When it comes to bringing high profile guests who just happen to be many fans’ heroes to a location near you, nobody does it better than ACE Comic Con.
As someone who hasn’t missed a major comic con event in Chicago in four years or so (and who has previously attended New York Comic Con), believe me when I say that ACE Comic Con is truly different from other mainstream conventions.
How exactly is it unique? Well, let me count the ways…
1. San Diego Comic-Con–level names
Though many conventions and entertainment events are slowly broadening their horizons and focusing on more than just comics (in order to attract more attendees), ACE Comic Con’s focus is almost completely on bringing the most in-demand and rarely seen guests to fans around the country.
What their events may lack in programming depth and “show floor” (at least in comparison to other major conventions) they more than make up for in the big names they bring in and the amazing opportunities they afford their attendees. While other conventions are able to attract some pretty great talent from time to time, ACE Comic Con consistently brings in A-List guests who don’t frequent the con circuit.
Don’t believe me?
ACE Comic Con Midwest’s guest roster included Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Lee Pace, and Tom Ellis. Now when was the last time you their names attached to a fan convention that wasn’t San Diego Comic-Con?
2. Small convention crowds
For all of the big-name guests ACE Comic Con is able to book, their events aren’t insane crowd magnets. At least not yet. Hopefully not ever. Though they do attract quite a crowd (I believe 20,000 were said to have attended the event at Navy Pier in Chicago), the show floor is comfortable to walk through.
One of the main reasons why I haven’t returned to New York Comic Con is that large crowds make me anxious and uncomfortable. Shuffling through dense crowds exacerbates my chronic back issues and I can’t stand it when people try to physically move me out of their way. I’m happy to report that I didn’t experience any of this at ACE Comic Con Midwest. The crowd was large enough to feel the excitement in the air but small enough to breathe and move freely.
3. International appeal
While there are always exceptions, conventions that happen in the Chicagoland area generally only attract locals. As a result, I’ve seen the same cosplayers, vendors, and even attendees from one event to another. Not that that’s a bad thing! I love the culture and camaraderie that the local Chicago conventions have created.
But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t exciting to see new faces (and even hear different accents) while doing something I love. I chatted with so many people I’d never seen or met before while walking the floor at ACE Comic Con Midwest and it was really refreshing. The big names on the guest list bring together fans from all over the world that all have the same goal: To meet their bucket list heroes.
4. More photo op variety
Taking one look at Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston’s schedule for ACE Comic Con Midwest made my head spin. In addition to all of the different autograph sessions they had to do, they both had their fair share of photo ops. But unlike other conventions, ACE Comic Con takes advantage of the fact that they have such big names in attendance and try to schedule as many fun and different photo ops as they can.
For instance, Chris Evans not only had single photo ops, but there were also options with him and a shield, him and Tom Hiddleston, and him with the rest of the Infinity War guests. In other words, his dance card was full. And the more ops the guests have scheduled, the more opportunities fans have to get the perfect shot with their heroes.
5. Large panels that are open to everyone (even non-attendees)
Programming can be a really stressful aspect of a convention in that we all know how crazy crowded panels with big names can get. A lot of times, people are lining up hours beforehand just to make it into the room where it happens. While I love listening to my favorite actors and creators talk about the things I love, I’m not about that life. I’m not a fan of spending tons of time in line (partially because my back just can’t handle it).
But that was a complete non-issue at ACE Comic Con Midwest. The entire event took place in one giant space in Navy Pier, meaning that vendors, photo ops, autographs, and panels were all in the same room. There was no waiting in line to be let into a room for a panel. Anyone and everyone was welcome to watch and witness each and every panel. Sure, some planning ahead was necessary if you wanted to sit rather than stand, but nobody had to miss out due to lack of room.
Even better, the big panels were broadcast around the hall so that even those who were stuck in photo op or autograph lines could watch and listen in. I know that’s pretty standard for some conventions, but what isn’t standard is ACE Comic Con recording the panels and making them available for the world to view via Facebook Live as well as on their YouTube channel. I was only able to attend the Saturday of the Chicago event, but I’m excited and really glad that I’m able to go back and watch the Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth panel that I missed on Sunday.
6. Organizers that care
I think one of my favorite things about ACE Comic Con Midwest (aside from finally meeting my personal hero) was the lead up to it. As with most conventions, a Facebook group formed soon after the event announcement. But there was one huge difference between this group and others: Stephen Shamus, the President of ACE Universe, was a member right from the start.
And not only was he a member, but he was an extremely active member, answering any and all questions that he saw (even ones that he had answered a hundred times over). He excelled at making everyone in that group feel like family and like we all had a large stake in the event.
In addition to answering questions in the fan-run Facebook group, the ACE Comic Con team sent out multiple emails ahead of the event that addressed a ton of FAQs. From how photo ops work (for those of us who aren’t veterans with that sort of thing) to general information about the event space, their regular emails made it so that attendees had everything they needed to know about the convention right in their inbox.
Sure, a lot of the information was also available on their website, but ACE Comic Con took the guess work and research out of the equation which was greatly appreciated.
7. Event-specific cosplay
What would a convention be without cosplay? Speaking as someone who enjoys cosplaying, I always love going to conventions to see what cosplayers who are far more talented than I have cooked up. I especially enjoyed the cosplay at ACE Comic Con Midwest because it was all very much up my alley. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Marvel fan and, because of the fact the ACE Comic Con Midwest guest list was Marvel actor-heavy, I was delighted to see that the majority of the cosplay was Marvel-related. I was very much in my element.
Check out some of the best cosplay I saw at ACE Comic Con Midwest. (Maybe it’ll convince you to check out the next ACE Universe event!)