C2E2 is Comic-Con, Chicago-style with beer, tattooing and celeb chefs

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Werewolves, Wookiees, Orcs and Klingons abound at pop culture expos and major comic book conventions but one truly rare beast is innovation – the names and faces of guests change but at most shows the standard Q&A panel and autograph table line-up are the numbing rule of thumb.

The limited thinking at most cons makes it heartening to hear about some of the offbeat concepts at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which kicked off today at McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America. We caught up with Lance Fensterman, the global vice president at ReedPOP, to talk about some highlights of C2E2, including less-traditional activities his company has brought to the expo on the shore of Lake Michigan.

This looks like a job for Supperman

C2E2 serves up an offbeat fan experience tonight as Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard creates a menu with superhero theme at her hotspot restaurant The Little Goat. Fans will be seated side-by-side with notable names such as Tron title star Bruce Boxleitner; Lost and Babylon 5 cast member Mira Furlan and 100 Bullets writer Brian Azzarello.

“We hope C2E2 is about creativity, art, entertainment of all different varieties — and the culinary arts fit neatly into that universe,” Fensterman said. “A chef staring at an empty plate is not dramatically different from an artist starting at an empty page. This is what we explore with our Food & Comics series and the dinner at The Little Goat.”

Laugh it up, Joker

Comedy Mutant offers free yuks for C2E2 fans with stand-up routines by Brian Posehn, Myq Kaplan and Mike Drucker. On that same stage there’s also a Kevin Smith slot (he would make a joke if he heard we called it that) and stage time reserved too for Patton Oswalt, who has been feeling the Force lately.

“Patton Oswalt is my hero,” Fensterman said. “His ‘At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas with a Shovel’ bit from a few years ago sealed his geek cred and his Parks and Recreation improvised monologue put him in the geek hall of fame. I’m going to ask him to marry me this weekend.” Oswalt will also bring spiffy exclusive posters (shown above) to sign for fans and he will answer audience questions as long as they are delivered with Yoda syntax.

Get Your Game On, Part 1

Fans are the ones asking the questions during an hour-long session with Game of Thrones costars James Cosmo and Natalie Dormer. Okay, wait, that doesn’t seem that revolutionary. Why is it on this list? “Um, it’s Game of Thrones,” Fensterman said. “What more is there to say? This panel is going to be the hit of C2E2.”

Inkers without Pencillers

The Ink-Fusion Tattoo Pavilion brings top tattoo artists together with the soft, warm canvas of humanity. This is the place to get Godzilla on your gullet or a ninja Fozzie Bear on your flank. Tonight, C2E2 also features a panel about the art of tattooing with artists Clint Cummings, Sarah Miller and T.J. Halvorsen from Spike TV’s Ink Masters.

Get Your Game on, Part 2

More than 200 costumes from The Hunger Games franchise will be on display all weekend and will be auctioned off live during the tour’s final stop this October at C2E2′s sister event, New York Comic Con. It would be a bigger surprise if the convention had bidders fight each other in an arena to win the items, but Fensterman seemed oddly disinterested in that idea. “Look but don’t touch is the mantra for this fan experience,” Fensterman said. “C2E2 is about giving fans a look behind the curtain at how their favorite nuggets of pop culture goodness get made.”

In space no one can hear you burp

Every night after doors close at C2E2, fans can go to the Wikia Bar at the Hyatt to download some booze. “We’ll be serving our C2E2 exclusive beer Galaxy Hero on tap that we brewed up just for the con with local craft brewers Revolution Brewing.” Beer, tattoos, Game of Thrones — hey, this is starting to sound dangerous.

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