(Pop) Cultural travel, All that glitters

Ace Comic Con Midwest 2018

A week ago, I was flying to Chicago for my first real experience outside the Disney bubble, to attend the Ace Comic Con Midwest. Every time I write about it, I love a little bit more this rendez-vous, All that glitters, and illustrate it by pictures with our favourite celebrities on a blue background. I am keeping our adventures in the Windy City for next time so I can tell you about this weekend and the Comic con, this one.

Picture, Courtesy of Ace Comic Con

 

Last july, Chris Evans was announced as a guest of the Ace Universe. At this time, I was still living in England, but I already knew I was going to live in Orlando for my new job in EPCOT. I immediately jumped on a VIP pass that were sold out really quick, without knowing how I could go to Chicago if I even had the chance. Fresh arrived in Florida, I rushed myself to ask for these days off, from October 12th to 14th but I was still afraid of one thing: what if Chris had to cancel? This is what can happen when you get in the game of conventions. For personal or professional reasons an actor ou their agent can cancel they’re appearance as guests, which means fans can reimbursed (or not at all.) I heard before Chris cancelled two appearances and as we say “ third time is a charm”  but I was still worried.

My relatives know how much I have been looking up to Chris Evans for a decade now, and how important the Marvel Universe is to me. To the point that it is hard for me to put words on my fondness for the subject, and that my Extended Project for my Post graduate degree is based on the comics and the cinematic universe of Marvel. (But that’s another story.)

Then, I got a Press Pass for the event, so you could discover this weekend and that I could write about it after witnessing it with my own two eyes. It is my first official partnership for the blog, and I couldn’t be prouder. You could read my participations to the #HistoiresExpatriées (Expatriate Stories) every month, you could also read my thoughts on different conventions as a fan, but this opportunity is really different. For a weekend, I felt like a journalist wannabe, ready to share my adventures on Instagram or Twitter, with the #AceUniverse and  #AceComicConMidwest.

En avant!

The organisation

Like other similar events, this Comic Con was set for three days, so everyone has the time to meet his favourite celebrities and make new friends. This years, the final Headline guests were: Chris Evans (Captain America) Tom Hiddleston (Thor, Avengers) Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers) Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit) Zazie Beetz (Deadpool) Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown) Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy) Tom Ellis (Lucifer) and other guests from the industry.

Friday was a short day, the event starting mid-afternoon until early evening. We went to the Navy Pier, a huge conference and shopping center on the pier of Lake Michigan, so we could get our VIP and Press pass, in reserved areas, separate from General Admissions, meaning participants with one day or several day entrance pass. We retrieved our badges, wristbands and extras ticket for the three day, with a VIP bag, before looking around so we could know where everything was taking place for the big day on Saturday. With most of the highly anticipated guest appearing on Saturday, it was a quiet afternoon with WWE stars panels and photoshoot and autograph sessions of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Tom Hiddleston already present.  This is when I had the short opportunity to meet Karen for a picture and an autograph, a session where we could chat a bit. I have a lovely memory of this meeting, as Karen was really chill and sweet. Some of my readers know that this meeting was important to me, as almost 10 years ago I started writing a book, where Karen was the face of my main character. For French readers, you can have more information here. I was also able to gift her a bookmark of the book cover and she seemed super excited.

As you can see on the floor plan shared on social media, the whole Comic Con was taking place on the same floor and space was shared between merchandize, artists print booth, the main stage and the second stage for panels as well as autograph and photoshoot sessions booths.

 

I was really stressed when I arrived on Saturday, and I directly queued for my photo with Chris. While waiting I met some other fans, as excited or as scared as I was, even if some of them traveled already to most Comic Con this year; crossing the country to come. Being a VIP, I didn’t have to wait too long before taking my picture. I arrived completely overwhelmed before Chris, who seemed way taller than I expected and I directly ask for a “sort of hug picture” to what he replied “sure!” and grabbed me firmly, my cheek squished on him. (This is why you can see my happy/lost/surprised/moved face on the pic.) I exited the room right away with tears in my eyes and shaky hands and a nervous laugh. Meeting one celeb can seem totally normal while meeting another one can be a distressing experience. The picture was printed right away and I discovered it with joy as I saw my radiant expression and Chris’ smile. I loved the pic, which means a lot when we know that getting a good pic in a convention is like winning the lottery.

I arrived completely overwhelmed before Chris.”

 

After that, I queued directly for the autograph session. The adrenalin went down already but it rose again when it was my turn to sign an item of my choice. I was given a small post-it note with my name so I could get my autograph personalised. I forgot most of the things I wanted to say, but I think I had the chance to say the essential, meaning the inspiration Chris was for my postgraduate degree, the quote in his handwriting for my next tattoo and that he was welcome in the French Bakery in EPCOT when he wanted to, as he loves Disney World. I then exited with a big smile on my face, and I almost forgot my autograph on my ODEON poster by Matt Ferguson!

The afternoon was also rich in emotions with really interesting panels, the first one being Lee Pace, Karen Gillan and Chris Evans. Angélique Roché was the moderator and linked the conversation with fans questions from the app, and queuing fans during the panel. I had the chance to see two of my questions selected, the first one being for Karen via the app: “If Nebula gets to kill Thanos herself, how would she do it?” and her response was really funny! Being a VIP, I was sat in the first rows and I didn’t have to run to ask my question in the mic for Chris. It took me a huge effort to ask my question (and even greater effort not to look at the camera filming us for the direct streaming on facebook!) to Chris, about Steve’s evolution, from a soldier to a fugitive. The panel was an hour but went too fast, and we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon and panels,  like Matt Smith’s, known as the Eleventh Doctor from Doctor Who. We stayed until the end of the Cosplay contest, all participants being amazing, so we could go home and rest before the last day.

The panel :

 

On Sunday, we enjoyed again the conferences during the day, sat in the press reserved seats. We started the day meeting Disney artists Brianna Garcia and Clinton T. Hobart who demonstrated how they worked, drawing while answering again, a nice moment out of the Marvel bubble. Then we attended Tom Ellis’ panel, known as the loved Lucifer in the eponym TV show now on Netflix. Tom is really british, was the accent going with it, and showed himself funny and a nice music lover. A nice surprised as I just finished season 1 and intend to continue to watch. Later in day, it was the very popular Tom Hiddleston who went on stage with Elizabeth Olsen for a very innovative panel: they were interviewing each other! It was nice to witness an open and friendly discussion. I really think Tom had the most and noisy fans during the weekend! I was surprised lots of them flew from the other side of the world…

“I really think Tom had the most and noisy fans during the weekend!”

Courtesy of Ace Comic Con

 

Finally, we walked around one last time to buy out last purchase: patches to stick on my jean jacket, a Funko Pop I couldn’t resist buying, a Brianna Garcia’s drawing of my favourite Princess and prints from Robby Cook which now decorate my bedroom wall. And it was time to say goodbye to the Navy Pier, for this unforgettable experience.

So you can understand how amazing this weekend was, watch this video from Ace Comic Con’s facebook page :

The budget

Attending an event like this can cost a lot. Is it worth it? What are the differences between French conventions and the British comic con I went to?

As stated earlier, the event was set on three days. One day entry was between 50 and 65 dollars depending on the day or 125 dollars for three days. Pictures cost between 70 and 250 dollars depending of the guest, their popularity and if they attended a lot of Comic Con or not. (the highest bracket being Marvel actors.) and autograph were about the same price. For instance, Chris picture and autograph were both around 200 dollars. For Karen, her autograph was 70 and the picture 85 dollars.

Chris VIP was 585 dollars, approximately 500 Euros. It included the 3 days entrance, a priority entrance, a picture with Chris both printed and downloadable, an autograph with an authenticity certificate, a VIP seat during the actor’s panel and a merchandize bag. Adding the earlier stated fees, we could think being a VIP is not really worth it : you don’t save that much. But, in reality… the package itself is interesting. The day the tickets went onsale, Chris autograph were sold out in a few minutes, maybe because of collector. Having a VIP pass is a guarantee you will see in all pre-defined sessions.

“We could think being a VIP is not really worth it : you don’t save that much. But, in reality…”

On site, we were given « An Exclusive Swag Bag », I was on cloud nine, as I love tote bags. I collect them! There were a few gold nugget in the bag, as you can see below: An Ace Comic Con pin, an exclusive Thanos comic book, two pairs of Spiderman socks, an Infity Gauntlet patch, a coupon for an autograph authentification with JSA, an Ace Comic Con notebook and a paired pen, and finally an antibacterial hand gel with the event’s logo.

Where to sleep ? Hotels nearby were way too expensive, between 200 and 300 dollars for one night, and even if Airbnb were more affordable (between 40 dollars a night in China Town) we finally chose a hostel, the Parthenon Hostel in the greek neighbourhood with dorm at 15 dollars a night and private rooms at 60.

Allow also a spot in your budget for Ubers that will save your life (between 5 and 15 dollars a day) or the metro (5 dollars for a ticket, 10 a day and 20 for 72 hours.)

What could we improve?

Purchases of the weekend.

Nothing can be perfect in such an event and there is a few things that could be improved to help us have an even better weekend next times :

  • The Place : if the Navy Pier was a beautiful setting along the Lake Michigan, and close to other commodities like restaurants, I found the Comic Con center really small at first. I was expecting something was bigger like the London Comic Con I went to last year. Everything was on the same floor, like a warehouse, and it felt cold even inside, with a disturbing echo during panels. On Saturday we felt more oppressed in a small space. However, I reckon this is a new show for the organisation or even their first Comic Con in Chicago, so we can’t really blame them as it is hard to find the perfect venue.

 

  • The VIP pass : I don’t have anything to say except that we could push the VIP experience a bit further, maybe with an actual Meet and Greet? Meaning a privileged meeting with one actor during approximately half an hour for a reduced circle of fans.

 

  • The food : there were only three food stands on the first floor to feed a whole Comic Con, which led to long queuues and waiting time. There were not so many veggie options either (meaning only 2 if you don’t have a sweet tooth) so some participants could be left out. But it was the only way to eat quickly at the Comic Con itself without exiting and going through security all over again, which is too bad.

What I enjoyed

Me at the beginning of the weekend VS at the end.

There were of course huge positive notes that I never experienced before and that offered the fans a nice weekend.

 

  • The mobile app was a good plus: we could look at the weekend schedule and personalise it depending on what we wanted to attend, ask questions for the panels if we were too shy to do it directly at the mic etc.

 

  • The No-Queue aspect of the VIP and Press pass: one of the biggest advantage of these passes was to enter easily before everyone else and to sit a reserved area without thinking about the rest.

 

  • Security: an airport-style scanning of our bags before entering made sure everyone was safe.

 

  • The quickness of printing and dowloading our pictures : I have never seen something like that before. Exiting our photo sessions, our printed item was waiting for us and would could downloaded right away in High Quality thanks to a QR code, a specialised website and a number on the bottom right of our picture. I was speechless! One of the best highlights of the show : you don’t need to take a picture of your printed photoshoot with a bad lighting to post it on social media!

 

  • The waiting time during autograph didn’t feel that long thanks to screen on the side of each booth so we could follow the panels while queuing. Former panels were also projected during the weekend.

 

  • The length of time of the panels and the exchange with other fans.

 

  • The general ambiance you can only feel in Comic Cons, an exchange with everyone during the day, allowing to make new friends.

Courtesy of Ace Comic Con     

“The quickness of printing and dowloading our pictures : I have never seen something like that before.”

I would like to thank one more time Ace Comic Con for this opportunity and  especially Jacquelyn for trusting me. I won’t forget this weekend anytime soon and I hope I will be able one day to attend another Ace Universe Event.

 

 

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