The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) returned in 2021 after a year’s hiatus but, like its siblings Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC), as a smaller event. However, the heart and soul of C2E2 were still there. The safety protocols, which required proof of vaccination or negative COVID test as well as mandatory masks for everyone, gave attendees a sense of safety in very trying times.
There are good points about a smaller convention, such as the crowds not overflowing on the exhibit floor. Attendees could stroll the aisles at their leisure without fear of missing some exclusives or being lost in the flow of the crowd. On the other hand, the smaller number of attendees lessened the excitement that one feels with a jam-packed convention center.
The smaller number of attendees was not the only COVID-caused problem for conventions this year. Many events were moved later in the year due to a major uptick of cases during the earlier months in 2021. Unfortunately for C2E2, it was scheduled to happen two weeks after San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition, one week after ECCC, and a week before DISCON 3 (The World Science Fiction Convention). The fiscal and physical cost of trying to attend these major conventions in consecutive weeks would be staggering under normal circumstances. But with the new variant (no not a Loki), Omicron, it was overwhelming. Plus, C2E2 2021 was held in Chicago in December!
Also, many stars and vendors are still reluctant to travel to conventions. This meant that there were fewer major stars and large vendors at C2E2 than in a pre-COVID year. Fortunately for the fans of The Expanse, Steve Strait and Wes Chatham were there but I imagine that other fans were disappointed that their favorite stars and vendors could not be there.
For fans who usually attend the smaller panels and frequent the smaller booths and Artist Alley, the differences between previous conventions and this one were not as pronounced.
But with all of these issues, attendees, especially cosplayers, still turned out for C2E2 2021and enjoyed themselves. The event gave fans a chance to get back together to share their fandoms and meet new people who make those fandoms fun. I had the chance to have coffee with Jacob Mundell who played Erich the mob boss in the fifth season of The Expanse. He had an interesting perspective on the state of fandom as a star who has the attention of many fans.
Yes, C2E2 was smaller this year, but it felt great to visit Chicago again as well as meet old and hopefully new friends. This convention and Dragon Con both demonstrate to the world that these conventions can safely occur when there are safety protocols in place that are stringently followed. We need these conventions to return to remind us what we have been missing.