Had you been in New York City this past weekend, you would likely have encountered people clad in bright costumes or brandishing bags full of comics. Indeed, it was that time of year again, when the New York Comic Con takes the city by storm, bringing with it an army of film, television, video game, and (of course) comic book creators and fans. We spent an exciting two days at the event, and, our bodies and wallets exhausted, sat down to talk about our thoughts on the past weekend.
Dan Fuchs: So I guess I’ll start things off with some of my general impressions of the convention itself. Obviously, it was a ton of fun, and I spent way too much money, but I guess the biggest surprise was how much of a presence comics were as opposed to other forms of media. Video games, movies, and television have large presences here, but the focus (at least of the panels and booths) was generally on comics. Sure, there were booths for Namco and Capcom, and panels for “Birdman” and “Comedy Bang Bang,” but the majority of the booths and panels highlighted comics and manga.
If you look at San Diego Comic Con, which happens every summer, it feels like movies have almost superseded the comics. Every movie comes to San Diego Comic Con. Which may just be a result of it being in California, the hub of filmmaking, as opposed to New York. What surprised me was the branding of the whole thing. Companies that really have no business being at a comics convention were prominently featured. Chevy had a booth. AT&T had a damn booth. I’m sure they sponsored the event heavily, so if they help keep New York Comic-Con alive, that’s great, but it still felt a bit icky.
Anyway, Billy, what are your general thoughts before we jump into the specifics of the con?
William Donnelly: I definitely agree that comics weren’t eclipsed by other forms of media. That isn’t to say that other forms of media didn’t have a large presence at the con—video games and video game-related merchandise, in particular, seemed ever-present to me—but, at the end of the day, comics dominated. San Diego Comic Con has become so overwhelmed by non-comics-related media that companies don’t really make big comics-related announcements there anymore. If I recall correctly, the only big news from San Diego this summer was that Marvel would be publishing a bunch of Star Wars series, which are just expansions of a film franchise and so don’t really count as being “comics-related.” I feel like most of the comics-related announcements—Marvel’s “Spider-Gwen” series and DC’s launch of “Wonder Woman ’77,” for instance—are saved for New York these days.
The main con floor was pretty great, and there was definitely a large selection of merchandise to spend too much money on, like all of those bootleg superhero Legos that I bought. The highlight of the show for me, though, was Artist Alley. Even though it was crowded at times, it did provide a nice refuge from the congestion of the main floor. It was also a great way to really interact with artists and some writers, so long as nobody was crowding their tables. There was also just so much beautiful artwork everywhere
DF: I agree that announcements are a big indicator of the comics industry’s presence at the convention. Announcements of what’s coming up, be it crossovers (“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “X-Men,” for example) or new titles (“Spider-Gwen,” which you mentioned, or “Ant-Man”), are grand events at New York. I should also stress that while I’m certainly glad comics have a large presence, I’m still glad movies and video games have presences there. Panels that highlight “Bob’s Burgers” (which I did not get to see, a fact that will haunt me forever) and “Archer” are plenty welcome in my book. They just shouldn’t dominate the weekend.
The show floor also gave me a chance to check out some fantastic publishers, both mainstream and independent. Taschen, which puts out some of the finest art books on the shelves, had a fantastic retrospective of Stanley Kubrick on display, as well as the “75 Years of Marvel Comics” collection. Dynamite Entertainment had the “Bob’s Burgers” comics on display (and I picked up an issue with a cover so fantastic it defies words). Dark Horse had a cavalcade of “Hellboy” products. It was a nice chance to experience smaller publishers in an industry so dominated by Marvel and DC Comics.
But yeah, Artist Alley was, without a doubt, the brightest spot of the weekend. I think there’s a tendency to forget (or, at least, I can have a tendency to forget) that these creators aren’t faceless beings. So it was an illuminating experience to see these creators face-to-face. I got a fantastic Nightcrawler print signed by artist Ed McGuinness and inker Dexter Vines. Writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Amanda Conner signed my copy of “Wednesday Comics,” a newspaper-styled collection of short strips, and artists Joe Quinones and Ben Caldwell sketched in the book! As cheesy as it sounds, Artist Alley is a great reminder of how much of a creator-audience interaction there is in comics, more so than in many other forms of media.
I think I already know the answer to this question, but were there any creators that made your weekend special? Any events?
WD: First Second had a great booth on the main floor. There wasn’t much merchandise or anything to look at, really, but they sure had a lot of books! All of their current output was in stock, including “In Real Life” by Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow, which I think premiered at the show. It was a great way of putting actual comics, instead of comics-related merchandise, at the forefront.
The most anxiety-inducing interaction with a creator I had was when I met Becky Cloonan, writer/artist of “By Chance or Providence,” artist of “Demo,” and writer of “Gotham Academy.” She was at the back of Artist Alley with the rest of the “Gotham Academy” creative team. I’d planned on giving her this whole long speech about how important her comics are to me and how I want to be just like her when I grow up, but by the time I had gotten past Karl Kerschl and arrived at her spot at the table, my knees were shaking so hard that all that I managed to sputter out was, “I really love your work,” and then, “Thank you.” It was my biggest failure of the con, for sure.
Luckily, I was not so nervous when I met Jillian Tamaki, artist of “Skim” and “This One Summer,” who is probably the most fabulous human being on the planet. Not only did I successfully gush about how amazing “Skim” and “This One Summer” are and how much they mean to me, but she also sketched in both books. We took an amazing selfie afterwards, and I’ve been floating on a cloud ever since. Introducing myself to Greg Pak, the writer of “Superman/Batman,” as “a huge fan of Lois Lane” and thanking him for Lois’s line, “I’m Lois Lane. That means I’m smarter than you,” from issue 13 was also a highlight. I think he was pretty surprised.
I was really happy that we got to go to the Women of DC Entertainment Panel, which was actually the first of its kind. Marvel and Image have a “Women of” panel at almost every major convention, but this was the first time that DC had ever had a woman-focused panel, let alone a panel with more than two women on it. It was also the first time ever that DC would have been able to have a “Women of” panel without it consisting solely of editors and Gail Simone. I was surprised at how many men were in the audience, which is a weird thing for me to say, since I was a man in the audience. I’d expected it to be a room that was dominated by women, but from my vantage point, it seemed split almost 50/50. While I was glad that the panel existed, I was also a bit disappointed about the content of it. It was cool that there was a panel where we could actually hear from the creators instead of just the editors announcing which big events were happening, but the questions that were asked weren’t particularly exciting. The panel was only an hour long, and at least a third of it was spent by the panelists answering how they got into comics, which is probably the most generic question that one could ask.
How about you, Dan? Did anything really stand out and make your weekend?
DF: A lot of the stuff that I’ve mentioned were the highlights of the con for me. Getting a copy of the gorgeous “Wednesday Comics” anthology (and at half the price!) was a nice touch, for one. It’s such a gorgeous tribute to the art form, and to the joy that comics can bring provide, that having so many of the creators sign it or sketch in it sent me on a fun little journey to get as many of them to sign it as I could. Watching Joe Quinones, who drew a gorgeous Green Lantern story for the book, sketch a Green Lantern in the margins was a religious experience. The same goes for Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman sketch. Those sketches felt unique, like these creators left an personal, indelible mark on my copy of such an extraordinary book. Meeting these creators and thanking them for their work is an experience you don’t get every day. Especially when comics mean so much to us.
Honestly, the thing I love most about New York Comic Con is just the openness of it all. Forgive me if I’m being overly sentimental or cheesy, but everyone is just free to like what they like, free to be as flamboyant or passionate or weird as they want. People dress up like their favorite characters, whether it’s a costume made painstakingly over months or cobbled together the night before. They meet up with other people who share their interests, whether it’s Superman or Smash Brothers or Sylvester Stallone. There are no sarcastic jeers. It’s a celebration of sincerity.