Martha Thomases: Doing The Comic Con-Con
There was one point at this year’s New York Comic Con when I almost said, out loud, “Do you know who I am?” That’s because I was having trouble getting my badge.
Here’s why I’m glad I didn’t:
- It’s a dick thing to say, the kind of thing that proves a person is self-absorbed to the point of obliviousness.
- I might have made a mistake when I registered, so the trouble might have been my fault.
- This had happened the day before. I am willing to bet that George Clooney didn’t ask if anyone knew who he was. At all times, I aspire to be at least as well-behaved as George Clooney.
Still, it’s an indication of how much things have changed in the short life of this show that I needed more than my smiling face to get in.
I understand that, with more than 150,000 people expected to attend, that it can be difficult for the staff to keep track of everybody. Unlike their other New York consumer show, Special Edition, NYCC is packed to the rafters.
There was a time when very few people wrote about comics, and I knew all of them. Even now, there aren’t that many people who write about comics every week. The (probably overworked and underpaid) person at press registration treated me like I was some kind of scam-artist trying to put one over on her.
Compare this to the way my pal, David Glanzer, says that San Diego treats press (and they get an even bigger crowd):
“I know press registration is a very difficult area. Heavens knows we’ve had our issues in the past. However we’ve actually received criticism for who we consider for press credentials. The truth is we have always considered independent press and bloggers/podcasters as our mainstream press. They are the ones who write about us throughout the year (not always positively LOL) while the bigger outlets really only tend to write about us once a year or so. The independents reporters have been with us since the start and they really still are the lifeblood for our publicity.”
The Javits Center is simply not designed for this many people. I mean, it’s not that well-designed to start-out with. Unlike, for example, the San Diego convention center, this has rather narrow hallways, and the exhibition floors are not close together. Under the best of circumstances, one must do a lot of walking. In this case, it’s nearly five Manhattan blocks (about a quarter mile) from one end of the building to the other.
When you add 150,000 people, it’s easy to create anxiety.
Still this year’s event seemed to run more smoothly than last year’s, at least according to initial feedback. There were lots of signs saying, “Cosplay does not equal consent,” and, while I don’t know if they make any difference (I’m not in costume), they made me feel more welcome. Perhaps in a related event, there seemed to be just about as many women in attendance as men.
The Mary Sue had a room for Geek Girls, which was a lovely respite in a sea of bodies. The room had signings and press materials, but also comfy chairs and books to read, and a crafts table to make friendship bracelets. I sat for a while with my knitting, talking to strangers about what they wanted to see and do. Truly a delight. I only regret that, by talking about it, I’m probably encouraging it to be more crowded next year.
Here are my suggestions to make this a better show:
- Find a bigger venue, or additional venues. Not only was the exhibition floor jammed, and Artists Alley jammed, and various panel rooms jammed, but the hallways were always jammed as well. I didn’t go to any panels because there were lines everywhere and I was overwhelmed trying to figure out which mass of people were lines for which rooms.
The Javits Center is not designed to hold so many people. It was designed – poorly – for trade shows, not mass media events. More space would permit some room to breathe.
- Set up special areas for cosplayers to change and to pose. It’s annoying to stand on line for half an hour to use the ladies room only to find that the stalls have been full of people changing, not peeing. Similarly, a lot of the clog on the show floor is people posing for pictures and expecting traffic to stop.
If there were special rooms set aside for changing, and special areas for pictures, then cosplayers and their admirers would have enough room to enjoy themselves, and traffic would flow more smoothly.
I don’t mean cosplayers should be segregated. I love seeing them randomly in the crowd (and on the subway). They make the event much more fun.
- Now that fans are getting the message that harassment is not acceptable, can we teach them other aspects of crowd etiquette? For example, if you want to stop and talk to a friend, please step to the side. A bunch of people having a conversation in the middle of the aisle blocks the flow of traffic.
Maybe stop-lights at major intersections? I don’t know. I just want to be able to walk with a normal gait, instead of pivoting at a moment’s notice.
- In general, we should remember that we are all humans in this together. Pay attention to your peripheral vision, people.
I get very short-tempered in crowds, but then I’ll see someone I know and be happy again. Klaus Janson talked with me about the blueberries at the Green Market. I brought the world’s most delicious matzo to fellow ComicMixer Marc Fishman and the Unshaven boys. I saw all kinds of creative new ideas for comics and illustration.
And then …
Some oblivious person with a backpack swiped against me hard enough to rip my sweater. My beautiful, one-of-a-kind hand-knit sweater.
Didn’t he know who I am?