I Came, I Saw, I Conquered New York Comic-Con!
When playing tourist in the Big Apple, most people prefer to take in the legendary sights like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty or the original Ray’s Pizza on 11th. There are, like, 30 ‘Ray’s Pizza’s, and they all claim to be the original, but the real one’s on 11th. Me, I prefer the sights of nerds in superhero costumes, convention halls filled with geeky memorabilia and an exclusive sneak preview of The Avengers! I’m talking Comic-Con, baby! And this past weekend, I lived the adventure!
Comic-Con was a blast and a half! The sights, the people, the costumes; it was everything I’ve come to expect from a full-scale comic book convention. And this year, I saw more, did more and experienced more than any convention before.
Let me tell you the tale.
Comic-Con ran for 3 days, from Oct. 14-16. I attended with my brother Cip, who had never been to a real comic book convention before. This was my third Comic-Con, the second time in a row to New York City. But in hindsight to my 2010 trip, I realized I hadn’t really done anything. I mostly just dressed up in costume and walked around. So this year, I was determined to see more, speak to more people and attend more panels. I was actually going to experience Comic-Con as opposed to just being there.
This is the story of how I kicked Comic-Con’s ass – and how it very nearly kicked mine.
If you’ve never been to a real comic book convention, you need to understand that it’s more than just a bunch of overweight dorks standing around talking about Star Trek and buying old comic books. Far from it. Comic-Cons are pop culture events! They feature everything from comics to movies to video games to actual celebrities coming to hang out and meet the fans. The popularity of these Cons has exploded in recent years. Big Hollywood studios and TV producers use Comic-Con to show off their upcoming hits and get fans buzzing. While all the major comic book companies tease and promote future stories and books. Video game companies set up demo booths to let you play games that are months away from release.
And all of it is catered to appease the fans, the regular people. We are the consumers. The convention is ours.
I recently wrote a list of the 6 best things about Comic-Con. It’s basically one big geek store, with tons of goodies to buy celebrating our favorite movies and comic books. Superhero T-shirts, Star Wars plushies, obscure comic books, rare action figures, it’s all there at Comic-Con. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I didn’t spend a lot of money.
So anyway, on with the adventure! I think I’ll tell the tale in chronological order.
My brother lives in Connecticut, so we decided to crash at his place all weekend and take a train into Manhattan. Probably a bad idea. Yes, we saved on a hotel room. But we had to take a 2-hour train ride to and from New York City each day. And considering the cost of 3 days worth of train tickets and cab fare, we may consider just getting a discounted Comic-Con hotel room next year. Because for the first day of the Con, Friday, we had to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch the train into the city to be there when the doors opened at 10 a.m. As horrible as that was, getting to the Con that early on Friday was a great idea.
The convention center wasn’t as crowded as it would be later in the weekend.
The first thing we did on Friday was check out the show floor. That’s where all the main exhibitors had their setups. Marvel comics had a big SHIELD logo promoting The Avengers, along with a display case of Captain America’s battle-damaged costume. They had 2 SHIELD technicians paid to look charming and ‘work’ at the fake computer screens. There was a line to get your picture taken with them…for some reason. There were action figures on display for Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, DC Comics, Star Wars, Transformers and more. Those were really neat. Someone even made a giant Marvel action figure display with a big fight scene.
There were video game displays for Star Wars: The Old Republic, X-Men: Destiny, the new Resident Evil, Max Payne 3 and a few more. I didn’t play any of them because the lines were quite long. On that first morning, we just sort of walked around and enjoyed the freedom of movement. Eventually we went over to Artists’ Alley. That’s where all the comic book professionals, from writers to artists to colorists, get their own table or booth and interact with the fans. They sign autographs and draw sketches, basically being friendly with the fans. It’s great!
We arrived just in time to meet former Marvel writer Tom Defalco! Back when my brother and I first got into reading comics in the mid-90s, we started with the Spider-Man family of books. Defalco was the main Spider-Man writer back then. He also wrote all 13 issues of the Green Goblin series, the first comic book series that I ever bought and collected on my own, issue after issue. I used to go to the supermarket comic book rack hoping at random that a new issue had come out. I didn’t even know that there were scheduled releases. I chatted with Defalco about Green Goblin for a bit. Then he signed my copy of the recent full series trade paperback. That was awesome.
After meeting Tom Defalco, my brother and I went to our first panel starring Felicia Day. For those of you who don’t know Felicia Day, she’s an actress who has tapped into a very specific nerd niche. It helps that she’s a big nerd herself. She appears in a lot of nerdy and geeky shows and movies, and even makes some of her own. She’s most famous for The Guild, a web series about a group of people who played online video games together, then meet in real life and become friends. It’s a fun series, and a brilliant example of how to succeed in this world. Day was an actress who had maybe a few bit roles here and there in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Nothing major. She’d done improv comedy and the like too.
Then she and her friends had this idea for The Guild. They got some cameras, hired their friends as actors and filmed it all at her house. They financed it themselves too and then posted it online. The show took a while to become popular, but now they’re 5 seasons in, and The Guild is so popular that Felicia Day gets a panel dedicated to her and her work at Comic-Con! So for any would-be filmmakers out there, all you need is a camera, some friends and a good idea, and you can succeed on your own. It’s a great inspirational story.
Her panel was hilarious!
Felicia was joined by one of her actor friends from The Guild, as well as a fun moderator who they both knew. I wasn’t familiar with him. The three of them joked around and laughed with the audience. They talked about The Guild and some of Day’s other projects. They answered some fan questions too, which are a big part of these panels. The panel was great. My brother loved it as well.
Then, possibly the greatest moment of the weekend: I shared the escalator with Felicia Day!
I don’t normally give a crap about celebrities. My brother picked the panel because a friend of his wanted him to go see Felicia Day. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have gone to the panel (though that would have been a shame. As I said, it was funny!). Well everybody was filing out of the panel room and heading back upstairs to the rest of the Con. Everyone just moving in a big group…with Felicia Day and her co-star in the same group. I wasn’t even watching. But then all of a sudden, my brother and I were stepping onto the elevator at the exact same time as Felicia Day and her co-star.
In fact, she and I shared an escalator step!
She was talking to her agent/handler. I was trying to think of something to say. Then my brother quickly tells them it was a great panel! So he and I chat with Felicia Day and her co-star for the escalator ride. Thankfully, we weren’t ‘those guys’ begging for an autograph or a picture. We just chatted about their panel and the Con. Awesome stuff.
My brother and I went back into the show floor, separating so that we could see more. We had planned to attend a Mythbusters: Anime panel, thinking it was an anime version of the popular TV show…but it wasn’t. It was two nobodies just stealing the Mythbusters’ schtick and applying it to anime. So we skipped that.
While wandering, I cut through the Marvel booth and saw that writer Peter David was meeting fans. David, or PAD as he is known, is the writer for X-Factor, one of my favorite comics. He is the guy who brought my favorite comic character, Multiple Man, out of obscurity and into a starring role in X-Factor. So PAD is a big comic hero of mine. He and a few other Marvel writers and artists were set up at the Marvel booth…and there was no line! So I quickly went up to Peter David, said ‘hello’ and had him sign a few Multiple Man comics for me.
I regretted not sticking around to chat with him…but more on that later.
So after getting Peter David to sign my comics (one of our big goals for the Con), I decided to get in line for the Venture Bros. panel. It was going to be a very popular panel, and it was held in the 3,000+ seating IGN Theater. I knew I’d have to get in line early, so I did. Then I found out the line was actually for the Batman Animated panel. Turns out the IGN Theater isn’t cleared at the end of each panel. So anyone attending one panel is free to keep their seat for the next panel. So my brother and I decided to just sit in on the Batman Animated panel while we waited for the Venture Bros. panel to begin.
Good move too, since the Animated panel was neat.
They talked about Batman: The Animated Series, the new movie Batman: Year One and showed the entirety of the Catwoman solo feature that came packaged with Batman: Year One. The Catwoman episode was cool, though hardly spectacular. Even with Catwoman on a stripper pole. Just a fun little video that we got to enjoy with a room full of fellow nerds. They also showed the trailer for the next animated feature: Justice League Doom. That looked cool. The panel featured both Bruce Timm, the godfather of superhero animation, and Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman since the 90s classic Batman: The Animated Series. So it was cool to see the two of them on stage and hear them answer fan questions.
Even if most of the questions were suggestions about what other DC stories to turn into an animated feature, with Bruce Timm telling the fans, “It’s been discussed.”
Of note is when Bruce Timm lied to us!
One fan asked him if DC was putting any pressure on his cartoons to be more like the New 52 reboot. Timm’s answer was a simple, “No”, when in fact he’d only moments ago shown us the clip for Justice League Doom. The League in that clip was very much like the new 52 Justice League, especially the inclusion of Cyborg to the team. Cyborg would have only been placed on the League in order to fit the new 52 team lineup.
So there, Bruce Timm! Liar, liar pants on fire.
The DC Animation panel eventually gave way to The Venture Bros. panel…which wasn’t all that great, sadly. The panel was the two creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, with no moderator. The worst part was that they refused to discuss the show. They are in the middle of writing Season 5, and would only confirm that there will be both a Season 5 and a Season 6. But they wouldn’t talk about upcoming stories or characters or anything like that. It was just the two guys rambling and cracking jokes, like a two-man comedy routine. There was no moderator, so they were left to their own devices. They answered some fan questions from the audience, as well as questions they’d printed off the Internet. At one point Hammer just started reading his personal list of words and phrases he wants to go away.
Like “Take it to the next level” or “meh” or “total win”. It was funny…but I wanted to hear more about the show. Also, Hammer apparently killed a guy once and kept it a secret. He admitted it on stage, but he may have been lying.
Our first night in New York City ended with dinner with an old college friend of mine. Then we took the 2 hour train home (including another hour sitting in the connecting train station), so it was a total of 3 hours before my brother and I were finally back at his apartment kicking our feet up and relaxing. We were bushed after a whole day at the Con. Rather than sleep, however, we ordered a pizza and watched some cartoons. I uploaded some pictures to Facebook as well.
I’d planned on blogging after each day, but that idea crashed about as quickly as I crashed onto my brother’s couch.
In the end, we swore not to catch the 6 a.m. train anymore. We decided to sleep in Saturday and catch the noon train. That turned out to be a very good idea, since our plan for Saturday was just to sit through panels. The biggest draw of the Comic-Con was The Avengers panel set for Saturday evening. The movie comes out next spring, and they’re already on post-production, so this panel promised new footage, new clips and several of the actors. Everybody was going to attend. So to ensure a great seat, my brother and I arrived at the IGN Theater at about 1 p.m. and sat in the same seats until the Avengers panel at 6:30 p.m.
Totally worth it!
We sat through several other panels waiting for the Avengers. There was an animated biography of Graham Chapman, one of the Monty Python performers. That was neat. The television show Nikita brought its actors and producers on stage to talk about the second season. There were a lot more die-hard Nikita fans than I ever imagined. To each their own. The Ghost Rider 2 panel featured the directors, but after watching a video of their high octane filming techniques, I was far more interested in the two of them than the crappy sequel. It seems these guys perform stunts to get their shots. In order to film a motorcycle race from close up, one of the directors held onto the back of the speeding motorcycle with one hand while wearing roller blades. In his other hand was the camera. When the motorcycle stopped, he let go and sped forward on his roller blades, turning enough to still get the shot of the motorcycle.
So the directors were awesome! The movie…probably not so much. Still, they convinced me that it might be worth seeing in theaters next January or February. So kudos on them. We also saw big screen trailers for the next Underworld flick and the remake of Total Recall. Cool, I suppose.
The last panel before the Avengers was for the Walking Dead. That was a fun panel. A lot of the actors were on stage, as well as the Emmy-award winning zombie makeup artist and the writer of the original comic book. So they had a lot to talk about, with teases for the next season. They showed an extended clip of Season 2, which was really cool. The first season was great, and I’m really looking forward to the second. It’s already started, so I’ll have to find the episodes online somewhere.
Finally we reached The Avengers panel, and it lived up to the hype! The king of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige was on hand to talk about some upcoming movies and drop some hints for the Avengers. For example, it will definitely feature the Helicarrier! Then they brought out several actors: Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Colby Smulders (Maria Hill), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), and…I think that’s it. Fantastically funny cast, telling stories about filming (like night they all got drunk and tore up the small town in New Mexico where they were filming) and answering some really good fan questions. A lot of the questions were directed to Hiddleston for some reason. I guess people really loved his Loki performance in Thor. Or maybe just the ladies did.
The clips were great. They showed the recently released trailer on the big screen. Then they showed another trailer, which I believe they had only so far shown to investors. I’d read about the second trailer online, so seeing it on screen was awesome. Then they showed an actual extended clip from the movie!
Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) is working as some type of off-the-books Doctor in Mexico. A little girl comes to seek his aid for her ailing father. Banner follows her out to some ramshackle shack on the edge of town…only for the girl to quickly hop out a window! It’s a trap! Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johannson) steps out and the two discuss Banner helping SHIELD locate the movie’s macguffin, with a lot of hints about the Hulk. The clips was funny and clever, with a lot of really juicy character interaction. The Avengers is going to be awesome!
So my brother and I survived all day sitting through panels, but we still got home late thanks to that super long taxi ride. We went to sleep, and then again took the later train Sunday morning. That was fine by me because on Sunday, Comic-Con was packed! It was wall-to-wall people! There was barely any room to walk or stop or take pictures or anything. Ugh. I hate crowds like that. So we definitely weren’t staying long. We only had like 3 hours to leave and catch our train home anyway, and that was enough time.
We wandered the show floor and artists’ alley, getting some pictures and buying some items at last day prices. My one and only souvenir was a Catman action figure. As a member of the Secret Six, Catman is quite awesome and his action figure isn’t really going to be available in stores. So I grabbed it. Cip met the creator of one of his favorite web comics, Romantically Apocalyptic, as well as the artist of Atomic Robo, a fantastic independent comic series. He bought several of their tpbs to read and have signed. We also met artist Jim Calafiore, who has drawn several comics we love, including Secret Six and the Exiles. He got a kick out of my Catman action figure.
The highlight of Sunday was meeting Peter David…again. This time, he was just sitting at his table in artists’ alley. We walked up to him and just shot the breeze, talking about Multiple Man and his Dark Tower comics. He’d already signed everything we wanted on Friday, so there was no reason to bug him about it now. It was just great to meet one of my comic book writing idols.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Comic-Con 2011. We saw a lot of geekery, went to a ton of awesome panels and met a few of my favorite comic book writers and artists. My brother and I definitely defeated Comic-Con, no matter how tiring or tough it was to walk through such a crowded venue. And now we know the best times to go and what to do for Comic-Con 2012!
Also, we’ll be wearing costumes.