Things finally worked out this year so that I could return to C2E2, a con here in Chicago that I haven't been to since their first year in 2011, and boy.... has this show GROWN! I'd say the floorplan has doubled, if not tripled, and the crowd has matched that, at least!
It was an impressive amount of folks, and in general the show floor was laid out well enough that there weren't many bottlenecks (other than the ubiquitous, annoying all-stops for cosplay photos and massive strollers) so hunting and exploring was pretty easy. The bulk of the show floor was all exhibitors and for the most part it was set up in a good, linear pattern so one could back-and-forth it fairly well, though the heart was offset which disrupted that flow a bit. Towards the back of the show were all the celebrity autograph booths and lines (and, man, were people en masse to see Tommy, The Green Ranger!), and the right was a huge Artist's Alley and a bunch of tables for gaming. While gaming isn't really my thing, it was cool to see so much space dedicated to it and as part of the main show (as opposed to being in offsite hotels, like at San Diego) since it is so popular these days. Over by that area, too, that had a stage set up for day-long live-streaming chat-show style stuff from the show. While nothing much on the roster tickled my fancy (DST was up on Friday) I did pass by when CM Punk was getting interviewed. I really love that conventions are branching out to their fans that can't make it to the shows via web streams like this and similar stuff!
What was pretty surprising (and a sad sign/reminder of our times) was that we weren't allowed to enter through the "main entrance" to the show but rather had to mob down the side to go through a bag check, like at a concert or theme park. Safety first, as always, but a bummer that's a necessary precaution nowadays. That process was also a bit chaotic as, by the time I arrived, the floor was open but there was no signage indicating what was going on - just the main entrance and a couple volunteers telling us to "go that way to enter" then a mob of confused people coming from different doors all funneling to two tables with one security guard each, then once cleared we entered through a side gap into the middle of a comparably narrow exhibitor aisle. It was confusing and very congested. Next time, I'd say they should use the entrance marquee to enter the security line, then have that wrap back up to the front so we enter "at the start" and in a more open space. But, in the scheme of things it was just an annoying inconvenience rather than an aggravating experience.
Another big surprise of the show was that they were selling beer! On the floor! As a 20-year veteran of San Diego Comic-Con, and a bunch of other cons in between, alcohol on the show floors is basically inconceivable to me! But, it was a smart call, financially, because all the beer booths had long lines (actually all the food and beverage booths had looong lines) and it seemed like at least a third of all adults were walking around with a cup or mug of beer. One booth in particular was selling souvenir mugs, cast in thick neon green plastic and with the C2E2 logo on them. Similarly, a "craft soda" company called Wild Bill's was selling big metal mugs with the C2E2 logo which came with day-long free refills of their soda. (Watch for my Spoils report later this week!)
I ended up getting that mug for the novelty, refills and variety of flavors (plus.... I don't trust my inebriated judgement when looking at a bunch of toys I want to buy....). I liked the Birch Beer and the Sarsaparilla, but the Black Cherry Soda was the clear winner in my book. There were plenty of food kiosks around, ranging from pizza to ice cream, which I didn't partake of (because, con food....) but they all looked good and had pretty long lines. A really cool thing about the McCormick Plaza where this was held was two "towers" with cafeteria services at the top, which allowed for both some nice respite from the floor and some great views of the show!
I knew Diamond Select Toys was going to be at the show, but wasn't too sure if any other companies were as well. Turns out there was, which was cool for a collector such as yours truly, but then there were some obligatory, large sponsor booths for Geico and DirecTV. Kinda weird to see those companies in a "nerd fest" but they were working it hard, with big booths and seemingly lots of freebies. C2E2 was also doing a "register your badge" thing, using a QR code on the back of each badge which apparently would enter one in the various raffles or allow participation in various scavenger hunts. It seems like a neat idea, but I must confess I wasn't motivated enough to download the app or wait in line to activate my badge - especially when there were toys to see and buy!
But these shows aren't just about buying toys, they're also for seeing new toys, and there were several companies there showing off their wares!
Right near the main entrance to the hall was Blue Fin, a perennial favorite of Japanese import toys! I think they're a branch of Bandai, or something like that, but what matters is what they make! The bulk of their booth was retail but along the front and north exteriors sides were a bunch of new stuff on display.
The north side was all Star Wars and they brought up all the new "Movie Realization" figures they revealed at Star Wars Celebration in Florida two weeks ago. I really, really, really dig this samurai styled takes on SW characters, and the new Boba Fett looks much cooler than I expected from the concept art they'd shown. Apparently they ran out of the first production run at Celebration, so I heard several groans about that while ogling these awesome figures I can't afford. And, man, how cool is that Vader & Imperial Guards diorama!? And that Sandtrooper one, too!? They also had Spider-Man and Iron Man, but I must admit those don't click for me the way the Star Wars ones do.
They were also showing off a new line of Star Wars model kits. I assume these were announced at Celebration, or earlier, but this was the first I'd heard of or seen them - and frankly, they seem really cool. They are basically designs for the layperson, so they assemble without glue and use colored plastic when necessary to eliminate/reduce paint. While that's been around for awhile, these also include decal sheets, but in both water-decal and sticker formats making them accessible for whatever your preference or comfort level is! Plus, a lot of the detail colors are on these sheet further reducing, or possibly even eliminating the need to paint! Plus they come with translucent blaster effects and the bases are mini dioramas! I'm very tempted to try these out, but none these first models were really calling to me. I almost got the A-Wing, because it's a bit more colorful and came with a Death Star gun turret, but spent all my budget/cash by the time I made it back there. Still though, really cool, fun ideas here - definitely keeping my eye on where this line goes!
Diamond Select Toys
DST is the booth I was most excited for. I'm a madman for their Minimate figures and they have a lot of interesting licenses on deck for this year, so I was very curious to see what would be on display and if anything new would be unveiled. There were plenty of surprises - some stuff I expected was missing (no Pirates of the Caribbean 5 or Ghostbusters 2 Select figures), and some stuff was freshly revealed (The Dark Tower Select figures, Beetlejuice Minimates!) - so let's all take a look at the multitude of stuff they showed off (behind aggravatingly reflective plexiglass, making good photos quite tough to get)!
Moving right-to-left, the first display case was all their Animated DC stuff. The coolest new stuff for me were the B:TAS Mr. Freeze bust (still one of, if not, my favorite Freeze designs) and the first Batman Beyond bust - old Bruce Wayne! I have a weird love for Old Bruce so I might actually have to break down and get that. It'll be pretty interesting to see where they go with that show, there are definitely some cool designs from it, and several could lead to really dynamic busts depending on how they execute them (like if Blight is done with a black skeleton inside translucent green resin - maybe even a light-up feature!?).
Next is a display of the next newest series of Gotham Select figures (though sadly missing the build-a-prison-cell accessory). They seem to finally be getting to do some "costumes" other than just regular people in normal clothes, and I feel like I should be into Azrael and Mr. Freeze, but those designs just look so.... TV budget.... There's also a full display of all their stuff for the upcoming Dark Tower movie, including the reveal of the two Select style figures. Those look incredible, and the likenesses are some of the best ever from DST, I'll very likely be picking these up. Same with the Minimates (3 of the 4 being shown, I'm guessing the fourth is a spoiler). The statues look okay, and the undoubtedly-soon-to-hit-clearance Vinimates are fine. They had some of their previously shown Adam West Batman busts and statues on displays, along with the oddly timed Watchmen movie Minimate 4-pack, along with the reveal of the Toys R Us exclusive Silk Specter & Ozymandias 2-pack to complete the core team. They all look good, but I'm not the biggest fan of the movie nor do I really understand the reason for releasing these now. But.... I'll probably get 'em, Minimates are cool!
Then we get a look at some of the new Alien Covenant product, including the reveals of the new Xenomorph Minimates and bust bank. They look good, but after the mediocrity of Prometheus it's hard to get excited for another one of these prequels. DST also announced and unveiled their new Kingdom Hearts license and Select style figures at this show. They look good enough, but the internet seems pretty unhappy with the head/face on the kid next to Mickey.... such is DST, though. I love 'em but they seem quite willing to content themselves with "eh.... good enough" sculpts from time to time. Not knowing much, or anything, about KH beyond the previous toys, my interest in this only goes so far as the proper Disney characters, like Mickey, though. And, then at on the bottom shelf was the fully assembled Ghostbusters rooftop diorama.... and man.... this thing is genuinely massive. I mean HUGE. It's amazing and overwhelming all at once! They also had Series 5 on display, along with a marshmallowed Winston (a TBD exclusive, no doubt), and the Librarian ghost has an articulated arm that supports her from behind which should be offer some a fun, dynamic posing options!
We also get got a bunch of Minimate reveals! A two-pack from Forbidden Planet featuring a crewman and Robbie the Robot! And an Iron Giant two-pack with the Iron Giant and a Hog-Hug! Woooooo!!! We also get the full reveal of the Pirates of the Caribbean 5 series plus the accompanying Toys R Us exclusive - an undead pirate and zombie shark two-pack! That is definitely the highlight of the entire license and a battle-builder set, too! I'm definitely getting 2 or 3 for sure!
The first series of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon Minimates aren't even out yet but but now they're showing us n the equally awesome series 2! Robot-body Krang, Rocksteady, fly-mutant Baxter Stockman, Splinter, Michelangelo and Raphael! I'm very curious about whether these this will be a 3 two-pack series or if there are two more figures yet to reveal.... the first series is 4 two-packs, after all. Minimates work best with bright colors and classic TMNT is such a beautiful match for the format - these all look great and I can't wait to have them all! And speaking of anticipation.... Beetlejuice!!! Yes! We're getting a gorgeous four-pack of Lydia, striped-suit Beetlejuice and the Maitlands - complete with alternate "scary" heads and hands for the ghosts and carnival hands (and I assume hat, though an alternate hair piece wasn't shown) for Beetlejuice! Oh man, I'm 100% getting two of this set! Plus, there's going to be a Toys R Us exclusive two-pack with Otho (with scared and smug heads!) and wedding Beetlejuice! I adore Otho, so that is pretty exciting, but it is weird to do wedding Beetlejuice here since that would more logically go with wedding dress Lydia somewhere down the line (and in a four-pack with wedding Maitlands with alternate desiccated heads!? That would be sooo cool!). I love Beetlejuice and am quite excited to be getting more toys, and especially of non-Beetlejuice titular characters, from it! Thank you, DST!
We got our first in-person look at the Pulp Fiction Select figures (at least since they've officially been solicited) and they do look quite good! Series 4 and Series 5 of The Muppets Select were on display, and while no toyline can ever really compete with the perfection of the old Palisades line, these do look pretty good; Series 5 in particularly looks pretty cool. It even looks like the Swedish Chef may have "human" hands rather than "felt," to be more accurate to the original sketches, which would be an awesome touch if that's the case! Series 3 and 4 of Nightmare Before Christmas Select figures were present too, and man the walking bathtub with Lock, Shock and Barrel in Series 3 is huge! They were also showing off Series 4 of the NBX Minimates, which looks like one of the more diverse and better lineups, but between the character designs not really matching the Minimate style too well and that Hot Topic has unique characters in their blind bag mixes, it's pretty hard to be enthused about this line and try to fully collect it.
On the Marvel Select front, we're getting a pretty good looking Spider-Man from the new movie and a great looking Netflix Daredevil (and I really love that he gets the elevator for his base). There's a Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 which looks pretty good, but doesn't seem to distinguish itself from the multitude of other Star-Lord toys out there (aside from the inaccurate blue eyes on his "helmet"). Jumping on to the bandwagon, DST is bringing out a Lady Deadpool and a Spider-Gwen, too.
Minimate wise, the late '80s Wolverine themed Series 72 was on display, along with "Series 1" of Spider-Man Homecoming Minimates. Interesting that's it's not numbered within the standard continuity.... or maybe that's just a marketing thing? And I wonder if that means there'll be another series to follow. There will be a Toys R Us exclusive two-pack with a new Happy Hogan and an excellent "Ultimate" Iron Man! They also had the four-pack for the Iron Fist Netflix show, but the real highlight is the reveal of Series 5 (aka Series 7) of the Walgreens exclusives from the animated Marvel shows. We're getting a great looking Kang with Ms. Marvel, Carnage with (another) Spider-Man, some kind of Iron Man with a cool-looking lady villain, and The Leader with what appears to be the Hulkbuster armor repainted to look like Hulk - and is that a Bruce Banner figure inside it!? Wearing a Stark logo shirt!? Oh man, this may be one of the coolest Minimates in the line yet!!! I sure hope Leader has an alternate head or something to better justify buying a second set to have both the Hulk armor and Banner figure on display!
They also had a bunch of their new Marvel statues on display. There's a Thanos in the Premiere line that comes with three alternate right hands - regular glove, infinity gauntlet and glove holding the Cosmic Cube! The latter is a fun, fresh, different spin on the ubiquitous alternate hands for the big guy and seems like a really cool idea and fun option. Premiere Cap and Spider-Gwen look fine but the Premiere Iron Man is utterly gorgeous....! A terrific sculpt with a surprisingly unique, awesome metallic finish on the paint subtly unlike any other collectible I've ever seen. If I did statues, I would absolutely get this one! They also had several of the pieces from their Marvel Milestones line, which are surprisingly large statues.
Finally, on the retail side of the booth, was a case full of nothing but Vinimates. I really appreciate the enthusiasm and all-in-ness that DST has for this range, but they just don't do anything for me. My love of Minimates is rooted in the "how many ways can we make the same thing look different" artistic approach (the same drive that powers like Lego minifigs) and the interchangeable nature of the line. So while these fully sculpted versions can look cute, they are basically are the opposite of what draws me to Minimates. Similarly, the big announcement for the show was the DC license, but.... I want DC Minimates, not DC statues, so.... That all said though, I probably will buy the Back to the Future II ones, if I ever see them. Best of luck to DST, and hopefully these will pull through for them and let them start making Pop! amounts of money and open more doors for them in the future.
Super 7 was on hand this year showing off all their new ReAction/5-points-of-articulation figures. The only stuff they were showing in their cases were the items available for sale at the booth, so that's quite an impressive board of fare, but it would have been nice to see some of their upcoming stuff, like the Planet of the Apes ReAction figures they showed off at Toy Fair, or any of their new Masters of the Universe Classics figures. But, I'm sure they just didn't want to "poke the bear" and deal with a bunch of nerds bitching about He-Man. It is nice to see Super 7 branch out from California and New York shows, so that alone gets me a little jazzed that they're looking to grow and expand in to more toy production stuff!
I was very surprised and excited to see Weta was here, and they had a pretty cool booth, too! They were showing off some really cool new statues from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I definitely can't afford statues of this size or pricepoint, but the Saruman and Lurtz statues from Fellowship of the Ring look gorgeous! Weta seems to have conquered their issues with nailing likenesses from their earlier work as these all look spot on!
They also had some statues from the new Ghost in the Shell movie. I haven't seen the film, but these statues look great, and the Scarlet Johansson has a neat translucent-y effect to his body suit that's impossible to photograph but looks/seems pretty accurate/realistic to the effect in the film/trailers.
Weta was selling a ton of stuff, and at a bit of a "con special" markdown, which made them very tempting. I really like their mini environments and posters, but it always comes down to the money versus fandom equation.... They do great work these days, but it's just a step or two out of my price range, and really the only license of theirs I'm into is LotR.... but I'd be lying if I said I didn't REALLY want that mini Smaug!