I spent this past weekend in New York for New York Comic Con. For those of you who read my blog who aren’t big old nerds, NYCC is the East Coast nerd and geek mecca, held once a year, combining comics, video games, science fiction, pop culture, and pretty much any other possible nerdy pursuit you can imagine. By now (one day after the last day of the con), a zillion people have already rehashed what got talked about on the panels, who was there, who’s releasing what when, the big news, the tiny little details, and pretty much anything else. The best I can do is walk you through my experience, as the random fan on the show floor, geeking out over everything, but with no special access or insight. (Although my con badge would lead you to believe otherwise, considering it said “Special Access” in big letters. All that meant, though was that I could skip the huge entrance line and there was a neat little lounge to escape the crowds and charge my phone and drink free water, which in itself was worth the extra cost.)
Friday: We arrived into NYC at around 11 and dropped our luggage off at the hotel. We then headed down to the Javits Center, which was about a 10 minute walk away. As we got closer, I noticed people in costumes more and more often, which, if nothing else, told me we were headed in the right direction. We entered the convention center and found the VIP line pretty quickly. There was about an hour before the doors opened, so we lined up and waited. More and more people in costume filtered by us, some in very elaborate superhero costumes, some in half-assed components of easily recognizable movie, comic, or TV characters, and some very specific and well-executed anime characters. (NYCC and the New York Anime Festival are rolled in together, which is maybe not the best idea, but I’ll touch on that later.)
They let us into the show, and we headed up the escalator to the show floor. My husband and friend made a bee-line to get tickets to signings with Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman, and I sort of wandered a bit. An incredibly impressive group of Predators walked by us, and one leered at me (and you know it’s obvious if I can tell you’re leering in a full giant body costume and full face mask). As much as we like to think we’ve progressed in geek culture, being accepting and respectful of women in a setting like this is still not as universal as it should be.
After wandering the show floor, talking to booth employees, taking some pictures, playing some games, and accumulating some of the massive quantities of free stuff available, we made a plan to meet at the IGN theater to camp out through the DC comics panel so we could have seats for the two Adult Swim panels: Robot Chicken and The Venture Brothers. And that was where my aggravation with the con “organization” began. I couldn’t enter the IGN theater through the main entrance without a different special pass. However, the employees (primarily volunteers) manning the doors couldn’t tell me where I could enter. So I wandered. I wandered a lot. I asked more people in official T-shirts. I didn’t get the same answer twice. Finally, a fellow con-goer discovered the door to the giant holding pen for the theater and called out to everyone in the hallway where it was. Thank you, random guy in a Green Lantern T-shirt!
The DC panel was good, with footage from “Superman/Shazam!” and “All Star Superman.” I’ll come right out with it that I’m more of a pop culture/sci-fi geek than a comics geek, but I still enjoyed the comic stuff I saw. The Robot Chicken panel is almost certainly up on YouTube already, but they had some great footage from both the upcoming season and their next Star Wars special. Macauley Culkin was on the panel for some reason (he’s done some voice work with them), along with RC co-creator Matthew Senreich and Clare Grant (Seth Green’s wife and a member of Team Unicorn), but Seth Green was obviously the “voice” of the panel, and he was funny and really engaging, and interacted well with the audience. I was beyond excited for the Venture Brothers panel, and Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (later joined by Michael Sinterniklaas, who does a great deal of the voice work on the show) were funny, self-deprecating, and totally awesome to watch. You’ll have to track down the details of the panel elsewhere, because I was just transfixed, glassy-eyed and grinning the whole time like the kids who got to meet their favorite comic superheroes.
We capped off Friday with the Geek Girls Network Tweet-Up, where we had some drinks, listened to some music, and I was totally socially awkward as I always am in that kind of situation. It was a great time, though, and special thanks to Kristin from GGN for putting it all together.
Saturday: I started my day on Saturday by waiting on a really really long line for a Venture Brothers signing with Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. I got asked approximately 7 zillion times what we were standing in line for. I guess I have a friendly face? (I don’t, but I was the person who consistently got asked.) Here continued my aggravation with offical con organization. The line got pretty long and unwieldy, and a few volunteers came by and started freaking out and yelling at people to get against the wall to clear up space. Like, they were already in full panic without stopping at “calm assertiveness” first. This was sharply contrasted by the Adult Swim employee who walked calmly down the line, handing out tickets for the signing, answering questions and joking around with people, keeping order and being authoritative without being a dick.
The signing was probably the highest point of my weekend. Through a series of planning mishaps and my desire not to be an asshole and cut the line, my husband ended up about 30 people ahead of me. He apparently told Doc and Jackson this, and told them to mess with me, and they did. As soon as I got in that room (about 45 minutes later), they started joking around with me, making small talk, being generally awesome and gracious, and we had a nice chat about Dr. Girlfriend, making sacrifices for your spouse, and they were kind enough to take a picture with me. Celebrities who treat their fans well always warm my heart and make me appreciate their work that much more.
The rest of Saturday was pretty much walking around the show floor, popping into the IGN theater for a panel or two, and just being generally overwhelmed. We sat in on panels for The Thing and Hannah, both of which look like good movies. There was an excellent “Women of Battlestar Galactica” panel, featuring Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Nicki Clyne, and Michelle Forbes. I was anticipating an uncomfortable level of audience creepiness, but with a few exceptions, people had good, non-creepy questions, and there were some excellent questions about feminism, sci-fi, and the role of women in BSG. All the panel participants were friendly and engaging, and Michelle Forbes fielded most of the heavier questions about feminism and gender roles. (As a side note, everyone knows that Tricia Helfer is beautiful, but in person, she’s intimidatingly good-looking. Definitely not a “looks better on film” actor. And she and Katee Sackhoff were laughing and goofing around the whole time, which was fun to watch.)
Saturday was sold out, and being at capacity just meant that there were way too many people crammed into a small space, and it got to be very not fun for me. No one knew where to go, booth employees were starting to get snippy with con-goers, and people were just generally pushy. My annoyance with the official con staff was capped off when we stood in line for 45 minutes for a Comedy Central panel, and an NYCC staffer pulled us out of our place in line to straighten out and manage the queue, and managed to lose us our place in line, at which point, I fully admit that I stormed off swearing rather than argue the point and get our place back.
We wandered into the Minori Chihara concert, which proved more than ever that I’m old and out of touch and really do not get modern anime and J-pop. In general, the consensus, from both sides, seemed to be that fans would be better served if Comic Con and the Anime Festival were split up. There was a fair amount of tension between the “comic nerds” and the “anime kids,” and the crowding issues really didn’t help anything.
Sunday: Sunday was “Kids Day,” which, for anyone who knows me, just sounds like a recipe for disaster. Oddly enough, though, it was the most laid-back day, and since the kids were all pretty well corralled into the “safe” areas, it was way less congested than I expected. The only thing on my agenda for Sunday was the Walking Dead panel. The three of us staked out seats in the IGN very early (and sat through a surprisingly not-awful M. Night Shaymalan panel), and it’s a good thing we did, because there was a near-riot for people waiting to get in right before the panel. The panel was awesome, and the show looks amazing. (It premieres on Halloween on AMC- watch it!) The panel consisted of comic creator Robert Kirkman, director Frank Darabont, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, and six of the main cast members. They showed six minutes of exclusive footage, and teased up a lot of what’s to come on the series. Great panel, and it did its job, which was get me even more pumped up to watch the show.
After the Walking Dead panel, we wandered back upstairs to cram one last hour of show floor time in before closing. I finally caught up with Kristin of Geek Girls Network, and was reminded how much I love meeting people who I’m already friends with through various Internet outlets. At 5:00 sharp, Comic Con employees and volunteers and Javits Center employees began, shall we say, emphatically telling people to, essentially, GTFO. We lingered an extra minute to grab a few last-minute pictures, and were rewarded by the cast of The Walking Dead strolling right past us. At which point, I looked up, saw Norman Reedus, who I’ve loved since Boondock Saints, squealed something unintelligible, and thankfully, my husband had the presence of mind to chase him down and ask if he’d take a picture with me, which he did quite graciously even though I turned into a stammering, giggling fangirl. And then we left and had a delicious Thai dinner, where we ended up chatting about con stuff with the table of people across from us.
To recap: Really great and gracious guests and celebrities; way too crowded at times; very poor communication between staff, volunteers, and attendees; could probably stand to split up NYCC and NYAF; some really good but mostly “meh” cosplay; and my feet and legs are KILLING me. I need to physically prepare better next time, and con organizers need to iron out the fairly obvious and substantial kinks in their system.