C2E2 2019: Freaks, Geeks, Gays and Cosplays

C2E2 The main signage at C2E2 in Chicago, Illinois (March 22-24, 2019). Photo C2E2

SATURDAY

We got a later start to the day than we liked; I would’ve loved to have made it to the Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts, but luckily – *shh* – you might get some coverage on those later this week. Don’t tell nobody.

After an abortive attempt to get into the Clueless panel (who’d have thunk you need to show up a little early to get into one of the main events of a comic book convention that’ll have Paul Rudd in it?), we wandered into a couple more panels. One was “The Future Is Now”, featuring a panel of SF authors including acclaimed SF novelist Cory Doctorow, Sue Burke, Alison Wilgus and the aforementioned Mary Robinette Kowal. It was an insightful, low-key discussion about representation in SF and fantasy, the need for marginalized people to tell their stories, and the prospect of our own planet’s future and how it might be reflected in the sci-fi literature of the now. It was a great panel; below are some live-tweeted highlights.

After that, we quickly dropped in for the first few minutes of a panel on the use of the graphic novel as memoir, and how educators can use that in their own curriculum to teach students about other perspectives – and to give marginalized kids the ability to see their own stories told. We didn’t have time to stay very long, but conversations about the graphic novel as legitimate, personal literature are important, especially when they serve as the means to give queer people and people of color representation they don’t normally have in literature.

In the course of meeting some friends, we hit the show floor, buying some overpriced (but oversized!) stainless steel mugs from Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda Co. For $25 a pop (and $5 for big ol‘ metal straws), you get unlimited refills from any of their six major soda flavors. I had the sarsaparilla, my wife had the vanilla creme. Delicious soda, very sticky floors by the time you get to the tap. Still, they’ll make for some jumbo-sized Moscow Mule mugs down the road, so probably worth the investment.

From there, we ended up successfully getting into the John Barrowman panel, which was just a delight. Sure, by the end of it, it turned into a mawkish advertisement for the Doctor Who/Torchwood/Arrow actor’s deeply earnest album releases and self-insert comic book series he writes with his sister. But based on the hour we’d experienced to that point, it was deeply, incorrigibly Barrowman – the flamboyant actor sauntering onto the stage in a glittering TARDIS-decorated suit, complete with spangly high heels, and greeting his audience with infectiously manic glee.

A consummate showman, Barrowman ran the panel with a whirlwind combination of stand-up (giddily recounting a story about how he accidentally Facebook Live-d his husband’s genitals) and fiercely engaged Q&A with fans. As he himself professes, he “feeds off [the audience’s] energy,” and managed to make each individual question feel like a personal one.

Some audience members, of course, got more than others – one young gay man in particular named Tony got the chance to try on Barrowman’s heels, do a dual catwalk with him, and sit down on the couch Oprah and Gayle-style (“I’m Oprah,” Barrowman insisted) to talk about the impact Jack Harkness’Torchwood romance with Ianto meant to him as a young gay man. It was a really sweet gesture in an hour full of uproarious moments (at one point, Barrowman stomped a hole in the floor with his heel and had to avoid it for the rest of the night), turning what can often be rote, uncomfortable Q&A sessions into a gut-busting variety hour – An Evening With John Barrowman. Watch below.

Stumbling out of that glittering display, my wife and I decided to close out the day with the only shopping we’ll be doing at C2E2 please for the love of God we’re poor and Lyfts are expensive. On my wife’s end, she found some lovely steampunk-inspired necklaces from a local shop that sells vintage-looking nerd jewelry. I, on the other hand, being the kind of person who only ends up buying comics at conventions, went whole hog at a Graham Cracker Comics stand and picked up two volumes of Saga, the Love Is Love LGBTQIA anthology from artists commemorating the lives lost in the Pride nightclub shooting, and the first volumes of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther run, Paper Girls, Bitch Planet and Descender. I’m already ass-deep in books, but this will give me incentive to get back into reading comics more regularly (one hopes).

And thus ended the first two days at C2E2 – stay tuned tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion!

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