Event Review: New York Comic-Con 2013
In recent years, the Comic-Con phenomena has gone beyond the realm of Geeks and Nerds (pick the term you prefer). News outlets from traditional genre sites to mass media now offer Comic-Con coverage, and with that comes a growing audience and recognition that if you're into Geek Culture at all, this is the place you want to be! For a variety of reasons, I am unable to make San Diego Comic-Con (the mecca of all the Comic-Cons by today's standards) but I am able to make New York Comic-Con, which has steadily grown in recent years into a four day media event that is a Geeky force to be reckoned with!
Let me start with a story that will tell you what's wonderful about an event such as this. Following the awesome "Defiance" television show panel, it was announced there would be a "pop up" autograph session. I ran to the autograph room and desperately tried to find out where I had to line up. No one knew. From volunteer to volunteer, there were a lot of wide eyed stares as I mentioned a "Defiance" panel. It wasn't their fault mind you, they simply hadn't been told yet.
Soon, a group of fans and I wound up in a line where we thought we should be...until we found out the line of about twenty people about twenty feet behind us was the "real" line. We went over quite frustrated. At first the two groups were frustrated, but within moments, we all settled down and worked out a system where we would let every other person from the two "front of the line" groups go. Then we spent twenty minutes gushing over why we loved the show and who we loved most.
That cameraderie and sense of belonging is not something you experience every day. However, once you are in the halls of the Javitz Center it suddenly becomes the most natural thing in the world to respect your fellow fans and geek out about shows, comics, toys etc. without even knowing each other's names. This is part of the wonder that is Comic-Con. So what is there to Comic-Con? Well there's...
Cosplay is a huge, and essential component of this show. People come in costumes raning from home made, to "mass produced" to custom suits that cost thousands of dollars. Everything gets represented here, from super popular subject matter such as Batman and Star Wars to less well known series such as the comic book "Saga". Among my favorites are mash ups such as the "Sailor Stormtroopers" (seen below). The cosplay provides constant eye candy and it amazes me the absolute dedication and ingenuity that goes into the design of these costumes. There are even "celebrity" cosplayers there such as Yaya Han (most recently featured on "Heroes of Cosplay") and Stella Chuu (a local cosplay model and burlesque dancer) who host after parties and sell signed prints.
Books and artists
Of course, that's not all. Publishing houses (including Tor Books), Marvel and smaller publishers like First Second Books are all in attendance, selling books and offering autographing opportunities with writers and artists. I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite artists, Paul Pope and get his autograph. He was super nice and even gave me a complimentary signed print!
Comics (of course!)
Now let's remember, this is "Comic"-Con, so comic books aren't just sold in the dealer's room, they're also celebrated in "Artist Alley". Here, a virtual army of writers and artists are lined up in a gigantic room where they offer to sell prints, draw art commissions and provide autographs. My friend when she saw Peter S. Beagle of "The Last Unicorn" fame while I had a lovely conversation with Eisner Award winning artist Ramona Fradon. I purchased one of her sketches, a Wonder woman (partial image to the right) that I intend to have inked and colored soon. This isn't just for big time artists, smaller, Indie comic book artists and writers set up shop here as well. It's a wonderful celebration of comic books as an art form.
Several video game companies were out in force, advertising upcoming games and letting fans play current games at one of several kioks set up throughout the floor. Nintendo had a huge presence this year, pushing the WiiU and various games. I personally sat through the "Watchdogs" presentation which got me more excited for the game than I already was!
This is a big part of the convention. Panels range from smaller "workshop" style sessions with writers and artists all the way to gigantic productions focusing on popular shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "The X-Files". I attended two panels, one for the awesome SyFy show "Defiance" and a recently launched show "Sleepy Hollow". Each panel featured folks who work on the shows both in front of and behind the cameras. Panels are generally moderated for the first half and then the floor is opened for Q&A. It's a good format with a steady flow that never gets boring. It's great to hear insights about shows I enjoy right from the folks working on it. Afterwards there were autograph panels as well, which is a nice chance for fans to meet the actors. The only downside is that at times you have to either leave the panel early or skip it altogether if you hope to get on the line at a respectable place (or before it's closed down).
Comic-Con does not seek to define the term "celebrity" in any particular way. They understand that people come to the convention for a diverse set of reasons. One man's celebrity is another man's stranger. The celebrities offering autographs and photo ops (at a price) ranged from former-professional wrestlers to former television actors to giants of scifi such as Patrick Stewart. One of my main goals was to meet Bruce Boxleitner (aka "Tron" and Captain Sheridan from "Babylon 5"). He was super nice and I turned into a little kid again meeting him and talking to him for a couple minutes. I wore out my VHS copy of "Tron" as a kid (which made him signing the cover of my "Tron" DVD more meaningful).
It takes a bit of fortitude to get through the convention (bring water, bring food with you and if you have it, a back up battery for your phone), however the organizers have taken steps to make it a more comfortable experience. This includes more "landing zones", open spaces where you can rest out of the way or just get out of the way of others as they plow through the dealer's room. Many vendors also offered charging stations for phones, basically creating a "captive" audience which is a fair trade off in my book. The food vendors have also increased the diversity of their offerings ranging from Chinese take-out style food to BBQ and even a Kosher deli. It's not just hot dogs and popcorn anymore!
Overall, Comic-Con is an amazing experience that anyone who is into mass media and entertainment will enjoy. I'm really looking forward to next year!