Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thoughts On New York Comic Con (2015)

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It's hard to believe that New York Comic Con has actually reached its tenth anniversary milestone. I still remember the first time I went out to NYCC. Tickets were available up to the actual date of the event, and it wasn't nearly as packed (though I don't believe there were quite as many activities to participate in either). Now we've reached a point where the number of NYCC attendees has surpassed that of San Diego Comic Con International, the biggest comic/pop culture convention in the country up until this point. So where do we go from here? How do you top what has already surpassed the very top? Why, you expand of course! While the Javitz center is the same size as always, New York Super Week has increased the number and size of events, by hosting them in other buildings all across the city, such as Hammerstein Ballroom. This has also helped with crowd control, as it's caused more and more people to move out into the city, with the only side effect being a few confused NY citizens. With so much to do, it's literally impossible to experience everything the convention has to offer. I also believe however, that if we each share our thoughts and experiences, it can be as if we truly did really get to see it all. That's what I intend to do here with this blog, and I hope anyone reading will be willing to share their thoughts and memories as well.


Unfortunately, the first day of the con was off to a bit of a rocky start for me. This was not the convention's fault, but rather the amount of time it actually took me to get through the city and to the Javitz center. I had to walk for a very long time, and barely made the line for my first photo op of the weekend, Natalie Dormer (of "Game of Thrones" and "Hunger Games" fame). While waiting in the line and cooling down a bit, my girlfriend and I had a nice talk with a man in front of us, all the way over from London England. It's really fascinating how an event such as this can bring people from all over the world together. The photo op line moved a bit slower than it has in previous years, but it still didn't feel like too long of a time, and I think the picture came out great. Natalie smiled and shook my hand, while asking how I was doing. I responded "Great now!" to which she laughed a pretty genuine laugh, and we took the shot. Here's the result:

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I'm not really sure how my girlfriend didn't break up with me that day, but I consider myself to be lucky.

With the photo op over, it was finally time to explore! The show room was as huge as I remember it, with booths and tables galore. I had hoped that the crowds might be at least a bit smaller since it was a Thursday, but the building was definitely as full as it always gets. While dodging all of the crowds, I managed to check out all kinds of booths, from the big giants of "Marvel" and "DC," to smaller tables with classic action figures and autographs. At the Doctor Who booth, I managed to pick up a print, signed by the famous Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. I also managed to pick up a print of issue #19's cover for "The Walking Dead," signed by Danai Gurira, the actress who plays Michonne on the TV series. After exploring more of the show floor, there wasn't really much time to do more that night, since we came so late to begin with. It was nice seeing and talking with a few friends before leaving though.

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While getting to the convention a bit late (yes, again...), I can say that Friday was a much better day in general. There was no rush to get to any specific panel or photo op for me, so things were much smoother. One of the earliest highlights for me was getting to try out the Street Fighter V demo. It didn't take too long to get to the front, since everyone would play a quick two rounds and let the next person go. While I admittedly got destroyed by a person who admitted to playing the game for over 25 years, it was still a lot of fun, and I can't wait to play it once it's out on PS4 and PC. With another photo op at 6, there was plenty to do before then. There were of course many more cosplayers coming out, and the majority of them were beyond impressive. It certainly put my Star Lord cosplay of last year to shame!
The line for my second photo op (with Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Jewel Staite of "Firefly") was thankfully much shorter, and took almost half of the time to get to the front of. The cast was wonderful and friendly to everyone, making the experience all the better. Here's how this shot came out:

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I always wanted to meet the cast of this show, so this team-up photo was a great way to do it, even if it was only for a few seconds.

The end of this night actually began what would become by far my favorite part of the convention; the Artist Alley. With less than 20 minutes before they began to close up for the night, I started to walk down the first row, just to see who was still left. After briefly speaking with Erica Henderson of "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl," I happened to meet David Lloyd, the famous artist of "V For Vendetta." I nervously asked if he could sign my copy of the book, and he happily took it. We both talked for at least 15 minutes, and simultaneously laughed over the fact that Alan Moore will likely never sign this same copy of the book. He was an absolute joy to talk to, and he invited me to come see him the next day, where he would be drawing sketches. I would happily oblige.


From this day forward, I knew the Artist Alley was going to be a major priority. After not being able to attend the signing of the Regular Show cast (because we were told we needed wrist bands for this event, even though we saw no listing of this anywhere on the website or show booklet), I went over by the Del Ray booth to get my copy of "Star Wars: Aftermath" signed by the author, Chuck Wendig. He was very fun to talk to, and his personality even reminded me of my own friends, if the picture below is any indication:

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To finish up the show floor, I picked up copies of two classic comics, "Howard the Duck (Vol. 1)" #1, and "Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth" #1, and stopped by the Double Take booth to pick up the "Genesis: 10 First Issues" collection that was being advertised all over the convention. The people there were very friendly, and even asked me to contact them after reading, to let them know my thoughts. I'll be happy to do so and likely blog about it here to give them some more exposure, as indie comic makers need this kind of boost at conventions more than anyone! I also met briefly with the artist and writer of the current "X-O Manowar" comic by Valiant. I told them that this was the book that got me back into Valiant's reboot of their classic series, and they seemed really thrilled to hear it. They gladly signed a copy of the first trade paperback for me.

It was back to the Artist Alley to finish off the night. I was thrilled to meet Carla Speed McNeil of the "Finder" series. "Finder" is quite possibly my favorite indie comic book series of all time, and she was even more of a joy to talk to than I could have imagined. By far the most animated person I chatted with all weekend.

I went to see David Lloyd once more to get a sketch, and it was incredible. He also talked to me about his collection of sharpies, crayons, pastels, etc. that were all on his table, ready for any type of paper that could come his way. I learned about all kinds of experiences he went through as a comic illustrator, and it easily made my night.

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Just before finishing Saturday off, I got to meet Joel Adams, character designer of "King of the Hill." He was also very fun to talk to, and I simply had to pick up his print, with character Dale using a bug spray on Spider-Man, shouting "I'm your worst nightmare!!" He made a very interesting point to me, about how San Diego has gotten less about its comic book roots, and how NYCC was actually much more respectful and accommodating to comic book artists. This made me happy to hear, and was a great way to end the night.


It's hard to believe that things could possibly get any better from this point forward, and yet that's exactly what happened! I went early to see if I'd be able to get in line for the Steven Blum signing. For those who don't know, Steven Blum has voiced all kinds of characters in various cartoons and anime, including Spike from Cowboy Bebop, Zabuza and Orochimaru from Naruto, Jamie in Megas XLR, and many many more! I was privileged to be number twelve in the line, and had a great time chatting with him and getting a picture. He is far and wide my favorite voice actor of all time, so this was very special for me.

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Following this, it was all Artist Alley, all the time! And boy, did I pick a time...

So things started off as normal. I started to walk down through the rows I didn't get to the other days. The first table I absolutely had to stop at was Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, one of the three members of "Run D.M.C.!" It was awesome meeting a member of one of my favorite old-school rap acts of all time, and even more awesome getting to pick up an issue of his latest comic.

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This alone would have been enough for me, but one more amazing thing happened at the last second. I was walking up to the booth of Ryan Ottely, artist of the comic "Invincible," to see if I could get something signed. There was also a familiar bearded man standing in front of the booth. It took me a second, and then my eyes suddenly started to widen, or at least I imagine they did. I nervously approached him and began to ask "Are you...?" "No no!" he said. "Everybody says I look just like him though!" The men at the booth started to play along. "Yeah, that's Brian. He gets that all the time though, really!" Finally, the charade was up, and he said "Yeah, it's me!" Rob Kirkman, creator of "The Walking Dead" was talking to me! I told him the story of how my friend and I walked past him a few years ago, thinking it was him, but not being entirely sure. We of course found out later that it was him and we had missed our chance. He was happy to take a picture with me and sign the same "Invincible" comic.

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Although nothing in the day was as epic as previous moment, I went onward and got a quick sketch done by Erik Larson, of "The Savage Dragon." Although our talk was brief, he was really positive and very polite. Being consistent with a title like "The Savage Dragon" is no small feat, especially when you're not with a big publisher like Marvel or DC, so it's nice to see people from other publishers getting to live out their dreams as well.

Because I just didn't quite get enough, I also went over to Tim Sale to get my copy of Batman: The Last Halloween signed. He looked like he hadn't stood up all day (which his wife actually confirmed to be true!), but was still kind and happy to sign for me. With that last signing, it was just about time to head out.

While leaving, I realized that while I had spent different parts of the weekend worrying about all of the things I didn't get to do, I never stopped and really thought about all of the things I DID get to do in the process. I didn't bother with any panels this year, due to wanting to walk around more (and thanks to NYCC's official Twitch page for giving me the highlights), so I can't really comment on the setup, or the wrist band system, which I have yet to participate in, since I never seem to get to the con early enough and get into the panels I would like. But that's all OKAY. The convention experience is what YOU make of it in the end. It's important to go in with a solid game plan, yes. But I learned you still need to remember to have some fun at these things too. I certainly did, even though I didn't realize it until much later.

So I suppose this concludes another New York Comic Con for me. I'd like to thank Lance Fensterman and crew for once again giving us the best comic book/pop culture convention in the entire country, and all my friends that I happened to catch (Nasser, Willie, Tom, Jonathan, Allesandra, Brian, Andrew, and of course my lovely girlfriend Kelsey). For more pictures of the convention, and all of the wonderful swag that came with it, feel free to check out my album on Facebook at the link here.

Thank you all again so much for reading this. Feel free to share your convention experiences as well. I'd love to hear it all!

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  1. Great blog post Justin! This is Willie btw and it was nice to know that you had a pretty awesome weekend! For the 2 days that I went, I had a pretty awesome time as well even though I stayed for just a few hours on Friday and Saturday. I'm still jealous that you met so many famous people haha

  2. So it's the biggest now, huh? Interesting.