The 2018 edition of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo took over McCormick Place in the Windy City for another year packed with special guests, cosplay, and plenty of events to attend. The show is an absolute mecca of pop culture and entertainment, with guests representing fandoms ranging from movies and television to tabletop and video games and just about everything in between.

Entertainment guests this year included Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow), Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), David Yost (Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers), Matt Mercer (Critical Role), Milo Ventimiglia (This is Us), Phil LaMarr (Samurai Jack), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants), and many others. Comic guests included Aaron Lopresti (Wonder Woman), Amy Chu (Red Sonja), Ant Lucia (DC Comics Bombshells), Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man), Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-Men), Christopher Priest (Black Panther), Frank Cho (Savage Wolverine), Jen Bartel (Jem and the Holograms), Joe Quinones (Howard the Duck), Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer), Ken Lashley (X-Men Gold), Mark Waid (Captain America), Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT), Robert Wilson IV (Bitch Planet), among many more.

There were also a ton of panels to attend, covering topics ranging from anime and manga to video games, as well as having plenty of content focused on diversity and inclusion as well as social issues within fandom. These included panels such as “The Value of Mental Illness: Finding Resilience in Pain,” “Harassment in Con Spaces: Survivor’s Perspectives,” “Cosplay on a Budget,” “Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way,” “The Daredevil You Know: Spotlight on Charlie Cox” and dozens of others.

This was my first year attending C2E2 and while I heard it was a pretty significant show – last year it drew about 80,000 people – I didn’t really quite know what to expect. Thanks to the venue at McCormick Place, the convention certainly felt big, but the upside to the layout of the space meant that it never felt claustrophobic at all. There were never any choke points in the hallways or even in the expo hall, which is usually the greatest offender. Maybe that comes from the fact that I was only at the show for Friday, when Saturday is typically a busier day.

I spent most of my time on the expo floor itself, and the thing I appreciated most about it was that it managed to highlight how the convention truly is an entertainment expo. There were a whole lot of different aspects of fandom represented, from board game developers to comic book dealers to video game collectors to cosplay supply stores. It was such a balanced mix and I really appreciated how well everything was mixed into each other – a true representative showcase of fandom at large.

If there’s one gripe to be had about C2E2, it’s the fact that it’s in Chicago in early spring, meaning that the weather is iffy at best. Multiple times during my trip I saw snow flurries outside – and while nothing really stuck, it definitely deterred me from wanting to explore the city. That being said, C2E2 has managed to establish itself as the Midwest pop culture convention worth paying attention to, and I’d love to spend a full weekend on the show floor sometime in the future.

-Carrie Wood