Contributing Authors: Aaron Cynic, Antal Bokor, Julian Ramirez and Pearl Shin.
Our team of nerdy writers and photographers have an extremely good work ethic, and as soon as doors opened on the 11th annual C2E2, they were off to the races, taking in everything available to congoers on the floor and in the panel rooms.
Friday’s panels were full of amazing things to learn, great ideas on how to amplify the right voices, and thoughts on how to encourage diversity and fight fascism while also teaching people more about the things they love, whether that’s wrestling, anime, Star Trek or D&D (among many, many other things)
In the Cards Against Humanity Theater, we were on hand for a show with locals Improvised Jane Austen. We originally saw them at the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival, and found their comedic timing impeccable enough to overcome even a prejudice against the source material. The same could easily be said today, with the cast creating a lively, silly atmosphere just perfect for the beginning of a convention weekend.
From there, we checked in to Queering Comics, where we found one of the strongest senses of community at the con. Both panelists and attendees were thoughtful, respectful and insightful, as they discussed how they felt as young comic fans looking for representation, and with panelists giving a great backing timeline of the evolution of LGBTQIA+ comics from the underground scene that developed as a result of underrepresentation and problematic guidelines, and touched on community struggles, including being tokenized and having to struggle to get a seat at the table alongside other creators, and the importance of using your voice to amplify the message of other creators in the space.
Also on site was a large presence from the AEW. All Elite Wrestling has been lighting up Wednesday nights with their weekly wrestling show Dynamite on TNT and the turn out to their Main Stage panel truly shows just how far they’ve come. The group got its start right here in Illinois after a now notorious tweet doubled the draw of an indie show to become a 10000 seat show. All In, which took place in Rosemont, did just that and was the spark that eventually lead to AEW become a full fledged wrestling promotion. The panel featured broadcaster extraordinaire Excalibur, revolutionary tag team Nick and Matt Jackson, and the incomparable Cody Rhodes. These four mainstays eschewed kayfabe (the wrestling world reality) for a more honest conversation, joking about how matches are booked, backstage antics like AEW owner Tony Kahn’s candy eating habits, Chuck Taylor’s huge desire to say the s-word (shit) on TNT, and just generally delighting in their new found success.
Also delighting in their success and their avid fan base was the cast of RWBY. It’s always a treat when the Rooster Teeth gang make their way to Chicago and especially when it’s the RWBY crew. The fun web show follows Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang through their journey in the world of Remnant takes all the best cues from anime and has been delivering a great experience from the get go. While the Texas based studio may have had some down moments the past year, in their animation department especially, but guests were able to ask Barbara Dunkleman, Kara Eberle, Arryn Zech, and Miles Luna some fun questions in the Q&A heavy panel.
“You gave us a special gift of association with this extraordinary show which today is still going strong,” said Takei. “A franchise 54 years old and still adding new children.”
Takei talked about the origins of the show and its relation to the turbulence of the 1960’s, and drew parallels between the struggles like the civil rights movement and the movement to end the Vietnam War and the current struggles people face today.
“Star Trek came on with the message of hope for the future,” Takei told the crowd. “It’s said the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for starship Earth, and the strength of the starship lay in its diversity all the different parts coming together and working as a team. That was the strength of the Starship Enterprise. It was an important message at a time like that.”
Takei has been both an actor and an activist throughout his storied career, and there’s always been an inexorable link between the Star Trek franchise and social justice. Takei, who was imprisoned in an internment camp with his family as a child during World War II, discussed his role in the musical Allegiance, which is based on his own experiences and research. Takei also talked about the long standing relationships he’s maintained with his fellow cast members, particularly the late Leonard Nimoy, who passed away five years ago Thursday.
“The wonderful thing about Star Trek is that these work colleagues became lifelong friends and literally for their entire lives–some of my colleagues have been my friends,” said Takei.
Calling him his “political soulmate,” Takei said that he and the actor who played Spock often discussed politics, and told a story about how even though he was extremely ill, Nimoy came out to support Takei for a documentary about his marriage. Takei also memorialized other Trek actors who have passed.
“The passage of time is full of wonderful memories but at the same time there’s loss,” he said. “But they’ve left a great legacy and we’re very grateful for that. And I’m very grateful to all of you.”
Takei also celebrated the franchise’s fan base, which now spans generations.
“Star Trek fans are like tribbles – they reproduce themselves over and over again and many you are the next generation, and the next generation is bringing your own little tribbles here,” he said. Closing out his remarks before a Q&A session with audience members, Takei dropped what seemed to be a hopeful hint about the possibility of future Trek projects. “Star Trek is always hopeful and I share that hope,” he said. “Who knows, there might be another Star Trek film with other interesting cameo roles.
Later in the evening, Chicago’s largest anime club AnimeChicago, gave a rundown of how to navigate the Windy City’s anime scene. The panelists shared the organization’s five goals: to watch anime, celebrate fandom, shop local, explore cuisine, and to experience Japanese culture in Chicago. In addition to obvious ways to stay connected with the community, like through social media or streaming shows on platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, and VRV, the speakers also shared how people can get involved in other ways. They recommended going to screenings of new or popular films, such as Promare, Your Name, and Tokyo Godfathers, at venues like the Music Box Theatre and attending local conventions, such as established ones like Anime Central or up and coming ones like Anime Magic. They also suggested looking into joining local anime clubs and exploring restaurants around the city like Kizuki Ramen, which hosts their own occasional anime viewing nights. With 1,902 members and counting, the organization hopes to continue sharing the hidden gems of the Chicago anime scene and help the community grow in number.
All told, Friday’s panel lineup was amazing, and we’re surprised we even got out on the floor to catch all the amazing cosplay along with it. Look out for us on the floor and in the panel rooms today, and in case you missed it, here’s a link to our cosplay gallery from Friday at C2E2 2020.