I have been attending New York Comic-Con for about a decade now, and in recent years as I have been covering the convention for Ben's World of Transformers I kind of fell into a pattern. My focus was on hitting as many panels as possible, live Tweeting and enjoying the communal experience of being in a room full of people who loved the same show, products or events. However, this year I decided to do something a little different and lean a bit of my focus more on the aspect of the convention where you get to meet pop culture celebrities. Sure I have done this in the past, but usually it was one or two here and there. This year I made it a cornerstone of my convention experience.
Guest Signings & Photo Ops
Long before the weekend of New York Comic-Con came I looked up the various guests I wanted to meet. The trick was scheduling a time to meet them while still squeezing in other activities such as showroom floor experiences and panels. This generally means having to sacrifice one or two opportunities for others. In the end, I was very happy with the combination of guests I met.
For the traditional photo ops where you pay up front and have a professional take the photo, I met several guests this way including Nichelle Nichols ("Star Trek"), Billy Dee Williams ("Star Wars"), Amy Acker ("Person of Interest") and Charisma Carpenter ("Angel"). Nichols and Williams were of particular importance to me as given their respective ages, I felt this convention may have been one of the last chances I had to see them. The photo op experience is thrilling as you run up, get in place, take your photo, maybe exchange a word or two but if you really want a minute or so of more personal time, that's what the autograph lines are for!
The other way you can meet guests is autograph lines either at tables in the main showroom or in the autograph area. I did both to get a more complete experience. Being a huge fan of the movie Blade Runner so when I read Sean Young (who played Rachel) would be there I flipped out and made it a point to visit her at her table for both an autograph and photo. By the same token I also did the same at Michael Biehn as I loved him in films like Aliens from my childhood. Both guests were completely different in person than I expected and I mean that in the best way possible. I will always have fond memories of meeting them!
Perhaps my most bittersweet memory of this convention will be my time with Nichelle Nichols at her autograph line. I deliberately went at the end of the day when most of the crowd had thinned out. I made it a point to be the last on her line so I could chat with her for a few minutes. See, years ago I had met Nichols at Creation Conventions in New York City and at another convention in California. I showed her the photos from those conventions including those of her cast mates and Gene Roddenberry. It was emotional for both of us, especially when she revealed to me that her current run of appearances was her "farewell tour". She is such a lovely woman and I walked away from her table with mixed feelings as I realized this would probably be the last time I would ever get to meet her. I am thankful to have had the experience however and it is one I will always treasure.
I went very light on the panels this year, partly due to scheduling conflicts and partly due to my decision to focus on meeting guests. I did however attend a couple panels at the SyFy Wire stage in the showroom which are much smaller than the large scale panels. One panel focused on the Transformers toys coming up in the new year with a preview of the Scorponok figure! Hasbro has been using this panel more and more to hint at a figure coming the following year so it is well worth attending if you are a fan.
The other panel I attended was for the Blade Runner 2019 comic book. I mentioned already that I love the movie, and this comic book is fantastic. The writers of the book were on hand to talk through their thinking process with the title and it was great to hear them talk about it. Later they also autographed books in the showroom!
One of the best parts of New York Comic-Con has always been the amazing cosplay you get to see. Every year the creativity, ingenuity and skill of fans is on display as you see everyone from Spider-Man to Godzilla to Indiana Jones strolling by you on the showroom floor. While I appreciate a cool Batman or Wolverine costume as much as the next guy, my absolute favorite moments are seeing people in costumes of characters that I thought were a bit too niche for anyone to actually cosplay as. To of my absolute favorites this year were a pair of "Dalis" from Money Heist and Emily Kaldwin from the video game Dishonored 2.
I also love any cosplay that puts a new spin on something old. One of my absolute favorites was a couple dressed up as Godzilla and Mothra. However, instead of just wearing Kaiju monster suits, the two were wearing Middle-Age style outfits fashioned after the two legendary Kaiju! The "Godzilla" even had a shield with King Ghidorah's heads mounted on it! Hanging out in the "cosplay alley" in the convention center parking lot is one of my favorite activities and if you go to NYCC, I recommend spending at least a half hour out there to see fans show off their stuff!
New York Comic-Con is not just about buying stuff and meeting guests. You also want to go through some of the experiences set up for fans advertising projects like video games, television shows and movies. This year I went to two primary experiences, both geared towards my love for space-based science fiction.
The first was the Picard experience, promoting the upcoming CBS All Access show that picks up where Star Trek: Nemesis left off in (deep breath) 2002! The experience was set up to look like a section of a Starfleet facility, perhaps a museum with several items on display from the show (including the name tag belonging to Picard's dog, Number One!). Once you got inside the facility you were "beamed" into serveral locations with screens all around you changing what you saw. It was an interesting experience but went so fast I wasn't even sure what had happened by the time I was ushered out. On second thought I really should have tried it a second time.
While brief, another experience was for the new Snowpiercer show, based on the comic book (but not connected to the feature film). The experience was a dramatic display with huge paintings including the Snowpiercer train itself. However, the "experience" part involved getting a bar of food that was labeled with custom Snowpiercer packaging. The connection to the show is that these bars are made from cricket protein powder (Aketta brand specifically) similar to the bars of food made on the Snowpiercer itself that are mostly composed of insects! In case you're curious, these bars do have a rather...interesting flavor. It's very "Earthy" but it has a good chew and a touch of sweetness. It is not a flavor I would actively seek out but it was a cool novelty to check out and an inventive way to promote the show! Before leaving the booth you could snap up a couple cool free prints advertising the show. I appreciated the art on them and the fact that they had freebies outside of cricket bars!
My other experience was at the booth for The Expanse. This show was once on SyFy but moved to Amazon when SyFy cancelled the show. The display was designed to look like the inside of one of the ships from the series and it was brilliant. The grey/silver color palette matched the feel of the show perfectly and I believe the control chairs in the room were right from the set of the show (and yes, we could sit in them!). I also appreciated small touches like having storage containers that looked kind of futuristic lying around and even some fake plants lining some of the kitchen area (a feature of several ships on the show). The outside of the structure had several props from the show on display including a full space suit. I loved how immersive the experience was and best of all we were not rushed at all. This is the type of experience I love and hope to do more of in the future!
This year I also took the chance to do something I do not do enough: walk the showroom floor. No particular goal in mind, no specific line to get on. I just wanted to walk around and experience the energy in the room and enjoy it. Several companies also put up incredibly impressive displays, and they should be appreciated. I love the grandeur and scope of a display like Bandai's, but I also love going into some vintage toy dealer booths to see what they have hidden in the nooks and crannies of their spaces. I also spent some time looking at vintage comic book art on sale (I mean, it is Comic-Con, yeah?) and as someone who grew up with comic books in the 80's to now, I have a deep appreciation for seeing pencils and inks on a page.
New York Comic-Con 2019 was a very different experience for me than the last few years and that was completely intentional. I wanted to experience parts of the convention that I had largely ignored for years. This is one of the joys of the convention: the ability to tailor the experience to your interests. The diverse and exciting amount of activities virtually guarantee you will find something to interest you. I cannot wait for next year!