Emily S. Whitten: NYCC – The Good, The Bad, and The Slightly Sad
The New York Comic Con has come and gone like a whirlwind, leaving me, as always, gasping for breath (and craving a week of sleep) as I recover from the huge crushes of people, hectic dashes to see friends or get places on time, and general excitement. No con is perfect but I am pretty fond of NYCC, in part because the sheer size of it means every moment can be filled with something fun (if you have the energy and aren’t afraid of crowds) and in part because I love visiting New York City. Even if you’re in town for the con, it’s not a bad idea to leave the Javits Center at least once or twice to experience a bit of the rest of New York.
In keeping with the spirit of what my brain feels like after three to four days of non-stop excitement and unable to remember in what order anything happened and/or to form coherent sentences, I feel like it’s proper to talk about the highs and lows of my NYCC/NYC experience in a randomly ordered bullet-point list. Ready? Let’s go!
• Terry Pratchett is in town! Terry was here to promote his newest novel, a non-Discworld book called [[[Dodger]]], and it was, as always, delightful to see him. While he was at NYCC, for me the high was not his NYCC appearance (we’ll get to that in a second!) but his appearance at the Barnes & Noble in nearby Union Square. Despite a pretty full house, the store was so quiet you could hear a pin drop (or Terry and his business manager Rob bantering with each other on stage) as everyone listened to an excerpt from the book and a fun Q&A.
We learned that Dodger (which came out in the US on September 25th, so you can go get it now!), is a young adult book in which, among other things, Charles Dickens meets the boy who will inspire him to write about The Artful Dodger. Terry and Rob talked about researching the history of Victorian London, including the fact that the streets of London at that time were so terrifyingly bad that “they made Gangs of New York look like kindergarten.” They also talked about locating the oldest gentlemen’s outfitters in London, and discovering that the shop had not only provided Sir Robert Peel with his personal clothing, but also designed the original police uniforms – a fact which made its way into the story. From the excerpt and talk, the book (which I have but have not yet read!) sounds great.
Other information shared with the crowd is that Terry fully intends that there be a sequel to Dodger; that he has been working on the second Long Earth book with co-author Stephen Baxter; and that (as some may have heard already) he has formed a production company with business manager Rob Wilkins, Managing Director and producer Rod Brown, and daughter and fellow writer Rhianna Pratchett. Upcoming projects include The Watch series (a 13 episode series described in a nutshell as “CSI: Ankh-Morpork”) and the Good Omens miniseries, along with more upcoming Discworld adaptations. Yay!
• Happening upon awesomeness while randomly wandering the show floor. This included running into and geeking out about the con with the super-nice Dan Slott, Amazing Spider-man writer; walking through the DC booth at just the right time to snap a picture of Stephen Amell and the rest of the Arrow cast and crew (though sadly I did not have a signing ticket); discovering the terrifyingly lifelike (and life-sized) Chris Hemsworth Thor at the Midtown Comics booth (a Madame Tussaud’s figure); and spotting and snagging the last signed copy of The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon at the Abrams ComicArts booth (which I’d been meaning to pick up after reading a great review and seeing some of the beautiful art).
• Joe Kelly cheerfully signing his way through half of my Joe Kelly Deadpool issues. For some reason, at the last con where I saw Joe, I’d only brought along half of the run for him to sign (well, okay, I know the reason – those books get heavy; or, as Joe said, “you’re basically carrying around a block of wood”). So this time I brought the other half, and had a great time chatting with Joe as he signed and signed. Not only is Joe tied with Fabian Nicieza as my all-time favorite Deadpool writer, but he’s also done a lot of awesome things since then, so it was great to catch up with him at the Man of Action booth (and he mentioned that Deadpool appears in his Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, which I did not know. Ooh!).
• Attending the fantastic book launch for Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s newest anthology, After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia. Like I said, it’s nice to get out in NYC a little bit even at con-time, so when I heard that Ellen was having a book launch on Thursday, I had to pull myself away from the show floor and go. The event, at Books of Wonder, was great, with about nine of the authors reading from or discussing their stories, and a signing afterwards. After includes stories from a host of previously published authors, including Gregory Maguire, who also wrote Wicked, so I picked that up for him to sign as well. The stories sound great and have been getting excellent reviews, so I’m looking forward to reading my copy (which now features a sad-looking “dystopian flower” as drawn by author N.K. Jemisin at my request, and further graffiti’d by Genevieve Valentine).
• Snagging some con merch and freebies, including two adorable new t-shirts (one of which is a sad-looking hedgehog holding a “free hugs” sign, and how can you possibly not love that?), and the Cable/Deadpool Heroclix figure, which I hadn’t been able to find for anything under $25 and got for $3 at the con. Score! I also got several ARCs and a free Phantom Tollbooth poster – and I love that book. Yay!
• The joys of Artist Alley. Artist Alley is really my favorite part of any con, and I rarely manage to spend as much time there as I would like. I had a lot of fun while I was there this year, though, catching up with friends, chatting with the ever-amusing Bill Willingham; finally meeting Ed McGuinness (a favorite Deadpool artist who had not been at any of the cons I’ve previously attended, but was happy to be at this one and mentioned he’d love to get back on the Deadpool book. I approve of this idea!); and talking with V for Vendetta co-creator David Lloyd about his newest project, Aces Weekly (check out the ComicMix review here). Aces Weekly is “an exclusively digital comic art magazine which features some of the world’s finest sequential art creators” from all over the world, and sounds really interesting. It just launched at the beginning of October, so it’s easy to check it out now and catch up on the first couple of issues. David also kindly drew me a V sketch, which made me ever so happy. I also had fun hanging out with Reilly Brown, particularly since I was actually costuming as his and Kurt Christenson’s character the Ice Queen from their fantastic digital comic Power Play (available on ComiXology – check it out!) on Friday. Another character from the comic, Gowanus Pete, mysteriously showed up to be in a picture with me (who was that man behind the mask?), which was pretty fun as well.
• Attending cool panels like the Marvel prose novels panel, in which Axel Alonso, Stuart Moore, Peter David, Alisa Kwitney, and Marie Javins talked with moderator James Viscardi and the audience about the popular storylines they are adapting as almost a hybrid of the comics and movie worlds. I really liked the Civil War adaptation by Stuart Moore, and am super-excited about the upcoming ones, which include “New Avengers: Breakout” (Alisa Kwitney), “Astonishing X-Men: Gifted” (Peter David), and “Iron Man: Extremis” (Marie Javins). Alisa talked about her research into things like how the Helicarrier actually works and how to make an impossible feat of archery seem plausible, also noting that one change she’s made from the comics is that in the prose timeline, Hawkeye is still alive and appearing in the story. Peter talked about his use of Kitty Pryde as a means of sharing new information with the reader, and how through this she really became the heart of the story and his favorite character to write. Marie noted that, like the movie storyline, in her novel Iron Man’s identity will be public, and that she’s having fun trying to channel “Warren Ellis mixed with Robert Downey Jr.” for her work, which she finds “very funny and very disturbing.”
• The placement of Terry Pratchett’s NYCC panel. Don’t get me wrong – Terry and Rob were as entertaining as always, and I was delighted to see them. But for the first time in my experience, NYCC committed a major error in planning when they stuck the best-selling adult fiction author in the UK in a giant echo-y hallway next to a music stage (which started playing loud music half-way through) for his event. I can’t even imagine what they were thinking, and can only assume it was done in complete ignorance by someone who has mysteriously never heard of Terry and couldn’t be bothered to look up whether his panel was likely to be popular or anything else about him. Even if they didn’t realize that Terry’s Alzheimer’s necessitates that he have a lavaliere microphone rather than a hand-held, or that he often speaks rather softly and so a loud hall is not the best venue for him, such placement is unforgiveable, and I hope NYCC never makes such an asinine mistake again. Honestly, I doubt they’ll get a chance, since I’m sure nobody presenting on this stage would have been happy to be put there or want to come back. Also, I will note that the seating of that stage looked to be similar to the prose novel panel seating, which was in a nice quiet room and about 2/3 full. Terry’s panel, on the other hand, was overflowing with people sitting and standing in the back, straining to hear, some of whom, I am sure, had not had an opportunity to see him before and were forced to miss out on part of what is a wonderful experience when it can be heard. For shame, NYCC!
• The broken escalators and bottlenecks. I know there’s only so much one can do when working with a set layout, but due to broken escalators, the wait to get from one floor to the next, particularly on Sunday, was claustrophobic and glacially slow. Also, the placement of the TMNT tunnel display, I am told, created a huge bottleneck and traffic jam. Very frustrating.
• The lack of cell service. It’s become a known fact and common complaint around the Javits Center that the cell service from location to location is spotty and unpredictable. It makes it almost impossible to meet up with friends and coordinate with people, even if you try to do so before going inside. Lousy cell service caused me to miss at least two or three friends I’d have liked to see, and almost made me entirely miss seeing a good friend who miraculously found me after I’d unsuccessfully looked for him for two days in a row (and had my calls not go through to his phone). The Javits is a big and popular convention center; they should look into improving this service ASAP.
• Con funk OMG. Seriously, people. Deodorant. Showers. Perfume or cologne or a constant spray bath, whatever it takes. Please, stop stinking up the con and causing me to accidentally inhale all of your nasty B.O. when I take a breath. I’d really, really appreciate it.
Well! Despite the few low points (of which the placement of the Pratchett panel was the most egregious), I had a great time at the con, and am already looking forward to next year’s. I do have a little request, though – my camera memory card is giving me error messages, and so, tragically, I may have lost 2/3 of my photos from the con (which would make me soooo sad). If you did happen to see me and take a picture, and are reading this, please feel free to send any photos to email@example.com. Thanks!!
And until next time, Servo Lectio!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis’s Escape From France!
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold’s Escape From New York!