We came. We saw. We conquered the face off Comic Con.
New York Comic Con took place this past weekend. The event kicked off on Thursday, October 11 and concluding on Sunday, October 14, which also happened to be the much-anticipated day of the season three premiere of The Walking Dead.
Zombies were very much the theme of the weekend, with the Winnebago van from the cult TV show parked right out front of the Jacob Javits Center. The spectacle was complete with actors in full zombie makeup staggering up to fans who were all too happy to have a stranger paw at them and mime eating their faces.
Indeed, they could have easily called the entire event “Zombie Con.” Not only for the prevalent “Walking Dead” fandom, but for the excruciating pace at which fans – and even professionals – were forced to succumb to the mindless horde to queue for events, panels, autograph sessions, Starbucks, and the restrooms.
I also called it “Wait-In-Line-Con.”
Now I don’t mean to complain, as my press pass did get me in for free, but this year the lines were pretty ridiculous. Heightened security and a completely sold-out weekend made for many more bodies (there were an estimated 10,000 more attendees this year than last), a halted pace, and longer lines for, well, everything. Again, no complaints here, really— as one cattle herder, er, Comic Con staffer told a patient crowd through her megaphone, “You’re all waiting here because you’re all equal!” But I thought a press pass made me special? I was told by more than one staffer, with no sympathy whatsoever, that it did not.
But the weekend was not all lost. This year, I attended two days of the con, Friday and Saturday. Last year, I was only able to cover Saturday. This meant more time for panels, perusing the show floor and, yes, waiting in massive lines. I was more than happy to line up for the “Comic Book Men” panel featuring Kevin Smith and the rest of the show’s crew. I also took in a talk on how the media would cover a zombie apocalypse, moderated by entertainment journalist Aaron Sagers of “Paranormal Paparazzi” fame. The latter panel prepped this reporter for the oncoming zombie onslaught. I plan to tweet status updates and vital survivor info, for as long as I can ward off the undead. I will be the last journalist standing! Ahem. Sorry, I get a tad carried away. Looking at my press pass, can you blame me? Everyone had “Walking Dead” badges this year (so if you tried to use last year’s badge, which had the NYCC logo and ‘2011’ emblazoned on it in bright colors, you were shiz out of luck), and mine just so happened to look like a zombified version of myself. Awesome.
I also made a point to attend Danny Choo’s panel on “Culture Japan,” and how learning Japanese helped him unlock a myriad of professional and personal opportunities. Danny is a personal hero of mine (I wore a shirt featuring his Mirai character to last year’s con) and is starting to dabble in the anime world, so you will read much more about him in the future right here on Anime Herald.
On Saturday, shortly before quitting the con for the weekend and catching a Grand Central train home, I even got to meet a childhood favorite author, Peter S. Beagle, and bought a copy of “The Last Unicorn” for him to sign. He even listened to my fan girl gushing and conversed with me for a good ten minutes. I prattled on about his work, we discussed writing as a profession, and I even told him a little about my own scribblings. It was definitely a moment to cherish, and not something I expected to experience there. Beagle was a last-minute addition to the Artist’s Alley, and the new graphic novel of his seminal classic sold out within a few short hours. I was also given the scoop on “The Last Unicorn” film on the animation front, so stay tuned for that coverage.
In between panels and queuing up for much-needed sustenance, there was time to ogle comic, manga, anime, movie, and general pop culture goodness on the massive Show Floor. In a huge change this year, the former “New York Anime Festival,” which was previously housed on the top floor of the Javits Center, was relegated to a separate (big) merch room on the same floor as the main Show Floor. However, there were no signs distinguishing it from the rest of the con, leading me to believe that the festival, which was absorbed by NYCC a few years ago, has finally breathed its last. Last year, giving it a separate floor and its own signage was a nice way of acknowledging the festival’s existence. It’s a shame, but at least there were plenty of anime-related booths and panels to keep the love alive.
And besides, most of the con dwellers were probably too fixated on zombies, the Avengers, and the whole Superman/Wonder Woman romance thing to notice. At least this year, I didn’t see any “Twilight” cosplayers. And anyway, vampires are so 2008.
No con would be complete without a few surprises, and this year, I was struck by how normal many of the attendees seemed. Normal as in wearing street clothes instead of costumes, looking like they could be spending a day in a shopping mall and not at the biggest comics/pop culture convention on the east coast. There were literally people of all genders, races, colors, creeds, shapes and sizes; everyone imaginable. I saw babies in strollers wearing Spider-Man costumes, punk clothing-clad couples taking cigarette breaks outside, girls who could be supermodels squeezing into itty-bitty costumes (yes, you see that every year), and many girls as gender-bending superheroes (there was at least one female Joker, many female Robins, and many more female Captain Americas). There were tons of guys, too, with a Superman to just about every Wonder Woman, along with Batmen, Rick Grimses, Wolverines and Gambits galore.
No matter how many of these events I attend, I’ll never stop gaping in awe at the authenticity of some of these costumes and the obvious creative energy that goes into pulling these looks together. Bottom line? People really care about their heroes and getting it right. With the popularity of this summer’s The Avengers, Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, along with The Walking Dead phenomenon, it’s clearer now than ever before that comics have gone mainstream — and if you like superheroes, mutants, aliens or zombies, you’re not a nerd, a geek, or a dork. And, as 115,000 Comic Con-ners showed this weekend, you’re not alone.
Check back at Anime Herald for more New York Comic Con coverage.