C2E2 2020: A Weekend In Review
My mind is still sputtering out of control, attempting to wrap itself around all of the amazing moments from C2E2. This con is special to me for so many reasons, and getting to attend again has made me so happy.
C2E2 2017 was my first con outside of St. Louis, my first venture out to experience the community. I have come to know and love some of the most talented cosplayers, dedicated artists, and wonderful nerds that I have ever met. With friends from all over the midwest coming together to share their love of all things nerdy, it has given me memories that will keep me coming back for years to come.
Each year has gotten better as well! They’ve brought me back to so many friends and introduced me to plenty of new ones. A big slice out of this year’s joy cake came as the result of a Critical Role live show. These nerdy ass voice actors playing D&D live on Twitch have kept me captivated for years, and the community they’ve built is one of the most kind and generous I’ve ever known. Becoming Pumat Sol has changed the cosplay game for me, allowing me to give back all the joy I receive from the community.
Critical Role also brought in a massive amount of the Critter community, which is full of some incredible fans. The cast and crew responsible for this show are some of the most wonderful people to ever exist, and they’ve assembled a truly awe-inspiring mass of friends that genuinely care for each other. This culminated in the two group cosplay shoots organized by the brilliant and driven Kayla Martin, who created the C2E2 Critters Facebook group.
We found ourselves asking “How is this real life?” C2E2 set the bar VERY high for the rest of this year’s cons. I am so happy to share these experiences with all of you reading this.
Check out our weekend gallery below. Keep scrolling for our full recap.
This year, C2E2 began on Thursday for many of us. When Critical Role scheduled their live show for the day before C2E2, I immediately changed the hotel reservation to give us one more day. One stressful scramble for tickets later, a whole bunch of my Critter friends were destined to meet up at the Auditorium Theater to watch our favorite D&D players spin us a story.
The train left bright and early Thursday morning. Along with James and Justin from my usual con crew, I traveled with Morgan of the Terrible Trio (@Terrible_Trio_Creations) and the brothers Carr (@CarrBrosProps). With all of the others from St. Louis coming up for the weekend, we inevitably ran into other Critters and friends on the trains. After an excited, sleepless night, my second wind kicked in a couple of hours after taking off from the station. Shortly after noon, we were greeted by the cold temperatures in Chicago.
By the time we got to the Marriott, Hannah and Sarah of the Terrible Trio were waiting to meet us and had already found a place to grab some much-needed lunch. We secured our rooms, unburdened ourselves of our luggage, and headed off to Burger Point. After simple snacks on a 5+ hour train ride, we were all more than ready for a meal. It certainly did not disappoint. In true wastelander fashion, I ordered some spicy wings that set everyone’s mouths on fire with sweet habanero honey mustard. The stuffed burger I had was pretty good, but I probably should have eaten it before I scorched my taste buds.
Then we took advantage of one of the perks of showing up early for a con. We were able to go to Will Call where there was absolutely no line and grab all of our passes. If you’re planning to go to a big con like this and want to go all out, getting that extra night in the hotel is usually worth it. It gives you time to recover from the trip before jumping into the action.
That night held what was probably the biggest night of the con for a whole lot of people. James and I expected to stand in some kind of line, but didn’t not think it would wrap around the building in both directions! Unfortunately, a shortage of security personnel at the doors left many in the cold for hours. Luckily James and I got in pretty quickly, accompanied by our usually body painted friend Christian (@ShadowKillion) who actually chose not to cosplay for the same reasons I did. Hours of body paint to wait in the cold and sit in a dark theater didn’t sound great. I applaud those that did though! I wasn’t able to get any decent photos from the event, but there were some great costumes.
Inside we immediately ran into the decoy Taliesin Jaffe, Lee (@glitter_villain) then the badass St. Louis cosplayer Des (@desireecosplay) and her husband Jeremy. The Trio were already chatting with April (@AprilGloria) dressed in her lovely casual Caduceus outfit and Alex (@AleeStudios) dressed as the hype man of Critical Role, Brian W. Foster. Alex and April are truly wonderful human beings. After meeting them for the first time at last year’s GenCon and sharing our love of this ridiculous show, we were all so excited to be together for this experience.
The cast and crew waited for everyone to get in, and with the Twitch chat going insane finally kicked off the episode. The seats I managed to get were as high as the inside of the theater would go, and reminded me that I am very fortunate to not have a fear of heights. Even with the ceiling cutting off a lot of our view, we still had a great time watching the hilarious and harrowing tales of the Mighty Nein. I won’t give any spoilers for the show, but it certainly had some epic twists and turns.
During the much-needed intermission, we all convened on the first floor of the theater to absolutely gush about the first half. We were also joined by our friend, the bodybuilding cosplayer Joe (@MusclesuitNotNeeded). who made for a great Matt Mercer on Saturday at the photo ops. On my way back up to the seats, I spotted Brian W. Foster himself sneaking past me on the third floor, wearing one of the green cloaks that the entire cast wore out on stage.
The show ended at almost 2am, and damn was it worth it. It was an emotional rollercoaster and I loved every second despite being insanely tired. Needless to say, I slept pretty well that night.
Unlike years past, I was able to fully enjoy Friday of C2E2 without the wear of a 5-hour drive. The day started with a good beating from Mehron body paint to give me the bloodied look of my vault dweller. I’ve been doing this makeup for over a year now, and it’s starting to come together pretty quickly. Since we already had our badges from the day before, we only had to make a quick stop at Will Call to grab some lanyards before heading to the floor.
Of course when you know as many nerds as we do, you can’t even make it into the con without seeing friends. We were immediately greeted by Lyssa J Cosplay, the Carr brothers, and fellow St. Louis photographer Pat Dyer. These few were the first of many friends we encountered throughout the con. The new Clone Wars-era Anakin and Obi Wan costumes that the Carrs wore were enough to get quite a few photographers to stop.
After the initial wave, I had to comment on their lightsabers. The costumes looked good enough to be featured in a live-action Clone Wars movie, but the lightsabers were a last-minute obligation according to them. The popular convention staple Ultrasabers had some issues getting their lightsabers shipped and they were left to resort to the quicker means of Amazon for their Jedi weapons. We stopped by the Ultrasabers booth later that day hoping to get their orders fulfilled but it was unsuccessful.
The first place we had to visit was Cosplay Central. It’s a favored terrain of many cosplayers at C2E2, and an addition Justin and I greatly appreciate. This year, I was happy to see they removed the awful red carpet from that area. When I saw it’s awful I mean for photos, specifically color balancing. The red carpet throughout the con adds a cool layer to their branding but I was not enjoying taking photos on it compared to the well-lit white lobby.
The hub of Cosplay Central was arguably HDC Fabrication. Back in 2017, Justin and I met Tim and Diana (@DianaQuake) near the end of the con while they were walking the floor in their Overwatch costumes. Since Justin’s a big fan of Overwatch and they really like Fallout, we instantly became friends. I’ve been lucky enough to see them at many cons since then and am very happy to call them my friends. This year, however, in the wake of building like crazy to finish an entire set of Mandalorian armor and props from the hit Disney+ show, Tim and Diana ran a booth AND a cosplay repair station with their team.
Friday went pretty smoothly for most of the day. We made a stop at the Blick Art Materials booth to see Steve (@SKSProps) and Scott (@WildKarde) selling HD Foam and showing off their epic foam work. They are also a couple of friends Justin and I made in my first run of the midwest conventions. With the release of HD Foam, they’ve become exponentially more integral to the con community. They’re doing St. Louis proud!
During another stop in Cosplay Central, we met even more friends. One of my OG C2E2 crew, one of the women that introduced me to a whole con community in Raleigh North Carolina, Jenn (@Jenna_Say_What) was brightening the con floor as Greg from Over the Garden Wall. Jenn and I almost immediately spotted the extremely talented Amanda (@JediManda), who was seriously too cute for words as Baby Yoda from the Mandalorian.
We chatted as we were flooded with even more extremely talented cosplay friends either partaking in or attending the cosplay panels behind the HDC booth. Will (@DLCProps) sported his new Star Wars smuggler outfit. Joe wore his epic dark suit Superman suit. The Wulfgar team (@WulfgarWeaponsandProps) James, Kyra, and Morgan rocked some epic Witcher costumes, which prompted a coin toss from me of course! Hannah, Sarah, and I met Natalie (@shiieldmaidencosplay), cosplaying the intimidating and beautiful goth barbarian Yasha to compete in the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay.
The cosplay area is also where we met Adam Savage! He was walking Cosplay Central in his stealth Captain America suit. Cosplayers assembled like Avengers around him to say hi and grab selfies with the Mythbusters legend. Will and I gladly took the opportunity to meet him for a brief moment.
Justin, James, the Trio, and I called it an early day on the con floor in order to get to a nearby restaurant before the dinner rush. After grabbing some coats and our new (but still from St. Louis) friends Sam and Megan, we were off to Chinatown to get hot pot at the Happy Lamb. There we enjoyed a massive amount of deliciously fresh food cooked to perfection in the boiling broth on the table. Many at the table had never had hot pot, and they were delighted by all of the amazing food we shared.
An extremely cold walk back helped settle dinner as we looked to wind down for the evening. The rest of the night consisted of a walk around the convention center and host hotels, a few mixed drink potions provided by Pumat Sol, and construction of some incredible wings for Hannah’s Yasha costume.
This day held a plethora of fond memories. Saturday is the biggest day at any con, seeing the most attendees and events. Saturday at C2E2 when Critical Role is in attendance is a whole other level. I, like many, was unprepared for all that awesome packed into one day.
I had hoped to make it to the Critical Role panel that morning, but I underestimated how long it would take to get ready. The panel was at capacity as I finished up the bodypaint. It took a bit longer than usual because of my inexperience with silicone modeling. I hoped I could use it to smooth out the edges of my nose prosthetic and effectively hide it. Unfortunately, it only drew attention because of its shine.
After finishing up an epic early morning photoshoot with the ridiculously talented Alexandra Lee, the Terrible Trio were back in their room to get Morgan dressed up as Fjord. Sarah dressed as Jester helped me finish up the makeup over my prosthetic and eyes, which I’m sure some Critters would find very amusing. Honestly makes me laugh to think about Jester doing makeup on Pumat. We went down to the floor shortly after the Critical Role panel got started.
To my disappointment, the nose prosthetic didn’t last long. Within about 15 minutes of being at the con, it started to slide down my face. I’m not sure exactly, but I think the combination of all the things I tried to put on it and my rushed pace didn’t let it cure properly so it wasn’t a strong enough hold. I might have set a record for speed walking from the Convention Center to the Marriott. I was extremely fortunate to be in a connecting hotel, because I was able to get back and paint on a Firbolg nose just in time for the first C2E2 Critters meetup of the weekend.
To date, this has been the best massive group photoshoot I’ve been a part of. I reached out to Kayla (@asheneyed), the group’s creator, about helping with the meetups months before the con. When Eddie (@eddiebphotos) joined in, we knew we were in for a great time. With Eddie’s help, we figured out the place and times we could fit two massive groups of Critters together for some epic photos and did just that. In true Chaotic Good fashion, I showed up right as the group was assembling for the first photos.
I was delighted to see Todd Kenreck of D&D Beyond attending to cover the event and talk to some cosplayers. He shot a standup in front of the massive crowd before fading to the rear of the photography line to collect interviews. The love for Pumat was intoxicating as well. I knew several people would be happy to see me, but the entire crowd of costumed Critters cheered as I stepped out to greet everyone. I have to thank Kirsten from ChicagoConPics for taking over on my camera while I jumped in for a few pictures.
Eddie and I worked in tandem to capture everything while Kayla called the shots. It came to us so quickly and effortlessly, you’d have thought we had been doing this together for years. As you can see from Eddie’s photos and mine, the result of this endeavor was breathtaking. After the massive group shots wrapped up, we all took some time to talk to our fellow Critters and friends from all over. We met up with our St. Louis friend Kat, who provided me with some joyful photos in her Fjord cosplay. I also met a few familiar faces from previous Critical Role meetups including Steph (@m42sc) who coordinated a huge one at Dragon Con.
After meeting for a selfie with Todd Kenreck, the Terrible Trio and I left to hunt for some refreshment. We didn’t make it very far before they realized they had a photo op with Adam Savage and an autograph session with Travis Willingham to attend. I split off to meet Justin over at the HDC booth hoping to get some footage of Tim in his Mando armor. There we met and got shots of the extremely talented Xephyr Studios and Egg Sisters, who were showing off some costumes that were nothing short of spectacular. Xephyr went on to win second place overall in the Crown Championship of Cosplay later on that afternoon.
While Hannah and Sarah went through the line to meet Travis, Morgan and I went back to the Marriott for a much-needed break. My head just doesn’t like being covered; it runs way too hot. Getting out of the wig for even a few minutes is fantastic. Snacks helped too, which was the main reason why we went back. With the group photo op with the cast of Critical Role approaching quickly, we packed my bag with more snacks and Morgan carried Hannah’s wings for Yasha down to the convention center to meet up with the girls.
It was a long walk for Morgan carrying the nearly 50lbs of metal down to the Yard, where Hannah and Sarah were resting with Sam and Megan. I was delighted to see Sam in her impressive Queen Amidala cosplay, which won best needlework at the Crown Championships later that afternoon. We spent a few minutes together reviving ourselves with snacks and water before parting ways. The Trio and I were in for an experience that shook us all to our cores.
Once in line for the Critical Role cast photo op, we spotted Joe again who was dressed as Matt Mercer. We made friends with the other Critters in line who commented on our costumes, but before long we were beyond the curtain to meet the cast. As we were ushered into the photo room, Matt Mercer turned to look at us and we made eye contact. The glint of recognition in his eye struck me and he pointed to yell “Pumat!” The creator himself has the same reaction to my rendition of the character as every fan, which made me so happy.
As we walked in for our turn, the entire cast was as struck by us as we were by them. Their faces lit up and gasps filled the room as Hannah extended Yasha’s wings and positioned herself behind the group. As Morgan and Sarah followed her, I took the other side of the group to meet Laura Bailey face to face. Her face lit up just like it does in their shows whenever the characters meet Pumat Sol. My heart filled right up to the brim as she and Brian W. Foster complimented my cosplay.
I got several laughs and smiles from the majority of the cast as I spoke in Pumat’s voice. Matt giggled gleefully with Liam O’Brien before responding in his Pumat voice. As soon as the photo was taken, Matt jumped out to shake my hand. I started to tell him about my Pumat photo from Alexandra Lee that he liked on Twitter, which he remembered! The initial recognition I saw on him when I walked in was for more than just the character. I seriously could not stop smiling on the way out to pick up our photos.
The Trio and I reveled over the overwhelming experience and amazing photos we received. The cast of Critical Role has given us so much joy with this show, so we were ecstatic to return the joy to them by bringing their characters to life in costume. We waited in the photo pick up area with countless other Critters who were also riding adrenaline from the experience. There I met Cathy, sister of my fellow ReviewSTL reporter Dan, and her fiance Josh. They were riding high on excitement after meeting the cast as well. After a few photos and chats with other friends, we all made the walk to Cosplay Central to meet up with a couple of our best friends, Lauren and Ethan (@ThousandFacesCosplay).
With these two lovable goofs in tow, we all retreated to the Marriott for dinner. I went up to my room to change into street clothes and clean off my body paint before joining them in the Trio’s room for a delivery dinner and card games. Here’s a quick game review in the middle of a con recap: Red Flags is a hilariously awesome game. For those that aren’t familiar, this is a judging game in the same vein as Cards Against Humanity. One player is set up on dates by all the other players. Then one by one, each date is potentially ruined by a Red Flag card. It’s a whole lot of fun with the right people and had us rolling with laughter.
By the time Lauren and Ethan decided to return to their hotel, the Trio were ready for sleep. I still had plenty of Pumat’s potions left, so I needed to take care of that. We said our good nights and goodbyes, then I went back up to my room to reload. The Hyatt lobby was the hot spot for all of the night con people. Several times through the weekend, Saturday night was referred to Chicago Dragon Con, where people attended a variety of after-parties. It felt like that nickname wasn’t too far off, because a lot of familiar faces were in attendance.
Honestly, there are too many to name them all. Suffice to say that almost everyone I’ve met over the course of the weekend was at the Hyatt lobby at some point and everyone was looking to have a great time, make new friends, and celebrate the amazing con we were experiencing. Here is where I once again met the brilliant IT Crowd cosplayers (@unofficialmossandroy), who I’ve seen at each Dragon Con I’ve attended.
Following up on a conversation earlier in the day, I found that Diana and Tim were looking into expanding their offerings with a relief area. C2E2 has been expanding yearly, and with more people come more potential problems. Their booth had been swamped with people needing help with their cosplay misfortunes. The HDC team did a stellar job all weekend, but they want to do more and I want to help.
GenCon, which is possibly the biggest con I’ve been to, has a quiet room to offer aid to anyone in need. It’s a quiet place to rest, get some pain relief or a cough drop, and recharge when someone gets overwhelmed. Tim and Diana want to support the cosplayers that can’t just retreat to one of the host hotels or make it all the way down to the First Aid station. I was immediately interested in this idea and would like to help it come to life and bring some more support to C2E2.
With so many friends in one place, it was a long Saturday night. James returned to the room about 3am, while Justin and I finally found our beds at nearly 5… Chicago Dragon Con indeed!
Dragon Con usually brings a hangover or two, so did Sunday morning of C2E2. After sleeping in as long as possible, we checked out of the hotel and went back to the convention center for one more round. The day was mostly for goodbyes and shopping, but I still had two important things to do that afternoon.
The first quest for the day was the second Critical Role meetup, right in front of the big C2E2 sign in the lobby. It wasn’t quite as many as Saturday, but the Critters still showed up in force! Dozens of impressive costumes lined up one more time to celebrate their love for this show. Kayla, Eddie, and I once again orchestrated a chaotic whirlwind of nerdy awesomeness. Alex found enough time in her shooting schedule to join us in the action too! The entire lobby was shaken by the epic performance of the Critical Role theme song by the Critters in attendance. I have to think some new Critters were born that day.
As the group parted and we said goodbyes, we returned to the floor to visit the Yard again. This addition to C2E2 was most welcome for us beer lovers. Revolution Brewing has sponsored C2E2 for a few years, and they certainly brought a party with them this year. The Yard featured a beer booth, wine booth, lots of tables and space to sit, several yard games, and a stage providing entertainment all day. It was a great center-floor meeting point whenever we wanted to regroup.
After taking a brief walk around the floor to do a bit of shopping, I met with Morgan and Kat (who was in a groovy Wild Mother costume) over near the photo op area to wait for my meeting with Robert Sheehan. Any fans of the Umbrella Academy show on Netflix would recognize him as Klaus Hargreeves, Number Four. I had first seen Robert in the Misfits, where he played my favorite character Nathan. This guy’s performances have made me laugh so many times that I had to meet him.
When I started playing D&D with the Terrible Trio, I made a character named Randall Flynn. He is a charismatic Irish sailor with a troubled past, whose personality is basically a mashup of Lando Calrissian and Klaus Hargreeves. I didn’t get around to telling him about the D&D character I based on him, but damn did we make everyone in that photo room laugh their asses off! I spoke in the Irish accent I used to voice Randall the entire time. I could tell Robert was having a great time, spending a moment talking to each person that came through, complimenting them, making them laugh, enjoying the brief connections.
The time came for my photo, and I stepped up to shake his hand. I had thought about what I wanted to do for the photo and what he would be willing to do. From everything I had seen in his interviews and characters, he would certainly be in for something fun. I leaned in and asked if he wanted a piggy back ride. His face lit up with an “Absolutely!” and he didn’t hesitate to jump up on my back. The photo that resulted had everyone in the room including me roaring with laughter. Afterward, Robert had to ask me where I was from because I’d been using the Irish accent. I guess it wasn’t too bad! Hey, maybe I should give voice acting a shot.
With Morgan still very much affected by the night before, we decided to call it a con complete after my photo op wrapped up. James, Morgan, and I returned to the Marriott to retrieve our checked bags, said goodbye to Hannah and Sarah as they left for the airport, then made our way back to the Amtrak station. We got onto the train and all took a few hours of sleep on the long trip home.
The con was over. I was tired and had a headache, but couldn’t stop smiling thinking about all of the incredible experiences I had just shared with friends new and old. I love C2E2, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s not going to stop growing any time soon, and I am absolutely going to be there again next year.