Geeks. Nerds. Otaku. Whatever you want to call them, you’ll find them at the Sixth Annual New York Comic Con (NYCC). An East Coast Mecca for all things nerdy, NYCC is located at the Javits Center and can be divided up into three different sections: panels, Artist Alley, and the show floor.
Panels are usually with people from the industry, but they can also just spotlight a niche interest. They can range from a spotlight on the creators of Cartoon Network shows like “Adventure Time with Finn and Jake” to an hour-long presentation about Star Wars Crafts; sometimes they can focus on something as seemingly arbitrary as the action figures that will be released by Hasbro in the coming year. I’m not kidding—I went to that panel.
Hasbro’s Marvel Action Figure Team (yes, that exists) gave a half-hour long presentation on what they have in store for the coming year, and—believe it or not—the room was packed with at least two hundred people eager to hear the news. While I am not an avid reader of comics, I love all of the Marvel Studios movies that have come out recently. All of the Avengers are getting multiple versions of their own action figures and some X-Men reboots from the ’90s as well. Each prototype of a figure being released in 2012 was projected on a large screen in the front of the room and greeted with copious “oooo’s” and “ahhhhs” by the assembled crowd. One of the more interesting slides was simply entitled “Frog Thor” and featured a small, unpainted frog garbed in Viking gear and holding Thor’s signature hammer. When these enigmatic words flashed up on screen, the presenter, Hasbro’s Dwight Stall, simply said, “How did that get there?” and skipped over it. I still have no idea what “Frog Thor” is, but any enlightenment would be greatly appreciated.
One of the most highly anticipated panels of the weekend was Marvel’s sneak peek of the upcoming “Avengers” film, held in the IGN Theater. Unfortunately, most fans (including myself) didn’t have a prayer of getting into this high-profile event. The NYCC staff didn’t clear the room after each panel, which means that the most die-hard Marvel fans simply sat in the IGN Theater all day, watching every single panel that was held there. For a frame of reference, the “Avengers” panel was held at 6:30 p.m., and the first panel of the day was at 10:30 a.m. In fact, not a single person got into the “Avengers” panel before it started—every single fan there had already been in the IGN Theater for at least two hours.
Luckily, there were other options for those cast out of “Avengers” glory. Another extremely popular panel was entitled “Girls Kick Butt: Strong Female Heroines in Young Adult Fantasy.” The main attraction at this event was Tamora Pierce, an incredibly popular writer for young adults, especially in the female demographic. Writers Caitlin Kitteredge and Esther Freisner were also featured. The event was moderated by Kate Kilmo, a publishing director at Random House who has just published her own young adult novel. As someone who has loved Tamora Pierce since I was about eleven, it was a dream come true to listen to her speak, and though I have never read anything by the other two authors, the banter among all three was both enlightening and entertaining—much like watching an episode of “The Golden Girls”—and the fervor with which the authors were greeted was truly impressive.
The last panel I attended over my NYCC experience was hosted by TheOneRing.net (TORN), the largest fan-run Lord of the Rings website. This was one of their first events in anticipation of the 2012 release of the first “Hobbit” adaptation film, “An Unexpected Journey.” The production studio is keeping most information under close guard in the year leading up to the film’s release, but the staff of TORN took the crowd through all the developments on the film that have occurred throughout the past seven years, including new casting decisions, and speculated on how the plot of the film will be constructed. At the end of the panel I was certain of two things: one, that these films are going to be awesome and two, next year, TORN is going to get a far more impressive panel time than the 8:45 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. slot they occupied this year.
Now onto some of the less publicized parts of the Con. A major destination for fans is the combination of Artist’s Alley, where the actual artists of various comics talk about their work and do signings, and the Show Floor, where local vendors and major industries alike vie for the attention of the 100,000 or so fans that swarm the con every year. Oh, the show floor–where do I even begin?
I went to NYCC for the first time last year, and I learned my lesson. This year I was prepared for the onslaught of commercialism that greeted me as I entered the show floor. Put yourself in my shoes for a second, if you will.
Imagine 675,000 square feet covered with vendors of all sorts of delightfully nerdy paraphernalia. The question, “Do I really need a sword?” was debated in my mind for well over five hours on Saturday. Comic books, anime, action figures, Steampunk, replicas, publishers, drawings—how could one possible expect to navigate such an embarrassment of riches without being sucked in by the allure of the flashing lights and free swag? For those of you not in the loop, in the industry “swag” is all of the free stuff they give away at cons to entice you to purchase more items. I imagine the feeling of walking onto the Show Floor as similar to what hippies feel like when they go to India for the first time.
Last year, being a total n00b, I bought everything I could afford and was beyond broke after day one. This year my mantra was, “You know you only want steampunk goggles. Nothing else.” That being said, I also ended up buying an 8-bit Star Wars T-shirt in addition to my goggles. I guess the energy sword will have to wait until next year. In my humble opinion, the show floor is a magical place where all of your geeked-out wishes can come true.
At this point I feel it is important to mention that there is another, less profitable part of all cons: lines. So many lines. Lines to enter, lines to leave, lines to get things signed, lines to test games, lines to get free stuff, lines to pay for things. Seriously people, if I was going to pay to wait in line I would just drive through a tollbooth several times. Have you ever seen someone wait in line for two hours for a free book? I have. It’s not pretty. In the middle of the day on Saturday, it is impossible to traverse the show floor without constantly cutting across a line of people waiting for some exclusive release or celebrity appearance. But if you decide that wading through the mass of people is a small price to pay for all the wonders that Comic Con holds, then welcome to the club. You’re one of us now.
By the end of any con, you are tired, smelly, and carrying way too many things. In fact, there is at least one point near the end of every NYCC weekend when I ask why I would ever choose to put myself through something so painful. But about the time tickets go on sale for the next year, I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.