Stewart R: Thursday at New York Comic Con 2012 was an exciting affair, being my first day at the extravaganza ever and wowing me with the sense of epic scale that the Javits Center offers, yet easing myself into the experience with the reduced attendance that the 4-day ticket allowed. There was little in the way of queues when it came to picking up tickets - being an International order you have to pick up tickets at the event on the day - and once through the security check it was easy to walk on in and get involved. The day was open primarily to exhibitors, press, VIPs and a reasonable amount of eager Thursday ticket holders, so navigating one end of the main hall to the other was relatively easy.
Something has definitely changed this year and I suspect that while my shift in expectation may be a factor, the fact that clearly more Thursday/4-day tickets were available meant that accessing the Javits Center was a little more protracted and problematic compared to last year and certainly, once inside, getting around certain areas was something of a headache. Upon arriving at about 3.30 in the afternoon - half an hour after doors opened and the very same time I arrived last year - myself and Dan H were greeted by a very long queue of people, all with their badges, snaking along the sidewalk in front of the looming Javits. Not having badges we asked one of the super helpful crew members - they are a very competent and happy bunch here in NY - where we should go to pick up our tickets. Apparently there was another queue to join at another point of the Center, just a little way up the sidewalk.
What followed was one of those disheartening moments where you realise that your afternoon is going to get a little bit long in the tooth before it's even begun. We were ushered past a long winding snake of people, around the corner to be greeted by the end of the queue heading in the very direction we were facing going past the queue! I estimated an hour's wait to get in and I hit the figure right on the nose. I'll give the organizers credit in that the line did get moving at a pretty decent rate and they made efforts to alleviate the pressure at various points by taking out badges to those people who had printed out confirmations. This however seems to be a point where the security protocols went out of the window as they weren't scanning the QR codes, just collecting print outs and in my case I got provided with a 4-day pass without having to hand anything over! Being a fairly honest person I resisted the urge to collect another 4-day ticket when we continued with the queue to pick up Dan's 3-day pass, but I'm wondering how many people may have ended up in a similar situation and not resisted the temptation!
Once through the doors I realised that time was of the essence with increased numbers allowed in this year and having unfortunately left reference material for my sketch book at home I instantly sought out the nearest $1 comic stall and set about finding a good handful of comics starring the specific characters I would like my book to contain. This will pay off at some stage this weekend, but once I got to Artist Alley I started to fear that this effort and cost may be in vain. Where last year it seemed that this giant annex was something of an afterthought for many of the press and corporate guests and remained only half full during the afternoon, this year it appeared to be like any other convention day morning with quite easily a couple of thousand people looking around and talking to their creative heroes. I managed to catch a quick word with FBP, Uncanny X-Force and Haunt artist Robbi Rodriguez and he felt that the size of the crowd was making it feel like a Friday or Saturday.
Dashing around the hall I was confronted with a clearly busy Mark Brookes, Olivier Coipel, Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena and Nick Dragotta. Fearing that I was only now going get a limited chance to get one, possibly two of these top artists to put a sketch in my book I elected to wait a day and see how everything lay on Friday morning and get my reference material sorted out for the occasion. I grabbed a quick word with the friendly Nick Dragotta, getting my East Of West #1 and FF #17 signed and offering a compliment on his Vengeance series which he said he'd like to work on a follow up with Joe Casey if Marvel ever got the inclination. I also managed to meet Chew creators John Layman and Rob Guillory, getting them to sign one of the Chew #37 covers each (#39 apparently fills the sandwich between the two) and John was kind enough to show me the vinyl model follow up to the popular Chog statue which, of course, is the mighty Poyo!
With the day ebbing away quickly it was time to catch a panel and I'm incredibly glad that I made it along to the 'Editing Comics: The BOOM! Studios Way' panel which was entertaining and very informative. The table was made up of editors and creators alike and they all offered up their opinions and experiences which highlight why many see BOOM! as a publisher that they would like to work with. There's certainly a feeling of camaraderie that writers Mike Kunkle and Caleb Monroe share with editors like Dafna Pleban who emphasise that it's about building friendships and trust that allow the process to work to its full potential. The questions that chair of the panel Rebecca Taylor, and editor with Archaia herself, asked really had the rest of the panel providing very honest yet positive messages about their time with BOOM! and where I've seen some panels in the past where the creators were having to watch what they say, this seemed like a very relaxed and enjoyable affair for all. Even when the recent troubles at DC came up with the last question from the crowd, the likes of Grace Randolph (Superbia), Monroe and Pleban were honest and understanding of the very difficult situation that had presented itself to publisher, editors and creators alike in their answers.
Once the doors on the panel closed it was time to head out to the slowly emptying floor once more and see what bargains could be picked up before heading back to our hotel and trying to tackle the slight weight of jet lag once more. A quick 20 minute stop at one stall saw me walk away with three trade paperbacks for $15 and I can see that leaving 13kg of space in my luggage on the way over may have been the wisest decision I've made in many a month! The Con could be said to kick off in proper fashion today with more panels, more guests and of course more fans and attendees and I'll be back tomorrow for more updates!