Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Tourist in an Unknown Land: Seven Hours at New York Comic Con (part 1)

I like the idea of these accounts having a separate title. So now they're under "A Tourist in an Unknown Land". Like it? Hate it? Let me know!

        The story actually starts a few weeks before NYCC does. I'd failed to go to New York for two years running-- the first because I simply didn't know, and the second because I was in Honolulu. So this year, I checked the website, and decided this year that maybe, I'd take the advice of one of the better first-person account writers of our century: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." and get myself press credentials. The plan was, I'd get a press pass for ComicCon and then be able to cover all four days of the show, maybe earning a little more credibility in the process*. So I went through the paperwork, got myself a fancy web URL at**, got a business card with my chop on it, and the morning of the deadline I faxed all the paperwork to New York. About a week later, I got my response: No***.

        Maybe it was that I just didn't have the circulation figures. Maybe it was that they just didn't want to give the underdog a shot. Maybe it's that most of what I do is book reviews due to not getting the press credentials I apply for. In any case, I found an alternate route in and got a day pass for Friday, figuring that I'd be able to see more than enough to report back to you guys. 

      And so, finally, on a cold October morning, about three hours late (and having forgotten my camera in the journey out of the house), I entered the Javits center for the second time in two years, once again wearing my official Hawaiian shirt of journalistic intent, and I was blown away. 

       The first thing you notice is the crowd. Most of the places I've been working and going to, there's a crowd, but it's dispersed throughout. BEA didn't have a bottleneck even half as big as NYCC. Upon entering through the proper door, I was hit by a wall of people. Almost literally. Posters and banners for all sorts of new movies hung from everywhere, and The Walking Dead's new season was advertised everywhere I looked. A car display was just off of where I came in, one that could be mistaken for an auto show were it not for the logos and banners in back, advertising something I could only barely make out.

          Navigating through the crowds was difficult even for a veteran of concert mosh pits like me, and despite the fact that it was about forty degrees out when I arrived, inside I'd already started to sweat from the heat. So naturally, the first thing I did after getting out of the crush of people streaming into the con hall was go up the stairs into the even more heavily-crowded showroom floor.

       I don't know what it is about the Javits center that always draws me to the second and third floors of the building. I guess it's just that they're the first thing that catches my eye, and between that and the large steps that always have some kind of graphic on them pertaining to the con, I get funneled upstairs. 

       I'm not the only one, apparently. The showroom on the top floor was packed with people and noise in what could only be described as an oppressive sensory-overloading gauntlet of stuff. And not really any particular order to any of it. Books were put next to video game displays, the Troma Entertainment table was smack-dab in the middle of a group of comic book companies and a few tiny independent film booths. Weirdest of all were the random anime tables scattered intermittently around the floor...I understand that the geek spheres of influence are growing closer all the time, but it just makes the whole thing feel a little it's trying very hard to find its voice but it can't. 

      A friend of mine from the con circuit told me this was because it merged with an anime convention in New York, but given that the merger isn't recent, the show should have found its soul by now. Instead, it feels like it's going through an identity crisis. The anime events pop up all over the place, but if they're going to have a section like that in their show, maybe not spread it out all over? I dunno, it just didn't work for me. The showroom felt anarchic in all the wrong ways, like something was trying to be cohesive and failing. 

      After spending some time wandering the halls of the showroom and looking at all the things I didn't feel like buying****, I finally went over to take in the video game displays. About one aisle over from a comic display for a book called (I shit you not) Whore with a display that would be just as offensive to me if I thought about such things regularly*****, the game displays boomed out from the corner of the convention hall, large banners proudly displaying a free-to-play  The game displays were pretty much a wall of light and noise, though the new Just Dance game had a platform where a small group of con-goers (most of them in costume) danced to some song I didn't know. To get out of the noise, I headed to the book section, narrowly avoiding buying two DVD box sets from the corrupt anime table and the Troma table******. This looked familiar to me. It looked like the tables at BookExpo America, only you're allowed to buy things and don't get confused about what's a freebie. 

     I was pleasantly surprised to see perennial favorite of the site Iain M. Banks had a new book in his fantastic Culture series, as well as that his publisher was holding a drawing for five books in the series, including the mainstay of my "to-read" list Consider Phlebas and the big, thick, and engaging-looking Matter. I quickly jotted down my name and email address in a scrawl that could charitably be called "unintelligible" and continued to make the rounds. While there were a few booths that caught my eye, my wallet kept me from spending too much time around the dealer tables and the merchandise. Soon, I recieved a phone call from a friend of mine who had also come to the show, and I made my way downward to the panels, hoping to catch up with them and maybe take in a little of what I was supposed to see as a journalist. 

Things I learned: 
- Have a backup plan so you can cover four days, in case NYCC gets stingy with their passes
- People like the creators of Whore should really try's no fun when they're just blatantly trying to offend for controversy
- Troma Films, makers of such low-budget sleaze classics as Toxic Avenger, Tromeo and Juliet, and Poultrygeist, need a bigger freaking table. They had this tiny corner square at NYCC, and they're too good for such a small space

In Part 2:
- Mad scotsmen
- An unfortunate case of mistaken identity
- I search for a needle in a haystack

*Also, less the expense of faxing them my application, press passes are comped four-day deals with access to the lounge and some nice perks. So...why wouldn't I want one, exactly?
**Which, as many of you know, leads to the tumblr site of fantastic design and horrid formatting. Blogger made their bed by not enabling url redirects, the schmucks
****which is almost everything. I have another con in about two weeks, gotta save some money for not buying things at NekoCon.
*****People were convinced to sit in the "whore cage" for ten or twenty minutes for an exclusive T-shirt. Yeah. I try to keep myself distanced from any sociopolitical issues, but seriously?
******I have the opinion that at any given con where anime is being sold, there is the shady anime table (where the box sets look a little shoddier but the prices are lower and the quality's usually good), and the corrupt anime table (where the set quality is a little better but the guy calculates the price discount in his head very quickly, not always to your benefit). The Troma table, of course, just looks shady and a little corrupt but is in fact on the level. And twenty bucks for Terror Firmer, while out of my price range, is still cool. 


  1. Does this mean you're gonna BE DOWN for Dragon*Con 2013! - Cyn

    1. I'm gonna do everything within my power to be there. If only to put me within slapping distance of you when I inevitably say something stupid.

  2. nice review- got me thinking about how crowded the Rhode Island Comic Con might be...also, it all sounds like a case of sensory overload.

  3. A friend said he read this post and felt there might have been a misunderstanding. The name of our graphic novel is "Whore" and it's about a guy who does anything for money. It has received at least 30 positive review. As far as our set up, there's a large banner for the cover and two cages where both men, woman and a few transgender..actually more men sit or do whatever they want for a free "Whore" t-shirt which we do not sell. At SDCC this year, people were constantly asking us if they could get our "Whore" t-shirts that I wear in the booth. While these cages may offend some. Over 200 people with no downtime between people filled the cages to get a shirt they want. A lot of these people want to put themselves on display. We don't push people to go into the cage. There is a sign on each cage and people actually make a time reservation to get into them. I am sorry you may have been offended but we actually had 200 people in the cages in less than 4 days, gave out 200 t-shirts for free and sold out of our books. Marketing sometimes goes too far, but in this case we had a lot of happy people and sold our product which is the goal of the event. I would have enjoyed discussing things with you like I do with others who let me know they aren't fond of the setup. Whether you have booth models or a controversial cover there is always an opportunity to offend especially when your book is called "Whore".

  4. I'm glad you've cleared the issue up, and I'll edit the post to make it clear it wasn't just women, though I did state that it was their own free will. However, as I have written the statement, contrite for the misrepresentation though I may be, I must stand by the words I wrote and keep my internal truth.

    To clarify: I'm not in any way questioning your results. You did something and it paid off.

    But I'm entitled to my opinion, which is that it felt a little offensive to me. I am deeply sorry my offhand opinion was any cause for concern.

    In any case, I do hope your friend wasn't put out by the somewhat negative mention of your graphic novel and do enjoy the articles and reviews I write. I welcome both you and them to my humble blog, and hope you enjoy your stay.