PBW: Sunday at the Con

”Why are you taking off on Tuesday? Is there something going on? Are you going to that big convention at the Javits Center?”

Last Thursday, my boss inadvertently reminded me that the second annual NYComicon was coming up. In truth, the only reason I was taking off on Tuesday was because I had a staff meeting on Monday which, in true MCF fashion, was subsequently pushed back a week for some reason, and so I could have taken a three day weekend after all.

I went about my day, making a mental note to check their site later for tickets. Last year I came perilous!y close to not getting in at all after a three hour wait on a line that was apparently for ticket holders only. If I was going to go again, I was going to get my ticket ahead of time. I've been looking for another interesting Photo Blog Wednesday outing for a while and, though I didn't realize it until I was there, just an outing in general away from familiar surroundings and challenges.

Newsarama, who did an outstanding job covering the overbooked nightmare last year, was no less vigilant this year. In fact, it was on their site that I learned at 5:15 PM on Thursday that Saturday was sold out, and tickets for Friday and Sunday would only be available until 6 PM. And so I made a rare spontaneous decision, and bought myself a ticket for Sunday. It could have been a huge mistake. It wasn't.

The convention began at 10 AM, but the doors of the convention center were opening at 8. Having learned my lesson from last time, I actually woke up at 5:30 AM. The train station was empty, as was the train.

I arrived a little before 8. Every few minutes, an unintelligible security guard would open the door and mumble something to the crowd. Eventually, someone who didn't have marbles in his mouth opened the door and informed us that the ticket holder's line was down below, and only vendors were being granted access from where we were.

I wasn't in the cold for long, unlike the lines I read about on Saturday. Inside, it was very organized and we were all given free magazines to read while we waited. There were even free tickets handed out for signings, and I got one to see George Perez, a legendary artist with the ability to draw hundreds of characters on one page. I'm don't attend conventions regularly and I've never really set out to get anyone's autograph specifically, so I didn't have anything for him to sign even though in my collection at home there was plenty of Perez' body of work. I'd have to pick something up on the convention floor.

Two hours flew by. Toward the end, I was getting really annoyed with a group of high school kids behind me. One was joking about how some kid was “probably going to die” because he punched him in the kidneys every day after class. Later, this same charming young fellow related an anecdote about throwing a blanket over the family dog and whacking him with a stick. Hours later, his mom asked him why the dog was sitting in the kitchen with his paw over his snout, and the kid chortled, “it's still there?” I noticed throughout the tale he never used a personal pronoun like “he” or “she” and always referred to the poor animal as an “it”. Thankfully, they let us in to the center before I gave in to the urge to beat up someone half my age.

I couldn't believe how smooth things were going as I headed up the stairs, on time with absolutely no glitches. I think those were my thoughts verbatim just before an official yanked me out of the line. “You need to go over there and have your barcode scanned. Then they'll let you back in.” The ticket I bought was a barcode that had to be printed out. Most of the people I waited with already had their weekend passes, so I had to go pick up my Sunday pass. There was absolutely no line for this, and it was comical how the ten or so of us followed the serpentine dividers back and forth before deciding to duck under them and walk right up to the counter. But after I got my pass, they told me to go wait in line outside.

That couldn't be right. I was told I could get right back in. I stopped one of the officials and at first he said yeah, go right in, but then changed his answer when I mentioned what the other guy said. And so, I found myself back outside in a line that ran the length of the building, turned a corner and ran down a hill, then doubled back alongside the building to the entrance I started at hours ago. I was only on this line for half an hour though, and Lightsaber duelists and a burned taxi provided plenty of visual subjects.

Once inside, I was pleased to see the convention had double the space from the previous year. I had a little bit of time before the first event I wanted to see, a history of comics in film. That panel had some interesting clips, including a hilarious screen test filled with unintentional innuendo in which Adam West is concerned that Aunt Harriet will find out what Burt Ward is really doing on those “supposed fishing trips” of theirs. The panel really ran the gamut from the early serials of the 50s to the modern comic book movie revolution that we're in now. It's a great topic that I'll probably delve into more in a future post.

After the panel, and a brief visit with a giant Pikachu(quiet, Rey), I got on line to see Mr. Perez. As he signed the JLA vs. Avengers books I had picked up, I tried to think of some good questions, like “how do you keep track of so many characters in one panel?” but instead thanked him and said it was nice to meet him. I'm sure he thinks those books were going to be auctioned off and I had no idea who he was. Nearby, I caught a glimpse of another hero of mine, writer Paul Dini.

An old jalopy was painted with every cartoon character imaginable. Later on I got a more detailed close-up. Meanwhile, I headed to the next event, some kind of game show hosted by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort. Prize or No-Prize was the name of the game, and it started with two lines of fans being issued a letter from the alphabet, one at a time. If you correctly said a Marvel character whose name began with that letter, and no one had used it before, you got to go to the back of the line. If you messed up, you had to sit down. I got through three rounds before being eliminated with the letter “A” of all things. Under pressure, with a microphone in my face, all I could think of was Avengers Spotlight, which was a comic. “That's not a character!” laughed Brevoort, offering me a second chance. He didn't accept “Ant-man II” since someone had already used Ant-Man, so I had to sit down.

Every subsequent “A” character that someone named was painful. On the way to the convention, in my jeans and dress shirt, I thought about how these things make me feel better about myself. People wear costumes, or stained t-shirts, some need to bathe and many are heavier than I am. I'm not perpetuating a stereotype as this doesn't represent the majority, and at an event with video games, card games, and professional artists the audience is diverse. But that stereotype was lurking in my subconscious, and as I sat stewing about not remembering Absorbing Man, my false pride faded and I knew I wasn't better than anybody.

I looked at a lot of posters and art work on the main floor before attending my third, and ultimately final, panel of the day. Linkin Park blared on my way back down to the session rooms, and a fierce battle raged on stage.

I headed for a panel remembering the late Dave Cockrum, an artist who passed away far too early at the age of 63. SwanShadow wrote an obituary for him a few months ago. Cockrum was best known for revolutionizing the look of the X-men and the Legion of Super-Heroes. His friends and former co-workers, including Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, and Clifford Meth, remembered Cockrum's enthusiasm and proclivity for costume design.

Claremont spoke with genuine awe about how they'd talk about coming up with aliens to fight the X-men, and the next day after going home and sketching, Cockrum would show up with unique designs for ships based on fish or insects. If heroes were going out, he would design unique clothes for them. At a wedding in Legion of Superheroes, every single character had a different suit, and no two were wearing the same dress or tuxedo. His passion for his work even when he wasn't getting recognized or compensated was astounding, and they recalled one instance in which he had drawn a spread twice as large to accommodate more detail, and paid out of his own pocket to have it shot down to the correct proportions, in an age before digital technology simplified such matters. Meth did say that one of Cockrum's unfinished personal projects, the Futurians, would be completed, and that at the end of the year the rights to the option to create a film would revert from another company back to Dave's widow, so we might see his dream realized.

After the Cockrum panel, I was getting tired and it was after 3PM. With only two hours left, I decided to explore more floors. The gaming area was upstairs, along with the artists, who last year were crammed in to one aisle on the main floor. On the escalator up to this section, a guy was nervously asking his bored girlfriend if she was having fun, repeating the question when she sounded neither sincere nor enthusiastic.

At this point, I'm going to pause and drop some knowledge on my fellow dateless wonders. I once took a girlfriend to a comic book convention. She smiled and was polite, and said how interesting some of the drawings were, but I could tell it wasn't her thing and we didn't spend the whole day there. I could hear the guy drowning, and knew that she would never tell him she hated it, but he had to realize she cared enough to go in the first place. One thing I've learned from my parents and my married friends is that a couple is not going to share all of each other's interests. My mom doesn't like marching bands any more than my dad likes craft shows and plants. I have plenty of friends who love geeky things like video games or comics, passions not shared by their wives. It's actually healthy though to have some separate interests, as long as it doesn't overshadow the other person. If you spend every minute with any one person, no matter how much you love them, you will get sick of each other. It's good to have some time apart to do your own thing, and then you can come together on the things you do have in common. You can't force everything you enjoy on your significant other though. No, the poor fool ahead of me was definitely drowning, and the fact that he was dressed like The Peanut Butter Jelly Time Banana and wrapped in chains was probably doing more harm than good to his cause. I can just imagine her agreeing to his invitation, only to open the door later on and see what he was wearing, and realize just what she had gotten herself into. I guess it's not much different than a guy taking a girl to a sporting event and showing up with his face painted, but somehow it seems so much worse.

Dark forces were on patrol near the gaming area, probably looking for a certain princess and her droids.

It's a shame the kid gawking at the Leeloo lookalike didn't work for a company called “Aye Carumba!”

In the Artist's Alley I spied many greats, including Whilce Portacio.

The Artist's Alley also had a window with a spectacular view of the main floor.

On my way back down I passed an illustrated drum set. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adorned the bass drum.

After checking out some action figure displays, I decided to spin the wheel at the Wizard booth. All you need to do in order to spin is answer a trivia question on the topic of your choice. There are one or two major prizes, but for the most part the wheel has jokes like “pocket lint” and ultimately everyone walks away with a free comic book. When it was almost my turn, a gentleman from Marvel was asking the guys how come no one was giving them Marvel characters as a topic. They pointed out that he just missed an Iron Man question. I usually go with The Simpsons or The Transformers, but decided on Spider-Man at the last minute. “Which three....” began the Wizard representative, and I knew I was doomed an a question too obscure or current would be forthcoming. I wished I'd specified the ‘90s cartoon and comics.

“You know what, why don't you ask him?” said the Wizard guy, turning to the Marvel one, “You wanted a Marvel question.” He thought about it, then asked me, “Who's the other Aunt, first name and last, and NOT Aunt May? Not Peter's Aunt...” I thought about it, and then the name “Anna Watson” popped in to my head. It was only after I'd spun the wheel that I realized fate had come full circle and given me the “A” character I had missed in the earlier game.

One artist had some great portraits of the Heroes cast. I also missed the real Hayden Panettiere, who had attended the convention on the two days prior.

I have no comment for the above photo, but feel free to come up with your own super captions. Here are some details from the above photo:

I moved on to more banners and posters:

That girl was the Sith!

This Nicholas Cage/Johnny Blaze figure cracked me up for some reason. It reminded me of the toy commercial from The Specials in which the real life heroes are horribly, horribly misrepresented.

From Hellboy to Bruce Lee, other statues and figures were expertly crafted.

In one area, gamers dueled Guitar Hero style out of the back of a car. That game rules.

The Number 23 looks really good, and another thing that might have me obsessing about numbers. I wasn't about to count all the characters on that jalopy though.

By 5 PM, the lights were dimming and glowing sabers signified the end of a great day for me and a busy weekend for others. I returned home to regroup. Walking through the city with my backpack, I felt at home, and almost hated going back to Long Island. I don't know if I could survive the big city, but I always enjoy being there.

I ended up with a quite a haul. You see, when I spun that wheel at the Wizard booth it actually lingered on “Mega Master Prize” and, as though through sheer force of my gaze, the flipper didn't turn over to the next one. I never win anything. But they reached under the table, and first produced a limited edition bust of the Ultimate Hulk. “But that's not all!” they said, as they next began piling comics on top of my new statue. They stamped my hand so I couldn't play again, not that I needed to. When I got home, found out that my big prize was 7 out of 1,500. From George Perez' autograph to a rare piece of geek art, from free posters to free comics, my adventure yielded an amazing treasure. It's great when good things happen, and better when they surprise you. We could all use more of that in life.

Labels: ,