NYCC 2012: A Unique & Common Experience

Louis Falcetti writes;

This was some Con, eh? We may be at a point where geek mania is peaking, for it seems that the enormous enthusiasm and fists upon fists full of dollars is enough to make up for technical or spiritual failings on a larger scale. There are no more tourists at Comic Con. Everyone is in.

My New York Comic Con was a lot like my last New York Comic Con, which was a lot like other Cons, but only in the comforting familiarity of one’s favored environment. For example, it’s not a Comic Convention unless I end up standing or walking next to Paul Levitz. It happens every Con on every coast, I’ll undoubtedly end brushing shoulders with him, or standing next to him in an elevator. This year it happened on Thursday on the escalator. Then two librarians taught me how to play “Spot It” which I was really, really good at it. (Untrue.)

There’s all of these faces of comic conventions, and you need to try to make them all fit in your head or you’ll go insane trying to reason it all out to yourself. You need to be able to take the cool with the crass and the fun with the fools. You either remember what the game is and how it’s played, or you pull a Chris Roberson and actually put your money where your mouth is. So you take the good and the bad, there may be rampant, crappy money gouging on every level (one retailer who won’t be named was selling Saga #1, first printing, $80.00) but there’s also Artist Alley.

You can use cultural markers to chart your own development. When I was an angry young man who didn’t give a fuck I listened to “My Aim Is True”, when I got a bit older and a bit paranoid sad it was “Armed Forces” and so on to “Punch The Clock” where I sit comfortably most days, maybe “Blood & Chocolate”. For comics it’s always fun to chart someone’s adolescent comic development with Leifeld, who when you’re 13, is the greatest artist you have ever seen. He’s the artist that stage in comic fandom development. Then you’re supposed to get a little older and move on from enormous guns and tiny heads. The Comic Convention also allows all user levels of fan a variety of challenges and delights, sure to show to everyone (if not only you) where your comic appreciation development level is. What I mean is for a long, long time comic conventions were simply big places to get cheap back issues. I stopped that masturbatory circle jerk (wrap your head around that visual. actually, don’t) and started hanging out over at Artist’s Alley. It is probably the greatest place to be, ever, if you’re into comic books at all on any level deeper than “These variant covers will fetch a pretty penny when I get home.”

Why is Artist’s Alley so cool? For starters, all of your favorite artists are there and a few of your favorite writers as well. Just sitting there, selling their wares, drawing their pictures, ready to talk it up with you. I find books I’ve never heard of from artist’s I’ve never heard of and I find new things from old favorites and the best part is the sketches. Whenever I buy anything in Artist’s Alley I ask for a sketch inside. Nothing huge and I don’t demand, I’ll even answer the “What do you want me to draw?” question with, “Whatever you like drawing right now” because artist’s go through phases as they hone their craft where they’ll be really into drawing a certain thing, either for a project or just for fun. They are so crazy happy for you to let them choose and draw whatever their favorite personal creation or just funny thing is instead of being the ten millionth person asking for Batman and Deadpool riding ponies in the Iron Throne Room. Or they’ll be tired and just ask you again to request something and then I say “John Constantine” but don’t you start doing it, because that’s my thing.

It’s stuff like this, Mike Lilly drawing a Batman head on a kid’s…extremely fit stomach. A girl yelled out, “I love your costume” at the boy and everyone acted like that was what she meant. There’s just weird, cool stuff happening everywhere. I saw Brian Wood standing in line with a bunch of fans waiting for Fiona Staples. I bought Russ Braun’s The Boys sketch book and he drew a Butcher profile right on the inside cover for me, when I show people they think it’s a printed on piece of the book it looks so good. Rob Creen drew me an ERF and Brent Peebles drew me a some-character-head-from-Last Of The Greats-I-don’t-know-I-haven’t-read-it-yet-I-bought-it-at-con. Tim Seely and Mike Norton actually recognized me, which was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me anywhere, ever. (I reviewed Revival #1 and they really liked it) They gave me free prints! And a sweet REVIVAL wristband that I am never taking off.

On Sunday while walking about the main floor of the show, met these two young ladies who were sitting on the floor next to a table, offering free sketches. There’s a tip if you’ve never been to con, always take free sketches. So I sat down and my artist, Shannon drew me what I asked for, which was Hawkeye drinking. She’s going to go to art school and I’m sure she’ll be amazing there. It’s things like this that make going to shows worthwhile. You can find a copy of Iron Man #55 but you’re not going to find personalized free art from people who just love to create art there.

I wish I had been into anime in high school. I don’t know what the cultural saturation was like with anime in the second half of the 90s, but when I see the anime kids at con, I get kind of jealous of their weirdo club of like minded friends. They’re always doing crazy stuff that just looks like where amazing and awesome meet. In San Diego in 2010, I watched a big game of cosplay chess on the final day. The kids got into it, acting like their characters, and they all knew how their characters would interact, so it became this improv fan fic chess based role play…thing. It was amazing. To be able to let your guard down like that and play pretend and dress in whatever you want.

This year at New York I got to watch a game of spin-the-bottle that even the Disney channel would’ve approved of. Because it was spin-the-bottle with hugs. Do you have any idea how adorable that is? Especially when it would happen with two people from the same property or same team or I don’t even know, but certain selections elicited different hilarious reactions, sometimes it would end up being just three boys hugging without adolescent weirdness or self conscious anything. It might not sound like much to you, from where your sitting, but that kind of freedom, both inner and outer, that’s a rare thing these days, it’s worth mentioning, celebrating and emulating. Anime Cosplay Spin The Bottle, Hug Edition is a reason to come to Comic Con.

Notice what I haven’t mentioned yet? Haven’t said anything about movies or tv actors or video games. And it’s not because they weren’t there, they definitely were. But because you can have the con experience you want. NYCC is different than SDCC which is different from Emerald City which is different from Dragon Con. But at the same time, they’re all the same in the ways that matter. You can spend 11 hours in line waiting to catch a glimpse of Nathan Fillion’s ankle or you can meet a thousand different people doing a million different things.

I haven’t even talked about the panels, which are a huge part of the con experience. Getting to ask questions, meeting people while you’re waiting, just the sharing and the communicating IRL, oh to talk IRL with someone about comics! An intoxicating luxury! I’m sure I’m missing out on loads and I apologize if I did but you know we’ll be chatting soon, all of you, every person I met, unless that prospect freaks you out, in which case mail back my business card with the self addressed stamped envelope I left on the back seat of your car this morning.

My point is that you should go to the New York Comic Con if you love comics. You should go to the Boston Con if you love comics. You should go to all the cons you can if you love comics because like all things that are too amazing to be real, they’re only around briefly and then it’s back to school, back to work, back to not running into Grant Morrison on the street.

Oh yeah. That happened.