C2E2 2012: A Pre-Show Guide

You've got your ticket purchased, your flight and hotel booked, and your costume (nearly) made. Comic con season is officially upon us. Whether you're coming from the greater Midwest or the North side of Chicago, there is more to planning a trip to C2E2 than travel logistics. What will you buy? Who will you see? What panels will you attend? Where will you eat? This will be my second year attending C2E2, and my first with an official press pass. Even with three whole days to experience all that this relatively new convention has to offer, it is important to prioritize  in order to get the most out of your weekend. This guide is unique to my own interests and limitations (budget and energy wise), so please take a thorough look at the C2E2 website to make sure you aren't missing out on that special guest or panel made just for you.

Make A List
Without a doubt, any plans you have before going to a convention will be forgotten upon entering the floor. Sensory overload will be the enemy of efficiency throughout the day. Having an actual list, whether it's for shopping, scheduling, or "people I'd like to meet", will help you keep you on track. That isn't to say you shouldn't enjoy the spontaneity of the weekend events. By all means, pay attention to the 10 foot Optimus Prime cosplayer, then take out your list to lead you to your next destination.

Here's a short version of my "To Do" List:
-Commission 10 mini paintings
-Find t-shirts offered in girl sizes
-Track down current favorite writers (just to name a few attending, Gail Simone, Mark Waid, Rick Remender)
-Attend several panels

Pack Lightly
There is a thin line between "well-prepared" and "over-packed" when it comes to bringing supplies to the convention floor. Bring a bag, but not one that will be cumbersome, hurt your back / shoulder, or stick out too far from your side or back and annoy fellow shoppers. Forego the energy drinks. These will weigh you down, require frequent bathroom trips, and you can bring snacks that energize instead (think Cliff bars). Plus, there is a good chance at least one energy drink company will have a booth with samples, as was the case last year. If you're really jonesing for a caffeine jolt, this is one luxury worth paying extra for at the concession stand. Your back will be grateful. One of the many brilliant tips that Torsten Adair of The Comics Beat suggests is bringing a small tube to hold sketches and posters you'd like to keep in good condition.

Plan For Panels
The more conventions I attend, the more I appreciate panel discussions. All of those big announcements that you read about after Comic Con San Diego? They were made at panels. Did you hear about a fan dressed as Batgirl posing tough questions to DC editors? That happened at a panel. I think the reason I was slow to appreciate this aspect of conventions early on is because it can be very overwhelming to navigate the packed schedule. It can also be hard to tear yourself away from the excitement of the convention floor for a one hour panel, but your feet will be glad for the break. Keep in mind as well, those Pocky samples and creators in artist alley won't be going anywhere, but panels have a schedule to stick to and they won't happen again. The panels I will be sure to check out include Archaia Presents: Coming Soon, Dark Horse Spring Fever, DC All Access; and that's just on Friday!

Booths To Check Out
You'll no doubt make the rounds several times, but there are a few booths worth seeking out early on. If you plan to commission sketches, especially from big name creators, go to artist alley and purchase those first thing. If an artist can only do 20 or 30 finished pieces the whole weekend, that's a short list to get your name on. If you plan to buy t-shirts, check these out early to ensure you get the size you want. Chicago's very own Threadless has wonderful limited edition tees for sale, and they will also host creator Jeffrey Brown for a signing on Saturday from 1-2. Going to the publishers' booths directly is also recommended, especially if you want swag. Archaia's booth last year featured a wonderful play area for children, and adults had plenty to peruse with a large selection of their graphic novel catalog. They also offered great deals on multiple purchases. Above all, if there is one thing you are hoping to get this weekend, whether it is a newly released trade paperback or a signature from your favorite television star, make that the first thing you do.

Where To Eat
A convention quandary if their ever was one, finding decent food is and always will be a challenge here in Chicago. We're a town known for our food, but McCormick Center is nowhere near the cultural centers of Chicago, so your choices will be limited. There are a few things you can do to  avoid overpaying for lackluster pizza. The convention floor has a cafeteria, and this is great if you don't want to go far and don't mind paying a little extra for food that isn't too memorable. However, the hall is attached to a Hyatt Regency. They may not have cheaper options, but you'll have a better chance of getting freshly made food. You're also more likely to rub elbows with creators away from the convention floor cafeteria. I'm pretty sure Val Kilmer won't be eating food from a tray.

I'll be tweeting coverage of the event all weekend, so follow me @ComicBookCandy to get real time updates. See you on the con floor!