New York Comic Con 2015

Animation, Travel / Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

This past weekend was NYCC 2015, and it did not disappoint. Having been to this convention a number of times, I already knew what to expect in terms of chaos, masses of people, and long wait times, and as such, was determined to avoid all of the above. For the most part, I succeeded, which is a rare thing for anyone who has been to NYCC or any larger comic/pop-culture convention in general. As I tell friends and newcomers to the event, the first rule to have a happy comic con, is to have absolutely no expectations. Don’t expect you will get into that panel with the star studded cast of so-and-so movie and XYZ TV show. Prepare to wait 4 hours in line for this person’s autograph only to have the line cap off right in front of you. And prepare for $5 water.

I haven’t personally experienced any of these things, as I’m not personally interested in the celebrity panels and autographs, plus I bring my own food from the outside. But man, are there horror stories. Perhaps the most frustrating thing, however, about NYCC is getting the damn pass. Sold months in advance, and selling out in hours, tis the stuff of legends nightmares. When the tickets initially go on sale, you are ushered into a virtual queue until you are taken to a very unstable order menu that tends to not have up-to-date info on what pass types are available, and that freezes up while processing your credit card. All the while, assholes are buying up 6 passes at a time and selling a $75 pass for more than $200 on places like stubHub. Why NYCC doesn’t force buyers to register names with passes right from the get-go (and enforce it) I will never know. I was on the queue for 2 hours before I got through, and the 3 days passes were sold out. I snagged two extra passes for friends, while another friend I’d teamed up with got me one earlier when he got through the queue much quicker than I did.

Despite attending nerd conventions for over a decade, I rarely attend the panels, largely due to uninterested travel buddies and my wariness for some of the sub-cultures more irritating fans being stereo-typically disruptive. But after having a great experience at AnimeNEXT last summer, I decided to attempt (remember, kids–no expectations!) to attend a couple that sounded interesting. I wasn’t sure how popular/crowded these would get, but I also didn’t want to sit in lines for too long, so I tried to get to the lines for the panels about 30 minutes early, which served as perfect time to rest, regroup, and eat lunch.

Saturday morning I got there a little after 10am. I dared to have expectations. There were things I wanted to do, dammit! The one physical object I really wanted was a replica print from the manga Naruto, being sold at the Viz Media panel. Last year, by the time I’d gotten through the line, they were sold out. This year, I expected much worse since the comic recently ended and creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was a special guest.

I attempted to get in the Viz Media line twice in the morning, with the line being capped off twice and being told to (unsuccessfully) come back later. I killed time wandering the exhibitors hall and decided to try one more time. I think at that point, the worker at the booth (bless him) pitied me, and let me be the last person in line. The Viz Media booth is mostly a store, but they did feature some of the costumes from the staged musical of Naruto that’s touring Japan. And I got my print! Everything else was sold out, so I was thrilled! And it was only $10!? Naruto, although it wasn’t one of the first manga/anime to get me interested in Japanese sequential art, was one that I truly grew up with, along the same lines has Harry Potter, only on a much smaller scale in terms of national attention. But it was one that got me interested in fanart and learning to poorly color digitally in Photoshop, and in general join a “proper” community.

There were a few booths that never disappoint. Weta Workshop/Digital always has an impressive booth with sculptures and ornate details, and always offers cool merchandise from the films they’ve worked on, most noticeably the filmic adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. Square Enix, popularized by their neverending Final Fantasy and never-coming-out Kingdom Hearts video game series always has the most articulate and, well, badass action figures you have ever seen, while simultaneously also having some of the cutest (seriously, Google image search ‘moogle’ and imagine that as a plushie you can hug and love forever. You’re welcome). Bandai always also has impressive figures, ranging from DragonBall Z to millions of Gundam variations. They had the scouters that a lot of the Saiyans and henchmen wore in the earlier story arcs of DBZ for only $15, but I didn’t want to wait in the massive line.

There are a number of publishing houses that I’m always happy to visit and cry over, such as First SecondImage ComicsAbramsChronicle Books, Oni PressDark Horse ComicsDel Rey, and so, so many more. So many of them sell such high quality art books and graphic novels, and are really helping to make sequential art forms more recognizable globally, while allowing the pool of offerings to be more diverse and inclusive than ever before. I was pretty good this year, and restrained myself from buying everything in sight. And I was even given a free signed copy of scifi novel Ex Heroes after the author, Peter Clines, played a prank on me!

The first panel I attended, “Women in Geek Media,” focused on ways that women and minorities could break in to the professional areas of “geek culture.” The panel featured some very successful women who offered advice and stories about their paths and the challenges they faced to build up their personal brands. Panelists included Alisha Grauso, Jamie Broadnax, Jody Houser, Catrina Denni, Sam Maggs, and Deb Aoki.

The second panel, “Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel,” was named after the upcoming book authored by the panel moderator, Paul Levitz. The panel also featured Eisner friend Denis Kitchen, one of his students and successful graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier, and Spawn creator, Image Comics prez, and toy company owner Todd McFarlane. The book, which comes out mid-Novermber, is a gorgeous coffee table art book. The panel was less about Eisner’s life, and more about his ideals and lasting legacy in popularizing and essentially defining the format/medium of the graphic novel, as well as his influence on artists and the world of comics in general. It was also interesting to learn about him as a teacher during the formative years of my school, SVA in NYC. The book comes out in mid-November, so I was excited to get an autographed copy to read.

In general I had a really lovely time on Saturday. Yes, there were some moments where the crowd got to me, but in general it was well worth it to immerse myself into the extreme side of the nerd spectrum.

As this post is getting a little too lengthy, I’ll elaborate in future posts on both the Women in Geek Media and Will Eisner panels, a review of the Will Eisner book, and hopefully a video of some of the footage I took..probably mixed with some clips from last year too.

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