This year’s New York Comic Con was the biggest and craziest yet, four days of panels, screenings, parties, and endless wallet-tapping temptation. But it’s a very different experience from the other big convention (San Diego Comic-Con) simply by virtue of the location. NYCC is just one more thing happening on any given day in the Big Apple. It may be a big deal, but the city itself will always be the main attraction, and the convention simply a sideshow.
It was a lot of fun to watch the attendees seeping out into the wild. People in elaborate costumes could be found walking the Highline, riding public transportation, and generally scattered amongst the crowd wherever I looked.
And inside the Javits Center itself, the intensity was, well… intense. Thousands upon thousands of fans were gathered in appreciation of all things pop culture. The main floor was a joyously excessive assault on the senses, with comic publishers, video game companies, and toymakers vying for attention with their booths, banners, video screens, and loudspeakers. The dealer’s area featured all manner of comics, books, videos, toys, apparel, signed photographs, and original art, tempting passersby to empty their wallets and clutter their homes and offices. The panel rooms were packed with fans listening intently to the personalities onstage, and racing to line up behind the microphones the moment audience Q&A sessions began. The majority of actual comic-centric content could be found in Artist Alley, the con-within-a-con that occupied the entire North Annex of the convention center, where hundreds of creators set up tables to interact with passersby, sell books and prints, and do signings and sketches.
I loved the spacious and well-lit feel of Artist’s Alley, and it’s where I tried to hang out whenever I wasn’t running off to moderate a panel of my own. I saw a lot of friends, purchased a couple pieces of art, discovered some incredible comics, and generally reveled in the upbeat, welcoming spirit that seemed to be shared by everyone in the room.
And of course, the convention experience wasn’t limited to the convention itself. There were a number of outside events to chose from after the show floor closed each night. Friday alone featured two separate parties from Image Comics (an invite-only “Walking Dead” soiree, and an open-to-the-public Hero Initiative benefit), a lecture and opening reception at the Society Of Illustrators with Paul Pope, a private DC Comics party, a cosplay and video game happening hosted by Midtown Comics and Sonic Boombox, and a “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” screening at the Paley Center. I myself co-organized two evenings of music and conversation at a venue in the East Village, and not only enjoyed some wonderful performances, but also joined an array of creators in discussing some vital topics: the relationships between comics and pop music; addressing social issues in kids comics; the melding of comic and hip-hop cultures; and issues of representation and inclusion in comic books.
The real secret of NYCC was that many of the best moments came after the afterparties, at the pubs and dive bars just down the block or around the corner. That’s where creators, fans, and members of the press ended up talking ’til the wee hours, and old friends discussed the events of the day and compared their respective hauls. People got drinks, argued about comics and art, waxed poetic over favorite creators, and collectively did their best to ignore the fact that the convention would be opening again in a scant few hours and everyone would have to be awake and presentable.
And heading home, no matter the hour, it was possible to spot a few costumed revelers around the subway platforms, heading back to their homes and hotels after going out on the town, tired and happy from a day of comic conning in the city that never sleeps.