, you rock)

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I didn’t even end up going to a panel (a shame, because I’m sure it would’ve only enhanced the weekend) and I still enjoyed it. Next year you should go regardless of the panels – I know that I will. 🙂

      And no problem with the swag. I’m glad to share the spoils of the weekend!

  2. Cybernetic SAM

    Yeah, I have been to Comic Con and ACEN (Anime Central), but I have never been to C2E2. I did want to kind of go with Jill to see Chris Hardwick and I haven’t been to the Chicago TARDIS either….. maybe I should really get serious about these and try them both out. They seem really awesome to participate in.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m thinking about picking up Chicago TARDIS, too! November is an excellent time for a convention. But considering there were no less than fifteen 11th Doctors walking around, I promise that there’s plenty for Who fans at C2E2. 😀

  3. Jaimie Smith

    I don’t really follow this kind of stuff, or to be honest really knew what C2E2 was, but this post was actually pretty neat. You did a great job on it. Its cool the business takeaways that you can get from something that you just go to for fun! Having some sort of unique feature will definitely help you stand out at a convention where everything is similar.
    Cool post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Comic book conventions aren’t for everyone, but I’m glad that you still found it interesting! Thanks, Jaimie.

  4. Jen

    I love the idea of a con, and I also love the first hour or so of walking around and seeing all of the cool booths set up. But after that initial excitement and after I’ve seen it all, I’m done. I’m just not comfortable with the big crowds of people for long periods of time. But I have to agree that if there are vendors giving away free stuff and have big elaborate displays, I’m more likely to visit them again.

    Great write up, I love the take-aways you got form such a fun event!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Conventions definitely aren’t for everyone – there’s a lot to look at and it can get pretty overwhelming pretty fast. And sometimes those crowds do get rather large. But hey, if a con can come up with some ways to get people coming back even if they rather not fight the crowds, they must be doing something right. 🙂

  5. david k waltz


    One of the fun things about conventions for me is finding cool promo items that will make my kids get that “down on your knee fist pump” type of reaction. The thing they liked most last year from the annual finance convention I attend was a Magic 8-Ball of all things.

    I am glad to hear that being in the business has not ruined the fun for you of picking up some great trinkets!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hey David,

      Who would’ve guessed that a Magic 8-Ball would’ve gotten such a great reaction? The closest I got to that kind of reaction was when I picked up a whole bunch of pins from the DC Comics booth. They didn’t just have ones that said their brand name, but also Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, etc. pins. As a super geek, it was awesome to get pins like that for free.

      And I definitely haven’t been ruined from being the biz. If anything, it’s made me a little savvier and enthusiastic about promo items!

      Thanks for stopping by! It’s always a pleasure to see you on our blog! 🙂

  6. Jeff Porretto

    I’m not much of a convention fan, as evidenced by Jana asking me if I’m going to C2E2 and I said something along the lines of, “What to the who now?” But I can definitely appreciate (from afar) when someone makes an effort to stand out for the RIGHT reasons. That always get’s my stamp of approval!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Glad that you can recognize a job well done even if you don’t want to participate in it. 🙂

  7. Jill Tooley

    Remember when I told you that C2E2 was small? Yeah, I sure ate my words there! 😉

    I still can’t fathom the difference between last year’s con and this year’s. They’re obviously doing something right! I was not only impressed with their selection of more popular guests, but also with how they handled the lines. Some of the employees were rude, but I can’t even imagine what chaos they have to deal with, so I’ll let that slide. Comic-Con could DEFINITELY take some advice from C2E2 — that convention is so disorganized it makes me want to scream and flail like a crazy person!

    P.S. I snagged a bunch of buttons and pens, and even got a Nerdist t-shirt…so I was one happy geek 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Yeah, C2E2 was definitely bigger than you prepared me for, but that’s okay because it was an excellent time. 🙂

      Comic Con really needs to take lessons from them, because the way they handled panels last year was crazy. If the organization is anything like last time (and with so many big name celebs this year, I imagine it will be), it may not be worth going to again. There’s only so much that one person can take!

      P.S. That’s DEFINITELY some sweet swag!

  8. San

    I’ve never been to a comic con but your story makes me feel I’ve already missed out on the one worth going to (C2E2). Comic Con is (after ticket processing fee) $40 per person. Would you recommend just saving the money for C2E2 2013?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi San! First off, thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      As for which one I’d go to, it definitely depends what you are looking for.

      If you want to go to a convention to see and/or meet big-name stars (William Shatner, Stan Lee, etc.), you’ll want to head to Comic Con. Comic Con also has a larger show floor with tons and tons of vendors. They have many t-shirt stalls, comic book store booths, and more toys than you can count.

      C2E2, though, has Marvel and DC, which I thought was really cool. They don’t have the same star power or floor size as Comic Con, but as I said in this article, it seams like they are growing. That being said, even though there were less vendors and less space, I felt like there were more interests represented. C2E2 is also better if you want to deal with a slightly smaller crowd. C2E2 also seemed to have better events for families, but Comic Con actually has a bunch of family-centric panels and activities scheduled this year.

      I hope that helps. And if you’d like more information or opinions, just let me know. 🙂

  9. richard

    You see c2e2 becoming as big as san Diego or new York convention s?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi, Richard! Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. First of all, I doubt that anything will ever reach the size of San Diego Comic Con. It could reach the size of the New York Comic Con – especially since C2E2 is put on by the same people as the New York Comic Con – and there is room to grow. It might be a long process, but if it keeps growing, I don’t see why it couldn’t. 🙂

  10. Eddie Bonneau

    I’ve been going to Wizard World since 2002. C2e2 in it’s 1st year had surpassed Wizard World in every way possible. It gets better every year. This is great because frankly Wizard World is not about comics. Marvel and DC both will never attend. There’s also proxy blocks on the internet service around the ww convention center while it’s free at McCormick. WW has turned into a lets get as many people into the door and not offer anything in return. It’s different management then it’s heyday when you’d have BTVS Panels and Kevin Smith q&a’s and free autograph/picture appearances.

    SDCC will never be surpassed as the #1 con in the country, but we’re the second city so we should be happy with #2!

    If I was running a convention c2e2 is a rolemodel and ww is outdated, dying breed. It’s a shame because it used to be great. Super sketches to be had, great comic exclusives, interaction with aritsts…

    If anyone is interested in an costumed bar crawl, after-party check out this link!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi, Eddie! Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment!

      Most convention attendees that I talk to seem to be in agreement with you. Wizard World does have a larger selection of bigger name celebrities, but comic fans definitely can’t get the same level of engagement with creators.

      And I know that I am more than happy with being #2! I’ve been looking forward to C2E2 2013 basically since C2E2 2012 ended!

  11. LK

    C2E2 was way better than Wizards Word.

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