You know how you can tell when a pop culture gathering is getting big? The organizers can quietly slip two days of autograph sessions with Val Kilmer into the schedule, and it goes unnoticed. And that, indeed, is where the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, now in its third year (Friday-Sunday at McCormick Place), has found itself. Started in 2010 by the pop culture division of massive event organizer Reed Exhibitions, C2E2 drew more than 30,000 attendees last year, and so far, according to convention manager Lance Fensterman, ticket sales have been about 45 percent ahead of 2011. Also, last year exhibitors -- comic book publishers (DC, Marvel, et al), toy companies, cartoonists, etc. -- bought about 30,000 square feet of space; this year, they've bought roughly 60,000 square feet. Fensterman, whose company also produces New York Comic Con and official, George Lucas-sanctioned ¿Star Wars¿ conventions, said the third year is pivotal for C2E2, the year when, if everything goes as planned, it moves from a novelty to a local tradition. There have been stumbles -- namely, well, the name, C2E2, has been vague, a mystery to Chicagoans who don't normally attend comic book conventions, he said. On the plus side, nerd culture -- iPads, superhero movies, "Game of Thrones" -- is the culture now. Don't forget to say hey to Val.
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