By Ray Flook
Let me get the nit-picky stuff about Special Edition: NYC (SE:NYC) out of the way first: the event booklets could've looked better; the lobby could have had more banners and other decorations for the event; and the panels were way too far from the exhibitors hall/artist alley.
Having gotten that out of my system, I have to say…I was impressed. Very impressed.
We hear it more and more from comic fans who attend New York Comic Con (NYCC), and it's a debate that's been waged over San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) for years: how much of the "comic" aspect of comic cons needs to be sacrificed to make room for other pop culture genres like video games, movies, television shows, gaming, etc. Some see SE:NYC (held on June 14th and 15th at the Jacob K. Javits Center) as ReedPOP "extending an olive branch" to comic book fans, creators and publishers by giving them their own show with opportunities for fans to interact directly with artists; attend program sessions; and stock-up on current/back issues, original artwork and other memorabilia. Others see this as ReedPOP "planting its flag" and looking to establish a much longer-term presence in the NYC area than just October…possibly a warning sign to other conventions taking place in the area during June. And does the existence of SE:NYC mean we're going to see even less of of a comic book presence at future NYCCs?
Taking all of that into consideration…I immediately put it aside, because the only question I was going to be able to answer by attending SE:NYC was this: did it live-up to being the comic book convention that ReedPOP wanted and promised? Not only is the answer a solid "YES," but it's a great foundation for them to build-off of for any future editions. It definitely reminded me of the beginnings of NYCC, when it was held in only part of the Javits Center…before the "fire marshal" years. When you've attended NYCC since its inception, it takes a little getting used to when you see the show floor and artist alley BOTH in one hall. Lines for signings and sketches were rarely-if-ever an issue: getting Marvel Comic's "Young Guns" David Marquez, Ryan Stegman, Sara Pichelli, Valerio Schiti, Mahmud Asrar and Nick Bradshaw to sign their profile book took a grand total of fifteen minutes…and that's with a number of them sketching on sketch covers for people in line. Francesco Francavilla was signing the last ten minutes of every hour, and I was able to walk directly up to his table to speak briefly with him and his wife about how their convention experience had been so far. A number of publishers were there, with booth signings and giveaways scheduled throughout the day; and there was no lack of vendors if you were looking for back issues of your favorite title. Or a fez.
So let's take a look at how things went down…
When looking at the comic book publishers it was more a case of who wasn't there than who was, though both Marvel and Valiant deserve credit for booths with fun giveaways and fan-friendly staffs (and people can NOT get enough of those Original Sin "eyeballs"). I expected more from Archie Comic Publications Inc. in terms of visual presence, and Devil's Due Entertainment was my personal favorite (and I did keep my promise to Josh Blaylock to come back and grab a photo once the lighting in their booth was working). I was surprised that companies such as IDW, BOOM! Studios, Image and Dynamite weren't represented on the show floor; and Dark Horse was only represented through their lanyard giveaway. But what's the deal with DC? Following-up on their "there/not there" presence at least year's NYCC, I was hoping for and expecting more than just two programming sessions and no show floor presence. With the corporate move about to finalize, you have to wonder if DC has "conceded" New York City to Marvel.
I'm convinced that the only way to get into the Midtown Comics booth without one of their discount cards was to drop down from the ceiling, Mission: Impossible-style.
Coolest Product of the Show: Origami Comics (created by Ken Wong and includes the titles Pandora's Box, Schrodinger's Cat, Flexagon!, Sam ISO: 2d4, Unsung and Tamatebako) uses the ancient art of Japanese paper-folding to create comic books in three-dimensional structures that the reader directly interacts with to get through the story. That's the best way for me to describe something you really have to see in-person to appreciate.
I don't know what's wrong with me, but I just can't seem to figure-out the best way to interrupt an artist who's at their table sketching for an autograph or to ask a question. I don't want to be rude or screw-up any artistic flow; but then again, I don't want to stand there for the entire length of a sketch either. It's the same thing with taking pictures: I don't want to be "creepy-phone-camera-guy" who walks-up and takes pictures without saying anything, but then I got a quite a few "duh" reactions from people who acted as if it was weird that I would even ask in the first place. With cosplayers, it's a no-brainer: I always ask and tell them what it's for, and they're always appreciative of being asked before I take a the pic
Every convention, there's always that one person who I really want to meet and have a conversation with but my concern over sounding like a raging idiot and saying something incredibly stupid usually wins-out. That person this time? Gail Simone. Though it was great to see firsthand Simone putting her words into action: her kind-yet-sometimes-hysterical words of support and encouragement to other female creators, fans and cosplayers really helps drive-home the importance of encouraging new and diverse voices in the comic book community on all levels.
"Secret Walls" needs to be expanded and incorporated into all future NYCC-related events. A live illustration battle between Greg Mishka and Lamour Supreme, "Secret Walls" took the street art aspects of "The Block" from NYCC and made it more directly comic book-related by allowing people to see the artistry that goes into that work live as it's happening. Mishka may have taken home bragging rights, but it really was the show that benefited from it the most.
I wasn't sure if we would see many cosplayers at the first edition of SE:NYC, but there were and they were pretty darn impressive. Organizers should consider adding a stronger cosplay component to any future editions; possibly a "best cosplay" contest where a winner is declared on each day and then an overall winner decided amongst the two daily winners, with an audience vote on Sunday.
Speaking of cosplayers…I have to comment on something that really bothered me: some of the guys working the new/back issue comic book retailer booths need to be more respectful to the female cosplayers. I know you can't legislate thought or lingering glares, but some of the comments made in the booths (loud enough for other attendees…including kids…to hear) were just wrong and inappropriate. I had a tense back-and-forth exchange with one of them briefly; sadly, it sounded like we were coming from two different planets.
I'm usually the first person screaming for the ASPCA and Sarah McLachlan when I see pet owners put clothing on their pets, but I just can't resist a cosplaying pet. I'm willing to wager that "Captain America Dog" received as much attention at SE:NYC as "Grumpy Cat" received at BookExpo America/Book Con…and that's without a psychotically-obsessed online fan base.
I'm not sure exactly now many NYCC tickets they sold this weekend, but that line never seemed to end on Saturday until it got close to closing time.
Hey, Marvel! Where are the red eyeballs? (Only at a comic con do you get to ask questions like that AND be taken seriously)
I thought having a DJ at the event would end-up being a little annoying, but DJ JFX316 did a great job setting the musical tone for the weekend…and the fact that he manages Super-Fly Comics & Games in Ohio boosts-up his "geek street cred" even more.
I hope DC is going to do more during convention season this year to commemorate Batman's 75th anniversary than having a couple of cardboard displays for photo ops. NYCC had actual Superman costumes from over the years on display…are you telling me that DC can't get its hands on a couple of spare suits from the Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton movies?
Had the opportunity to speak to three cosplayers who were concerned that one of them was going to be asked to leave because her Venom costume was considered "too revealing" and "not appropriate" for a family-friendly event. I didn't get a chance to see what her costume looked like in full because she was in sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt when we spoke, but it left me wondering how revealing it could've been considering what I've seen in the past. I felt bad because she obviously seemed nervous about possibly not being able to stay…hope things worked out for all of them because I never got the impression for a second that she was doing it for any kind of "shock value" and (judging from the mask) could've been one of the best ones there.
Just want to take a second to give special recognition to Jesus A. Ceballos, Jr. (@Cuban_Superman) for the ink work he's gotten done to broadcast his love of Superman. I've spent years trying to decide whether or not to get a Superman logo tattoo, but this guy? He's not joking around, and it's impressive to see in-person.
Though I can understand why Peter David seemed confused when I asked him to sign my media badge, it's the only option you have when (A) you have nothing else on you at that moment except your phone, a pen and a broken-down composition notebook; and (B) you had no idea you'd walk past a table where the man responsible for character-defining runs on X-Factor and The Incredible Hulk would be sitting there, waiting to be approached.
It was amazing to watch the air-brushing being done at the Eternicus Arts booth and to see how a blank shirt quickly turns into a work of art. This wasn't your average Seaside Heights/"Johnny & Susie 4Ever"-type boardwalk work being done here.
It was good idea for ReedPOP to promote SE:NYC to families as a Father's Day event because you could tell it worked on Sunday; but if the dates are pretty much the same next year, it would be best if they promoted it sooner because the turnout could be even better without crowding the hall.
When you've been classically-conditioned to expect convention-going to be a contact sport, the Javits Center came across more I Am Legend-like with how quiet it was in over half the center. You could actually have conversations with people without yelling, having to repeat yourself a hundred times or losing your voice.
Both SE:NYC and Javits Center staffs were on-point: there when you needed them for help or to control a situation, but rarely seen hanging-out and not working the event.
To the DJ who thought it would be a good idea to drive his "interesting" van around the Javits Center to promote himself: not a good idea, because I'm confidant that the kind of attention you were getting wasn't the kind of attention you wanted (but it was damn funny).
It's always "interesting" to see who gets approached by police to verify things and who doesn't, especially when there's an event like this going on in NYC. The Metro Transit Authority (MTA) has a cross-town bus system on 34th Street where you pay before you board and then hold on to your receipt when you get on to verify you paid. An older couple gets on the bus without paying (either on purpose or they were tourists to NYC and didn't understand the process), but they are never checked later on at a stop when an officer does a "random" check. Who did get checked? Two individuals and one group…and from their attire and conversations, you could make the safe assumption that they were going to SE:NYC. Maybe I'm making more of this than I should, but this isn't the first time that I've witnessed this. I'll step-off my soapbox for now…but it did stick with me.
I never realized that there were so many different ways to say the words "Oh, I know 'Bleeding Cool" but facial expressions, tone and emphasizing certain words really do make a difference:
EX #1: "Oh…I know 'Bleeding Cool'!" (smiles, handshakes, conversations, photos)
EX #2: "Oh. I KNOW 'Bleeding Cool.'" (glares, nods, asks what the write-up's about, photo)
(My conclusion? I'm proud to write for a site more concerned with breaking news than "playing nice-nice.")
Special Edition: NYC was a welcome edition to the comic convention scene and helped get me into "convention mode" as we move closer to SDCC, NYCC and everything in-between. Hopefully, I was able to give you small taste of what the weekend was like and I urge ReedPOP to seriously consider hosting this again next year. Until then…see you in a signing line!
(Ray Flook has been a contributing writer to Bleeding Cool since 2013. He runs his newly-revamped blog, Old Man Geek (oldmangeek88.blogspot.com), and you can follow him on Twitter (@oldmangeek88))