Stewart R: Just over a week ago I was some 3400 miles away from my hometown, living the comic con lifestyle along with thousands of others at New York Comic Con 2013. The excitement now a pleasant and fond memory and the jet lag having ebbed from my bones and brain days ago, it’s now time to take a little retrospective look at this year’s event, how it compared to my previous year’s experience and some thoughts on related bits and pieces.
1. Individual Thursday tickets make for a very busy NYCC.
One of the things I had been looking forward to most was the comparatively sedate start to proceedings that I’d experienced back on the opening day in 2012 when queues for exclusives were still long and winding yet the floor was still a flowing and accessible place and Artist Alley was an idyl of calm conversation and relaxation. Even getting into the Javits that day had been a simple affair, the only small stress coming from not knowing where we had to go to pick our tickets up and being sent to two different, queue-less doors.
2013 was evidently the year that everything changed for Thursdays. The sale of individual day tickets and lure of grabbing exclusive items, early sketch slots with artists and chats with favourite creators meant the Thursday was as jam-packed as the Friday or Saturday. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else, but I certainly seemed to notice a slight level of grouchiness seep into some of the talent by the Saturday afternoon as the unending lines for signatures probably took their toll (networking and late night partying being taken into consideration too). I personally could have done without the hour long wait to get in and knowing now how that panned out and being an international ticket buyer with no choice but to collect tickets on the day I can envisage having to queue for anywhere up to 5 hours before doors open in order to secure any sketches on opening day in the future. One solution: allowing people to pick up tickets the afternoon/evening of the day before, especially now that the tap in/out system seems to be staying!
|Big, bold and beautiful, but a WiFi nightmare?|
2. Data or WiFi access is a NYCC must have!
I failed tremendously in my preparations for my NY trip and if I’d pulled my finger out I would have unlocked my phone and purchased a US SIM with 3G data so that I could have kept better track of Twitter and other con updates in real time (or over a diner breakfast). I missed the appearances and signings of several writers and artists - including Alex Di Campi - simply because they were exclusive to certain stalls on the main floor and didn’t seem to appear in the programme or on the NYCC app. I purchased WiFi access from the Javits own supply for live tweeting from panels, but at $5 an hour it’s not the most reliable method for the money paid out, the Javits being huge with many black spots that will leave you walking around like some sort of internet prospector complete with electronic divining rod at various moments.
3. You will always, ALWAYS find someone you’d forgotten about or weren’t expecting at NYCC.
This year it was Nathan Fox signing the yet to be released Dogs Of War graphic novel at the School of Visual Arts stall, Herb Trimpe sat sketching and signing on the main floor at the Desert Wind Comics and Collectables stall and X-Men Legacy cover artist (as well as main artist on the forthcoming Elektra series) Mike Del Mundo who I’d missed on the Artist Alley listing initially.
4. You will never, ever see everything and everyone you want to see at NYCC.
The data issues aside, the sheer scale of the event means that over four days you could plan to catch a quick chat with one of your comic book creating heroes, say Joe Madureira for example, and then realise that every potential opportunity to do so will clash with that all important panel at the exact opposite end to the exhibition. I never turned up to Joe MAD!’s table while he was present. I had to make a difficult choice between seeing William Shatner’s Q&A panel or go to the Superior Spider-Man and Friends panel, Captain Kirk losing out to a guaranteed seat in front of Dan Slott and Co. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully didn’t even get a look in as I couldn’t face the hundred plus minutes I assumed I would have to wait for one photo opportunity. I heard wrestling legend ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan hollering with dozens of fans from the aisle next door to me - far away from his signing table - but simple curiosity couldn’t drag me away from a deep, last minute comic hunt late on the Sunday afternoon for fear of losing out on that one issue of G.I. Joe I was searching for.
5. Some of the best panels are those dedicated to Creator-Owned projects.
Last year’s surprise panel hit belonged to Image with Bryan K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples talking candidly about indie hit Saga while Brian Wood and Ming Doyle got to promote their then upcoming collaboration on Mara. This year seemed to take things a step further with dedicated panels set aside for the likes of East Of West, Lazarus and Chew amongst others, wher, the creative teams could talk at length about the series’ creative process, upcoming surprises and offer up interesting insights into friendships and personal views and opinions. Certainly Greg Rucka going slightly off topic when discussing his aims with Lazarus was interesting, amusing and kept the reasonably well-attended panel transfixed as he expressed his disdain for the way that the Big Two operate currently as well as the growing hipster trend. Certainly the hour spent in the Lazarus panel one of my top three highlights of the con right there.
6. Big publishers need to stop thinking that everyone on their books needs to be a panelist.
I went to one big DC panel and two Marvel ‘reveal’ panels over the weekend and each and every time there would be at least two people sat at the table who would have nothing to say and were quite unlikely to field any significant audience questions. In the DC All Access panel I’d swear that Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs could have gotten up and walked off after Lil Gotham was mentioned in the first five minutes as there was little else to concern them for the remaining 55 minutes. The Avengers panel for Marvel was a little more rounded with pretty much everyone getting to say a fair bit about upcoming projects and fielding questions, but the Superior Spider-Man & Friends felt panelist heavy with no less than four editors in attendance amongst the handful of writers and artists. Humberto Ramos had little to say - or couldn’t answer the probing questions seeking spoiler info - and Superior Foes Of Spider-Man writer Nick Spencer got less microphone time than some of the editors. Admittedly with the animated Dan Slott and enthusiastic Kelly Sue Deconnick in the room there may not always be a chance to get a word in, but still, panelists are not prizes or table pieces to be wheeled out for show when the guests arrive! It must be said that the panels for BOOM!, Image and Avatar that I attended seemed to coax all of their participants into conversation and question answering far easier than the Big Two managed with their guests.
|NYCC 2013's cosplay fashion item of choice|
7. There was less Adventure Time and more Attack on Titan walking the aisles in 2013.
In 2012 the fashion items to be seen with (apparently) was the white bear hat and blue t-shirt that instantly made you look like Finn (or Fionna) from Adventure Time. You’d be lucky if you walked more than 20 feet without seeing another one. This year it appeared the trend was to fear the 20 foot tall monster instead by dressing up as members of the Recon Corps from manga hit and darn decent anime series Attack On Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). There were dozens of authentic looking tunics, many proud salute poses to be seen - a clenched fist across the heart is the order of the day - not to mention homemade Vertical Maneuvering Equipment as well as the occasional Titan cosplayer too!
|Vertical Maneuver Equipment - the future of navigating comic cons?|
8. You will always, ALWAYS find a bargain at NYCC.
I already mentioned in my Day Four review that I picked up G.I.JOE Yearbook #3 for $3, but on top of that I managed to walk away with three graphic novels and trade paperbacks for $5 each - that’s less than a tenner total in UK money! The three in question were Derek Kirk Kim’s Tune Book 1, Dogs Of War by Johnny Zito, Tony Trov and Christian Wieser as well as a 350+ page Transformers Classic UK collection.
|Temptation lurks in every box and on every table...|
9. Worrying about going over your luggage weight limit on the way home is less of an issue than you might initially think.
I was worried last year. I packed more clothes than I needed for a 6 night trip and bought plenty of $0.50 and $1 dollar comics at the 2012 con to have me concerned about the return trip through bag check at Newark. My worrying was proved pointless coming in 2kg under the limit. This year I packed even lighter knowing that temptation would potentially get the better of me and had a whopping 13kg of room to play with. A couple of handfuls of graphic novels and cheap comics a few days later and the slight nudge of fear was back again. Were my terrific bargains and savings going to be wiped out by a £30 airline fine? Not a ruddy chance. I’d only added about 7kg of purchases to my hold luggage and could clearly have bought more, except of course…
10. Worrying about getting prints home across the Atlantic is more of a concern!
I couldn’t help it. It had to be done. Honest. That Sean Murphy black and white Back To The Future print was just too good to pass up! And the stiff plastic covering for an extra couple of bucks was worth it and made it easier to pack flat and protected in my case…
But then when you’ve already got the print buying bug…
I managed to catch sight of the Chasing Artwork stall - you can visit his website here - whilst looking for a specific small press booth and found myself checking out all of the amazing prints that Justin Currie has come up with. So impressed was I with his mix of comic book, video game and anime print work that I had to drag Dan H over to see his wares later and we quickly deduced that we liked enough of the different pieces to make quite a saving in bringing them back to the UK with us. I wound up with the four pictures above and they will look great framed, however I hadn’t properly thought about just how I was going to bring them back in a case filled with poster-smashing graphic novels and power adapters. The trick? Roll them quite tightly and pack the inside of the created tube with worn socks with one on the outside as extra covering! Top Convention travel tip there ladies and gents, perhaps you’ll get use of it at NYCC next year!
11. New York will throw pleasant surprises at you when you really least expect it... like an Amazing Spider-Man 2 reshoot a stone's throw from your hotel!
12. Comic Book, Film, Video Game & Anime fans and Con attendants in general are a darn friendly and fun bunch of people as this video from Dan H clearly shows!